Dentists often find the need to bring in a third party to help manage their practices. They look for an objective outside eye to help them solve problems in their practice. The consultants, eager to see some early results, roll up their sleeves and try to make some immediate changes that will help bolster revenue for the office. Marketing is a favorite place to start and rightfully so.

Unfortunately, many consultants find that they are unable to affect the change they want. Often they end up failing with their marketing recommendations and sometimes end up closing up shop. It doesn’t have to be this way but these are some of the most common mistakes.

Co-workers going over reports

1. Assuming That Dentistry is the Same as Other Businesses

Many consultants that I’ve encountered are new to dentistry. They develop a relationship with the dentist somehow, often because they are respected in their local community, and the dentist hires them to help them shore things up in their business. The consultant immediately runs into a steep learning curve. The wise consultant is careful not to throw their weight around too much until they get their bearings. However, many start trying to apply marketing tactics they used for real estate, product sales, or other types of local businesses.

When we’ve collaborated with these consultants, we have shown them that people shop for dentistry a little differently than how they shop for a car or a computer. Where a stripped-down landing page with a PDF download might work well in some industries, dental offices struggle to leverage online marketing tactics like these. The leads tend to be flimsy and hard to turn into phone calls.

Many consultants also recommend new patient discounts but don’t realize that most high-end dental offices don’t do well with patients who are extremely price-conscious. Eventually, the consultant is unable to argue with the data. Their changes haven’t truly lifted new patient numbers and the consultant ends up recommending reverting the campaign to what was working.

2. Too Focused on Team and Eliminating “Waste”

On the flip side, some consultants have an extensive dental background and talk to dentists who feel puzzled about what they should do next to boost their bottom line. Often these offices are at a crossroads of what they want to be as a dental practice. Are they a high-volume practice or a high-dollar, low-volume practice? They hire a consultant to help them make the transition and the message is, “Consolidate and call your shots.” They advocate stripping down marketing efforts to eliminate team time spent on leads that they feel are never going to convert into the high-dollar cases that the dentist wants. They want the team to quickly schedule appointments with “high quality” patients and then have a treatment coordinator close large treatment plans. The end result is fewer appointments that yield more money. It sounds brilliant and can be done, but the consultant is playing with fire if they can’t help the office navigate the change.

Two things trip up these consultants. First, they don’t have adequate training background and/or authority to get the team to a place where they can increase the sales of the high dollar dentistry that a practice needs to be a low-volume practice without seeing a decrease in production. So, when the consultant talks the doctor into spending less on advertising and marketing and the number of leads goes down, the production inevitably goes down too. It’s bound to happen in the beginning but should rebound before too long. It should but sometimes doesn’t because the team doesn’t have the training or personality to be the sales dynamo needed to get the “Yes” they need to 2X or 3X treatment plans that they would need to account for the drop in smaller treatment plans.

Secondly, in response to this natural consequence, they begin to point fingers at the marketing team. They say that lead quality is a problem. They need people who are “ready to go” but they don’t have the marketing experience to know whether or not achieving higher numbers of leads from “high quality” patients is feasible. 

They have few ideas other than trying to remember what their old dental practice was doing or to refer to a well-known dentist in another area and direct the dentist to market like “that guy”. Unfortunately, they don’t know what it took for that successful dentist to become “that guy” in their market.

Because we always want to be team players and work with consultants in dental practice, we share the numbers with them and try to explain whether or not additional traffic is available, where we are targeting in the metro area, and what the cost per click is. What it comes down to most of the time is that the consultant told the doctor to spend less so we’re getting less traffic to the website. It’s hard to compensate for that by targeting a more narrow audience.

Over time, the practice begins to starve itself in the name of eliminating waste. The dentist works less and the practice may find an equilibrium that the dentist likes at a lower level of production, but the goal of building a larger practice by spending less and talking to fewer people can get a consultant in hot water quickly if their only toolset is to try to get the phone to ring less.

irrated woman with headset on the phone

3. Overselling Outcomes—Some Doctors Are Just Amazing

The promise of being the next “THAT guy”—the amazing dentist with the ridiculously successful dental practice—is intoxicating and many consultants get into business because they are excellent salespeople. They hear the need or desire of the dentist to level up their practice. The doctor aspires to be an industry leader and to push themselves and their practices further. They hire the consultant because he or she promises to have the answers and a plan to transform the practice. The consultant even believes in themselves and their ability to lead the way.

The problem is that the consultant can over-sell this ability and they sometimes take on clients with the promise of this success without considering that not every dentist has the same strengths. Some dental offices are in cities that make building a multi-million dollar dental practice next to impossible, or at least a lifetime effort rather than a 1-year plan.

Team development is critical but if a consultant is hired by a dentist who is unwilling to make hard calls to replace some key team members, the consultant’s designs for practice transformation can come to a screeching halt. The consultant is the one whose head hits the chopping block and this can lead to a bad reputation in the dental community.

Great Dental Consultants Do Exist

Great dental consultants have these things in common:

  1. They take time to get to know the practice they are working with.
  2. They understand marketing or partner with trusted marketing companies.
  3. They ask questions to look at the goals and issues of the practice from many angles.
  4. They are honest with the dentist and set realistic expectations.

We have worked with many dental consultants over the years. Some have lasted. Others are now working entirely different jobs, getting into real estate or other areas of consulting. The sad thing is that some of the changes they have made over the years with dental practices can’t be undone easily. You can’t go back in time and rehire the people you fired or unlaunch misguided marketing campaigns. Dental consultants and dentists beware: marketing changes recommended by outside consultants can have dire consequences, especially if marketing is the only change that can be made in the practice or if the changes are set with an impossible goal of transforming the practice into something that it simply is not capable of achieving.

If you’re searching for help specifically with your marketing, look no further than Pro Impressions Marketing. We’ve worked exclusively with dentists for over a decade and know exactly what it takes to help our clients reach results. Please call us at (970) 672-1212 to learn more about our dental marketing services including website design, PPC, SEO, and social media management.