Every dental office wants to grow. You earn more, create more smiles, and live a happier, more fulfilling life. But growth isn’t always easy. The average dental office spends 75 percent of its revenue on overhead. And the average dentist is more stressed, less satisfied, and more challenged across nearly every layer of practice than ever before. To add fuel to the fire, hygienist and dental assistant availability is at an all-time low, with offices across the United States and Canada desperately searching for critical staff to expand their practices.
Today, let’s navigate this chaotic landscape together. Here are some actionable strategies you can apply to boost your revenue, grow your patient list, and expand your practice.
Increase Your Capacity for New Patients
Let’s start with the biggest (and most obvious) way to boost revenue: increasing your capacity for new patients. The more patients you can serve, the higher your revenue, right? Easier said than done.
Dental offices across Canada and the United States are struggling to find dental hygienists, assistants, and office staff. It’s cutting into revenue, decreasing patient satisfaction, and creating headaches for just about everyone involved in the dental industry.
In the past, this section would have been dedicated to building new offices, securing technology, and boosting turnaround time. But in today’s environment (and likely the next decade) simply finding staff to ensure you can meet patient needs is a downright nightmare.
So, how do you find breathing room?
You use temporary staff and hyper-focus on finding high-quality full-time employees. We can help. WORKFORCE helps dental office rapidly staff in-need positions and find high-quality long-term candidates. Our world-class technology and industry-leading support mechanisms make finding temporary and permanent staff a breeze. Plus, we provide dental staff the right way (without breaking labor laws!)
Ready to solve your staffing problems? Sign up today.
Remind Patients to Utilize their Benefits
The majority of patients you see have dental insurance. Yet, nearly 50 percent of those with dental insurance skip office visits due to “perceived” costs. The truth is: most patients don’t truly understand their insurance, what’s covered, and their total costs. Case in point: Over 90 percent of dental insurance goes unutilized.
Not only is that massive untouched cash flow for your office, but it’s impacting patients. Over 65 percent of individuals say their employer did not help them understand their benefits. In fact, the majority don’t even understand that they’re covered for routine check-ups and many procedures.
This is where you come in.
Remind your patients to use their benefits. Create packets and posters that help patients understand how their benefits work and take time to discuss benefits with your patients during visits.
We’ve talked to a few offices that have completely automated benefit reminder solutions in place. They send out email blasts on Mailchimp, send SMS messages each fall, and call patients personally to give them reminders.
There’s a good chance you already do this. But we’re not just talking about reminders. Most patients simply don’t understand how their insurance works. What’s covered? What’s not covered? For example, patients are often frightened by their deductibles, as they represent tangible costs. But the vast majority of dental plans cover routine dental care outside of the deductible. If their employers aren’t telling them (hint: they aren’t), who will?
It falls to you. Train staff to have these conversations with patients. Unfortunately, you have no way of reaching the chunk of patients that simply don’t go to the dentist each year. They’re not on your radar. But, taking the time to discuss these issues with new and existing patients can keep them coming back again for more routine check-ups.
Hit Your Overhead Goals Early So You Can Focus on New Strategies
Boosting your revenue takes time, energy, and patience. For some, that causes a little anxiety. You can’t afford to spend time on boosting revenue next quarter. You need to focus on this quarter, right?
Here’s a pro tip: hit your overhead costs early in the morning. Plan quadrant appointments and revenue-rich procedures early in the day. If you can hit your overhead goals by lunchtime, the anxiety surrounding time spent on revenue-boosting (but not immediately generating) activities lessens.
Around 86 percent of dentists are stressed, and a significant number (rising yearly) suffer from anxiety and depression. It’s hard (if not impossible) to implement highly-actionable changes to your practice when you can barely keep your head above water.
Start by destressing.
Hit your goals early. Not only does this give you the ability to focus more on quality of care, but it frees up your time to commit “time spend” to actions that will generate future revenue. So, when you read these tips, keep in mind: it’s okay to not implement these all at once. Take your time. Restructure your schedule in a way that promotes creative ideation and spending. Don’t go gung-ho into each strategy and end up with a successful practice and dwindling mental health. It’s not worth it.
Take care of yourself.
Rethink Your Procedure Mix
It’s no big secret: certain procedures are of higher value than others. Unfortunately, many dentists fall into the rut of simply doing the basics. We get it; selling procedures isn’t exactly “fun.” But rethinking your procedure mix can do wonders for your profit margins.
As an example, things like mini-implants, cosmetic surgery, occlusal guards, and soft tissue programs can significantly boost profits compared to traditional procedures and cleaning. Obviously, these are harder to sell than simply cleanings. But one teeth whitening sale has higher profit margins than multiple cleanings.
Sit down, and deeply analyze your profit margins across procedures. Take time, staffing, and room usage into account. Once you find your highest-earning procedures, start to market them. Use the sections above and below for inspiration. By combining open operatory rooms, effective marketing, and proactive staffing, you can start to sell your highest-value procedures with ease. Most dentists perform around 60 procedures a year. You want to bump that to over 100. Not only does this boost your profits, it gives you breathing room.
If we assume a dental practice needs around 1,600 active patients each year to survive, dental offices that hyper-focus on their procedure mix can cut that in half. That gives you breathing room and tons of extra space for immense profits.
Leave an Operatory Room Open
This one seems counterintuitive. Leaving an operatory room open seems like an immediate loss of revenue, right? If the room isn’t booked, you’re not making money. But don’t think of it that way. Instead, build an operatory room that’s always open to help you minimize your stress, improve your patients’ wait times, and maximize the quality of your practice.
According to the ADA, having an open operatory room boosts profits by 80-90% profit increase immediately. Not only does this open room have fixed overhead costs, but it gives you the flexibility to perform high-profit procedures without scheduling nightmares. Obviously, keeping a constantly-booked operatory room is high value, but each booked room significantly increases your workload. Open rooms give you flexibility without that immediate time commitment.
Offer the Right Financing Options
Offering a higher-value procedure mix virtually always requires financing options to be successful. Over one-third of adults cannot cover a $400 emergency expense via cash or credit. A significant number of your patients cannot afford high-cost procedures. To help them bridge the gap, dental offices regularly offer financing. But many don’t offer the right financing.
According to Forbes, around 50 percent of patients who apply for financing are denied. Only those with a good-to-great credit score can secure these options, and many of these people can already pay out-of-pocket for the expense.
Consider shopping around for financing options that are a better fit for your patients. Check terms, discuss approval ratings, and dive deep into the terms tied to each financing option. You need to play patient advocate. Offering financing that’s high-value for patients will boost your ability to offer more valuable procedures.
Yes, the ADA recommends patient financing options. But having financing doesn’t really mean much. You need good financing options that genuinely help patients afford high-cost procedures, without the avalanche of strings and high interest rates attached. Avoid all plans with kickbacks, sign-up bounties, or overly zealous rates. Try to find a logical, straightforward plan that accepts patients across credit score brackets.
Deeply Analyze Your Competitors
As a dental office, you have some advantages. You’re location-based, highly skilled, and in demand. But that doesn’t mean you get to take your foot off the gas. Dental offices need to be acutely aware of their competitors’ pricing, marketing strategies, and patient flow.
Below, we’ll give you the basics. But here is a great guide on creating a strategic analysis of dental offices by a DMD and a group of researchers.
Finding your competitors is relatively easy. Figure out the geographic area that accounts for the vast majority of your traffic, and note any competitive dental practices in that area. Once you know your competition, pay attention to what they do. You want to know their:
- “In-practice” marketing mix (e.g., posters, partnerships, etc.)
- Social marketing strategy
- Marketing channels (e.g., radio, digital, etc.)
- Public perception
- Sales strategy
Pay attention to all of your competitors. And take advantage of any gaps or open opportunities. Often, you’ll find each office has a unique culture. For example, one office may hyper-focus on Invisalign sales, and this procedure/service may be a massive part of their mix. Another office may live and breathe by constant patient flow, so you’ll see them heavily using social media to recruit new patients. Understanding your competitors’ focus can help you dominate underreached markets around them.
We also highly recommend staying in tune with major dental resources that keep tabs on statistics, prices, wages, and strategy. The CDA and ADA are great initial resources, but we also recommend Dental Economics and Dentistry Today. As one of the leading dental staffing solutions in both the US and Canada, WORKFORCE’s wonderful marketing and research team also brings regular stories, updates, internal data, and strategies to your inbox each month when you sign up for the newsletter.
Market the Smart Way
Most dental offices know marketing is a valuable tool. But effective marketing is also often associated with high-cost marketing agencies, significant time spend, and plenty of costly headaches. Luckily, these aren’t necessities.
You don’t have to spend tens of thousands of dollars a month to create an effective marketing funnel. And it doesn’t have to take away a significant chunk of your time. Below, we want to recommend some marketing strategies that are low-cost and high-impact. Of note, you can still work with marketing agencies or hire internal marketers if you want. But these tips will help both those who can’t afford to do this and those looking to make a splash without tons of cash.
Every dentist should be sending emails. The average business can expect a $36 return for every $1 spent on creating email campaigns. For the dental industry, this is likely higher — given that the average lifetime value of a single patient is around $15,000.
So, how do you email market? Pay for a service like Mailchimp (~$15/mo), design a few different email types (e.g., welcome emails, educational emails, promo emails, etc.), and start sending them out to patients. Seriously! It’s that easy.
You don’t have to be amazing at email marketing to get value from it. Don’t wait until you are an absolute expert. Get out there and start sending emails. This is what we do! We didn’t hire an email marketing team. We just wing it. As long as you’re honest, educational, and fun, you’ll get results.
Social Media Marketing
You can go big with social. But most practices don’t have the money or time to commit to full-scale social strategies. That’s okay! Simply creating social accounts, posting informative content, and answering users are enough. You don’t need to go crazy, and you certainly don’t have to create full-scale videos or gigantic creatives.
Here are some easy-peasy social media post ideas you can steal:
- Informative infographics about dental health (you can create these via a cheap service like Canva or Visme)
- Q&A posts about dental health
- Post positive patient reviews
- Share discounts or seasonal events
- Give daily oral hygiene tips
All of these are low-cost and effective. Don’t stall. Just start posting.
Want to steal more ideas? Check out our social accounts. Steal our ideas! We don’t care.
Technically, blogging isn’t low-cost. In fact, it’s probably the most expensive component of marketing. You can expect to spend around $250 per post for smaller dental posts. You can use a freelance writer or a content service.
But, it’s worth it. Every day, one-third of people in the United States search for local businesses on Google. And seventy-six percent of people who search for a local business will visit within 24 hours. If you rank above your competition on Google, it’s a very, very big deal.
Here’s the best part: blogging also provides fuel to your other marketing strategies. You can cut up blog posts and use them as social blubs. You can send out email campaigns that drive traffic to blog posts and drive traffic to your practice at the same time. Best of all, blogs are easy to turn into a wide variety of secondary creatives (think: eBooks, whitepapers, infographics, etc.) that drive further traffic.
If you’re not creative, you can use the content from your blogs for all of your social channels and email campaigns. It’s a ton of value from a single source.
Flyers & SMS
Don’t sleep on traditional mail flyers and SMS messages. Sending reminders and promos is a great way to score more clients and keep existing ones from slipping on their benefits or missing their appointments.
SMS is the preferred method of communication for most of your patients. Make sure you send them important information via these channels. But don’t be scared to sprinkle in some marketing materials (maybe they should know about this amazing new procedure that would improve their smile?)
For flyers, they still work. Not only does this marketing campaign reach a portion of your audience that doesn’t engage digitally (often older generations), but they have the highest open rate of any campaign type.
Once you have your marketing in place, you have an open operatory room, and you’re getting new faces in, proactive staffing can be a gateway to profitability. Grabbing a temporary dental hygienist for just a single day brings in around $1,800. If you use temp workers a few times a month, this adds up fast. Proactive staffing doesn’t just help you get through your backlog, it gives you the flexibility to hire on your time.
This is a massive strategy in today’s hotly-contested dental landscape. Often, we see offices use us to get temp staff a few times a month. Within the year, they’re ready to hire full-time. Temp staff gives you unlimited flexibility to grow. You can have a massive backlog of patients without fear. And you can scale without worrying about your capacity.
Here’s a pro tip: organize your backlog around the schedule of your hygienist. For example, when we release our hygienists’ schedules, their entire availability typically goes fast (within 48 hours). Instead of working them around your schedule, work your schedule around theirs.
Find a day that a good temp is available, and leverage that open operatory room to get through your backlog. Once you have enough patient flow and income to hire another hygienist, do it. Now, you can repeat this process for near-unlimited scalability.
Putting it All Together
All of the strategies above are intertwined. Boosting your marketing efforts, expanding finance options, and reminding patients to utilize benefits can boost your patient flow. Open operatory rooms, rethinking your procedure mix, and competitive analysis can help you maximize the value of every patient that comes through your doors. And increasing your capacity and proactively staffing can ensure you can meet these new demands with accuracy, grace, and professionalism. Throw in hitting your overhead costs early and you can work through each of these layers of growth without the headaches and stress that are commonly attached to growth.
There is near-unlimited growth potential for dental offices. As long as you have the staff, will, and work ethic, expanding your practice just takes a little know-how. To learn how WORKFORCE can help you grow, contact us.