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Corporate Profile: New Patients, Inc. by Benjamin Lund, Editor, Dentaltown Magazine

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Marketing to prospective new patients shouldn’t be a gamble. It should be a series of carefully calculated risks and the execution of tried and true promotion methods. Many dentists waste money on new marketing ventures, with little return on investment. This is where Nevada-based marketing gurus, New Patients, Inc. (NPI), come to the rescue. Whether a dentist is trying to maintain his/her community reputation, trying to receive a better return on investment for his/her marketing dollar or attempting to attract a new group of potential patients, NPI has got the bases covered.


From left: Mark Dilatush, vice president of professional relations; Howard “Howie” Horrocks, founder and CEO; and Eddie Facey, president and chief financial officer.

Before we get started, tell me a little bit about all the pictures of dentists on the front cover of this issue?
Horrocks: As you know, we have been advertising in Dentaltown Magazine for seven or eight years now. In our ads each month, we highlight a story from one of our clients and place his or her picture in the ad. The wall of pictures on the cover is really to communicate one main point – great client stories just keep coming, regardless of boom times or recessionary times. Many dentists out there have thrown their arms in the air during this recession. Our message to them with these pictures is – put your arms down; there are effective ways to promote the benefits of dentistry during a recession. If there weren’t, we would have run out of client stories!

When dentists initially engage NPI, what are their concerns?
Dilatush: Most of the inquiries are from solo dental practices that have shown flat revenues for a year or two, or from those that have already gone through a two- or three-year plateau and are now moving in reverse. The remaining inquiries are on either side of the norm – either in dire straights or still growing, aggressive and wanting to accelerate their growth. But most inquiries are from dentists who are just tired of being stuck in one place.

Between 2001 and 2006, dentistry boomed. The dentists who moved too far toward a cosmetic or full-mouth rehab image during those years, fell the fastest and the hardest from about March 2008 until now. In contrast, the dentists who enjoyed a high-quality, total-family image from 2001 to 2006 are either still growing or haven’t seen nearly the revenue deterioration.

When it comes to your clients, what are you doing differently since the start of the recession?
Dilatush: From a promotion standpoint, we encourage emphasizing less elective procedures and more of the core staples of dentistry. A short list of those staples in broad category format would be convenience, technology, kids and ortho. You can break down those categories, of course. For instance, in the broad convenience category, you might have friendly patient financing, convenient early morning hours, convenient early evening hours, convenient location, convenient parking, and the mother of all conveniences – the ability of the dental practice to serve all of a patient’s dental needs.

Obviously this isn’t the whole picture, but it’s an area you don’t want to forget about.

You can do the same thing with technology. Technology is a broad category. Broken out, you might have an intraoral camera, digital X-rays, a laser and a CAD/CAM system. Again, you wouldn’t create an advertisement that just lists your technology. That would not be effective. But, you shouldn’t avoid mentioning your most marketable technology either.

A blend of the core staples of dentistry should be the message to your market right now. Sure, you can mention a niche, but don’t fill up your ad real estate with a list of niche dentistry, as you will be disappointed in the result.

From a campaign management standpoint, there are many differences in what we do now versus before the recession. From a budget allocation standpoint, unless a dentist/client specifically requests it, we take far fewer risks looking for that next productive media in their market. We’ve pretty much just stayed with the core staple promotion mediums since March of 2008, and doing so has paid off very well.

From a client management standpoint, we’ve had to adjust expectations since the recession started. Where mature practices were growing 10 to 15 percent a year prior to the recession, in some cases that could have slowed to about five percent after the recession started. Some clients looked at that as failure. But if dentistry as a whole was off six percent during that year and your practice grew five percent – that’s an 11 percent gain on the industry as a whole. Some dentists have a hard time understanding this, especially if they’ve been with us for a very long time and were spoiled by the 2001 through 2006 time frame.

In your opinion, is dentistry weathering the recession well?
Horrocks: New Patients, Inc., has been around since 1989, so we understand the impact of a recession on dentistry. This recession is different from prior recessions in that this recession is almost a 100 percent consumer liquidity recession.

We have had recessions in the past where interest rates were so high consumers wouldn’t finance elective or extensive treatment. Not so with this recession, as interest rates are at historic lows right now. This recession is dependant on cash and available credit. Elective dentistry and the more extensive necessary dentistry got clobbered as soon as that comfortable borrowing power stopped.

Look around dentistry right now. How many price promotions do dentists receive from dental laboratories every week? That is an indicator that much of the elective and extensive dental work is being put off.

Even though that all sounds terrible, it is actually to every dentist’s advantage if they surround themselves with the right kind of patients during the recession. When that borrowing power comes back – watch out!

Tell me about the educational tools NPI has produced and why it’s done so.
Dilatush: We couldn’t possibly service 140,000 U.S. dentists, plus Canada, Australia and the U.K. All these dentists need the information we have about marketing their practices. So we came up with a way to reach the large numbers of dentists who will never be clients of ours. That is our primary motivation. Our secondary motivation, our dream if you will, is that more dentists promote the benefits of dentistry, rather than promoting dentistry based primarily on price. We know promoting dentistry based on price does absolutely nothing to improve the overall perception of dentistry. We also know half the dental market won’t choose a dentist based primarily on price.

It’s not difficult to elevate the benefits. Today’s dental consumer is woefully ignorant toward the reality of today’s dentistry. This is clearly an opportunity.

Your most recent book, your third book, is called Unlimited New Patients – Volume 3. What should dentists expect to learn by reading your new book?
Horrocks: They should expect to learn what matters and what doesn’t matter to the dental consumer. They will learn proper budgeting, budget allocation, proper result tracking and ROI calculation and projection. They will learn the predictability of success for every conceivable promotion medium, when to use each and which mediums require prerequisite promotion mediums to work best. They will learn the fundamentals of promotion design and will have all of the promotion opportunities on the Internet broken down, explained (with zero techno-babble) and prioritized.

You just released a new video online CE series on Dentaltown.com. What is it all about?
Dilatush: Yes, the online CE series is called the Dental Marketing Summit. We do live Summits all over the country and so the series on Dentaltown.com is essentially our live presentation presented online in seven one-hour segments. It is available on Dentaltown.com right now (under the online CE category). Dentists should expect to learn what we teach in the book, plus they’ll have an opportunity to individualize the experience. The online CE series allows the dentist to complete a series of questions about their practice. We analyze their market area and return a marketing plan via e-mail. Viewers of the online CE then use that marketing plan to make the whole experience specifically applicable to their practice in their particular market area.

Once a dentist views all seven segments of the online CE series, we ship a copy of Unlimited New Patients – Volume 3 as a compliment to the online CE material and as a study guide for the future.

If a dentist just wants you to figure out what they should be doing to promote their practice without reading your book or taking your online CE course, what should they do?
Horrocks: Visit www.newpatientsinc.com and click the link on our homepage that says “client survey – marketing plan.” Once we learn everything we can learn about a dentist’s practice and particular situation, we can analyze their market area and deliver a suitable marketing plan. We do this routinely and have for more than 15 years, all at no charge or obligation.

What mistakes do you see dentists making in promoting their practices?
Dilatush: The biggest mistake is they cut back on their marketing budget or eliminate it all together. This seems to make sense when times are tough. Marketing is an expense that falls under the budget axe most often. But look at it this way, when the economy starts to return to normalcy and patients have more ability to address their oral health; who are they going to choose? Will they choose someone they’ve never heard of before or will they choose a dentist they’ve been hearing from for months or years? Also, since dentistry is often put off until a later date, things start to break down and become emergencies. Who will be seeing all these emergencies? It will be the dentists who have maintained a presence in their communities.

We have clients who did not cut their marketing budgets and continued to promote to their market areas and as a result are either growing or at least holding their own through this recession.

Tell me about NPI’s effort to compile dental consumer research.
Horrocks: We not only use the data tracking from our own 23-year experiential track but we also commission independent studies to tell us even more about the consumer.

The results of these studies appear in our new book and in our Marketing Summit CE series on Dentaltown. The results confirm the idea that dental consumer “dental IQ” is low and patients/prospective patients have little knowledge of the benefits of modern dentistry.

Far from being bad news, this is actually very good news. It tells us that to succeed in promoting a practice all you need to do is fill the hole in the consumer’s perception about dentistry with information about the benefits. The consumers will and do respond to that.

NPI has a large Internet division. Have you seen an increase in the areas of Web site design, search engine optimization and social media?
Horrocks: Oh, yes. All of the areas you mention are growing rapidly. We are quite active in building Web presences for our clients, including mobile Web sites. We also do more SEO and social media for them than ever before. It used to be that a dentist could dabble with his or her Web site, dabble in optimizing their site and pay a little bit of attention to social media. Today all these areas have become incredibly specialized. We’re not saying a dentist can’t or shouldn’t dabble, at least to get started, but to get long-term first-rate results, they should seek guidance. There are many companies out there for this purpose.

What other advice can you give our readers about marketing their practices?
Dilatush: Patience has always been a requirement when promoting your practice. It’s even more important in this economy. Dentists often look for a magic bullet – that one ad or Web site design that will bring good patients flooding in. That is very rare. Marketing, being an inherently risky activity, requires an understanding of the risks. The approach of throwing large sums of money around in an effort to “try this, try that” almost always fails.

Start first with a realistic marketing budget of about five percent of your gross revenues. Don’t spend less than that and don’t spend more. Then go with the methods involving the least risk – the tried and true basics. These would be, in order, internal marketing to your own patients, an Internet presence and direct mail. Once these are underway and producing, and there’s more money in the budget, a dentist can test the local print media. After those options come the much more risky mass mediums such as radio, TV and billboards.

Horrocks: Very often we find most dentists don’t need to go much beyond internal marketing, Web site and direct mail. Done correctly, these mediums can usually give you a great return on investment.

Dentists have an incredible ability to change people’s lives for the better. The problem is, people don’t know that until after they’ve had their own lives changed. Marketing exists to tell the uninformed what’s in store for them. Let’s not keep the good news of dentistry to ourselves.


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