The Dental Road Less Traveled – to Financial Success

Filed under: Dental Practice

This article was originally published in 2018, but is timeless in its recommendations!

Robert Frost wrote The Road Not Taken in 1915, not as advice to dentists but for a friend, Edward Thomas, who was frequently indecisive.

Nonetheless, many dentists face a dilemma similar to Frost’s immortalized sojourner:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could …

The fork in the road for most dentists is end-of-the-year budgeting, and more specifically, setting a marketing budget for the year to come.

The dilemma is clear. Spend too little on marketing and advertising, and you could underperform your potential. Spend too much, and your hard-earned money goes to waste. Of course, regardless of how much you spend, if your money goes to the wrong places, you’ll lose.

Which is why so many dentists dread year-end budgeting almost as much as they do spring tax preparations.

Three Paths

When it comes to planning the marketing budget at the end of the year, there are actually three main paths any dentist can take.

1. Turn back. Punt. Set no budget and wing it in the new year.

2. Budget for marketing as you always have. Even if it’s not optimal, it’s familiar.

3. Try a fresh direction, one that requires the dental group or individual dentist to understand the value – both to professionals and their patients – of approaching each office as a for-profit enterprise; accepting the responsibility to streamline each practice and make it as financially productive as possible.
… I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Spoiler Alert

For those dentists who would be satisfied following Path #1 or Path #2, this article may not be intended for you. For those dentists who would select Path #3 – SPOILER ALERT – you are about to learn how you can consistently outperform nine-out-of-ten other groups or practices in the country.

Moreover, when you strategically budget and effectively manage your marketing dollars, you will also outperform common investment vehicles, including stocks, bonds, real estate, and commodities.

Unquestionably, the safest and best possible investment you can make is in yourself and your practice or practices.

Here is a brief preview of what a business-minded group or dentist can expect to gain by taking the road less traveled:

  • Discover how to budget for the most effective marketing and advertising.
  • Obtain a return on investment (ROI) for your marketing dollars of at least 300%, often much higher.
  • Draw in 80 to 100 new patients a month for each of your offices, almost regardless of the size of your market. (In big markets, your new patient count will be larger.) Better still, use your newfound insights to attract more of your “ideal” patients.
  • Learn the secret of making more efficient use of your marketing dollars; an approach that might not require spending any additional funds.
  • Save time, which equates directly to becoming more profitable; making the most of your work hours, and enjoying each day more than ever.
  • Know how to seize unforeseen opportunities when they arise.
  • Earn a first-class, express ticket to “The Dental Good Life” – that rarified life achievement where you have the means to realize your most heartfelt dreams – whatever they may be.

All this and more are working right now in real-world settings, executed by dentists and group managers who started down the correct path to success from a place no different from where you stand this very minute.

Big Spring – Population 29,000

A shining example of what strategic budgeting can do for a dental group or practice is Abbeville Dental Health Management, which operates 20 offices dotting modest-sized Texas communities in cities that include Lubbock (pop. 253,000), Amarillo (pop. 200,000), Big Spring (pop. 29,000), and Odessa (pop. 118,000).

Dr. Khater
Dr. Bostick

Drs. Britt BostickMayada Khater, and their colleagues – with the help of RAMP, their full-service marketing company – have grown Abbeville Dentistry into an efficient, highly profitable DSO that provides patients top-flight care and is a national role model when it comes to taking the right budgeting and marketing path.

In only five years, Abbeville Dentistry became one of the most profitable general practices in America, generating more than $27 million in annual revenue, and drawing an average of at least 100 new patients a month to each of its clinics.

“The biggest marketing error that most dentists commit,” says Dr. Bostick, “is that they fail to pinpoint what brought each new patient to their practices.”

Dr. Khater explains that Abbeville Dentistry tracks not only the most-recent, decisive advertising vehicle that caused a new patient to come in but also every single advertisement and marketing campaign, in every medium, that the patient can recall.

“You’re dentists, rely on professionals to do your marketing.”

That’s because Dr. Khater and Dr. Bostick know that each and every exposure a prospective patient has to Abbeville Dentistry’s marketing efforts is a contributing factor to the patient’s ultimate decision to initiate a first appointment.

In fact, in addition to the health history, insurance coverage, HIPAA, and privacy forms that each new patient is asked to fill out on their initial visit, Abbeville Dentistry also has a questionnaire that lists every marketing and media outlet – newspapers, radio, TV, internet, direct mail, etc. – and queries the patient on which ones they’ve seen.

The Abbeville Dentistry team monitors the advertising and marketing responses closely and fine-tunes its budgets to emphasize what’s working and reduce expenditures on what’s not attracting patients.

As savvy and experienced as Drs. Bostick and Khater are, they’ve learned to trust the experts in budgeting, advertising, and marketing to guide them and help make the most cost-effective, productive media buys.

“You’re dentists, rely on professionals to do your marketing,” says Dr. Michael Silverman, who leads RAMP.

$1 Billion+ in Dental Production

Dr. Silverman, who founded RAMP more than 20 years ago and helped the marketing company generate more than $2 billion in dental production over the years, puts his experience to work for each client. Eight out of every ten new patients that RAMP attracts through its proprietary strategies are classified by clients as “high value.”

Dr. Silverman, who founded RAMP more than 20 years ago and helped the marketing company generate more than $2 billion in dental production over the years, puts his experience to work for each client. Eight out of every ten new patients that RAMP attracts through its proprietary strategies are classified by clients as “high value.”

While each dental group or practice is unique and is provided individualized attention by RAMP, Dr. Silverman has found commonalities among their consistently successful clients. These include:

  • They view marketing as an investment, not an expense.
  • They stay committed to marketing year-round. Even during months when patients traditionally make less-frequent appointments, successful practices maintain a marketing campaign to secure ‘top-of-mind’ status.
  • RAMP clients carefully track how each new patient came to the practice, and then use that data to determine their marketing priorities and allocate their budgets.
  • They set aside a contingency/reserve budget to seize unforeseen opportunities, such as targeting a newly opened nearby residential development or capitalizing on favorable news coverage.
  • They understand that time is money, and their time is best spent seeing patients, not struggling with arranging and monitoring effective media buys.

When RAMP clients invest in a marketing campaign, they anticipate at least a three-to-one return on their advertising dollars. Often, the return is much higher than that.

One reason that closely tracking the effectiveness of ad spending bolsters a dentist’s bottom line is that it provides dentists the ability to shuffle funds to their most-productive marketing outlets – without having to spend a penny more.

For example, RAMP points to a dental group that enjoyed solid five-to-one returns on its television and radio media buys, but only a two-to-one return on direct mail. That combination brings the group ROI down to an average of four-to-one. If that group shifts the money it’s spending on direct mail to radio or television, then its ROI will quickly rebound to five-to-one, without having to increase the overall size of the group’s marketing budget.

Another great way that the RAMP team has found to increase group revenues without spending additional funds relates to making more effective case presentations. Unlike many marketing companies, RAMP monitors the performance of its client’s case presentations and offers training on how to improve results.

To illustrate the lesson, Dr. Silverman shares his experience with one current dental client located in the Northeast.

Tracking the practice’s performance, RAMP found that the office was presenting between $125,000 and $150,000 a month in treatment proposals but only converting about ten percent of those into actual cases.

The dental client wanted to spend more on marketing to increase the practice’s performance, however RAMP advised them not to.

“The phone is ringing,” Dr. Silverman told the practice owner. “You know these patients have the money, but whether it’s your team answering the phone incorrectly or the methods you use in the case presentation, it’s not working.”

Instead of increasing the marketing budget, RAMP mentored both the office staff and the dentist on ways to improve case presentation conversions. No additional marketing funds were necessary to see a marked uptick in month-to-month production.

Disciplined and Methodical

Drs. Bostick and Khater of Abbeville Dentistry consistently budget four percent of their group’s gross revenues to marketing and advertising, then continually monitor the performance of its marketing investment and reallocate the funds based on the results.

As their group grows – and it has grown like a weed in recent years – Abbeville Dentistry maintains its four percent allocation, effectively increasing its marketing budget significantly in absolute dollars year-over-year.

While Abbeville Dentistry is disciplined and methodical in its approach to marketing, it knows there is no one-size-fits-all marketing plan. For some of its 20 practices, television and radio ads return the most bang for their bucks. In other areas, however, direct mail remains powerful.

As for their decision to choose RAMP to guide their marketing efforts, Dr. Bostick says he was looking for an agency that “has the ability to scale and grow with us,” which RAMP has done.

Dr. Michael Silverman and the RAMP team have coined a phrase for the ROI that they seek on behalf of each of their clients: The Dental Good Life. For each dentist, the good life looks different: purchasing a vacation home, doing overseas pro-bono work, funding their children’s or grandchildren’s college education, taking luxury cruises, acquiring one or more additional practices, creating a charitable foundation, etc.

Whatever the dream, RAMP knows that business-minded dentists deserve to realize it thanks to all of the dedication, skill, and intensive labor they’ve invested in the oral health and well-being of their patients.

When all is said and done, it really is the patients who win when quality dentists – thanks to effective budgeting, marketing, and advertising – reach adults and the parents of children whose oral health benefits from their care.

RAMP was founded by a dentist and has served the dental industry for more than 20 years, continuously providing advances in marketing technology with exceptional know-how. Schedule a free strategy session today and let us show you how to get the most out of your investments.