by Helmut Flasch

As the economy remains weak, rising costs for energy and food force consumers to cut back on spending, and many orthodontists are seeing a decrease in patient visits and the postponing of certain treatments by patients.

This presents a problem of great magnitude to private practitioners across the country, and here are five key points to help you, the private practitioner, to counteract the changes:

Helmut Flasch

1) Recognize that you are in the business of marketing orthodontics. The first mistake that many practices make is to believe that giving good service or care is all that you need to succeed. Maybe this was true 100 years ago, but today, if your service is not put in front of the potential clientele on a constant basis through marketing, then awareness of your practice will never reach the people who need it, and you will have a hard time, especially in a slow economy. Ultimately, only those who continue to learn and do marketing consistently will survive and prosper.

2) Becoming a “Jolly Good Fellow” will translate into many more patients. Instead of relying on traditional advertising, why not do something positive for the community that will create more goodwill—and, ultimately, patients—for your practice? We’re not talking about some PR gimmick here. While most of us try to be good human beings each day, few realize that putting this basic concept into action in the community by doing truly good deeds such as food drives and anti-drug events not only raises your visibility through free press, but helps your credibility as well. This is where you will stand head and shoulders above your competition. Contrary to common belief, these social participations do not need to take much time, and if done correctly, they will build your patients’ trust in you even before they select you as their orthodontist. This also will prompt more referrals from other orthodontists.

I call this the “un-advertising” approach: by doing humanitarian actions in your community, you do not advertise your service but get positive attention that remains in the public’s mind. Orthodontists who have done “un-advertising,” especially in a slow economy, have found that the public and referring doctors do remember them for a long time—much longer than those who simply advertised.

3) Growing and succeeding can often be easier in a slow economy than it is in a steady and growing economy. It also has been proven that many millionaires and billionaires have been made during recessions and even in depressions. During a fast-paced economy, many practices will experience their normal growth. However, the typical reaction during a slow economy is to “hide one’s head in the sand.” But when the going gets tough, the tough get going and step up their marketing efforts.

Most practices that cut down their marketing efforts during slow times do so because they believe these efforts will bring in less than before. This approach will simply shrink these practices even more, and in 1, 2, or 3 years, when the economy picks up again, they will be too paralyzed financially to take advantage of the economic upturn.

4) If you keep looking for that one marketing action that will bring your business growth, then you will end up overworked and in financial hardship. There is no one marketing action that increases your patient volume—it is always a combination of several actions done together.

Talk to different marketing consultants and put together a system that you can use over and over again. Most people engage in a “bee-hopping” approach to marketing. They try one thing, and if that doesn’t work, then they try the next. This approach does not help you, unless you want a smaller practice. Go for marketing systems—complete marketing plans that involve both internal and external marketing activities and that can be done without your spending a lot of personal time or money to implement them.

Marketing is as scientific as engineering, and important scientific data show that half of your marketing efforts will probably not work, even if you are very good at it. Another scientific fact is the principle of synergy, which again supports that the bee-hopping approach does not work. It is like in war: attack with all the ammunition available, and attack from all corners possible.

5) You do not have to like a marketing action for it to work. People do not like root canals, or having their transmission fixed, or having to stop smoking. Most do not like to hire lawyers, either, but winning a lawsuit and staying out of jail makes the “liking” part immaterial. What counts is that your practice grows.

Helmut Flasch is CEO of Flasch Business Expansion, Canoga Park. Calif. He can be reached at (800) 513-7504.