Overcoming Common Hurdles in Dental Practice Growth

In the dynamic landscape of Australian dental practices, standing out from the crowd is more challenging than ever. With a new dental practice opening every day in Australia (yes, you read that right), dental practice owners face an uphill battle in attracting and retaining patients. 

Yet, as many seasoned practitioners have learned, excellence in clinical skills alone doesn’t guarantee practice growth—it’s the ability to navigate the business aspects of dentistry that makes the difference.

The Core Challenges

For dental practice owners, the primary hurdles are usually not in their clinical capabilities but in patient acquisition and retention. The increasing competition and the bombardment of consumers with 2000 to 4000 commercial messages a day necessitates a unique dual offering:

  1. high-quality clinical services, and
  2. an exceptional patient experience that sparks word-of-mouth referrals.

The secret sauce of successful dental practices lies beyond the clinical dentistry. It’s about offering a wide range of quality services and, more importantly, creating a patient experience that sets the practice apart from the competition. Successful practice owners understand that growth hinges on their ability to attract new patients and keep them coming back.

Marketing Strategies for Growth

To thrive in today’s competitive environment, practices need to hone their marketing strategies around three key areas to attract new patients:

  1. Multipoint Attention: In our saturated media landscape, patients may need to encounter as many as 10 to 20 ‘touchpoints’ with a practice before deciding to engage. This means practices must be visible across a variety of channels to make an impression.
  2. Compelling Website: Your website is often the first point of contact with potential patients. It should immediately answer why a patient should choose your practice over others, highlighting your unique services and the quality of care you provide. Thinking that being ‘friendly, gentle, and technically skilled’ are meaningful points of difference? Think again.
  3. Optimised Bookings: The convenience of online booking cannot be overstated. Additionally, your front desk staff should be adept at handling calls, managing queries, and overcoming objections to convert inquiries into appointments.

Conducting an Audit for Success

The first step toward growth is a thorough audit of your practice’s performance in these areas. Assess your marketing efforts, website efficacy, and booking process. Do you know, for example, what percentage of potential patients that call your practice end up booking an appointment?

Next, calculate your patient retention rate—a simple yet crucial metric that can reveal much about your practice’s health and patient satisfaction.  As a (pretty generous) rule of thumb, you can consider a patient ‘retained’ if they’ve visited you in the past 18 months.  Do you know how many patients fall outside that metric at your practice every month?

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Many practices make the critical error of focusing solely on clinical dentistry to the detriment of their business operations. This is perhaps not surprising given the complete lack of business training offered in most dental degrees, but there are two serious problems with this approach:

  1. patients don’t understand how good your clinical skills are – after all, what objective measure have they got to determine which dentist is clinically better?
  2. a focus on clinical skills alone ignores the ‘patient care’ part of what you do.  Put it this way, if you perform brilliantly from a technical point of view, but have the bedside manner of a pile of bricks, most patients are not coming back.

By all means, do good dentistry, but for retention purposes, far more important than the clinical work done is how you make your patients feel.  Increasingly, patients want to feel well informed about their choices, well educated about the impact of their habits, and given options to improve their dental health.

Without a balanced approach that includes robust marketing and exceptional patient care, even the most clinically proficient practices can struggle to grow.

The future of dental practice management emphasises exceptional patient care. The outdated notion of patients being treated as subservient to healthcare professionals cannot be sustained. Today, successful practices strive to deliver superior service and continuously improve, recognising that what was considered ‘great’ five years ago is now just the baseline.

Otherwise, all you can expect is increasing whitespace in your appointment book, lower profits, and poor staff retention.  And who wants that?

Conclusion

The path to dental practice growth in Australia is fraught with challenges, from fierce competition to changing patient expectations. However, by focusing on both the clinical and business aspects of your practice, embracing effective marketing strategies, and committing to continuous improvement, you can overcome these hurdles. 

The goal is to not only attract new patients but to create an environment where they feel valued, leading to higher retention rates and ultimately, practice growth.  Remember, the journey to growth begins with a step back to evaluate and strategise. By addressing the common hurdles outlined above, you’re paving the way for a thriving, resilient dental practice.

To find out more, visit www.dentalmarketingsolutions.com.au