Category Archives: Dental Marketing

The Magic of Apple Employee Training

We often hear about how brilliant Steve Jobs was, and what a good job Apple does of marketing its products.  What I want to talk about is their employee training in retail stores, and how it can be applied to any small service business.  (And if you don’t think you’re in retail health care, take some time and read Chapter 3 of my book—it should convince you.)

As you may have noticed, Apple stores are the busiest stores in the mall.  For the statistic-minded, retail stores in malls average sales of $341 per square foot per year.  The top 20 retailers average $787.  Apple stores average $6,200!!  More than twice the next highest retailer, Tiffany & Co., which does $3,000 per square foot.*  And this is just what is sold in the Apple stores, not online.

So, now that I have your attention, here’s an acronym Apple uses in its employee training for the retail stores:

Approach customers with a warm, personalized greeting;

Probe politely to understand all the customer’s needs;

Present a solution for the customer to take home that day;

Listen for and resolve any issues or concerns;

End with a fond farewell and an invitation to return.

Do you see how these might apply to your practice?  I’m thinking they all do.  A warm, friendly greeting by everyone in the office who encounters the patient?  Check.  Probing politely to find out what their dental needs and desires are? Roger that.  Presenting a treatment solution that can be started and ideally completed that day?  Sounds ideal.  Listen for issues they may have, concerns about cost, treatment complexity, time involved, fears or misgivings they may have?  Pathway to success. And finally, ending with fond farewell AND an invitation to return or, better yet, an appointment already scheduled, and expressing how you’re looking forward to seeing them at that time.

In reality, it isn’t magic.  It’s just what we all want, and Apple is just smart enough to do it in a genuine and consistent way.

*Source: RetailSails Company Data 2012

Bring Online Reviews to Your Daily Huddle

I just had a great conversation with Anastasia Turchetta, who is a dental speaker and hygienist, (she’ll be speaking at TBSE this year) and I was showing her our new product, Reputation Monitor.  She immediately had a suggestion which I thought was great, which was to use it in the morning huddle and read the previous day’s reviews to the team.  This serves many purposes.  If there was as negative review, then the team can discuss what went wrong and how to correct it going forward. (It also should be someone’s job to respond to the negative review, but that’s not for the huddle.)  If you had positive reviews, this lets the team know that they are doing a great job and that people are noticing, and gets everyone excited about the day.

It also has the benefit of reminding team members that they are being reviewed, like it or not.  And so that should make them step up their game, and be conscientious, considerate and courteous throughout the day.  And it keeps the idea in mind that they should request that the patients do reviews for the practice, and that they can even do it in the office on their smartphone.  Or the patient could be encouraged to check in on Facebook and post a comment.

Reputation Monitor is a great tool for showing every comment that is being posted about the practice, whether it’s in social media like Facebook or an online review on Yelp or Google.  And this is a terrific way to take advantage of that information.  Thanks, Anastasia!

The Junior Mints Principle

My wife is originally from Thailand, so when we visit there we bring a suitcase full of American items for her friends and family, such as Sonicare toothbrushes, Tide-to-Go, Doritos, and various other bizarre items.  My sister-in-law in particular loves Junior Mints, so we bring several boxes over, as they are not available in Bangkok.  One year, I decided to give her a real treat and brought her some expensive Ghiradelli Chocolates with mint, just so she could experience the next level of quality and flavor.  I gave them to her and she was polite and grateful.  The next year, before we went over, she told my wife, “Just bring Junior Mints this time.”

How often do we do that–automatically assume someone wants a first-class experience when their tastes don’t run that way?  It’s important to keep in mind that many patients don’t need premium-level dentistry. They don’t need a perfect smile.  Some of them have a smile that we can barely look at, but they don’t really care.  As long as they can chew their food, they’re fine.

And that has to be all right. Obviously you want to keep your patients informed on treatment that is going to preserve and protect their dentition, but not everyone wants veneers or cares how white their teeth are.  They aren’t going to die if they’re teeth aren’t perfect.  Often we try to impose our own sensibilities on other people, or believe that everyone wants the best of everything. One of the big mistakes people and businesses make in marketing is assuming that everyone is like them.  It’s almost never true. A whole lot of people are content with average, are comfortable with it, and maybe even prefer it.  They’re still going to need restorative dentistry as they age, but they need to know that you’re okay doing the minimum, not the maximum.

(As an aside, let me just say that your smile, and your team’s, should be PERFECT!)

Take the time to really listen to your patients. Find out what they want, make sure they always at least get what they need, and you’ll have a great practice serving a wide range of people.

Also, I believe Junior Mints outsells Ghiradelli Chocolate Mints by about 1000 to one.

Tracking Your Online Reputation

As I mentioned in my most recent blog post, online reviews are taking the Internet by storm, and it’s one you better be prepared for. I believe that tracking your online reputation on a daily basis is so important that my company has just launched a new product, ReputationMonitor, which goes out into the Internet looking for every place that your name or your practice is mentioned, and puts all the results in a single dashboard so that you can take action.

There are a number of lightweight versions of this type of service such as Google Alerts, and some that claim to track your reputation, but most products are not very comprehensive, and only track a few sites. Ours is the most comprehensive, and it is the first of its kind exclusively for the dental industry. I’m really excited about it because it works so well and is so easy to use. As you know, I normally don’t hawk products in this blog, but in this case the need is so critical that I want my readers to know about this tool. The fact is most practices would never have the time to gather all this information, or even know how to do it.

ReputationMonitor covers three different categories of websites:

  1. Directory listings
  2. Online review sites
  3. Social media

With directory listings, you will find that there are dozens of websites, many that you’ve never heard of, that have some of your practice information, but often that info is inaccurate or incomplete. And worse, most of the time it doesn’t have your website listed, so there is no SEO juice. ReputationMonitor gives you an easy way to go and fix that information.

With online reviews, although you can’t get the negative ones down (and anyone who promises that they can do that for you is deceiving you), at least you know they are there, and you can respond to them. And with positive reviews, it gives you easy steps to post those reviews on your Facebook Page or Twitter, and you can even copy them and post them to your website. It will even send you an email or text message whenever a new review is posted about you anywhere. (The one exceptions are Angie’s List, which is a closed subscription site, so it only sees what they choose to make public, and then we will see it, and Facebook personal profiles, which are also private.)


With social media, you get a comprehensive look at what is being said about you, and where it is posted. This is also something you should be tracking daily and responding to.

You can also track the reputation of three different competitors of your choice, to see how you compare.

It’s a phenomenal tool for a practice, and it’s only $59 per month (and less if you’re a 1-800-DENTIST client already). If you’re interested in a demo, call 855-225-5231 or click here.

When it comes to your online reputation, the writing’s on the walls (that’s a Facebook joke, if you can’t tell.)

Online Reviews Are Like Vampires

The dental world is abuzz with stories of online reviews of practices, with good reason. Like vampires, online reviews live forever.  And also like vampires, if you’re not careful they can suck your blood until you’re dry.  A recent study showed that 89% of online reviews are positive.  This is absolutely not true for dentist reviews.  Because people don’t really have a good way of assessing treatment plans or a dentist’s clinical skills, they go by impressions created by the cost, the practice environment, the staff attitude, and a host of intangibles, and when they are scared, unhappy, disappointed or think they are overcharged, now they go on Yelp, Google or someplace like that and spew about it.  Venomously.

And you can’t get that review down. Many have tried. And people who read them don’t come away with much factual information, but people give credence to reviews, because they’ve been reading reviews on Amazon, Trip Advisor, Rotten Tomatoes and FourSquare (and Facebook, too) for years, and they won’t make a decision without hearing from the masses.

It’s a scary environment, and it’s also very hard to track. There are literally hundreds of websites that have some information about you, most of it that you didn’t submit and don’t know anything about.  And it would take hours every week to search them out and respond or correct them.  Until now.

Here at my company we felt that this is such a critical area of marketing that we developed a tool for dentists to easily track that information, and then do something about it.  Last week we officially launched Reputation Monitor.  Here in one dashboard you can track everything from reviews, to social media, to competitors’ ratings online.

This program goes out and searches hundreds of websites and compiles the data for you, and then gives you an easy way to fix it, or at least comment on if it’s a review, or even bring positive reviews into your own Facebook page or website.

It will even send you alerts when a new review appears, by email or right to your cell phone if you’d like.

I think this is an essential tool for dentists or office managers to take control of their online reputation without spending a huge amount of time.  There are other products that claim to do some of this, but this is the most comprehensive and user-friendly product out there.  I’m really proud of it, and I hope you’ll try it and tell me what you think.

It does so much that it takes 15 minutes or so to fully demonstrate it.  If you’re interested, click to schedule a demo for Reputation Monitor.  In a later blog I’ll talk about my recommendations for dealing with negative reviews.

This is what the overview page looks like:

Dental Blogs: Why and How

In a webinar that I did yesterday, I mentioned the increasing importance of blogging for a dental practice.  For those of you who don’t know much about blogs (you’re reading one now, so you have some idea!) the word is short for “weblogs”, which were created as a form of online journal, essentially with articles that are written, usually by one person, and archived and searchable for anyone who wants to read them.

You can also subscribe to blogs, which means you could get them sent to your email whenever they are published.  If you wanted to do this with my blog, you would click on the button to the upper right that says, appropriately enough, “FOLLOW BLOG VIA EMAIL”, and then fill in your email address.  Now, onto your blogging career.

First, the “Why”.  Most dentists would say to me, “Who the heck is going to read a dentist’s blog?”  The answer is, no one. Your patients most likely won’t ever read it. On rare occasions a potential new patient might read it. But this is who will always read it:  Google, Yahoo and Bing.  In other words, the search engines.   So what you are doing is providing relevant content for Google, etc., to associate with your website.  Google is out there on the internet all day long looking at everything, and inter-relating it so that when someone does a Google search they can present what they deem is the best possible result, based on hundreds of criteria that they use (but won’t tell us about.)  So your blog is one element in what I call “The Google Matrix”.

This consists of your website, your Facebook Page, your Twitter posts, your LinkedIn profile, your videos, and, perhaps most important, reviews that are written about your practice on Google, Yelp, Angie’s List or other review sites.  See my previous blog about these.

Assuming you have good content across this matrix, your website will then have strong SEO, or search engine optimization, which should make it appear on the first or second page of Google search results (or Yahoo or Bing).

This is why you want steady content going onto your blog on a regular basis.

Now, the How.

Creating a blog is remarkably easy.  Go to either Wordpress.org, or Blogger.com and download the software.  It is free to run a blog through these sites.  And they will also host the blog, so you don’t even have to deal with that.  Follow these simple steps:

1. Pick a design. (They call it a theme.) Doesn’t really matter what you pick, so choose what you like.

2. Come up with a name for your blog.  Something with “dental” or “dentistry” in it.

3. Fill in all the relevant information, especially your website. This is how the search engines are going to associate your blog with your website. Create settings that will allow you to automatically publish to Twitter and LinkedIn. This gives you fresh content on those sites.

4. Write your first blog and publish it.  Be sure to preview it to see how it looks.  And spell check it, I beg you.

5. Categorize and tag the blogs.  ALWAYS do this.  Google is looking for this to know what the blog is about.  It should always have “dentistry” and “dental” as categories and tags. The rest you can create and add based on what’s in the blog.

Your blogs should be short and sweet. Two paragraphs, two sentences apiece is plenty.  This is where you write about dentistry (as opposed to your Facebook page, which is where you personalize your practice.)  Write about procedures, technology, cases (no patient names), or whatever else you want.  Add a picture occasionally.  And a video.  Remember, you’re not trying to create a beautiful, comprehensive blog like the ones people read all the time, so don’t get perfectionist about it.  You are just feeding the matrix.

If you want to increase the relevance of your blog, figure out how to use hyperlinks (the words that appear in blue and allow you to click to go to another website.)  Also, list your favorite websites and blogs on your page.  But don’t expect blogging to magically jack up your SEO overnight.  It takes months.  And you need to be feeding the matrix at the other points as well to get the optimum result.

How Often?

I recommend blogging once a week.  Ideally this should be someone else’s job in the office, not the dentist’s.  And you can write a dozen blogs all in one sitting, and then schedule them to publish on specific dates. On WordPress, for example, as you draft the blog, you’ll see on the right where it says, “Publish immediately” and “Edit” next to it. When you click on edit you can choose the exact date and time you want each blog to publish.

Welcome to the blogosphere!

Back to Basics: Your Facebook Page

You either have a Facebook fan page at this point or you know you need one. At least I hope it’s one of the two. For those of you just starting one, here are some key points, and if you already have one, use this post to check to make sure that you are doing everything right.

If you’re still struggling with why you should be active on Facebook, let me say simply that this is the new digital word of mouth. This is how more and more people will find out about the experience of being in your practice from the patient’s perspective. The largest growing segment of Facebook users are 25-39 year olds. And they average more than 6 hours a week, with women spending twice as much time as men.  In other words, good potential patients.

So let’s start with the basics: a fan page and a personal profile are two different things on Facebook. A page is for your business. You would start here: http://www.facebook.com/pages/create.php. Click on “Local Business or Place” and choose the “Health, Medical, Pharmacy” category. There is no “dentist” category, so you need to create a subcategory in the box below.  You can write “dentist” and even two other choices that will all show up.  The important thing to do is choose the main category as “Health, Medical, Pharmacy”, which won’t show up on your page, your subcategory will, but it will allow you to have recommendations from patients.  More on that later.

Fill out EVERYTHING! Your hours, your services, all of it. Especially at the bottom, be sure to put your website, an email address where you can be contacted and your practice phone number.

Your USERNAME is important. You only get two shots at this. Once you choose one, you can only change it one time, so choose wisely, and remember that you want it to be short enough to put on a business card. It doesn’t have to be your full practice name or your exact name, but it needs to describe you quickly and accurately, like “HappyToothChicago” or “FredsToothShop”. As close to your website name as possible is helpful as well. The sole purpose of this username is for you to be able to direct people easily to your page. The result will be that if someone puts in http://www.facebook.com/fredstoothshop in a browser it will go directly to your Facebook page.  Be sure to put your Facebook location on your business cards.

The next step is to set up permissions. You want to grant wide permissions, because you can always delete any post that someone puts up. You can also set up administrators for the page, besides the dentist, and give them a range of powers with the site. I recommend having at least two other people as administrators, just to be able to post and make changes for you.

Add photos. No photos is death on Facebook. (It’s not “Wordbook”.) You will need a good, panoramic shot, probably of your team, for the main photo, and a small logo shot for the lower left corner. Here are two samples of excellent pages: Spodak Dental has a great team shot here, and Romani Orthodontics is always showing some new contest she’s doing.

The four buttons that you see under the large photo can all be moved around and changed, except for photos.  If you are a Patient Activator client, we can add a module that will let visitors request an appointment, and it will also post reviews that Patient Activator gathers from your patients, and this will be a button that you can display.

Notice also that in Dr. Spodak’s page he is listed as a dentist (under his logo). This is his subcategory. He has also chosen to write his own section below that.  On Romani’s you see that her phone number and address are there. This is the standard Facebook Timeline display. When you click on her address it goes right to a map.  Facebook also shows whether you’re open at that moment or not.

But here’s a key difference: because she categorized her practice as “Health, Medical, Pharmacy”, Facebook creates a section where patients can write a recommendation. (This is also possible when they “check in” on Facebook on their mobile device.)

So your page is up and running. What’s next? Now you need to make it someone’s job in the office to post on a regular basis. NOT the dentist!  There is undoubtedly a Facebook geek in your office.  Make it part of her job.  This person should be checking Facebook every day, commenting whenever a patient posts, and adding posts, photos and occasional videos.

You also need to start asking patients to “like” your page.  You can do this by asking them personally, by emailing them, and by doing little contests or giveaways.  Notice that both these practices have thousands of likes.  They’ve been working at it.  And they have hundreds of posts by them and by patients.

This matters for two reasons.  First, viewers want to see new posts and lots of them.  That adds credibility.  Second, the search engines look at the posts.  Google, Yahoo and Bing are looking at your fan page (they can’t see Facebook personal profiles), and they are indexing them as one of the factors in determining the relevance of your website. In other words, better SEO.

Ask patients to post on your wall while they’re in the office. (A previous blog talks about the easiest way to get results.)  And remember, your own posts on Facebook should NOT BE CLINICAL.  Facebook is about showing the personal side of your practice and your team.  Post fun stuff: your Halloween pictures, favorite patient of the month, team member profiles, sponsorship events.  Be a part of your community, and show it.

So what should patients post?  Something simple, like “I’m here getting my teeth cleaned, and I always feel better afterwards. And I love everyone who works here!” To which your team member should respond with a commend like, “We love it when Sarah comes in—she always brightens our day!”  And remember,  happy patient has much more impact in a photo than in just a review.  And video testimonials are also nice.

Don’t forget about HIPAA. If you put up a photo of a patient, don’t talk about the clinical aspects of their smile. If the patient puts the post up themselves, they can of course say whatever they want.  And make a habit of getting releases from your patients to use their image in all media, including social media.

The new Facebook Timeline has some excellent features, including being able to “pin” posts that you like and keep them up at the top of your page.  Take advantage of them. Facebook now also makes it much easier to do special offers.  Try a few of those.  They don’t cost anything.

Welcome to Facebook and social media. There are levels and levels of customization that you can do, with help, to improve your look and response rate, but this will get you 80% of the way.

And I’ll say one more time, the primary purpose of your Facebook page is to personalize your practice, and make it possible for your own patients to refer you easily, and for people in general to get a feel for the experience of being a patient.  If someone tells you they can get you hundreds of new patients through Facebook, don’t believe them. It’s one part of your whole marketing plan, not all of it.

Online Reviews: Witness the Rise of Yelp

The world of online reviews continues to heat up.  Yelp has now partnered with Bing, Microsoft’s search engine, to include their reviews when a business comes up in a search.

If you don’t know what Yelp is, you need to.  It is a site where people can review any business, including your dental practice, and you have no control over the content.  They went public this year and are currently worth $1.5 billion, so don’t expect them to go away any time soon.

You may be also thinking, “Bing?  Does anyone use Bing?”  Or even, “I’ve never heard of Bing.”  So you should know that there are three primary search engines at this point: Google, Bing and Yahoo. Google of course dominates with more than 65% of all searches, but Bing still gets 15%,  which is not nothing.  And Yelp is taking advantage of that.

Google is also the biggest player when it comes to reviews, but Yelp is a strong second. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, Google bought Zagat and is combining Zagat reviews with their own reviews.  Zagat is more than just travel and dining, by the way. It is now soliciting reviews on doctors and dentists, so those will start to show up.  In response to this, Yelp teamed up with Bing.  They also teamed up with Apple.  In October, Apple will be introducing its own mapping program and no longer using Google Maps on iPhones.  Yelp made a deal with Apple to include their reviews in local business search results.  This is big, as Apple controls almost a third of the smartphone business.

You should also be aware that if someone reviews you on Yelp, they can have it automatically posted to their Facebook wall for all their friends to see All of this will strengthen Yelp’s number 2 position.

Why should you care?  First, because 60-70% of dentists already have at least one review on Yelp. And even if you don’t have a review, you could very easily get one tomorrow.  Nothing Yelp does notifies you of this. (By the way, your practice is already listed there.) But you should really care because more people are reading online reviews all the time, and are coming to expect them. Many people don’t act until they can read a review, and if they can’t find a review about a business, they will move on to one that does have them.

How many people, you ask? According to a Nielsen report, for those people who are active users of social media, more than 65% will use social media, including Yelp, to seek reviews from their peers on products and services.  And more than 50% of them also actively post positive or negative reviews.  Those are huge percentages, considering the fact that more than 70% of baby boomers now have at least one social media account!  (Gen X and Y are of course even higher.)

So what should your plan be?

1.  You need to claim your business on Yelp in order to be able to comment or reply to reviews, and also because you can put a lot more information about your practice, like hours and services, photos and video. Do that here: biz.yelp.com.  Like, today.

2. Solicit Yelp reviews from your patients.  This blog tells you a great trick for getting them.

3. Monitor your reputation online.  Make this someone’s job in the office. And always comment on reviews.

I’ll be talking more about solutions for managing your reputation online in weeks to come.

Lastly, if you’re interested in an excellent in-depth look at online consumer behavior, check out this article by Brian Solis.

Facebook Now Lets You Schedule Posts

Facebook has now added a feature where you can schedule your posts, rather than have them post immediately.  This is a lot more convenient when your team member is doing her social media updates in the off-hours and you’d rather the post appear Tuesday or Friday (the best days).  The first time you do it, Facebook will ask you to put in the date when your page started—this is because you can actually backdate a post, though I’m not sure why you would want to.  It doesn’t have to be the exact date, just some time in the past.

When you begin to create a new status, there’s a little clock in the left hand corner, (where the arrow is pointing below), and when you click on it you can set up the date and time you want it to post. So far there is no way to find the post and edit it until it actually appears, so once it’s done, it’s going to post as is.

When you’re done click “Schedule.”  That’s it. A lovely new feature for those of us who do late night posting and don’t want them to disappear on people’s walls as the next day’s posts appear.

Make the Bread, Buy the Butter

This is the title of  a terrific cooking book by Jennifer Reese.   She has done all sorts of research to basically see which makes sense for all different types of cooking, doing it yourself or letting someone better do it. (Hence the title.)  I think it’s a great principle to apply to any business.  With all the systems and processes in your practice, ask yourself, what are you doing that you shouldn’t be doing yourself, and what are you not doing yourself that you should be?

For example, do you sign your own checks?  Or can someone else pay bills and charge things without your approval.  Embezzlement only happens when you don’t have knowledge and control of your money.  I know businesses doing $40 million a year where the owners still sign the checks, except for payroll, and require two signatures for anything over $3,000.  Do it yourself.

How about your website?  Doing it yourself, when you get around to it?  Search engine optimization is the most rapidly changing aspect of the advertising world.  Web design is 10% art and 90% results-testing. How could you possibly keep up with it?  Outsource it.

Your lab.  Should you send all your crowns out, or should you get on the CEREC train?  Well, more than 10% of practices now use CAD/CAM, and it’s saving them money, and getting their patients out of the office in one visit instead of two.  That’s a pretty good consumer benefit.  And it gets even better when you stop doing composites and use porcelain for inlays and onlays as well as for crowns.  DIY, I say.  Anteriors? Maybe not yet.

Are you writing your own advertising? Where did that skill come from?  Outsource it.  You can even use a website like www.99designs.com to create logos and ads and even Facebook pages.  Have someone do your keyword buying too, if you’re doing that yourself.  It’s trickier than Google says it is.

Social media. Are you letting some outside service do your posts for you?  Nothing is more obvious–and unappealing–to a Facebook reader.  Someone in your office should be doing the Facebook posts, commenting, and tracking your reputation online.

The list goes on: insurance billing, reactivation calls, payroll, supply purchases–take a few minutes with your office manager or your whole team and ask the question.  You may be wasting time, or not getting something done the way it should be, or not protecting yourself.  Question everything.

That way you can concentrate on making more bread.

(Feel free to comment on this blog with what you would change.)

 

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