The Missing Link

These days, every dentist I meet wants to talk about marketing. Well, actually they tell me that what they really want is a truckload of new patients (the right sort of new patients of course) and then all their problems will be over. They believe that if they can find enough money to invest in marketing (difficult with falling turnover) and the right marketing strategies (well, everybody else is advertising aren’t they?), then truckloads of patients will be delivered to their front doors. Clever, yes, effective marketing is clever. And of course marketing is sexy and tangible (and dentists win awards for it at expensive dinners). Will it work, maybe? Probably not…

Of course, all businesses need marketing all of the time, and the best time to be marketing is when you have plenty of work. (In the same way that the best time to dig a well is when you have plenty of water!) In my view, you don’t do marketing, you are marketing all of the time, or as one of my mentors (Omer Reed) used to say, ‘Marketing is everything and everything is marketing”.

Good marketing (and I see lots of terrible, expensive, ineffective marketing) delivers people who are interested in what your practice can do, to the front door of your practice (let’s call them leads). Good marketing also, successfully, reactivates a healthy percentage of clients who have gone quiet either for Re-examinations, Hygiene appointments or unfinished treatment plans.

When any of these groups of clients arrive in your practice, you and your clinical team get the chance to sell them treatment plans which will keep your practice alive, your clients happy and the mortgages for you and your team paid.

So, that’s alright then. Except this isn’t an article about marketing, it’s an article about what happens when the marketing has been successful in delivering leads to your front desk team and what happens next. How successful are you and they and your dentists and your clinical team in converting leads into willing patients?

And so often, that’s where the missing link show’s up! In many practices I visit, the reality looks something this:

  • A potential new client walks into a practice to be greeted by the receptionist with the phrase, ‘It’s private you know.” (Happened to me!)
  • A potential new client phones the practice and asks the receptionist why they should pay £70 for a ‘New Patient Consultation’ rather than a lot less money for a ‘check up’ in the shiny new NHS Practice that’s just opened three doors from your practice, ‘for the same thing’? All your receptionist can think of to say, when put on the spot by this client, is something about spending more time with our patients and using better materials… (The potential new client doesn’t book a consultation).
  • You decide to keep track of what’s going on and ask your reception team to keep a note of all the potential new clients who contact the practice, what they want and whether the receptionist booked them an appointment? (You realise that the computer software is inept at keeping track of this, so you buy them a special notebook for the purpose). Your team does this, but inconsistently, so by the end of the month, you have only a vague idea of the numbers and your reception team, sensing a ‘witch hunt’, makes it up and covers their backsides!
  • You ask your reception team to send out your (expensive) new welcome pack to all enquirers and they do, to some of them (well the ones they remember or who they feel are worth it). Most of the welcome packs sit in their original packaging in the cupboard. Your team tells you that if they put them in reception, people just walk off with them.
  • Some potential new patients try and phone your practice at lunchtime or after 5pm. However the receptionists are having lunch/going home and have switched the incoming lines over to the ansaphone, which has a terribly long message about getting access to emergency treatment out of hours.

What I am describing here is the link between the marketing and selling a prospective client a service (or selling an existing client a service). This is the link (so often missing) where your support team explains to a client what is unique about your practice, what services you offer and engages them in a systemized process that (ideally) ends in them buying a service.

These two processes are known as your proposition, and the way in which your team engage with your clients.

That is, the way in which your team run systems that enable new and existing clients to:

  1. Enquire about the practice
  2. Book a new client consultation and then show up for it.
  3. Book a re-examination.
  4. Book an appointment for outstanding treatment.
  5. Reschedule an existing appointment.

Whilst your team is carrying out these processes effectively, they will also be recording important sales data such as this:

  1. How many telephone enquiries did you have?
  2. How many ‘drop in enquiries’ did you have?
  3. How many new clients did existing clients refer to you?
  4. Where did the rest of the new clients come from?
  5. Who converted these leads into new clients?
  6. How many clients said yes to treatment plans?
  7. And what’s the value of these treatments?
  8. How many took up interest free credit? How many have paid a deposit?
  9. What happened to the clients who said no?

In order to replace the missing link, I suggest that you and your team are very clear about these ideas (and very clear about them before you spend another penny on marketing!):

What is it about your practice that clearly differentiates it from all the practices nearby?

What is the proposition that you are making to your market place?

Can every one of your team clearly articulate this proposition?

What systems do you have (that everyone follows) to enable your team to:

  1. Communicate in a positive way with everyone who contacts the practice, giving them the right message with the right amount of detail and using the marketing support (welcome packs, leaflets etc) in support of this conversation.
  2. Convert 80% of your new client leads into new clients (who have paid for their new patient consultation up front).
  3. Re-activate clients who have gone quiet and sell them a re-examination or
  4. A treatment plan that they have cancelled and not re-scheduled.

Having this missing link in place will get the best from your marketing and not leave that truckload of new clients still sitting in the truck!

If you would like to know more about how Breathe Business can help you develop and implement an effective marketing strategy or developing your sales systems and training your team in sales skills, then please contact Breathe on 0845 299 7209 or



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