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Fred Joyal, founder and former CEO of Futuredontics, the parent company of 1-800-DENTIST, uses a metaphor from NASA to explain what happens when a dental practice “escapes gravity” and reaches the tipping point of profitability.

 

Escaping Gravity…a Metaphor for Dental Practices

The profitability tipping point is the point at which a series of small changes becomes significant enough to cause larger growth in profitability.

When discussing the profitability tipping point of a dental practice, I like to use the metaphor of escaping gravity. When a rocket is launched into space, something like 50% of the fuel is burned in the first hundred miles. Once the rocket escapes gravity, significantly less fuel is burned. Less fuel is used in the remainder of a trip to the moon, than is used in the first 100 miles.

A dental practice is a business model where there are large, fixed costs and a small amount of variable costs. Once you reach a certain level of income, the margin is not as large on everything else you do. The problem is that a lot of dentists are always hovering at their break-even point. They aren’t spending the next $10,000 in marketing or another item that will net them a 70-80% return.

 

Go Beyond Break-Even for a Higher Return.

I have had this conversation in the marketing context with many dentists about why they should spend $5,000 on a campaign. They argue it will only bring in $20,000 in revenue and the overhead will cost them more than 75%. It makes no sense to them. What they miss is that they are at their break-even point and about to escape gravity, so the profitability margin on that $20,000 will be much higher.

When you are at that point, you have more money to spend on items that will propel the practice upward. For example:

  • You can spend more on marketing to attract new patients. 
  • You have the opportunity to offer a discount to a patient. 
  • You have the opportunity to do charity dentistry one day a month. 
  • You have an opportunity to incentivize your team.
  • Maybe you can bring in a treatment coordinator to help you convert the bigger cases and convince the person to finance $20,000 to $30,000 of dentistry that has an 80% margin.

 

When a dental practice stays ahead of the curve, profitability snowballs. For example:

  • I’ve seen profitability snowball in practices when they start to use something like Patient Prism to convert more patients. They are able to engage many new patients and do more dentistry. 
  • I’ve seen investment in technology enable dental practices to be more efficient and deliver better dentistry. In this convenience-driven, high-expectation world, this can make a big difference

 

Monitor the Relationship Between Dental Practice Spending and Growth

There is a point where additional investment in a particular area may not grow your dental practice. If you monitor the return on each next investment you make, say in marketing, technology, or human resources, you may even see a point of diminishing return. 

  • For example, if you have expanded your team to include a patient coordinator and you are not seeing a high return, spend the energy and time needed to evaluate why and improve that process. Maybe invest in a consulting trainer who will boost the effectiveness of your patient coordinator.
  • Here’s another example. I often see dental practices spending in marketing channels that are not effective for reaching their target patients. So, you need to know which specific marketing channel is prompting most new patients to call you. That’s another plus of Patient Prism. Patient Prism tracks the advertising that is prompting a new patient to call you at a specific phone number. If you are monitoring where new patients are coming from, you may decide to pull back on one form of advertising and redirect it to a better-performing one, for example, from direct mail to pay-per-click advertising.

Fred Joyal shares advice, tips, and trends in his books. He is the author of Everything is Marketing: The Ultimate Strategy for Dental Practice Growth and "Becoming Remarkable: Creating a Dental Practice Everyone Talks About.

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