One of the fundamental laws of physics is that objects at rest will stay at rest and objects in motion will stay in motion, and the situation will only change when forces act upon those objects.
Let’s apply this principle to running an orthodontic practice. If a new practice is new, it is basically at rest. The phone isn’t ringing, the appointment book is blank, and the patient chairs are empty. On the other hand, an established and busy practice (that is to say, a practice in motion) has a full waiting room, a flowing source of referrals, and ongoing marketing efforts. How does the owner of a new practice move it from a state of rest to a state motion?
It’s not easy. If you have a new practice without a patient base or brand recognition, then you have no referral sources and people aren’t going to find you. Something must be done to put the practice at rest into motion.
Take advantage of your free time
Established orthodontic practices tend to have healthy marketing budgets, but new practice owners have limited funds to work with. Time, however, is one thing that new practice owners have that their competitors do not, and many marketing tactics are most effective when you spend time on them.
Online marketing and social media marketing fall into this category, for one. Many of the things businesses do on Facebook are free or the cost is minimal, so begin an active presence on Facebook or other platforms. Reach out to local mom bloggers and offer to write and submit posts. Get active in your city’s online community. Other practices in your market may also be cultivating an online presence, but they often outsource this work, which means their efforts don’t have a personal touch. In the land of social media, where personal connections are key, that personal touch is where you can find an advantage.
You also have the time to visit referral sources in person, so do so. Stop by referring businesses and introduce yourself to local schools.
Undercut the competition
While you are building your brand, you can compete on price. Charge less than other practices, and price-conscious (who isn’t these days) patients will find you. Once you get patients in the door and win them over, they’ll begin referring you and set word-of-mouth in motion.
This advice to compete on price isn’t popular, and there are a lot of perceived dangers. It’s our experience that price-sensitive patients are not limited to low-income families and are no more difficult to work with than patients who pay premiums. You may not want your brand to get pigeonholed as the cheap option. However, if your goal is just to get your practice moving along, you can gradually raise prices to fair market levels as newer patients sign up for treatment.
Meanwhile, you’ll be able to work on diversifying your referral base. A major difference between established practices and new ones is established practices have a more diverse referral base while those newly in practice have a high concentration in a limited number of sources.
Stake out your own place
Don’t assume your competitors know what they’re doing. If you spot another practice’s full page ad in a local publication, it doesn’t mean your practice would find success if your practice could only afford a similar ad. If their website is structured a certain way and their pages say certain things, you shouldn’t necessarily copy what they’re doing. The results of their efforts might be mediocre. You really don’t know if it’s working for them, and even if it is, what works for them might not work for you.
Also remember that patients shopping around for orthodontic services will choose your practice because it’s different. If your practice is just mimicking what everyone else is doing but it’s not as established, those patients will just stick with what’s familiar. Give them a reason to try something new or to understand why your practice is a better choice for them. Think about what makes you different and work on communicating it well.
Fake it ’til you make it
Have you ever considered going into a restaurant and peeked through the window to find that it’s dead empty during peak dinner hour? You probably had second thoughts about eating there. The same sentiment goes for your orthodontic practice. Patients will be difficult to attract if they sense the practice is empty, lonely, or desperate for business.
So, cultivate the aura of a busy practice. For efficiency’s sake and to cultivate that aura, consolidate the patients you do have on certain days, but still advertise your office as open the full week. Just schedule patients on those days you want. Meanwhile, to get an edge over your competition, you can consider opening up for some Saturday hours.
It’s a certainty that when you’re starting out, you’ll have some lean times. Budget well, and regularly review your spend levels. Give yourself at least a solid year to build up your cash flow, your reputation, and your referral sources. Stay positive. It takes time for everything to fall into place. But once you get things moving, it’s a law of nature and your ambition that will keep you moving in the right direction.
If you would like to learn more about how OrthoSynetics can help your practice, please reach out to us today!