Whenever you experience a disappointment or failure, you’ll often ask yourself: “Was there any way that I could have avoided this?” or “What did I miss?” It’s the same in the business world. Unfortunately, sometimes there are no red flags, and your practice can experience decline without warning. But just because you had no warning doesn’t mean that there were no indicators. They just weren’t visible to you. I like to call them invisible indicators.
An invisible indicator is a silent warning that there’s trouble ahead. Your doctor would describe high blood pressure in much the same way. In fact, high blood pressure is often called “the silent killer.” Your blood pressure can be rising and you’ll often have no symptoms at all. It usually takes a very significant increase in blood pressure before you start to feel symptoms like dizziness, weakness, or imbalance. Meanwhile, it’s already caused serious damage that can lead to a stroke or heart attack.
The same is true for your referral marketing strategy. Referral marketing is the key to success in almost every specialty practice however, over time, many practices begin to decrease their marketing efforts. Gradually, this slowdown in marketing can begin to erode the level of referrals. This impending reduction in referrals can remain invisible for some time because there are no symptoms that something is wrong. Even though you’ve tapered off your efforts, you’ll still continue to experience excellent financial performance and a steady stream of new patients—until you don’t. Before you realize it, your referrals can drop 10, 20 or even 30%.
As soon as the invisible indicator has been identified (i.e. becomes visible), the practice should come to the understanding that things are moving in the wrong direction. Without panicking, you should put a marketing strategic plan in place immediately that includes the following three steps:
- Elevate customer service. Referring offices should be treated like VIPs.
- Increase contact with referring practices. Referring offices should know that you’re there for them.
- Develop a referral marketing calendar. Plan and chart all marketing activities for the next 12 months.
Invisible indicators in referral marketing are one of the most important but least understood concepts. It’s natural when a practice is doing well to become comfortable and even complacent. However, the earlier any type of slowdown in growth is detected, the easier it will be to implement strategies to reverse the trend.
Look for the Orthodontic Products’ February print issue where Roger P. Levin, DDS, will start a series on the five critical focus areas for orthodontic marketing.
Roger P. Levin, DDS, is a third-generation general dentist and the founder and CEO of Levin Group Inc, a dental management consulting firm that has worked with over 26,000 dentists. Levin, an internationally-known dental practice management speaker, has written 65 books and over 4,300 articles. He is also the executive founder of Dental Business Study Clubs—Dentistry’s only All-Business Study Clubs, the next generation of dental business education.