Understanding internal marketing will save you a lot of money and time when starting a dental practice.
There is no question that when you are starting a dental practice, you will be faced with a number of challenges. The fist challenge is of course, attracting patients to your practice using effective dental marketing tactics.
Marketing your dental practice can be done using any number of tactics. At the highest level, you have choices that fall under external marketing, and other tactics that you would call internal marketing.
External marketing includes things like advertisements, commericials, SEO and other ways of attracting new patients to your practice. Internal marketing includes all the things you do to make your current patient experience so spectacular that they cant help but refer people to your practice.
Patient referrals are now, and will likely always be, the major source of new patient acquisitions for your dental practice. As a result, your mission is to ensure you get as many referrals as you deserve. Patients will refer you only if you are referable, and only if you ask.
Staff meetings are the best way to ensure that you are getting all the referrals you deserve for two reasons:
- The morale of your staff is higher when you meet with them regularly, making you more referable.
- Your staff is better prepared to engage your patients, and most importantly, ask for referrals in the proper way.
Why should you read this article?
Some studies suggest that over 80% of patients polled indicate that they choose a dentist based on a recommendation from a trusted source. The lions share of your marketing efforts should be spent in ensuring that you get your fair share of referrals.
In this article, you will learn why an unhappy team is a referral killer, and that even when you rock, referrals need to be asked for.
Mostly, you will discover how and why regular staff meetings will dramatically improve the volume of referrals you get on a monthly basis.
You probably think that providing excellent dentistry is all you need to do in order to get referrals. You are partially correct, but also partially wrong. There are forces in play that trigger a positive or negative feeling in your patients. One of the forces is the morale, or perceived happiness of your staff.
From Wikipedia, “Emotional contagion is the tendency for two individuals to emotionally converge. One view developed by Elaine Hatfield et al. is that this can be done through automatic mimicry and synchronization of one’s expressions, vocalizations, postures and movements with those of another person. When people unconsciously mimic their companions’ expressions of emotion, they come to feel reflections of those companions’ emotions. Emotions can be shared across individuals in many different ways both implicitly or explicitly. For instance, conscious reasoning, analysis and imagination have all been found to contribute to the phenomenon. Emotional contagion is important to personal relationships because it fosters emotional synchrony between individuals. A broader definition of the phenomenon was suggested by Schoenewolf: “a process in which a person or group influences the emotions or behavior of another person or group through the conscious or unconscious induction of emotion states and behavioral attitudes”.”
The last part, the part I highlighted for you, is really the crux of the issue. In simple terms, if your staff is putting out a negative vibe, then your patients are going to pick up on it. The risk is that your patients will literally not feel like giving a referral.
Low Morale and Team Performance
One of the biggest mistakes any business leader makes is to believe that people will do their job, no matter the circumstances. This is partially true particularly when people need the job.
Your concern, however, is not only that your team does their job, but that they do it so well that they create an experience your patients cannot help but talk about.
A study done by Yale suggests that if any member or members of your team have low morale, they will impact the morale of the other team members. This in turn will result in a much lower level of performance, almost as if your staff is just going through the motions.
Not only will your staff give out a negative vibe to your patients, they will also be less likely to perform their job in a way that provides an excellent patient experience. Ultimately, low morale becomes a referral killer.
What Causes Low Morale?
So, at least at a basic level, you should be on board with the notion that low morale is going to inhibit the number of referrals your practice will get on a monthly basis. Now you need to understand what causes low morale.
There are a number of factors that contribute to low morale. Some are in your control, and others are not. Here are a few things that cause your staff to have lower than optimal morale:
- If you are inconsistent you will lose the trust of your team. If they don’t trust you, their morale will be low.
- You don’t confront issues and resolve them as they arise
- You don’t give your staff ongoing training
- You use fear as a motivator
- You think that what motivates you also motivates your staff
- You have not clearly articulated the goals of your practice, and shared them with your team
- You think you know what motivates your team
- You don’t set expectations
- You are not accountable for the mistakes you make, but demand your staff is accountable for theirs
There are obviously many more things to consider. For example, some people are just negative. Your hiring process should weed those people out.
For the purpose of this article, you want to focus on those issues that result when an otherwise productive staff is not being productive.
You now know that low staff morale will lower productivity and have an impact on the experience you provide your patients. You are starting to have a pretty picture of what causes low morale.
Now you need to know what you can do to prevent all the bad things that come from having a staff that has low morale.
Staff Meetings Impact on Staff Morale
In a recent article I wrote on improving the peformance of your dental practice staff, I listed out a mini step by step process to ensure optimal performance. Each of these steps is something that is best done via regular staff meeting, because all of them rely on regular and consistent communication with your staff.
Step one is to set the expectations. When you hire someone, you want them to understand what you expect of them, and what they can expect of you. Regular staff meetings are the best way to keep your entire team aware of your expectations.
Step two is to make things measurable. Set goals and review them on a regular basis. Staff meetings are a perfect vehicle for staying on top of the achievement of short and longer term goals.
Step three is to confirm understanding. In order to confirm an understanding, you have to communicate on a regular basis with your team. Staff meetings by design afford the ability to make sure your team understands you, and that you understand them.
Step four is to give regular feedback. No, you dont want to criticize people in front of other people. You do however want to make sure adjustments are made to achieve better results, and that praise is given when results are achieved.
Step five is to stay on top of things. Well, it is kind of hard to not stay on top of things when you are having regular meetings with your staff.
People need to be lead. They crave consistency in leadership. When they don’t get it, whether they know it or not, their performance suffers. When their performance suffers, your patients receive a sub par experience making it less likely that they will give you a referral.
So how to you ensure that your staff doesnt just do their job, but actually feels good about working for you?
Feeling Good About Your Practice
The ultimate goal of having regular staff meetings is to make your staff feel good about working for you. Note, you may never know that they dont feel good, until it is too late, and they quit. Suffice it to say, that low morale is a silent killer that sabotages the effectiveness and growth of your practice.
Staff meetings will do a number of things to help maintain a high level of performance, by keeping your staffs morale high.
Your staff will always know what to expect from you, and from each other
Your staff will feel good that you know and care about what they expect from you
Practice policies and procedures will clearly defined and monitored, making your entire staff feel confident that things are done properly
Bad seeds will be dealt with when problems arise, and terminated if problems become chronic
- Less mistakes will be made, and your patients will thank you for it.
I can’t stress enough that even though you think your staff is happy, unless you are checking in with them on a regular basis, they may not be. This is a silent killer of the growth of your practice, because you don’t know its a problem until it is too late.
The truth however is that even when your staff is performing at an exceptional level, your patients are not going to give you referrals unless you ask for them.
Now you need to know how a staff meeting will help you and your staff properly ask for referrals.
“I need to ask for referrals?”
Yes you do.
If the research done by Fred Reicheld is correct, 95% of the people who love you, or net promoters, will only refer you if they are asked to do so.
You put all that time and energy into creating a high performance team, provided a memorable and referable experience, and you wont get many referrals unless you ask.
Now, I am not going to go into detail about how to ask or a referral. I will cover those principle in my next article. For now, what I want you to know is why a staff meeting will help you get more referrals by enabling your team to ask more regularly for the referral.
Create Daily Plans
Each day you have any number of patients coming to your office. Each patient is unique and should be treated as such.
Additionally, every patient will encounter different members of your staff. Each encounter is a touch point that will likely result in some kind of conversation. Those conversations need to be planned out in advance, so that your team members know exactly what to say and how to say it. It is in these conversations that the referral will be asked for.
You and your staff should be ready to discuss:
- treatment plans
- events and happenings in the patients life
- events and happenings in the community that might be of interest to the patient
- their next appointment
- their family members next appointment
- concerns or issues with their oral health, or your practice
- anything else that makes them feel like you know who they are, and care
If left to the staff alone, without regular meetings and your guidance, these conversations will not happen on a regular basis, in a way that delivers results. Either you or your office manage need to plan for this type of engagement because this is the type of engagement that wows your patients, and moves them to give you a referral.
If your staff’s morale is low, their performance will suffer. If their performance suffers, you become less referable. Even when their performance is top notch, you still have to ask your happy patients for referrals.
Staff meetings are where you keep your staff’s morale high, and plan out the conversations that you will have with each patient that comes to your practice.
You really need to trust that if you are not having regular staff meetings, you cannot assume that your staff feels good about working for you. You cannot assume that you are getting all the referrals you should be. You cannot take these things for granted because if you do, your team will collapse. That alone is a problem.
The bigger problem is how much damage they did while they were still on your team, sending out that negative vibe that made patients feel not so comfortable with your practice. The truth is, there isn’t a smart business consultant on the planet who would argue with anything I said here.
Every team needs a leader. Every leader needs to lead. Absent effective leadership, the team falls apart, and performance suffers. The trick is a simple one. Meet with your staff on a regular basis and make sure they love working for you. That love will trickle through them and be passed along to your patients, showing itself as a happy patient who cannot wait to refer you.