Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Your Marketing Questions Answered by an Expert . . . part 2 of 4

Dayna : Doctors are asking me “With all the new companies popping up telling me they can get me noticed in the search engines online, how do I know which ones are reputable and going to serve my needs?”

Naomi: There are four main rules to remember when it comes to search engine optimization vendors.

1)      Leave it to professionals.
 If you spent all day, every day, learning about search engine optimization, you still wouldn’t be able to stay on top of “what works”. Search engines make their decisions based on constantly changing, complex algorithms; they’re like secret recipes that change every day. What that means for you is that the day after a website posts an article about how to better “optimize” (aka game the system), the search engines change something else in their algorithm to make that insight less relevant. And by the time you read that insight in a book, it’s ancient history. So first off, it’s best to leave SEO to companies that employ experts to do this full-time rather than attempting it yourself. Secondly, in my experience, your local yellow pages rep and your second cousin don’t count as SEO experts. Instead, consider companies that have a track record in successfully assisting dental professionals and who can provide references to that effect.

2)      Don’t sign long-term contracts or pay large sums up front.  
Search engine optimization (SEO), like most marketing efforts, is best looked at as a process, not an event. That means that SEO is something that must be worked on consistently over time, so don’t trust anyone who tells you they can “fix” your page ranking permanently for a one-time, up-front fee. I know dentists who have made the mistake of paying as much as $20,000 in advance for a year’s worth of SEO. Think about that. When you’re buying an ongoing service, what incentive does a vendor have to continue to work hard when they’ve been paid in full in advance, or when you’re tied into an iron-clad two- or three-year agreement?  Instead, hire a vendor who promises to continue to optimize your site on a regular basis and who is incented to do so by the prospect of continuing to earn your business. SEO does have a cumulative effect, as it takes time for search engines’ programs, known as “spiders”, to find your website and any newly optimized content. A six-month or one-year agreement should give your vendor enough time  for their work to take effect while leaving you with the leverage to be able to move on – if they don’t deliver.

3)      Prices vary widely based on geography and the competitive environment.
I’ve observed that as a general rule, the cost of SEO is directly correlated with the fair market rental rate (per square foot) for your office space. Is your practice in an upscale California suburb or a prime neighborhood in Manhattan? SEO is going to be expensive. For small town dentists, it’s much cheaper. If you have lots of competition, or group practices driving up the rents in your area, that will probably drive up the cost to compete for eyeballs online via SEO as well. For my clients in smaller communities, $100-$300 per month may be more than enough to stay at the top of the heap. For clients in more densely populated cities or high-rent districts, monthly SEO expenses can be in the thousands.

4)      Have reasonable expectations.
SEO is a constantly evolving art, not an exact science. Because search engines’ algorithms are well-guarded and constantly changing secret recipes, even the very best SEO specialists are essentially making highly educated guesses about what will help your placement. Nobody can legitimately promise you the top spot in natural search results, and nobody can guarantee that you’ll keep that page ranking once you’ve gotten there. Better to hire a company that promises to improve your placement incrementally than someone selling a panacea.

Naomi Cooper is President of Minoa Marketing, a dental marketing and social media consultancy based in Los Angeles, CA and serves as Chief Marketing Consultant for Pride Institute. She has over fifteen years of marketing experience – and a ten-year track record of enabling dental practices and dental companies to achieve their marketing goals. Naomi is also a published author, a sought-after speaker and an industry opinion leader. She can be reached via e-mail at naomi@minoamarketing.com.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Keep Your Hygiene Chair Full . . . part 3 of 3

So how is your hygiene schedule looking?  I’m guessing it looks a lot better since you started working your Continuing Care Report on a regular basis throughout the week.  Sometimes a courtesy call is all it takes to get a past due patient scheduled.
Now, I hate to be the bearer of bad news again, but now you have a 90 minute opening in your hygiene room and that 60 minute prophy appointment just won’t fill it.  Because I know you want to fill every precious moment for your hygienist so she can be as productive as possible, I have another great tool for you!  In addition to working the Unscheduled List and the Continuing Care Report on a regular basis, you can also follow up on patients that have unscheduled scaling and root planing treatment to complete.  I suggest using the Dentrix Treatment Manager Report.
Now, what would be perfect for that 90 minute opening?  2 quads of gum therapy.   If you are planning your gum therapy treatments through the Dentrix Patient Chart it will be a piece of cake for you to pull a list of gum therapy patients to fill that opening in your hygiene chair. 
How do you pull this list?  From the Appointment Book click on the icon at the top of the screen with the green chair and a dollar sign on it, this is the Treatment Manager Report.  You are going to filter this report down and only search for procedure code D4341 through D4342.  See the screen shot below.  

Now that you have generated a list of patients to call, I recommend you do a little research before you pick up the phone.  Remember you are not calling about a regular recall visit that is usually covered by insurance at 100%.  So, before you pick up the phone, you’ll want to check their insurance benefits, current account balance and any previous notes about the patient’s treatment plan..  That way, you can be sure you are calling the most appropriate patients and that you’ll have everything at your fingertips to answer any of their  questions.
And, (pop quiz!) when you do call the patient – where are you going to document the call?  See my discussion of the Office Journal in my last post on the Continuing Care list if you drew a blank on that one.    The Office Journal link is at the top of the report for easy access, and it offers a handy and integrated way to keep a log of your communications with each patient.
I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that the Hygiene Coordinator has a big job in keeping the hygiene chair full and productive.  Over the last three posts, we’ve now looked at three great tools she can use to make her job easier, while keeping the Hygiene room booked and the hygienists happy:
1.        The Unscheduled List
2.       The Continuing Care List, and
3.       The Treatment Manager Report
Plus – we threw in a bonus tool, The Office Journal, which works alongside the lists and reports to support you in tracking your contacts with each patient.
I know that these tools and resources will help you manage your hygiene in a more efficient and productive way – give them a whirl and put them to work for you!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Keep Your Hygiene Room Full - part 2 of 3

Awesome!  You got that opening this afternoon filled by using your Unscheduled List - Great Job! 
Now, I hate to be the bearer of bad news but you still have that opening in your hygiene room for tomorrow to fill.  Never fear, I have another great tool for you.  Remember in my last post how I said not to worry that if you delete someone off the Unscheduled List, because they would show up on another list?   One of the other lists I am talking about is your Continuing Care Report.
If you delete a Continuing Care (recall) appointment off of your Unscheduled List they will (presto change-o) show up as “unscheduled” on your Continuing Care Report.  (To get to this report go to your Appointment Book and click on the Continuing Care icon on the toolbar.)  This Continuing Care list can be filtered to generate a report of patients that meet a particular set of criteria.  So for example, if you want to see a list of patients who were due for their Prophy in September 2011, your setup screen would look like this:
Now that you have created a list to work from, start calling!  My favorite place for documenting phone calls to patients is in the Office Journal - and it works out beautifully because when you generate a Continuing Care report, the tab for the Office Journal is right at the top of the report.   How easy is that?
Another time saving tip for working this report is to create and use list templates.  To do this, go into Views >Continuing Care View Setup and create several search criteria to help save time when you are generating your report.  Here’s a list of the templates I’d recommend right off the bat:
·         1 yr past due Prophy
·         1 yr past due Perio
·         3 month past due Prophy
·         3 month past due Perio
·         current Prophy
·         current Perio  
As I said in my last post, this system of working your Continuing Care report should be part of your weekly management routine, just like making collection calls.  It is that important! 
The continuing care list is only the second of three lists that will help you keep your hygiene chair full; my next post covers another one that you might not have thought of -  so make sure you tune in for the mystery list #3!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Keep Your Hygiene Room Full . . . part 1 of 3

You have a hole in your hygiene schedule this afternoon and a big opening tomorrow? Where do you start?  This is a common – even daily - challenge in all dental practices and one that requires you to have an office protocol so team members know how to tackle it. 
Use your “Unscheduled List”
To fill the opening in this afternoon’s schedule,  I would definitely start with your Unscheduled List.  The Unscheduled List is a great tool for filling those short notice openings that come up because these patients have already been in your appointment book and are ready to reschedule.  This list is located on the Appointment Book on the top of the screen under Appt List and is populated by patients who have either broken an appointment or clicked on the Wait/Will Call list button on the appointment.
No one likes a long, messy list
For those of you have let your Unscheduled List get out of control and don’t even use it any more, now is a great time to clean it up and get back to using one of the best features of your Dentrix software.  My recommendation is to keep this list very current, dating back only about 6-8 weeks.  The goal is to keep your Unscheduled List a short, quick call list to help you fill those annoying short notice cancellations. To maintain a short, useful list you’ll need to take regular action to move names off of it.  In other words, once a patient’s appointment has been moved to the Unscheduled List, don’t just leave it there!  Call the patient and get them re-appointed.   Working the Unscheduled List is just another part of your weekly office management routine and you should make room for it in your schedule just as you do for collection calls. 
If you have called a patient 3 times to re-appoint them and they are still making up excuses not to come in or you just can’t get  them to call you back, it is time to kick them off your list.  (Now don’t worry, if you delete this appointment off the Unscheduled List, the patient will still show up on another list so you will not lose track of her.)  I suggest using the Office Journal to document your phone calls whenever you make a phone call to a patient to try and reschedule their appointment, this way you or anyone else in the office can see the attempts made to re-appoint the patient. 
What are you waiting for?
If you are one of those offices that has stopped using this amazing feature, it is time to get to it.  There is a newer feature inside of the Unscheduled List that will allow you to “purge” your list down to a manageable level.  (Now again, don’t worry, any appointments that you purge off the list will show up on another list.)   Are you wondering  “what other list?”  Good!  Read my next post and you will find out.