Chris Barrow is one of the UK’s leading Business Coaches in the Dental Sector. His agency, 7connections, works with the ‘Premier League’ of dental clinics, driving profitability and growth for clients in the highly competitive UK market. WhatClinic.com’s Director of Communications Emily pitched him 7 tough questions with the goal of helping clinics make the most of marketing for this key quarter.
1. It’s the last quarter of the year – How important is it?
I’ve spent 25 years looking at revenue for dentists in the UK and Ireland, and Q4 is for many, the highest grossing quarter of the year. In second place is Q1, so really – dentists are making the lion’s share of their revenue in this six month period. The question that is staring most dentists in the face, if you’ll excuse the pun, is “why?”
Clinicians are great at talking about treatments, but they’re sometimes rubbish at thinking about people.. No-one wakes up feeling good in the morning and says “I think I’ll go to the dentist”. There’s always a trigger event that drives people to pick up the phone. This time of year, the triggers are pretty obvious:
- The company office party
- New year’s eve
- Family gatherings
- Special occasions – weddings, awards
- Holidays, winter sun and ski
2. So how can clinic owners make the most of these trigger events in Q4?
To make the most of the handful of weeks where great clinics will make the most revenue – the key is to think about people.
Way back in 2001 I was working with Boots DentalCare as a consultant to their chain of high street dental clinics. We developed a campaign that in today’s market would sound cheesy, but back then was revolutionary:
‘Would you like a whiter Christmas?’
Simple, yes. But it was really the first time that a dental clinic moved away from the idea of advertising a product and moved towards real marketing, messaging that tapped into the emotions of its customers.
Integrated, memorable messaging delivered across multiple channels in a strategic Christmas campaign will capture consumer’s imagination and put your clinic top of their mind when these trigger events occur.
3. What’s the biggest mistake clinics will make in their marketing plans for the Christmas season?
Just to reiterate my last point, the biggest mistake a clinic will make is wasting their hard earned money on thoughtless product advertising instead of investing in strategic lifecycle marketing. The mistake I see over and over again is when the treatment becomes the main marketing message. “30% off Invisalign all this month” for example.
“As soon as you are talking product placement, you are in a price war.”
Anyone can shop around for brand names – no clinic can compete on price when the same brands are being offering up like sacrificial lambs on deal sites. Simple. Don’t waste your money trying to compete with bigger marketing budgets or those foolish enough to deep discount.
4. So is traditional advertising dead?
Not at all! There’s a right way and a wrong way to do it. A great client of ours, The Smile Spa, invested a five figure sum on one single ad placement in 2013 and 2014, to run during The X-Factor.
A single ad generated five-fold ROI.
This company did three things right:
- Committed fully with content and media buy
- Invested strategically for maximum visibility
- Let their customers tell their story.People, not product.
5. Online booking seems to be on everyone’s minds. Is it worth it?
I am 100% convinced that online booking is essential for any clinic. The two biggest UK providers are Toothpick and Welltime. In the interest of full disclosure, I am a non-executive director of Welltime! I believe it’s a winning solution so I’m working with them to deliver a solid booking solution. Over the past three years, online booking has moved from an unwieldy and novelty add-on favoured by innovators, to something that early adopters are now actively hunting down. Getting online booking working alongside practice management tools was a real hurdle. Now offerings will integrate with Henry Schein’s Exact and Carestream’s R4. I expect to see this really take off in 2015.
6. What’s the next big thing in Dental?
Three words: Digital Smile Design.
Digital smile design is the latest development in dental technology. This software allows clinics to create an image of what the patient’s teeth will look like. Unlike general photo-editing software however, this is smart enough to understand the real limitations of a person’s teeth, so the image is achievable and realistic. It can produce a final image in under an hour.
New developments in dental aesthetics almost always come to us via the US and South America where the perfect smile is a must-have. DSD was developed by Dr. Christian Coachman from Sao Paulo in Brazil and over 55,000 dental professionals have been trained in DSD to date.
It is the fastest and most realistic way to help patients visualise their new smile. On this side of the world intense clinical seminars are running in a small number of key locations.
Of note are the courses led by Florin Cofar and Violeta Claus.
Dr. Florin Cofar is a post-graduate of NYU Dental and Harvard Business. He is a leading instructor in DSD and he’s making courses available through N-Vision in Romania.
In Luxembourg Dr. Violeta Claus is also running post-graduate courses in DSD. You can find details of the upcoming 6 day conference on DSD workflow on her Facebook page.
7. And last but not least – what should I be spending money on this Christmas?
Two answers, one biased, one not. My unbiased answer: Facebook PPC. I’ve noticed a significant improvement in targeting. It’s not terribly expensive and it can generate real leads. One of our best clients drives 80% of new business from Facebook, for Invisalign at full price. It’s hard to argue with it. If you tried before and failed, go back. Try again!
And the biased answer – Infusionsoft, the software engine my agency delivers to clinics to help them move from advertising to lifecycle marketing through email and CRM.
We’ll be catching up with Chris Barrow towards the end of December to take a look forward at Spring and the 2015 marketing calendar. If you’d like to suggest areas of focus for our next interview, please feel free to post them to our facebook page, or drop us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject title ‘Dental blog’. If you want to know more about Chris’s work and follow his popular blog, visit www.7connections.com.