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Patient Prism's Dental Industry Blog

Here you'll find hundreds of articles and video interviews with dental industry experts on the topics of DSO and practice growth, dental software, call-tracking technology, patient experience and artificial intelligence fueling the dental industries ability to treat more patients and change lives.

  • by: Deborah Bush & Amol Nirgudkar
  • 16 min read

Insights into Dental Group Marketing with Gary Bird

August 2022--A big hello from the 9th Dykema DSO Definitive Conference in Denver! This is the DSO conference that has something for everyone, and marketing DSOs is a hot topic brought to you from Patient Prism’s live video studio on the floor of the conference. Patient Prism’s co-founder and CEO, Amol Nirgudkar, is here with Gary Bird, founder and CEO of SMC National.

“I'm here with my great friend, Gary Bird, someone I've looked up to for a very long time in the area of digital dental marketing for emerging dental groups,” says Nirgudkar. “He's an incredible leader in how to acquire patients and follow them through the journey.”

If you are in the business of attracting, converting, and retaining dental patients, view the video, read on, and get ready for insights you need to know now!


Google now knows if a dental office doesn't answer patient calls

If someone goes online and searches on "dentist," then visits a website, calls that dental office and the call is unanswered, Google knows. “Google gives that dental practice a lower quality score, which affects the practice ranking, which gives the competition a leg up,” says Bird.

This is the power of AI. “Imagine how many hang-ups are happening every day across the country,” says Nirgudkar. “But now Google has unlimited money and processing units to forecast behavior. Google can predict the probability of a dental practice not answering the phone. And based on that prediction, rank your website lower than the website of a practice that answers a higher percentage of calls.”

Download this case study on Smiles West DSO where Patient Prism and SMC National work together!

How your leads fit your practice model is important to assess, and Patient Prism reporting gets to the bottom of that question.

Your unanswered call rate equals your wasted marketing rate

“When we onboard practice locations with Patient Prism, initially we see about 30% of calls are not being answered during business hours,” says Nirgudkar.

“Just so everybody understands what that means,” says Bird, “that’s your unanswered call rate. If you don’t know what your unanswered call rate is, then you are probably in the 30 to 35% range during business hours. If you are spending $10,000 on marketing, $3,500 of it is going down the drain.”

On top of that, you don’t know the potential revenue value of the lead you just lost to a practice that does pick up the phone. That lost lead could represent thousands of dollars of treatment or represent an entire family of patients.

“This is the top marketing funnel issue that dental practices are dealing with, among the other funnel issues that are invisible to them,” says Bird. “I appreciate what you are doing with Patient Prism, because, if you can get clarity around this, you can start fixing phone conversion, show rates, and treatment acceptance. But none of that really matters if you don't answer your phone.”

Not every marketer understands dentistry, business, and the value of measuring performance

“Few marketers in the dental space understand dentistry, dental patients, how to do dental call conversion, and how to move the caller forward to case acceptance,” says Nirgudkar. “The typical marketing company isn’t familiar with the cost per lead, the cost of acquisition, or lost revenue. The reason I am intrigued by Gary is that Gary understands not just the business of marketing, but also the business of dentistry. He knows that what goes on in the dental office is as important as what is on your website and in your digital advertising.”

Bird reports that he couldn’t be successful unless he understood dentistry and group practices well. He knows he needs to monitor his business performance to grow his own business.

“It’s the same for my business and for dental offices,” he says. “Once you have benchmarks, you can compare those benchmarks, and hold people accountable for performing at a higher level. If you determine your unanswered call rate is 30%, that's bad but you can fix it. Once you realize it’s bad, you can say, ‘Let's hire somebody or outsource it and get that percent down to 15%.’"

Bird and Nirgudkar know from firsthand experience observing their own dental clients that dental managers can be lax about measuring performance because dentistry is such a lucrative business. But being lax means that eventually others outcompete them for market share—and that they are leaving money on the table.

"Business is becoming more competitive in dentistry," says Bird. "It’s a primary reason dental groups and DSOs are emerging. Dental practices benefit from the cost efficiency of a group for marketing, purchasing, accounting, and hiring—actually, all for all business operations. The cost of digital marketing and the poor handling of marketing leads can drive a solo dental practice out of business."

Bird says, "If you are sincere about getting more patients, first determine your capacity and other baseline metrics. One of the measures you need to make is your capacity to see more patients. The first question I ask a dental group that comes to me and says they want to double their new patients is, ’Where are you going to put new patients?’ The second question is, ‘What patients do you want?’ A lot of people don’t think that through. Are they sending them through the hygiene schedule or the doctor’s schedule for emergencies? Are they sending them through Invisalign or through consultation for implants, things like that?”

Bird continues, “Different patients require different marketing approaches. Once you understand that, then you can start to talk through their patient mix. What is their insurance mix? How many of their patients come through patient and doctor referrals? How many come because of marketing? Most organizations don’t know their mix. If they can’t answer these questions with data to support their answers, they are building on shifting sand. We need to know their baseline metrics.”

Bird says healthy offices should be about 50/50 or 60/40 marketing to other sources of new patients. “Suppose a group averages 250 new patients per month from marketing. The next question is, ‘How much are you paying for that?’ If they say they are paying $50 per acquisition, I advise them to double that to see if their new patient acquisition goes up. If they tell me they have already tried doubling their marketing and it didn’t do anything, my next advice is to cut back on marketing and see what happens. I was on the phone the other day with someone who eliminated 100% of their marketing and their new patient acquisition rate didn’t go down. The point is that marketing isn’t always driving the results.”

Once you know your baseline, SMC National can support you. “Now we can come in and say, ‘Here’s what I think your cost per lead will be in these markets but first we ask another series of questions,” says Bird.

  • What is your unanswered phone rate?
  • How are your phones staffed?
  • Do you have Patient Prism?
  • What is your call conversion rate?
  • What is your no-show rate?

“Knowing these things, I can backend build the cost per lead into a cost per acquisition and tell you how much you're going to have to pay to get from 250 to 500 new patients.”

“If you're spending thousands of dollars on marketing, you need to have Patient Prism to save those patients that you're going to miss. Your team is missing them because they're not perfect. And this helps fill the gap. I've seen it over and over again. Patient Prism is a must-have.” – Gary Bird, Founder & CEO of SMC National

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Focus marketing on neighborhoods that provide the best leads

Here's a concern SMC National hears frequently: “I'm spending enough money on marketing, but it’s resulting in the wrong mix of new patients. What's the solution to that?”

Birds says they need to define “wrong patients.” For example, are patients wrong because they have the wrong insurance? Are they wrong because they want a $30,000 treatment but can’t afford it?

“There are different ways we can solve this, but the easiest way is taking a list of the wrong patients, and then dropping them on an income map. We can also do that by insurance mix. And then you can see very clearly where these wrong patients are coming from. We can do that with your right patients to see where they are coming from. If they are from different areas, we focus marketing on the good areas,” says Bird.

“The idea of scoring a lead doesn't exist in dentistry right now,” says Nirgudkar. “Dental practices typically don't score the quality of their leads. One of the big questions I ask Patient Prism clients is, ‘Are you driving the right type of leads into your funnel?' It’s not just the number of leads but also the quality that matters.”

How your leads fit your practice model is important to assess, and Patient Prism reporting gets to the bottom of that question. “It's important for your marketer to have an appreciation for understanding this,” says Nirgudkar, “Because at the end of the day, your website and advertising are supposed to be a magnet for the patients who fit your business model. You must monitor your leads, your conversions, your follow-through with treatment…the entire patient journey, and then partner with a marketing agency that understands your vision, your process, your performance, and the levers you can pull to improve results.”

Improve patient retention

Frequently a small dental group will say they’ve had a constant level of new patients flowing in each month and 90% of them are returning for recare but their schedule still isn’t full.

Bird says, “The math doesn’t add up. They should be full in 12 months and not need marketing for a while if they are at 90% recare. I ask them, ‘How do you know your recare is at 90%?’ When we look more deeply into their analytics, we discover only 30% of their new patients from marketing are returning for recare.”

“If you have 50 new patients a month, 25% are from marketing, and only 8 of the new patients from marketing are coming back, you are hitting a glass ceiling because you are bleeding most of your marketing patients out the back door.” – Gary Bird, Founder & CEO of SMC National

“Gary might be the only marketer in the country that talks about the reappointment rate on recare and how that affects your marketing budget. Without high patient retention you are constantly spending more in a never-ending cycle,” says Nirgudkar.

“Yes, dentistry is a recurring business,” says Bird. “If a dental practice retains patients, it wins. If a dental practice doesn’t retain patients, it loses… I love collaborating with you--love what Patient Prism is doing. I always tell people that if you market and you don’t have Patient Prism, you are crazy because it’s basically insurance for your marketing.”

Connect with Gary Bird

Nirgudkar has high praise for Gary Bird’s podcast Digital Marketing Theory and his dental group/DSO marketing company SMC National, “Gary does an incredible number of podcasts, and he interviews some of the most amazing people in dentistry. It's free knowledge. Follow him on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. I love working with people who genuinely want to add value and are selfless, and Gary, you are one of them. I’m honored to be in this industry with you.”

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