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Marketing the dental practice: Know the rules

Marketing your dental practice is key to attracting new patients but it’s also important to do so ethically and to follow the law.

“The key is to be informed,” said Dr. Kevin Sessa, chair of the ADA Council on Dental Practice. “When you know the rules, you are better equipped to avoid breaking them. As dentists and small business owners, we’re all looking for ways to attract new patients and to retain our existing ones. Marketing your practice is a great way to do that but it’s important to do so in a legal and ethical way.”

The ADA has several resources that can help new and veteran dentists understand not only the basics of marketing and advertising but how to promote their practices within the law. One such publication, “Advertising Basics for Dentists and Dental Associations: A Guide to Federal and State Rules and Standards,” is an overview of federal and advertising-related laws and regulations.

It’s also a primer that includes links to useful electronic resources; discusses state advertising regulations; and also has a section on codes of ethics in dentistry.

Members can read the online publication hereEthical marketing. The publication emphasizes that while dentists can advertise their practice, they shouldn’t solicit patients in any form of communication that’s false or misleading. Dentists can find additional legal and ethical resources on ADA.org.

“Truthful, nondeceptive advertising of a dentist’s qualifications, services or facilities can help patients make informed choices about practitioners and services,” according to the publication. “On the other hand, advertising that is false or misleading harms patients by making it more difficult and costly for them to make informed choices.”

Knowing the basics of advertising laws also helps dentists know when to seek legal advice. Those with more questions or who need clarification can contact the ADA Division of Legal Affairs at legaldivision@ada.org.

The ADA also offers “Internal Marketing: The Key to Dental Practice Success,” through its ADA Catalog. Chapters discuss cultivating referrals, developing practice newsletters and websites and utilizing social networking profitably and responsibly.

The 122-page book (P080) costs $49.95 for members and 74.95 for nonmembers; the e-book (P080D) is $39.95 for members and $59.95 for nonmembers; and the print and e-book bundle is $59.95 for members and $84.95 for nonmembers. All can be purchased on ADACatalog.org.

Stay tuned for The ADA Practical Guide to Internet Marketing, coming in January.

 

Register now for 2015 Give Kids A Smile Day

Registration is open for the 2014 Give Kids A Smile Day. The national celebration is set for Feb. 6, 2015.

Give Kids A SmileRegister online by Nov. 10 to be considered for free product donation. The ADA will post a list of product recipients on the website in December, and recipients will receive their products the week of Jan. 19, 2015.

Give Kids A Smile is made possible through the generous support of corporate sponsors, Henry Schein, Colgate and DEXIS; dentists; and other oral health care professionals who volunteer their time and services to provide needed oral health care to underserved children.

For more information, email gkas@ada.org or call 312.440.4600.

Have you participated in Give Kids A Smile programs in the past? What was your experience like? Share in the comments.

A benefit of ADA membership — ADA Members Insurance Plans

Your most important asset is not your house or your car, it’s your income! Protect it by taking advantage of one of your valuable ADA member benefits – exclusive access to affordable ADA-sponsored disability insurance from ADA Members Insurance Plans.

Did you know that more than 100,000 ADA member dentists, dental student members and their families are insured by ADA Members Insurance Plans?

For more information, call an Insurance Plan Specialist at 866.607.5330 or visit insurance.ada.org.

Be prepared before seeking a practice loan

The thought of seeking a practice loan for a new dentist might be intimidating. But being prepared with good information can prove to be key to an easier—that is, successful—experience.

Allison Farey, president of Wells Fargo Practice Finance, named good credit as the No. 1 criterion that a new dentist should meet before seeking a practice loan. Ms. Farey said that a FICO credit score “north of 700” is a good place to start.  While that means being in good standing with student loan payments, for instance, it doesn’t mean that heavy student loans themselves will be an issue.

Wells Fargo“That does not matter whatsoever when we’re analyzing the doctor for a practice loan,” Ms. Farey said.  “We do not factor in the debt load on the student loans because we know they have them, and we consider that good debt. But what does matter is if they buy really fancy cars or large houses with big mortgages on them. That will have a big impact.”

There are a few distinctions between buying an existing practice and establishing a startup that should be noted. But from Wells Fargo’s perspective, one approach does not trump the other.

“We don’t judge them as one is better than the other,” Ms. Farey said. “What we look at first and foremost is the character of the borrower or dentist. We do that through their credit. If it’s a startup, we’re looking at your business plan.”

But as a preliminary step, Wells Fargo will help the applicant get the plan in good shape prior to their application, Ms. Farey said.

“We’re really looking to help set up a business plan with them and give them the tools to do that,” she said of new dentists. “We refer them certainly to the ADA to also pull tools down for them to reference in building a business plan, etc. We have some practice management consultants on staff that may have a conversation with the doctor, to make sure they’re ready to go.

“For the existing practice, we’re looking at the historical cash flow of the practice. We’re looking to make sure that the debts can be covered by the historical revenues that come off of that practice.  So that’s a completely different way that we would underwrite a purchase versus a startup.”

Another major preparation step for a new dentist planning to seek a practice loan is to get all preliminary, self-assessment out of the way before applying for a loan, Ms. Farey said. “They need to be prepared by knowing where they want to be, not ‘I think I might want to do this or I think I might want to do that,’” Ms. Farey said.

But Wells Fargo can even help with those early steps, she said. New dentists may consult with her division to get help focusing their intentions, such as where they will practice.  “They certainly can call,” she said. “We talk to doctors way back to when they’re students.”

To learn more about Wells Fargo Practice Finance’s programs for new dentists, visit wellsfargo.com/dentists or call 1.888.937.2321.

Marketing snapshot: How one practice does it

Somerset, Ky. — It took less than a minute for Dr. Ricky Farmer to post a “selfie” with a smiling child he treated at a free community health clinic this summer on his practice’s Facebook page.

Within a few hours, the photo generated more than 250 “likes” and several comments from patients who wrote and posted positive testimonials on Dr. Farmer’s work.

Dr. Farmer

Dr. Farmer

“I had nearly 400 views of that post within a few hours of posting and it was free,” said Dr. Farmer, who has been practicing for 11 years. “It was a wonderful ‘ad’ if you will.”

Today, Dr. Farmer’s Facebook page for his practice Lake Point Dental Care is part of his overall marketing strategy as he moves to relying more on online and social media efforts to effectively promote his practice.

“Online marketing takes up probably 80 percent of my marketing strategy, and 20 percent everything else,” Dr. Farmer said. “That’s completely flip-flopped from when I started out about 10 years ago.”

After graduating from dental school, Dr. Farmer was 25 years old when he opened his practice in the small Kentucky town where he grew up. To get the word out that he was open to see patients seeking dental care, he had one strategy: mass marketing. He sponsored Little League teams, bought recurrent ads in the regional newspaper and magazines, sent out direct mailers, shot local TV ads, recorded a few radio spots, networked with other local businesses and launched a no-frills, one-page website.

“I pretty much tried everything but billboards,” he said.

Dr. Farmer said each mode of marketing had its success though his practice didn’t do detailed return on investment tracking in the initial stages of practice growth.

“In hindsight, that was perhaps not the wisest business decision,” he said. “But at that point we were just focused on mass marketing across the board.”

As time went by, his dental team began to loosely track how patients found him and started pulling out of certain marketing modes based on effectiveness and the strategy’s relevance. For example, he pulled out of the Yellow Pages and other publications saturated with ads from other dental offices.

“What we found was that online was where it’s at when it comes to advertising, where it was the phone book a decade, two decades ago,” he said.

It wasn’t until 3-4 years in to his practice that Dr. Farmer shifted his focus to online marketing. He hired PBHS, a website and marketing services provider, to handle and direct all of his online marketing outlets, including his website and social media accounts. PBHS, the online marketing and branding company endorsed by ADA Business Resources, can track how often people visit his website and social media accounts. However, return on investment tracking remains his practice’s responsibility during his new patient registration process.

“Our marketing efforts are always evolving because our community, culture, society and our patient base are always evolving,” Dr. Farmer said. “Our mobile devices allow for instant access to information and communication. And as a society, we now expect immediate results and answers.”

Dr. Farmer said more of his patient base is savvier in social networking and new technologies.

Dr. Farmer often interacts with patients or prospective patients through his social network accounts, which includes Twitter and YouTube. He would log on and personally thank people who leave positive testimonials on the comment section of his latest posts.

This fall, he’s set to launch the latest redesign of his practice’s website to optimize his capabilities posting photos and sharing educational videos. His practice also has a blog where he posts information on certain procedures his patients may be interested in.

Along with the focus on online marketing, Dr. Farmer continues to advertise in more traditional media — though more strategically.

Instead of a recurrent ad in the newspaper, he targets specific events, such as back-to-school issues. He also continues his community involvement. Earlier this year, his practice participated in a local initiative that help kids in the local school system by filling backpacks with food and needed items. His practice helped filled the backpacks with toothbrushes and toothpastes.

However, despite all the savvy marketing strategies, Dr. Farmer said, no external marketing alone will ever be able to ultimately grow a practice over time.

“There are a multitude of ways to attract a new patient to your practice, but only a few ways to keep them,” he said. “While my marketing avenues will change, my commitment to delivering the highest quality of contemporary, comprehensive and compassionate care will not. And that is truly my best marketing strategy.”

New dentists sought for UCSD dental fellowship

New dentists with a passion for working with the underserved and is interested in education are encouraged to apply for a one-year stipend dental fellowship with the University of California, San Diego.

Those eligible are new dentists who are General Practice Residency (GPR) or Advance Education in General Dentistry (AEGD) graduates with a California license or is eligible for a California license.

Spanish language skills are a plus, but not required; experience in teaching or working with the underserved is also a plus.  The fellow will work in UCSD’s free dental clinics and learn first-hand about delivering high quality preventive and restorative dental care with the underserved.  This will be a full-time commitment.

UCSD’s free dental clinics have been in existence since 2002. The UCSD-Run Free Dental Clinic Project provides comprehensive dental services to underserved, unemployed, uninsured and the homeless. The clinic functions as part of a transdisciplinary model in partnership with the UCSD School of Medicine and offers medical, dental, pharmacy, social work and law. The patient population is mixed, which includes children, elderly, middle-aged, and some with special needs.

To date, the Free Dental Clinic Project has provided over 5.7 million dollars of free dental care.  Dental services include exams, x-rays, hygiene, restorative care, root canals, crowns, orthodontia, periodontics, dentures, pedodontics and more.

Based on longstanding community partnerships, the dental clinics are located at four sites including the First Lutheran Church in Downtown San Diego, the Pacific Beach United Methodist Church, Baker Elementary School, and Lemon Grove Academy; both schools serve low-income underserved students and their families. The newest clinic is at Lemon Grove Academy, which is a public pre-school through eighth grade where we also provide a one-week elective for 7th and 8th graders about oral health and staying in school, going to college and considering careers in health care, especially dentistry.

Fellows will also participate in a 3-week faculty development course in underserved dentistry and complete a project related to an area of focus. The application will be a multi-step process.  As a first step, send a letter of interest and their CV to dsilverstein22@cox.net and cbloomwhitener@ucsd.edu. UCSD hopes to fill this position and start the fellow in the clinics July 1 or as soon as feasible. For more information about our programs, visit http://fdc-pds.ucsd.edu/.  For any further information, contact Dr. Donna Kritz-Silverstein at 619.838.0822.

Your ADA membership — It’s renewal season

Be on the lookout for your membership renewal, arriving soon from your state dental society.

ADAThe ADA’s strength comes from individual dentists — more than 158,000 — meaning more resources for members and a powerful voice in Washington and state capitols.

The ADA and your state and local dental societies enhance your ability to achieve success and your excellence as a dentist, and ensure a strong future for the profession.

Not yet a member? Get started at ADA.org/belong.

ADA certificate program helps dentists be more effective small business owners

Balance the clinical skills you learned in dental school with the tools you need to be a confident small business owner with the ADA’s Executive Program in Dental Practice Management.

The new online program, available through the ADA Center for Professional Success website, is broken into six 10-hour courses where dentists will learn about financial management, enhancing marketing strategies and practicing amid increased regulation, among other topics. Dental practice management experts and ADA-selected business courses from the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business blend together to form the certificate program.

Three courses are currently available and three additional ones will be launched before the end of the year. The current courses are:

•Legal and Ethical Issues in Dental Practice

•Negotiation and Conflict Management

•Understanding Leadership

Coming soon are:

•Business Strategy and Systems

•Dental Team Management

•Financial Management

Dentists must take all of the courses to receive a certificate or they can pick and choose and receive continuing education credit where appropriate. Dentists can access the Web-based courses through their desktop or laptop computers; smartphones or through MP3 or MP4 formats.

The certificate program is open to ADA members and nonmembers but members get a discounted rate. To learn more or to register, visit pmcertificate.Success.ADA.org.

October issue of New Dentist News available online

The latest issue of the New Dentist News is now available online.

The October 2014 issue includes articles to help new dentists with marketing, finances and handling ethical dilemmas.

October 2014 New Dentist NewsInside this issue include:

  • Marketing snapshot — How one practice does it.
  • Marketing the dental practice: Know the rules.
  • Working with a marketing firm.
  • Advice from a lender: Be prepared before seeking a practice loan.
  • Tap the ADA Ethics Hotline for ethical dilemmas.

To read the New Dentist News, click here.

What tips have you learned when it comes to marketing your dental practice or yourself as a dentist?

Over 200 federal dentists welcomed at ADA 2014

Over 200 federal dentists attended the ADA 2014 — America’s Dental Meeting in San Antonio, with many attending the Federal Dental Services reception held Oct. 11 at the Marriott Rivercenter.

Dentists who are in full-time military or federal government service are eligible for direct ADA membership at the national level. In 2013, there were 2,816 FDS members in the ADA.

For more information on the Federal Dental Services, click here.

Take a look at the photos from the Federal Dental Services Reception held during the annual meeting.

Federal Dental Services reception Federal Dental Services reception Federal Dental Services reception