Is there a right and wrong time to hire a Dental marketing consultant? Absolutely… but not necessarily for the reasons you might think! In this article I’m going to show you 8 criteria that can help you avoid making a disastrous business decision. In addition to the 8 criteria listed, there's also a "Big Lesson" weaved into this article. And while I use situations and real examples from my life in practice and in business... this article has been written in a way that will appeal to and benefit those personalities I enjoy working with most.
Since the launch of Dental Marketing Assistant University three weeks ago, inquiries from prospective new clients has increased and I have to admit I’ve turned away more clients than I’ve taken on. You may wonder "what" my new Clients have to do with this article and might find it surprising to hear that I’m the one who ultimately decides which Clients I work with and which prospective Clients I turn away. But if you'll hang with me for a minute or so I promise you'll see the importance of my comments.
Does the idea that I'm the one who screens new Clients sound odd to you? After all, aren't they the ones doing the hiring? Isn’t the Client the one who makes the decision of whether or not to hire me?
Back when I first started in practice (when I was clueless and admittedly desperate) that might have been the case. I wanted patients—any patients—so I could grow my practice and pay my bills. But over time I began to realize that I had a handful of patients that I just didn't enjoy working with. They complained, showed up late, “forgot” their wallet and/or purse (for the 2nd and 3rd time) or worse… avoided paying me altogether.
It was during a conversation I had with one of my older patients Al Schlosser (a former WWII fighter pilot and hugely successful business owner, retired) that my eyes were opened. Like many of you, I had believed (erroneously) that I was obligated to accept every new patient that came into my office. But during this particular conversation with Al he asked me a question that transformed my practice and my life. He said:
“Dr. Ken… if you could wave a magic wand and fill your practice with the kind of people that you really enjoy having as patients… doing the type of work you loved most… who would these patients be?”
After a thinking about it for a few seconds, I told him who my ideal patients would be, how they would act and what my ideal practice would look and function like. Then he dropped the bombshell on me when he asked:
“Have you designed and implemented Systems that will help you achieve your ideal practice?”
My response (after a long delay): “What do you mean? I have no control over who comes in as a new patient and I have to see the patients who show up in my office.”
Al then asked:
“If a new patient comes into your practice and you discover that their condition would be better served by some other doctor, you refer them out right?”
“So who told you (and when did they tell you) that you “have” to see patients you really don’t like (or want to see) and/or put up with patients that are at a minimum “a pain in the butt” and at the worst “are ripping you off?
Now I could have shot back a quick (typical) answer about being ethical and professional, but I didn’t. The gravity of that question, and the resulting conclusion that I came to in that moment caused me to pause.
Al then looked me straight in the eyes and said: “Dr. Ken… you spend 8-10 hours a day in your office Monday – Thursday week after week, month after month, and year after year. Do you really want to spend 20-25% of your life having to deal with these types of people? Wouldn't you rather design your practice in such a way that the patients you have brighten your day, versus ruining it?”
He continued: “Ken… this is your practice and you have total control over it. Invest the time in deciding which types of patients you love to work with (and those who you don’t want to work with)… then make it happen. Simply don’t accept patients those patients that your “gut” tells you (this person is going to be a headache), and start referring the existing (headache) patients you have now to someone else.”
I have that same mindset today, and as a result I have certain criteria that determine whether or not I am willing to take on a client. I’ve found them to be extremely useful in helping me avoid months of frustration on ineffective collaborations. In looking at them, I thought these criteria would be just as useful to you if you’re considering hiring a dental marketing consultant, a growth hacker for your dental practice and/or Practice Management Company. I hope you find them as helpful as I have found them to be.
WRONG TIME #1: When you’re unfamiliar with the Advanced Strategies, Systems and Tools
A lot of Dentists (and MOST office managers) are totally unfamiliar with the strategies, Systems and tools being used by Dental Marketing Experts and Growth Hackers. While it's not necessary to understand every aspect of the work we do, it is important to have an accurate understanding. I want to point out that it's not uncommon for an office manager (who works for the prospective new Client) to claim that "she can do everything I (or my team) can do, but she just doesn't have the time."
There are two possible outcomes when this happens: First, the OM realizes that I'm there to help the practice and make her job easier so she joins forces with me to get the job done. The second outcome occurs when the OM not only feels threatened but is a control freak who has been allowed to take the practice in the direction she wants it to go (and this is not the wife and/or husband of the clinic owner!!!) and she fully expects to tell me how to do my job. If this can't be resolved quickly, I won't accept the Client (or I'll quickly terminate the relationship and refund all the client's money).
People who are unfamiliar with the options available to them have “Unconscious incompetence”, meaning they don’t know anything but they have no idea what it is that they don’t know. Before you even ask for a consultation from a consultant, you’ll do yourself right by investing an hour or two doing a little homework. While most of the office managers I’ve had the pleasure of working with (for implementation), you’re making a mistake if you let your office manager decide on the direction your practice is going to take. Be involved in the process.
Do some research; attend some webinars; read some books. Become what I call a “conscious incompetent”: someone who KNOWS what it is that they don’t know. Then, you’ll not only be able to choose the right consultant, but you’ll be able to understand what they’re talking about. But most of all, you’ll be able to ask the right questions during your initial meeting.
WRONG TIME #2: When you don’t know what you want
Never enter a client-consultant relationship if you don’t know EXACTLY what you want from it. If you don’t know what you want (in great detail), you’ll never know if you've gained it. The first thing I ask clients when they call me for a consultation is what their short-term and long term goals are and what they’d like me to help them accomplish (again, short and long-term). I’m still amazed by the number of Dentists who call with inquiries about Growth Hacking; Dental Marketing and/or Dental Marketing Assistant University without a clear and concise understanding of what they want and what they’d like me to help them achieve.
The typical call results in me asking the prospective Client what it was that he wants me to help accomplish. The answer to that question is almost always “I need more new patients” (verbatim). I follow up that answer with another question: “Can you describe (in intimate detail) your “ideal” new patient prospect. The typical answer I get: “Anyone who understands the importance of oral health and can pay for my services.”
NEWS FLASH: Few people understand the impact and importance of “good oral health”… nor do they really care about it (which is crazy!!!). Don’t believe me? How many people KNOW that smoking can cause Cancer, heart disease, emphysema, stroke, (etc.) and continue to smoke?
Needless to say, Clients who won’t invest the time to provide me with the details I need (especially much-needed stats that practice management companies don’t even use) I won’t accept them as a new Client. Until he invests some time to gain clarity on what he wants, and invests the time collecting critical metrics I need… I can’t help him get it.
WRONG TIME #3: When you don’t have a short and long-term game plan
It’s equally important to have a clear picture of your short and long-term goals in mind before you call a consultant. Where do you see your practice going AFTER you end your contract with the consultant? If you’re hiring a marketing consultant for a particular project or promotional launch, how will this help the practice?
My MOST successful clients are those who took our work together and created a bigger game plan from it. My least successful clients are those who hire my team and I (or purchased one of our Systems) and then failed to provide us with the agreed upon content (ex: “testimonial videos from patients, stats, etc.”) and/or failed to continue implementing the Systems we created for them.
I’m not sure if I’ll ever understand what would possess a Client to stop implementing what I’ve given them after my time with them is finished. It seems that if I’m not around to encourage and/or hold them accountable they often revert back to underperforming. My goal is to help Clients regain control over their practice and production (help them become self-sufficient) so that when I’m done, they can continue sustainable growth.
A Client of ours that has an amazing game plan, understands marketing (I'm very impressed) and has been voted Dentist of the year (multiple years) is Premier St. Louis Cosmetic Dentist Barry Brace DMD.
WRONG TIME #4: When your back is against the wall and you’re desperate
What I'm about to say may offend and/or upset you, but I'm saying it to be helpful. Before I begin I'll tell you that after being hit in a head-on by a fully loaded dump truck (I was in my Jeep Cherokee), spending 9 days in a coma, undergoing 18 surgeries and 3 years of rehab my back was against the wall. In the past there were MANY nights where I laid in bed, staring at the ceiling overwhelmed with stress to the point that I couldn't move or think. I know what it feels like to lose everything and start over, but unless you have been involved in a dramatic, life-altering event (death, injury, divorce, embezzlement, etc) I have a problem when a prospective Client tells me:
“My practice was doing great until this year. Now I’m in trouble. I’m want you to help me get out of this situation in the next 2-months or I may have to file bankruptcy.”
I don’t receive those calls very often, but I’m hesitant to accept a new Client who wants me to be their “savior” or last resort to bring them out of a crisis. Because unless you've been involved in a life-altering event, it's a pretty good bet that me sending you a boatload of new patients (who pay) isn't going to solve your problem. There's more going on behind the scene and that's what I try to avoid.
There are so many factors that can take a practice to breaking point, and pumping up the marketing may NOT be the best solution. Besides, marketing (not advertising) is a long-term (i.e., “continual”) process. It’s about relationship building and brand identity. Furthermore, if your practice is really in crisis, you’re going to be panicking (and blaming your consultant) if your marketing doesn't solve your problems in 4-5 weeks. You’d do better to sit down and do some market research with your team, your existing patients and a Dentist friend you can trust to see what’s going wrong.
This is where a Growth Hacker can offer an unparalleled level of assistance. Everything decision and action we take for ourselves and for our Clients is based on Objective DATA. If you'd like to know more about Growth Hacking Your Dental Practice click this link.
WRONG TIME #5: When you're cash flow is low and you're living on credit
For many of the same reasons as #4, it’s the wrong time to hire a consultant if you’re having serious money problems. And if you’re thinking it’s OK to max out your credit cards to pay your consultant but your current income is barely enabling you to pay off the minimum monthly payments—well, that’s just plain dangerous.
Certainly, your consultant SHOULD be able to give you strategies and Systems that generate a quick cash-surge, the real impact your consultant makes is to help you achieve sustainable growth. While it happens, you shouldn't bank on the fact that you’re going to recapture your investment before your bills are due. Do not even think of hiring a consultant unless you have some positive cash-flow in your practice.
WRONG TIME #6: When YOU are ready to invest financially, but not invest your effort to implement
My most successful clients are those who “do their homework” and get involved. They invest the time to understand the plan/process and how to evaluate if their team members are implementing the strategies, Systems and tools I give them (as instructed). My least successful clients are those who give the entire project (and all associated responsibilities) to their office manager. Now this (in and of itself) isn't the primary problem that can lead to lackluster results.
The PRIMARY problem is when the office manager feels threatened by your presence and wants to question and/or argue with every strategy, system and/or tool you want to implement. While I wholeheartedly understand and appreciate the fact that doctors MUST have an awesome staff/manager in order to become super successful… I also know that an insecure, arrogant, know-it-all office manager is probably going to sabotage the consultant’s ability to help you.
One of the smartest, most dependable and reliable office managers I've had the pleasure of working with is Terrie at My Paducah Dentist (Charles Bohle, DMD). Dr. Bohle
WRONG TIME #7: When you focus most of your efforts on the Clinical aspect of practice to the neglect of the Entrepreneurial aspect (Doctor and Entrepreneur)
Being a doctor and having your own practice puts you in a unique (and often difficult) position. With the explosion of the Internet (and exponential growth in the availability of information and choices) practitioners (more than at any time prior) must begin to focus on the business aspect of practice as much (if not more) than they do the clinical aspect. If you’ve been a dentist for any length of time chances are you’ve got the clinical aspects of practice well under control. And while it’s understood that you must stay current with advances in the clinical aspect of Dentistry (Duh), the vast majority of Dentist do not invest the time and/or effort to educate themselves on advancements in technology, marketing, human behavior and communication strategies that are much-needed to create sustainable growth in practice.
- Don’t want to be bothered with the details that will help them achieve sustainable growth and choose to dump it all on the office manager (without close supervision and feedback)
- Are too lazy to research the strategies, systems and tools a dental marketing consultant uses to help Clients (are they using outdated strategies from the 90’s? Do they look and sound like everyone else – but claim to do it “better”? Do they offer services that are uniquely available through them? Do they guarantee performance in writing???)
- Erroneously believe that marketers are dishonest and/or unethical (because they promote professional services)
Probably shouldn't hire a dental marketing consultant. Ironically, 93.7% of the Dentists from #4 (above) fall into one of the bulleted categories above.
WRONG TIME #8: When the Dental Marketing Consultant Does NOT:
- Have Client testimonials (on video)
- Provide a written performance guarantee that outlines the Consultant’s and the Client’s responsibilities.
- Provide Client references (if you want to call them)
- Use the EXACT same strategies, Systems and tools in his/her business as they suggest that you use in your practice (i.e., “Doesn't practice what he preaches”)
- Have a solid web presence
- Has multiple negative reviews (one bad review shouldn’t disqualify the Consultant (just like it shouldn’t disqualify you as a dentist)… but multiple negative reviews (unless they are anonymous) should cause you to pause and consider your options.
Having practiced (very) successfully for 17 years I can say that I didn’t accept patients when my “gut feeling told me… this person is going to be a headache for you!” As a Consultant, the same principle applies today in that I make every effort to avoid accepting Clients that aren’t a perfect fit for me.
Some of these probably carry more weight than others, but if a client ticks more than one of these boxes, they are probably not qualified to work with me.
And you, the Client, should also want to work with the right consultant (i.e. “the perfect fit for your personality who can deliver what you want and need”). I hope these “8 wrong times” were useful to you as you shop for one…at the right time. When you do get it right, the relationship between Client and Consultant can be a dynamic, creative and fulfilling one for both parties.
If you think you’re ready take that step and work actively and strategically with a Dental marketing consultant and/or want to know how Growth Hacking Your Dental Practice can create sustainable growth in your practice, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can have a chat.
If you’re NOT ready, I recommend you check out my blog: www.growthhackercentral.com/blog and/or the Dental Marketing Assistant University (FREE) Module #1: Social Media Marketing Success for Dentists.
Dental Marketing Assistant University is a SECURE online training platform and as a result, you will have to register to access the training (you’re given an encrypted password). We offered Module #1 FREE of charge so that you can see first-hand the high-quality training we provide.
I’m always a bit hesitant to register on someone else’s website because I HATE SPAM emails and as a result… We DO NOT SEND EMAILS to registrants of the FREE Module #1 (other than to give you an encrypted password).
If you'd like to learn how to generate MORE quality new patients from Social Media and want to forget about getting Facebook Likes - Do This Instead