It’s no secret that the current inflation crisis is impacting every industry on a global scale — and unfortunately, dental practices are not immune to those reverberations. I’ve seen the effects of recent economic challenges in a myriad of ways through my dental practice.
Patient volume is down due to several reasons, including affording insurance co-pays and the inability to take time off of work — something many short-staffed practices can likely relate with. Additionally, I’ve noticed my patients who live in rural areas are waiting longer to pursue routine dental visits, which has resulted in an increase in emergency care. Some patients are electing alternative treatment options, such as an extraction because it’s the more economical option, not their first choice.
My patient base is also experiencing an increase in teeth breaking due to ongoing stress from the pandemic and the economic climate.
From a decrease in patient volume to a change in patient behavior and needs, economic challenges undoubtedly affect dental practice operations. Fortunately, there are trusted ways dentists can inflation-proof their practices to both meet patients’ evolving expectations and needs and achieve ongoing business goals.
FACING CURRENT MARKETING CHALLENGES
Between the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and current economic challenges, my practice continues to confront one overarching challenge — staffing. We simply don’t have the manpower to function at full capacity and see everyone in a timely manner. From an inflation standpoint, our practice is more impacted by the cost of materials than a decrease in patient volume, although that is certainly a common challenge for others.
When faced with these unsettling fiscal hurdles, I often see dentists make the common mistake of offering new services that read a lot like gimmicks. In other words, there is a fine print catch or “bait and switch” component that tricks more patients into walking through the door or signing on to a service.
When reassessing service offerings and marketing tactics, dental practices should remember the critical importance of patient transparency, building trust, and maintaining credibility.
CREATING AN INFLATION-PROOF PRACTICE
To best meet patients’ needs and weather economic uncertainty, dental practices must holistically assess their practice, evaluate overhead categories, and determine which potential changes will have the most impact. Emerging services, innovative marketing strategies and creating beneficial partnerships are key to inflation-proofing your practice — now and throughout future fiscal ebbs and flows.
OFFERING NEW SERVICES
As patients’ needs evolve, so should dental practices’ service offerings. In the past, our practice has found tremendous success in offering free teeth whitening kits and clear aligner services.
To cut down on unnecessary return appointments that require valuable staff and resources, dental practices should also find ways to increase production per office visit. Take the time to understand patients’ short- and long-term dental needs and wants to determine if additional same-day treatments are beneficial.
EXECUTING IMPACTFUL MARKETING TACTICS
The success of new services requires the right marketing tactics, which can take a bit of experimentation to get right.
In the past, our practice tried mailers, which proved unsuccessful — they were too high cost and resulted in little turnaround.
When we began offering clear aligner services, we promoted the new offering through our website, social media, and radio ads. Social media and radio ads were wildly successful, and word-of-mouth marketing and patient referrals have also been extremely beneficial for us, which is always appreciated, even more so in this frugal environment.
We also offer incredible visuals of our clear aligner services, which help patients envision their final results.
Every dental practice and patient base is unique, which is why it’s important to trial various marketing techniques to discover what will garner the most success for you.
PURSUING KEY PARTNERSHIPS
Teaming up with savvy partners is another way dental practices can stay ahead of the curve during times of recession. When our practice sought to expand clear aligner services, we partnered with SmileDirectClub to increase access to quality and affordable clear aligner therapy.
Through the Partner Network, we are able to offer patients an economical option for a perfect smile. And the marketing benefits to our practice have been substantial. Many customers who come through SmileDirectClub are funneled to our practice for the initial consultation, boosting our patient base.
We’ve also had several customers contact us after seeing an ad for SmileDirectClub clear aligners, a direct result of free marketing.
Since joining the Partner Network, I have been able to boost patient access, grow my customer base, increase revenue and expand my existing clear aligner services. The streamlined process of the seamless and efficient hybrid telehealth model of the Partner Network made it easy to integrate into our practice without any overhead.
Our practice has also benefited from additional education about the clear aligner system, a close relationship with our Client Success Manager, and 24/7 customer service help for patients and our practice, which has been especially critical during the ongoing staffing crisis.
By expanding services, engaging in creative marketing tactics and teaming up with partners like SmileDirectClub, dental providers can continue to meet patient needs and achieve business goals throughout turbulent economic times.
As the economy continues to shift, knowing what’s right for your practice and how to best serve your patient base comes from thoughtful reflection, an understanding of evolving customer needs and a touch of trial and error.
To learn more about SmileDirectClub’s Partner Network and to determine if it’s right for you and your patients, visit https://smiledirectclub.com/partner-network.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Loray is a native of Lexington, SC and a 2000 graduate of Lexington High School. She attended Claflin University Honors College in Orangeburg, SC where she graduated with honors and received a B.S. in Biology/Chemistry. She then attended dental school in Nashville, TN at Meharry Medical College.
She completed the General Practice Residency program where she served as chief resident. Dr. Loray worked in public health for three years in Nashville. She subsequently served as the Lead Dentist and Managing Clinical Director in dental offices in both Nashville and Greenville, SC.
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