Orthodontics is rapidly changing. For many years orthodontics was a very stable specialty where the supply and demand did not change to any significant degree. Today, orthodontics is about to undergo what I refer to as The Competition Explosion. This explosion is due to numerous factors that are changing referral patterns and increasing the need for properly focused strategic marketing.
The Competition Explosion
Competition is emerging in orthodontics from many different sectors and most practices are unprepared for the contributing challenges which include:
- General dentists are performing more orthodontic treatment than ever before. This is partly due to the 2008 recession that caused an almost permanent decline in 75% of general practices, forcing them to find other ways to maintain revenue. Another important factor is the emergence of aligners and easy access to basic aligner education. We estimate that general dentists are increasing their amount of orthodontic treatment by approximately 40% per year.
- Dental support organizations (DSOs) are incorporating orthodontics at a faster rate. One of the nation’s largest DSOs recently contracted for aligner orthodontic training in their approximately 700 offices. In addition, it’s likely that over 1,000 orthodontic diagnostic stores will open throughout the United States in the next 5 years.
- Do-it-yourself orthodontics has arrived in a big way. DIY dentistry is growing significantly each year and it’s no surprise. In addition to being convenient, DIY ortho is approximately 70% below the cost of traditional orthodontics. This hasn’t yet had a dynamic effect, but it soon will due to the high levels of national marketing and the continual opening of DIY dental stores.
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Five Ways to Improve Your Practice Quickly
Every Levin Group orthodontic marketing client begins their consulting program with a set of rules that we call “The Standards.” Before clients begin the core of their referral marketing program and as we embark on designing a unique marketing strategy for each client, we like to make sure they have “The Standards” in place.
When properly implemented, these five powerful tactics will immediately transform patient relations, overall customer service, and the entire referral process of the practice.
The Standards are:
- All new patients receive a text message within 10 minutes of leaving the office. This message welcomes them to the practice, states how delighted the practice is to have them as a new patient, offers the opportunity to contact a specific front desk person at any time, and ends by telling them the practice is looking forward to their next visit. Very few people have ever received a text of this nature from their doctor, so it goes a long way toward creating a positive impression.
- Every parent or patient is handed a custom designed Google card and a request to write a review. Many parents or patients never think to write a review of their orthodontic practice. Handing them a card that tells them how much you appreciate them, asks for a review, and lays out the simple steps for leaving a Google review is an excellent tangible reminder.
- Give every patient a personalized Thank You card. A signed card is a very personal way to promote how much you value your patients. On the inside include a very simple two-sentence message letting patients know how much you appreciate them, and on the bottom panel leave space for the doctor and every team member who interacted with that patient during their visit to sign their name.
- Call and check on every patient who received treatment. We recommend that the doctor call the parent/patient who has received braces or aligners on the second night after their treatment. On the second night they are probably experiencing some discomfort and it means a lot to them for you to reach out at that time. Obviously, these calls are not clinically necessary. They are about going the extra mile to demonstrate that you have a 5-Star Customer Service practice that cares deeply about its patients.
- Every new patient should hear you compliment the doctor who referred them. It doesn’t matter whether they were referred by their general dentist or not. The key is to always compliment referring doctors because it is greatly appreciated. In a world where referring doctors can still provide you with significant revenue every year, it’s important for them to hear how much you like and respect them. They don’t hear this that often from specialists, so this is an opportunity for your practice to stand out.
There are other aspects of The Standards, but using these five rules is a powerful way to immediately begin reshaping your office, creating a 5-Star Customer Service mentality, and designing a powerful referral marketing program. OP [/sidebar]
How to Compete Effectively
Orthodontic practice success comes down to two key factors—marketing and sales. A referral marketing program is key to attracting potential patients and the treatment coordinator is equally important in closing cases, but it all begins with referral marketing.
There was a time when referral marketing always included both referring doctors and patients. However, most orthodontists quickly tired of pursuing referring doctors and began to focus all their marketing efforts on patients. This approach worked for many years but today’s orthodontic practices must again embrace both referring doctors and patients because they must take advantage of every opportunity to increase and maintain referrals. That’s why Levin Group has created a new marketing program based on the following FIVE FOCUS AREAS:
- The Branded Patient Rewards and Referral Program
- The Parent Ambassador Program
- The Social Media Interface
- The Referring Doctor Driver
- The Community Full Awareness Program
The science behind the program focuses on reaching people in many different ways. The Branded Patient Rewards and Referral Program focuses on identifying and building a true brand that motivates young patients to be more engaged with the practice and tell other people about their positive experiences.
Once you’ve gotten the kids on board, it’s time to make parents feel that they’re more than just chauffeurs shuttling kids to and from your office. The Parent Ambassador Club allows you to create more bonding experiences with the mothers and fathers in the practice through education, rewards, and social media.
Every orthodontic practice needs a social media strategy plan based on the most modern techniques. Current social media psychology indicates that people don’t like to be marketed to, but they do like information and feel-good opportunities that create an understanding of the practice. Keep in mind that patients, parents, and the community should all be included in your social media interface.
Despite the fact that they are participating more in orthodontic care, referring doctors are still a major referral source, so ignoring them is a mistake. When the marketing is done properly, referrals from referring doctors increase by a significant percentage. This is important considering the fact that one referring doctor alone can provide tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual revenue.
Finally, there is the community. We recommend that practices avoid expensive advertising programs, and instead take advantage of community public relations activities that are generally inexpensive and offer tremendous opportunities for practices to increase their standing in the community.
So How Will You Compete?
Patients and parents will begin to recognize the orthodontic practice quickly and in new ways if the FIVE FOCUS AREAS are all consistently addressed. One of the biggest mistakes that practices make is having an “on-again, off-again” mentality towards referral marketing. This often leads to a decrease in effectiveness because the marketing programs are not building on themselves.
So when should you start? The answer is now. While early and middle stage decline can be reversed, late stage decline is often an extreme problem. A referral marketing program using the FIVE FOCUS AREAS described above will help you attract patients from the community and combat The Competition Explosion. OP
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We are pleased to announce the launch of the New Levin Group Orthodontic Marketing Program. This breakthrough program includes FIVE FOCUS AREAS—Patients, Parents, Social Media, Referring Doctors, and the Community.
Levin Group has been the leading orthodontic management and marketing consulting firm since 1985. We have worked with thousands of orthodontic practices.
If you would like to have a 30-minute discussion about your unique practice situation and how the New Levin Group Orthodontic Marketing Program can benefit you, please visit levingroup.com/orthodontic-marketing-program or contact Angela Pickett at [email protected].
Roger P. Levin, DDS, is a third-generation dentist and the founder and CEO of Levin Group Inc, a dental management consulting firm that has worked with thousands of orthodontic practices. Levin, an internationally known orthodontic practice management and marketing 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.