Finding success as a dental practice can be the result of a combination of factors, some directly related to dentistry and patient care, others more related to running a small, local business.
While small businesses may share some challenges across industries, dental practices may share special concerns and considerations on the road to success. From anxious patients to review and rating websites, there may be a lot to consider when you reflect on the day-to-day operation of your practice.
As you begin or grow your practice and face your own unique business challenges, explore these 11 tips that may help you stay on track for pursuing success.
Understand Your Niche
In a competitive market, it may be important to set yourself apart from your competition. Think about what makes your practice and brand different or special and embrace it.
For some, their niche may simply be their medical specialty. For example, a high-end cosmetic dentistry may have an easily understood and communicated brand. General dentists may have to carve a niche for themselves that goes beyond specific services or specialties.
An effective niche may help your practice flourish and grow by attracting and serving the specific types of patients you’re after. Patient personas may be helpful tools for this exercise. The best niche for your practice will depend on the types of patients you’re targeting, the services or amenities you may want to focus on and any existing branding you’ve had success with. Some popular niches may include comfort dentistry, flexible scheduling, anxiety-free dentistry, cutting-edge technology, emergency services or hours, whole family care and more.
There may not necessarily be a wrong answer for your niche, just some that fit better than others.
Connect With Patients and the Community
As part of a practice’s plan for success, it may be important to connect with the community. That connection may start as simply as your one-on-one interactions with patients and taking an interest in their lives.
As your practice grows, your ties and commitment to the surrounding community may also grow. Think about the way you may have seen other small businesses interacting with your community. From volunteer work to educational outreach or sports and event sponsorships, you may have a lot of options for showing your community you’re a local business that’s committed to more than making a profit.
Manage Your Reputation
In a modern, digital world where anyone may be able to easily publish their personal opinions, it may be important to listen to what’s being said about your dental practice.
While some businesses choose to hire reputation managers to monitor popular internet channels for mentions of their brand, and even respond on their behalf, managing your practice’s reputation may be easier than that.
Consider starting by claiming ownership to your business on social media and review-based websites like Yelp and Google. Doing so may give you the ability to track reviews and make changes accordingly, which may show people that your practice is proactively listening to feedback and committed to patient satisfaction.
Address Scheduling Woes
Scheduling headaches may be a common complaint of both patients and dental practice staff.
On the patient side, it may be tough to fit dental appointments during standard business hours into an already busy schedule. Some practices choose to provide early morning, evening or weekend hours to accommodate scheduling conflicts for their patients, many of whom may work typical full-time hours. While it may be possible for those patients to get time off for an annual checkup, it may be much harder for them to schedule extensive dental work or a series of appointments.
For your staff, the complexities of managing a practice’s appointment schedule may cause stress and friction. Modern scheduling software may help to alleviate some of those issues and increase staff efficiencies in booking, scheduling and rescheduling your patients.
Consciously Create a Culture
From each member of your staff to the decorations around your office (and beyond), practice owners may benefit from fostering a specific culture. Like your practice niche, this overarching theme may help you to attract and retain a specific type of patient.
The culture of your dental practice is your choice and may reflect who you are as a person or professional. Some dental practices may foster a high-tech, cutting edge vibe, focused on a modern, clinical environment and technologically-advanced services. Others may promote a personable approach, getting to know the details of their patients’ lives, sending birthday cards, providing a living room-like waiting area and using only first names.
Promote a culture that’s authentic, aligns with your business mission and values, and appeals to your key patient types.
Go the Extra Mile
Extra amenities may help you to turn patients into promoters of your practice, singing your praises and recommending your business.
Common extra-mile amenities may include music subscription services, televisions, free toothbrushes, blankets, sunglasses, office pets, stress balls, and children’s toys. Some practices combine anxiety-focused amenities in a “comfort cart” for patients.
Beyond creature comforts, the way you work with patients may also help to impress and delight. For example, you might offer to seek out high-quality referrals for services you don’t offer or you may make yourself available to treat dental emergencies on the weekends.
Consider Diversifying Your Team & Services
Adding diverse skill sets and services to your practice may help to strengthen the business by attracting a wider base of patients and providing more opportunities to profit. Consider which services or skills may complement your existing strengths or supplement in service areas where your practice may be lacking.
Popular options for additional services may include cosmetic dentistry, whitening, orthodontics, upgraded equipment, implants, surgical procedures and treating sleep disorders.
Don’t Neglect Your Marketing
From maintaining an active social media presence to branded merchandise, marketing may be an important factor in the success of your dental practice.
Whether you hire professionals to manage your marketing or choose to do it yourself, there may be a lot of different options to market your dental practice. Some of the most basic ways to begin with may include establishing social media pages for your practice, direct mail postcards, sponsorships, blogging, and online advertisements.
Start simply and measure your progress.
Build Upon a Foundation of Core Values
If your practice doesn’t currently have core values as part of your brand identity, consider creating them. Writing and displaying core values may communicate what you stand for, and the founding principles of your business. Doing so may inspire and solidify loyalty with those who share your beliefs, as well as help staff members understand what’s expected of them.
Core beliefs are typically single words or short phrases that guide the actions and decisions of a business in order to achieve their overarching mission and goals.
Examples of core values for a dental practice include:
- Building a strong community
Read and consider the values of other businesses, including the values of the American Dental Association, as you write your own.
Listen to Your Patients
It may be easier to care for your patients if you take the time to ask them about their dental health challenges or concerns.
Patients may be struggling with anxiety about coming to the dentist, the cost of major dental work and more. Patients may also not be aware of the full breadth of services you provide and how they can benefit from services such as discrete alignment tools or cosmetic dentistry.
Consider building a few extra minutes into your appointments to consciously encourage this open dialogue.
Be Friendly & Responsive
From enthusiastic greetings to addressing patients by name, there may be many ways to make patients see your practice as approachable and responsive to their needs. One simple but possibly powerful change to consider is replacing your voicemail system with an answering service. You may be able to proactively negate the frustration of trying to book appointments when your office is closed for lunch or when a patient has a dental emergency treatment during off hours.
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Treloar & Heisel is the premier financial services provider to dental and medical professionals across the country. We assist thousands of clients from residency to practice and through retirement with a comprehensive suite of financial services, custom-tailored advice, and a strong national network focused on delivering the highest level of service.
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