Monday, March 12, 2018


Marketing ideas abound. Suggestions to attract new patients appear monthly in almost every dental periodical. As one reads the volume of material on marketing, the contrast becomes obvious. One expert focuses exclusively on a wow-factor website as the only way to grow a practice. The appeal of written material sent by USPS (snail mail) is touted by other marketing professionals; in contrast, others state that potential patients will read only electronic mail. Some PR professionals advise use of local TV, radio, and even movie theater screens to advertise a practice. Others recommend marketing methods that are less glaring such as patient thank-you-for-referrals gifts, patient contests, social media postings, continuing education seminars on oral health for teachers and other health care professionals and so on.

While several marketing ideas may prove effective (and expensive), there is an often-overlooked idea that has proven successful and free of cost: Simply ask! Ask current patients who are ideal—they keep appointments, accept recommended treatment, pay their bills on time, and are pleasant, even fun, during each appointment. In other words, they are Premier Patients. As a premier patient checks out, the dentist or a staff member should say, "Mrs. Smith, we are [emphasis here] seeing new patients. If you have family or friends looking for a dental home, please tell them about our office. We welcome new patients, especially those as nice as you." Some version of such a message alerts patients to the fact that although your office may seem busy when they come for an appointment, you have plenty of room in your schedule for new patients.

This simple request, sincerely stated to your choice patients, can be as effective a marketing tool as many more complex, costly ideas. And it is free! Discuss the idea with team members so that everyone feels positive about the effort. Ideally, the team will decide each day during the morning huddle which member will speak to which patient. And the ones to whom the dentist will give the invitation should be designated also so that the message is not repeated.

Left to ponder the most effective marketing methods, the dentist may also wonder just how much money to put into marketing efforts. Answer: as a rule of thumb, 2% to 5% of annual net collections can be spent cost effectively on marketing a dental practice. For example, if your net collections were $900,000 in 2017, you might budget between $18,000 and $45,000 for marketing in 2018. With a definite figure in mind, it becomes easier to choose which marketing tools you will choose for the coming year. And when you are planning your marketing program for 2018, consider including the "freebie" method of simply asking.

Monday, March 5, 2018


While your first thought might be "I don't need to read this now. I have years to go before retirement," let me assure you: the younger you are, the more important the secret referenced in the title. Not only is it important for your own retirement, you have an opportunity to influence your team members' retirements also.

The secret: Pay yourself first and let time make your money grow. Saved, invested, and left untouched, retirement funds will compound to create wealth for your retirement years beyond your wildest dreams. This concept is called compounding returns by some investment counselors. Simply defined, compounding returns are interest on interest, growth on growth, appreciated value on appreciated value. Left intact, savings and investments can grow exponentially because each succeeding year the investor makes money on the initial investment plus last year's interest, growth, or appreciated value. Get it? Your saved/invested money grows ever faster as it earns money on the principal and on the accrued return, whether or not you add more money to the account.

A story from the book The Wealthy Barber by David Chilton drives home the power of compounding returns. Even though Chilton's book was originally published in 1989, almost 30 years ago, the principles it explains still hold true.

Chilton tells the story of 22 year old twins who decide to begin saving for retirement. Twin A opens an IRA (Individual Retirement Account) and funds it with $2,000 per year for six years, then stops. He never touches the original IRA investments nor the earnings, and both continue to earn 12% per year, a healthy rate of return. Keep in mind the principle of compounding returns means every year his IRA earns money on the principal plus the money made on last year's gains.

Twin B procrastinates, opening an IRA in the seventh year, the year his brother stopped funding his own IRA. Twin B also contributes $2,000 per year to his IRA for the next 36 years. His IRA also appreciates at 12% per year, and he makes no withdrawals.

Fast forward—the twins turn 65 and decide to get together to compare their IRA holdings. Twin B expected his IRA would be worth nine to ten times as much as his brother's, which had been funded for the initial six year period only. Not so—at age 65, they both have the same amount in their IRA—$1,200,000.

Do the math and you will find Twin A contributed a total of $12,000 to his IRA while Twin B contributed a total of $74,000 to his. The difference? Compounding returns!

This simple story demonstrates the powerful concept of compounding returns: letting saved, invested money earn money on last year's earnings while the investment also earns money on the principal. The secret to reaping the rewards of this concept: commit to pay yourself first; or, if you're a tithing Christian, pay yourself right after you pay your tithe to the Lord. Learn to live on your wages after your regular retirement savings are put aside. Invest for retirement, the earlier, the better, and let compounding returns richly reward you.

Monday, February 26, 2018


In a recent posting, I shared some amusing and philosophical tidbits with which to start a day or end a team meeting with a positive thought. In today’s blog, I want to give you a giggle, a bit of delight in the word antics of a group of second graders. These humorous phrases won’t do a thing to improve your production or increase your efficiency, but I believe that, shared with staff, these amusing bits will put your team in a happy mood—and happy team members make an office hum.

A second grade teacher read the first half of a well-known proverb to her class, calling on the individual children to finish the thought. The children's responses show amazing insight and provide a laugh as well.
  • Better safe than...punch a fifth grader.
  • Don’t bite the hand that...looks dirty.
  • Strike while the...bug is close.
  • Never underestimate the power of...termites.
  • No news is...impossible.
  • A miss is as good as a...Mr.
  • You can’t teach an old dog new...math.
  • A penny saved is...not much.
  • Where there’s smoke there’s...pollution.
  • Two's company, three's...the Musketeers.
  • Happy is the bride who...gets all the presents.
  • If you lie down with dogs, you’ll...stink in the morning.
  • Don’t put off until tomorrow...what you put on to go to bed.
  • Laugh and the whole world laughs with you; cry’ll have to blow your nose.
  • Children should be seen and...not grounded or spanked.
  • If at first you don’t succeed...get new batteries.
  • When the blind leadeth the blind...get out of the way.
  • Better late than...pregnant.

Monday, February 19, 2018


Patients, especially new patients who do not yet know, respect, and trust you and your staff, judge your office and even the quality of care on appearance. That judgment begins outside the office front door.

Impressions begin as a patient approaches your office—whether surrounded by a well tended lawn with attractive landscaping or approached by an elevator and hallway, the entryway matters. Check it out: Proper signage? Well lit? Clean? Paint job free of smudges and chips? Unsoiled, attractive door mat? Greeter close inside the front door?

The second feature by which a patient may judge the overall quality of the practice is the patient bathroom. Check it out too: Fully lighted? Clean? Walls, woodwork, stall doors well painted or tiled? Fixtures in good repair? Fully stocked with toilet tissue, hand soap, hand towels, and baby diapers available upon request? In order to maintain this “We care” standard, the patient bathroom must be checked by staff or janitorial service several times daily.

In the fast pace of a workday, it is easy for the dentist and team members to overlook these two important office areas, the entryway and the patient bathroom. We often do not carefully and critically examine the mundane aspects of our workplace, the features we see constantly without really seeing at all. Encourage your team to be observant, making notes of problems in these two areas as well as other parts of the office for discussion and solution. Your patients will notice and appreciate the attention and care to these two areas that they observe closely during visits to your office.

Monday, February 12, 2018


As posted last week, the calculation of the effectiveness of a recare system is based on the number of active patients in the practice. Without that tally, one cannot determine how effectively the recare system retains patients.

Substitute your own numbers in the following example for a general practice with 2,000 active patients. Remember, in general practice an active patient is defined as one seen within the last 24 months for treatment or recare, not including single visit emergencies who did not return. In Pediatric Dentistry an active patient is one seen within the last 18 months, not including single visit emergencies.
  • 6 months = 333 recares/month for a 100% effective system
  • Actually averaged 140 recares/month last year
  • 140/333 = 42% effective recare system

  • Minimum goal = 75%
  • 2,000 active patients x 0.75 = 1,500 active patients to be scheduled regularly
  • 6 months = 250 recares/month for a 75% effective system

  • Impact on production
  •   250 recares/month for 75% effective system
  • -140 actual average
  •  110 additional recares per month with a 75% effective system

  • Average recare fee = $150
  •        110 additional recares
  •   x $150 average fee
  • $16,500/month additional production x 12 months = $198,000 additional annual production, plus improved care for patients