The Importance of Reviews for your Dental Practice

Did you know that 87% of consumers won’t consider a local business with low online ratings, 44% pay attention to the quantity of reviews, and 69% only find relevance in current reviews? These statistics play a significant role in a potential patient’s decision-making process when they are evaluating dental offices and deciding who to call. When consumers are looking to decide on a local business, they trust what others have to say about their experiences and the reviews help to build credibility. It is important to be on top of these reviews, and if you time does not allow, hire someone to manage this for you.

You can spend money on advertising, but if your online reviews are not good or non-existent, you are decreasing your chances of a patient choosing your office as their dental office. In order to effectively manage your online reputation, you need to focus on three things; review monitoring, review responding, and review generation.

• Review Monitoring: Monitoring your online reviews is important so you know what people are saying about your business. There are many review sites that patients could be going to and leaving feedback and without monitoring, you would be unaware of these reviews. Plus, the feedback is critical to your online rating. If you don’t know what is being said, then you cannot respond, engage, learn of areas to improve, or address any concerns.

• Review Responding: It is in best practice to respond to all comments about your business, both positive and negative. Responding to the positive reviews publicly shows you appreciate feedback and opens the lines of communication for future engagement. Responding to any negative reviews is important for damage control and continuous improvement.

• Review Generation: There are many ways to collect new reviews from patients. You can post your review links to your social media outlets, asking current patients to review your business. You can also train your staff to ask patients to leave reviews while they are in your dental office. The most effective way is to make it easy for patients to review you by giving them the direct link for the review site by either emailing or texting them a direct link. Using direct links make it easy for them and results in the highest acceptance rate.

A dental office’s online reputation plays an important role in generating new patients for your office. This can be done internally by setting up systems or by hiring an agency to handle the processes for you. With 90% of consumers looking at online reviews before making decisions, it is important to make managing your online reputation a priority.

Do dentists need a business coach?

What goals did you set for yourself and your practice last year? Most small business owners, and that includes dentists, are often so busy trying to keep things from going off the rails that creating a plan and sticking to it is really hard without some sort of accountability.

A goal without a plan to achieve it is just a dream.

You may want to double your income, but how are you going to do it? What strategies are you putting in place to make that goal a reality?

This is where coaching comes into the picture.

A dental coach will help you set goals and stick to them. It’s a level of accountability that will help you prioritize what’s important and make sure that the follow-through is there.

For new dentists coming right out of school, coaching is essential when it comes to career planning. Whether the plan is to set up your own practice right away or work for someone else and pay down loans, the goal is to make sure you are always moving in the right direction and making informed choices. This type of coaching can save new dentists a lot of sleepless nights and set them on the path to success in the near, medium and long term.

For dentists who are already established, it’s important to set benchmarks and have strategies for growth – while positioning the business to compete successfully in what is becoming a very tough market.

If you are a dentist at this stage in your career, you may be wondering how you can ever compete against Managed Service Organizations and Dental Service Organizations. Corporate dentistry changing the business landscape. A dental coach will be able to show you how to thrive in this environment or prepare your practice for eventual sale. There are strong points to be made for both options. Making the choice to compete or sell is a personal one. And your coach should be able to give you the right information to make an informed choice.

Selling a dental practice is one of the biggest business decisions a dentist will ever have to make. This is especially true if the practice is your retirement plan. A dental business coach should be your first call if you are planning to sell. At this stage in your career, the goal is to put in place strategies and tactics to maximize the return on your investment and get the best price possible for your business.

As a working dentist with a winning track record in business for over 35 years, I’ve coached dentists at every point along this career trajectory. I can say for certain that it’s never too early to start.
If you want to talk about your options and discover how coaching can help your career reach its maximum potential, then send me a note and let’s schedule a short conversation.

7 Simple Ways to Boost Your Practice Without Busting Your Budget

Many dental practices are stuck in a bit of a rut. They have strong patient lists and make money each month, but they never seem to get over the hump that lies between “getting by” and “truly thriving.” Figuring out how to take your practice to the next level can be challenging, especially if your marketing budget is limited. Fortunately, these 7 simple tips can boost your practice without busting your budget.

Start a Blog

Blog setup and hosting fees are relatively cheap, and the return on investment can be significant. Not only will you see your website climb up the search rankings with the regular addition of new content, but a blog also helps to set the stage for long-term doctor-patient relationships with both existing and prospective patients. Use your blog to show people who you are, to talk about your practice, and to educate them on the field of dentistry. At once a patient empowerment tool, a trust-building exercise, and an easy way to communicate, a blog is arguably one of the best ways to boost your practice on a budget.

Use Social Media

It’s not enough to create a Facebook page and then ignore it. In today’s highly-connected world, people expect to engage with those they follow on a regular basis. Add Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and other social media accounts as well, and use them frequently. Choose interesting posts that encourage responses and engagement. Monitor your pages regularly for comments and respond to them as soon as possible.

Design a Referral Program

Word of mouth is always your most reliable source of advertising, and it doesn’t need to cost much at all. Develop a referral program that gives a small incentive each time a new patient lists an existing patient as their reason for choosing you. Be sure that your new patient paperwork asks for a referral name.

Join Your Community

One of the easiest ways to spread brand awareness and get new prospects to trust you is to get involved. Write an article for the local newspaper. Sponsor a Little League team. Attend community events. Becoming a known member of your local community will help ensure that people in town will think of you when they need a dentist.

Focus on Patient Retention

Remember that gaining new patients is only part of the equation. For your practice to thrive, you also need to keep your existing patients coming back regularly. Take a hard look at your current policies and procedures to find ways to become more patient-centric. Call each patient post-procedure. Add comfort items such as blankets and headphones. Give sugar-free gum or small toys to kids. Send birthday and holiday cards. Make your patients feel like VIPs, and they will be more likely to return.

Collaborate with Other Professionals

No dentist, no matter how talented, can truly be all things to all people. Reach out to those who specialize in areas that you do not to form valuable referral networks. Maybe you are an expert with kids and families, but you have less experience with elderly populations. The dentist down the street might specialize in geriatrics, but she prefers not to deal with minors. Likewise, you might work with an oral surgeon for patients who need dental implants, but make your own prosthetics in-house.

Offer Membership Plans

Many small businesses are struggling to provide employee benefits, and even the best dental insurance plans typically have low annual caps and long waiting periods for certain procedures. In addition, it is rare for dental insurance to pay more than 50%-80% of the total bill, even for many routine procedures.

An in-house membership plan is a great way to encourage patient loyalty while reducing your patients’ out of pocket costs. You can tailor different annual plans to the level of care different patients need, and offer a variety of payment options to fit various budgets. You can even offer family plans and plans for local small businesses.

Ready to Get Started?

If you are interested in learning how to take your dental practice to the next level, please contact Ascent Dental Solutions today at 413-224-2659 to learn how Dr. Coughlin can help.

Tracking Your Dental Practice Website: Why and How

You probably already know that a strong, credible website full of high-quality content is essential to growing your dental practice. What you might not know, though, is how incredibly important it is to track your website’s performance, or how to go about doing that tracking. Here is what you should know.

Why Do I Need Tracking?

Tracking performance is the only way to understand what is working on your website and what still needs tweaking. Without tracking, you might get only a small trickle of new patients and have no idea why. Or you might suddenly get a flood of new patients, but have no idea how to replicate your success. Website tracking lets you monitor the performance of different content pages, promotions, and advertising campaigns over time to enhance your ROI—the return on your investment of time and money.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics is arguably the very best way to track your website’s performance. You can drill down to specifics that let you optimize your website to maximize its success. Here are a few things to pay attention to in Google Analytics:

Website Visitors: One of the most basic but most important statistics is how many new and returning website visitors you have. If this number is low, you will need to find a way to drive more traffic to your site.

Page Views: Learning which pages receive the most views helps you narrow down what your visitors most want to see.

Traffic Sources: Understanding how website visitors got to your site helps you identify where to focus your marketing efforts. Direct traffic refers to the users who physically typed in your website domain. Referral traffic represents users who came via a link from another website. Other traffic sources are social networks and search engines.

Keywords: Learning which keyword phrases people used to find your website can help you optimize underperforming pages by including similar keyword phrases on them.

Conversions: Conversions are the website visitors who actually take action such as making an appointment or filling out a contact form. Ideally, you will have a high percentage of conversions compared to your total number of website visitors.

Average Session Duration: This lets you know how long the average visitor spends on your site. A longer average session duration means that visitors find your site engaging and helpful.

Bounce Rate: The bounce rate tells you what percentage of people arrive on a particular page of your site and then leave immediately. A high bounce rate on a page with basic information such as your phone number makes sense, but a high bounce rate on a page filled with content could indicate a technical issue.

Phone Call Analytics

Many people prefer to call to make a dentist appointment rather than handling it online or walking in without an appointment. Therefore, it is helpful to add phone call tracking to your website. This lets you know when a patient calls you based on your website. You can then add phone call conversions to your website conversions to get a better understanding of how many website visitors actually take action after viewing your site.

Ask New Patients for Information

An old-fashioned but highly effective way to track your patients is to simply ask them how they got to you. Consider adding a short section to your new patient paperwork that asks simply how the patient heard about your practice and whether he or she visited your website.

Ready to Get Started?

If you are interested in learning how to take your dental practice to the next level, please contact Ascent Dental Solutions today at 413-224-2659 to learn how Dr. Coughlin can help.

A Simple Dental Practice Appraisal Formula

Whether you are buying or selling a dental practice, the method used to appraise the practice can make an enormous difference in the success of the transaction. An accurate appraisal is vital for many reasons, including but not limited to:

Decreasing selling time

Boosting both buyer and seller confidence

Reducing the risks of practice failure during the transition

Better financing options

Simple Dental Practice Appraisal Formulas

There is no single best way to appraise a dental practice. It is both an art and a science, and is best performed by an expert. Still, it is important to understand the common appraisal formulas that are used.

Income-Based Valuation

Income-based valuation is the best way to appraise most dental practices. It is simple and easy to follow, and works particularly well for practices that have strong, growing patient bases and a history of revenue growth. There are two income-based valuation methods.

Capitalized earnings: This valuation looks at the practice’s net income for the prior year or the average of the past few years. The net income is divided by a cap rate of 25 to 31 percent to determine the fair market value.

Discounted cash flows: For this method, the next 10 years of net income are projected, and then converted to a net present value. The projections are based on a reasonable growth in costs, and then discounted by the assumed cost of capital plus a premium of 23 to 31 percent.

Market-Based Valuation

This valuation method assesses the market data of similar dental practice sales in your region. It is based on historical collections data multiplied by 60 to 80 percent. Although market-based valuation is appropriate in some scenarios, it is often considered less reliable than income-based valuation.

Net Asset Valuation

Net asset valuation considers both tangible and intangible assets. Tangible assets are physical property such as real estate and equipment, while intangible assets include practice goodwill. Since an estimated 80 to 85 percent of the value of a dental practice is intangible, it can be difficult to accurately appraise practices in this way. However, this method is useful for practices with either significant tangible assets or financial difficulties.

Appraising a dental practice is not easy. You can use a simple appraisal formula to get a rough idea of what your practice is worth, but only a professional can fully determine the best valuation method and take into account all the little details that can dramatically affect the final appraisal.

Ascent Dental Solutions is a full-service agency dedicated to helping dentists build their practices and map out their careers. It is the brainchild of Dr. Kevin Coughlin, who earned his doctorate at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine and currently serves as a faculty member there. While Dr. Coughlin continues to practice dentistry as the principal owner of the 14-location Baystate Dental PC, he has a strong passion for helping fellow dentists maximize their success. If you are interested in learning how to take your dental practice to the next level, please contact Ascent Dental Solutions today at 413-224-2659 to learn how Dr. Coughlin can help.

Buying into a Dental Practice: What to Expect

Most often, dentists going into private practice work alone. Buying an existing dental practice is a fairly straightforward process with a short transition period. Sometimes, though, the opportunity arises to join an existing dental practice with one or more dentists. This is more complex, as you will all be working and sharing equity together.

In many cases, a dentist buying into a dental practice will go through a slow testing process, where the new dentist and the existing dentists work alongside each other for a period of time before the buy in is completed. This is known as an associateship. The associateship to ownership process is typically divided into three phases.

Honeymoon Phase

The honeymoon phase allows everyone to get acquainted and see how they work together. The new dentist will sign an associate employment agreement that details the new dentist’s responsibilities and compensation. This is the time to explore each other’s philosophies, treatment methodologies, and business practices to determine if the partnership is the right fit.

This is also when all parties should discuss the parameters of a future buy in, as well as exit strategies. The goal here is to find a way for the new dentist to come into a full equity share without disrupting the business, and for either side to exit with minimal impacts to anyone.

Commitment Phase

A few months into the new arrangement, if things are working well, it is time to move into the commitment phase. As this point, a Letter of Intent is signed that details the terms of the buy in. This should also include a provision for the associate to move immediately to buy in should the senior dentist become disabled or pass away, ensuring that everyone’s interests are protected.

Other necessary paperwork includes an employment agreement revision and a practice management agreement. The goal for this phase is to spell everything out on paper so that the buy in is seamless and future hiccups are anticipated and provided for.

The commitment phase normally lasts 6 to 18 months, depending on the complexity of the existing practice and how long it takes to file all legal paperwork. If any current dentists are leaving the practice, arrangements must be made to transfer patient records and referral sources, which could extend the timeline.

Buy in Phase

The buy in phase is when the associate officially becomes a full partner. If the honeymoon phase and commitment phase were handled properly, the buy in phase should be smooth. The goal here is to allow the new partner to focus on becoming part of the team, and the team to focus on including the new partner, rather than drowning in forgotten or neglected paperwork.

Adding a new partner to an existing dental practice is a challenge for both the practice and the new dentist. However, slowing down and taking the process step by step can set up both sides for success. Clear communication, honesty, and a bit of patience will help to ensure that the transition is everything you hoped it would be.

Ascent Dental Solutions is a full-service agency dedicated to helping dentists build their practices and map out their careers. It is the brainchild of Dr. Kevin Coughlin, who earned his doctorate at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine and currently serves as a faculty member there. While Dr. Coughlin continues to practice dentistry as the principal owner of the 14-location Baystate Dental PC, he has a strong passion for helping fellow dentists maximize their success. If you are interested in learning how to take your dental practice to the next level, please contact Ascent Dental Solutions today at 413-224-2659 to learn how Dr. Coughlin can help.

You already have a sales team: your staff!

Look around your practice. What is the biggest investment you’ve made? You’ve got modern technology: that ensures that customers return, knowing that they’re getting the best care. That is a good investment.

But consider your most important investment: your team. You upgrade your technology, certainly. But are you doing the same with your team?

Here’s something I can offer from my years of experience with multiple practices and teams. If you don’t have a successful team, you don’t have a successful business or practice.

Intuitively, all dentists understand that they’re the leaders of their organization. But unfortunately, most of us are not trained in leadership, management, and many times, we just don’t know how to coach our team members.

Individual team members share a goal and are there to support your patient base, your business, and improve the quality of care and service for patients.

Here’s quick overview of how to make your team stronger…

They need to be trained in basic dental procedures, whether that’s periodontics, endodontics, oral maxillofacial surgery, implant dentistry, temporomandibular joint or temporomandibular disorders, cosmetic procedures, sedation options, pediatrics, dental radiology, public health: the list is really extraordinary.

It’s about education, yes, but also about value to the customer. If your team knows the value of these procedures, they can educate patients about them when they ask about them. They become part of your marketing and sales department. That’s value to your practice.

I think there isn’t a dentist or a dental personnel out there that doesn’t realize that some individuals are just innately better at sales. In general, the medical and dental profession generally frown upon the word sales. Sales sounds unprofessional. We’re above the fray: we shouldn’t be selling anything. We provide care and treatment.

In the world that I live in, sales are a positive thing. When you can educate, inform and motivate patients in a certain direction for a specific treatment, providing that treatment is the correct treatment and best for your patient, then sales are critically important because they motivate your patient to do what you think is best for them.

In short, your team can boost your practice’s success rate and how patients accept  the treatment plans.

So how’s your (sales) team? Have you given them the training and motivation you need?

You upgrade your technology so upgrade your team now and often. It’s the best investment you’ll ever make in your practice.

Podcast: Designing a Winning Customer Strategy

In this episode Dr. Coughlin discusses how to design a winning customer strategy.

Hello and welcome to Ascent Dental Radio. A program dedicated to the balance between the clinical aspect of health care and the business of health care. And now here is your host, Dr. Kevin Coughlin.

kevin-transparentWelcome to the following podcast. My name is Dr. Kevin Coughlin, owner and creator of www.ascent-dental-solutions.com. Please visit my website and listen to additional podcasts, but today’s podcast is on designing a winning customer strategy.

So let’s get started. First, there’s a difference between believers and achievers. Data indicates that about 92 percent of CEOs believe they are providing excellent customer satisfaction. The reality, however, is only about eight percent really achieve it. The goal is to be that eight percent. How to become that eight percent and bring you from a believer to an achiever is to focus on what I refer to as the 3Ds. You must first design then develop and then deliver.

Design simply means the appropriate segmentation of your patient or customer base to complete customer experience in each of the segments involved in your valuable final product. Develop simply means you must reinvent and renew your customer experience over and over. Change is good but change must be for the better.

Lastly and perhaps most importantly, is the action step of delivering. Every department, every team member must be pulling in the same direction. Failure to achieve this last action step will put you in the 92 percenters of believers rather than achievers. The alternatives of not becoming an achiever is simply more money on advertising, more sales people, more acquisitions, more products, more gimmicks, more waste of time and money. Simply stated, you must delight your patient or customer base in all aspects.

It’s common knowledge that managers tend to feel more accountable for improving profits. Most managers do not feel they are accountable for improving patient or customer relationships or the quality of that relationship. What truly creates the difference between an average manager and an outstanding manager are those managers who focus on the accountability of improving customer relationships or the quality of that relationship.

In general we’ve talked in past podcasts about promoters versus detractors. Promoters should be the core of your business. They are the best group to invest in. They create high margins, they love to do business with us, they constantly refer additional business to us and they should drive our strategic priorities.

Detractors do not like doing business with us. They spread negative word of mouth and they defect at the first opportunity to another company or business. You constantly should try to convert your detractors to promoters and if not possible, eliminate these detractors from your business plan.

The vast majority of your customer base will be passive customers. They can be easily lured into the detractor group if you do not focus constantly on improving relationships, products and service. The goal is to take the passive group and move them into the promoter group. Constantly you should be on the lookout for finding additional promoters for your business.

As a golden rule, what is ever good for your patient or customer base and team members will generally be good for your company. You need to look at your business in totality. You need to look at your phone system, your appointment systems, your orientation and treatments, the ability to discharge, evaluation of charts if you are in the medical or dental profession, financial arrangements should be clear, concise, honest and upfront.

You must take a look at every aspect of your business, including your reception room or office, your restrooms, your operatories, your magazines, the appearance, the communication skills. In order to achieve this, most focus in on the 3Ds which is design, develop and deliver.

For additional information about this podcast and other podcasts, please visit www.ascent-dental-solutions.com. Thanks for listening and we look forward to spending more time in the future on additional business topics to help your medical and dental practice grow along with your overall business. Thanks for listening. My name is Dr. Kevin Coughlin.