Before we get started, tell me a little bit about
all the pictures of dentists on the front cover of
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Tell me about NPI’s effort to compile dental consumer
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
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.