Dentistry is perpetually ranked as one of the best, if not the best, professions in the country. It scores very high on income, work-life balance, and growth prospects. Given those advantages, it’s a wonder that every dentist doesn’t retire a millionaire.
All too often, though, dentists leave dentistry with not nearly enough money to fund a comfortable retirement. That shouldn’t happen, but the reasons why dentists retire broke are obvious to the informed observer. However, in almost all cases, those reasons aren’t what you would think.
Wrong Approach, Wrong Outcome
Dentists’ problems begin well before a new patient sits in an operatory. The vast majority of dentists employ the same approach to getting new patients. They advertise on price, specials, and discounts and the result is that they get price-shoppers and insurance-driven patients with absolutely no interest in establishing an ongoing relationship with the practice.
The ongoing cost of attracting those relatively low-value patients is fairly high when compared to the one-time cost and lifetime value of patients who remain loyal. Marketing to attract the wrong patients is the first mistake that dentists make.
Racing to the Bottom
The competition for patients is intense and heating up. When there are numerous dental providers in a given market, dentists try to “steal” prospects from competitors by undercutting their prices. That results in a price war, which is essentially a race to the bottom. The practice that “wins” is the one with the lowest overhead… or the one with the deepest pockets.
The problems aren’t over for the dentist who wins a price war. He or she is now operating on the thinnest of margins, which leads to seeing more patients to try to increase revenue. Assembly-line dentistry is hard on the dentist, hard on the staff, and hard on the physical plant. It takes the joy out of dentistry and turns what should be a rewarding profession into an endurance contest. It’s unrewarding on every level.
Racing to the bottom is the second mistake dentists’ make.
Marketing to the Wrong People
Dentists are advance-degreed professionals. You’d think that would earn them a good deal of respect. All it earns them is the presumption of competence.
The problem is that the general population is color-blind when comes to distinguishing between dentists. With dentists assumed to be competent, one dentist is pretty much the same as another.
Most dentists give prospects no reason to think otherwise. Their websites are written to impress other dentists, not patients. Far too many dental websites are jargon-heavy, written at too high a reading level, and are all about the dentist rather than how the practice can make patients’ lives better.
Patients can’t distinguish between postgraduate training programs. They won’t read dentists’ publications. They don’t much care about which associations dentists belong to.
The better dental patients you need to attract want to know, in terms they can understand, how their lives will change if they choose you. They want to know that they’ll be able to smile freely, laugh without embarrassment, and eat whatever they want without discomfort. They want to know that they’ll be cared for in your practice, that their fears will be understood and not judged, and that they can look forward to trusting you and your staff for many years to come.
Marketing to impress the wrong people is the third mistake that dentists make.
Dentists who make these mistakes don’t retire as millionaires. Dentists who understand that not all dental prospects are equal in value, and market to attract the ones who will help their practices grow and prosper, are the ones who live the good life after dentistry.