Did your dental coach just give you some questionable advice?

Check out coaching recommendations carefully before jumping in

mistake signThere are now quite a few dental coaches and advisors in the industry who move from practice to practice offering advice to busy dentists. This appears to range from the fundamentals of customer service, right through to the financial evaluation and profitability assessments.

It’s fairly easy to understand why the coaching role has developed given that most dentists leave their clinical studies without too many business skills bolted on. Consequently many of them reach the point where they quickly need some business and financial guidance to help them along with their careers. This is sensible and admirable. Whilst much of the content I’ve seen and feedback I’ve heard about most dental coaches is good, I do occasionally see some “guidance” published which is quite a long way off the mark and hence needs to be treated with a degree of caution in my opinion.

The areas where I have some concerns tend to be where the advisors try to guide the client through complex transactions, for example financial assessments associated with sale/purchase scenarios and where some basic mistakes or incorrect assumptions could easily be made with the numbers. This can lead to wrong decisions being made. My advice would be to use a specialised dental practice accountant, rather than a generalist. We have a couple of clients who almost tripped up like this and now only use specialist services to guide them through specific types of transactions.

Another area where I see what I consider to be innapropriate advice is with digital marketing and suggestions that by-and-large it doesn’t work very well. Of course, this is a rather broad generalisation and whilst poorly implemented digital marketing will yield low returns, when done well, it can be extremely fruitful. Ultimately it’s all about return-on-investment and working out how to measure it correctly.

Let’s take a closer look at some recent advice published by a dental advisor regarding the balance between internal and external marketing and see if we think that the recommendations actually stack up.

Internal or external marketing – or both?

The main thrust of the advisor on this particular occasion was to suggest that internal marketing yields much better returns than external marketing – by this he meant that encouraging patients to recommend their friends and families is far more profitable than advertising on the web via pay-per-click or other digital marketing mechanisms. Where this is absolutely spot on, is that the “quality” of word-of-mouth (WOM) enquiries is almost always better than the quality of leads which come from web advertising i.e. the WOM enquiries will yield much better treatment conversion rates. This is clear.

However, the guidance also seems to suggest dropping most of the external advertising budget to concentrate maximum efforts on the internal marketing approach. This is the inaccurate part and one to be cautious about if you are considering following the advice. You may consider that, as a digital marketer I would say that, but years of data from running campaigns for lots of dentists tells me that digital marketing done right, and with transparent management and reporting, can yield very good returns indeed.

Perhaps what the guidance should have said was that you need to be fighting on several fronts; so absolutely ensuring that your internal marketing procedures and practices are up-to-scratch and pursued enthusiastically, *plus* a comprehensive digital marketing campaign to seek new patient enquiries from the web. It is important to note here that the second highest level of new patient enquiries come from the web, not too far behind those that come via word-of-mouth, so neglecting to pursue those could be seen as foolhardy.

Return-on-investment (ROI)

I think what may have stimulated the coaches comments is the fact that a lot of dental marketing is rather poor, with numerous companies trying to get into the space, offering the earth and then failing to deliver. Please take a look through this blog to see some examples of where we’ve tried to expose these practices. It’s also fair to say that lots of dentists have been caught out by this over the years and hence perhaps why this particular marketing discipline sometimes has a dark cloud hanging over it. But to suggest that it’s all bad is some way wide of the mark.

As a dentist what you must do is not eschew digital marketing but ensure that what you are doing is undertaken by a proven company and with clear reporting. This way you will know just how much you are spending, on what channel and exactly how many enquiries came in as a result. With modern CRM systems or even diligent manual tracking, you can then evaluate what actually resulted in treatment and what it actually cost to achieve the enquiry in the first place. If after this it still isn’t working, then sure, re-evaluate. It is also absolutely critical to have the correct follow-up procedures to convert these leads, something which is sorely lacking in many practices, but more of that in a future blog.

Summing up

Whilst I admire quite a lot of what I see coming from the world of dental coaching, there are occasionally some elements which cause me to raise an eyebrow and think that the guidance is somewhat wide of the mark. A particular concern relates to the perceived value (or otherwise) of digital marketing and the guidance to de-prioritise it. This would be a mistake in my opinion, backed-up by years of running successful digital campaigns for dentists across the UK.

Ultimately it’s all about measuring the return-on-investment for any initiative you undertake and where you can actually show that this is healthy, then why not continue?

If you’d like to discuss where digital marketing sits alongside your own internal marketing initiatives and indeed how they can be complementary, please get in touch with the Dental Media digital team on 01332 672548 for a no-obligation discussion.