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    How to fail (and succeed) at marketing

    A successful dentist shares some of the marketing tips that have helped her practice thrive.

    I had the opportunity to take a look into the practice of an extremely successful dentist recently. Dr. Jill Sonner is one of the owners of Renaissance Dental Center in Raleigh, NC.

    Marketing toolsShe and her partners have been attracting more than 50 new patients per month to their high-end dental practice. If you know anything about Raleigh, you will know that this is a very competitive market and that this type of new patient volume — especially for high-end procedures — is rare. Obviously I wanted some answers from Jill, and she was happy to oblige.

    Dr. Sonner, can you give us a little bit of your background by way of introduction?

    Dr. Jill SonnerDr. Jill SonnerSure! As you mentioned, my name is Dr. Jill Sonner. I have been practicing dentistry since 2004 and purchased my practice in 2009. I love dentistry, but for me, the most exciting part of dentistry is being able interact with people and create an environment that people love being a part of.

    Not everyone who is running a thriving dental practice always makes the right decisions, so can you point out a marketing strategy that you tried in the past that did not yield the results you were hoping for?

    Definitely! In the earlier days of my practice, I partnered with a local news station. It was a one-year contract that cost $8,000 per month (ouch, that hurts to say out loud), and we did not get a single patient that came in directly from those efforts.

    Wow! That sounds like a painful learning experience!

    Yes, it definitely was! But you said something important. It was a learning experience. I've talked to dentists who have done something like I did, and decided that because they had such a bad experience or because they got taken for so much money they are better off doing no marketing. That is the worst thing you can do!

    So what were your takeaways from this experience? What did you change because of this? Obviously you didn't just give up.

    We had to start thinking like our ideal patients. We had to do what WE knew would work rather than letting ourselves be convinced by a good sales person. We started tracking our progress and paying much closer attention to our numbers.

    So what are some of the marketing efforts you have implemented that have provided the best ROI?

    Like I mentioned earlier, we put a lot of focus into creating a practice where people would enjoy coming. We are always upbeat and positive and we have invested a lot into ourselves and into our team to make sure that the experience will always be amazing. This has generated a lot of internal referrals.

    Knowing the difference between patients not being disappointed and patients being extremely happy is important. The difference is not always vocalized, but it definitely manifests itself in patient referrals. If my dentist didn't do anything to make me upset, I would probably continue going there until something better came along, but I probably wouldn't go out of my way to tell my friends about it. When my dentist is amazing, I am not going to go anywhere else, and you better believe I will tell my friends about it. At least this has been our experience.

    Continue to page 2 to read more tips...

    Adam Smith
    Adam Smith got his start in the dental industry working for a company called Dental Intel. He was their first data analyst and worked ...


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