By DR SIMON HOCKEN
You know I hate generalising, but sometimes it helps to get the message across. Some days in my job, it feels like there are two types of dental practice:
First off, those practices that muddle along, often with a loyal, happy bunch of patients, a few new ones coming in the front door replacing a few leaving each month. Profits falling a little as costs increase, no panic but not a lot of fun…
And then the second group of practices. They are growing, some pretty quick, with plans to bring in new clinicians, open new surgeries, extend their deliverables and opening hours etc etc.
So, let’s compare a couple of these UK dental practices from the same UK town outside London and their new patient counts. Both of these general, private dental practices are currently turning over circa £600k – £800k, both have three part time dentists (including the principal) and two part time hygienists occupying three surgeries. Both practices have circa 2,500 patients, some of which are on a plan.
- Gets 15-20 new private patients per month; 8-10 on referral from happy patients, 4-6 from their website and 4-6 from people walking by
- Has a website that was built in 2011
- Places the occasional ad in the local paper when made a special offer by a tired marketing sales person looking to meet their deadline
- Active patient numbers are stable or gently shrinking
- Probably represents 80 per cent of UK practices
- Gets 30-40 new private patients per month (or more, a few practices I know of get 70-100); 10-15 on referral from happy patients, 15-25 from their website and online marketing and 4-6 from people walking by.
- Has a website that was built in 2015 (and is planning to replace it in 2017)
- Has a number of online marketing tactics in play
- Stopped placing the odd ad in the local paper many years ago
- Active patient numbers growing by around 300/year, will need a new dentist every three years and is contemplating moving premises and going to a six-surgery set up
- Probably represents 20 per cent of UK practices
If you look harder, one of the fundamental differences between the stuck practice and the growing practice is that the growing practice, having recently spent £6k-10k on a proper, functioning website is now investing somewhere between £1k and £5k/month on online marketing including: website changes and upgrades, landing pages, video content, SEO, PPC, social media campaigns, retargeting leads etc. The return on their investment is the lift in their new patient numbers and they are comfortable with an average cost of patient acquisition of around £70-£200 depending on what the new patient is looking for (more for adult ortho, implant patients etc) because they are confident their average new patient spend will support their acquisition costs.
Today, there could just possibly be a greater supply of dentists than there is a demand for their services (try advertising for an associate in the South East and see how many responses you get!). And some of the practices I go into are very quiet. So the answer to my rhetorical question, “Where have all the new patients gone?” is that they have gone to the practices that are prepared to make the investment in finding them!
If you would like some more new patients or some help with your practice strategy, contact me for a chat on: