Welcome to another episode of the practice X Factor. I think we just hit episode number 30, which is pretty exciting. And I hope you’re off to a great new year. If you haven’t planned out your new year and set your goals and got with your team and identified your membership goals and new patient goals and collections goals for the year, there’s no time like the present. If you need some help with that you can shoot us an email or reach out to us at the office, we have some resources available that can help you plan for a great year. And also, there’s a whole bunch of free resources on our website, yourpracticegrowth.com.
So I want to share a little bit about an experience I had recently and I was able to go to the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day. And it was a lot of fun. I Went down there with my dad and brother and took my son and we did a quick road trip down to Pasadena. We’re big Utah Utes football fans. So we were excited to have our team playing in the Rose Bowl against Ohio State. And it was a great game. Heartbreaking that we lost the last few seconds of the game but I think it was the second most watched bowl game this year when I was looking at some reports. So really exciting game with two great teams, a lot of fun, and definitely something that I would do again
Even though my son who was 13, he was kind of bummed to miss out on some New Year’s Eve parties with friends and family and things we knew this would be a once in a life experience and something that if you haven’t done, I recommend you definitely check out a bowl game or championship game, if you have a team that you follow. Because it’s a very powerful and fun experience. You know, and as I was there, I was kind of thinking about how much emotional energy is zapped by something like an event like this. I mean, we were standing up probably 75% of the game, you know, yelling, shouting for our team, lots of plays that were, you know, stressful, and we’re all anxious to see if our team scores or, you know, catches an interception, all those kinds of things. And, you know, I thought about it, because we were and we got some food and things and it almost felt like we didn’t even eat because, you know, you’re just so hyped up, and anxious. I think it kind of boosts your metabolism or something where you can eat. My son was like, you know, they had this big bucket of cookies you can buy. It was like 20 bucks for 36 cookies. And my son is like “Dad, we gotta try that.” And they looked really good. So we split it between a few of us. And I told him, I said, Man, if our health insurance knew we bought this, they’re gonna drop us for reckless driving of our medical health,
And, you know, I just thought about the, you know, the physical exertion, the emotional exertion, the mental exertion, you’re out there and it’s kind of hot for a few hours, and then it gets cold and you’re putting jackets on that the lengths you go to beat an outdoor event, even though Pasadena is a pretty temperate climate overall. Compared to Utah, where I live, you know, you got to prepare for these things. And there’s a lot that goes into that. So the lesson that you can apply to your practice, especially to creating membership plans for your patients, options that are alternate to insurance, and often better.
You know, for us when we have patients who sign up for membership plans, the advantage is, there’s no billing, there’s no third party administration, and there’s no limitations. There’s no deductible, there’s no waiting period. There’s no compromise of the options you offer your patients. You know, sometimes patients can feel like their options are limited because of what dental insurance will cover.
You’re probably well aware that dental insurance really isn’t true insurance. You know, dental insurance is almost like a prepaid benefit or, you know, almost like kind of like a health savings or flex spending works where there’s some dollars set aside for dental care, but the disadvantages, you know, there are a lot of things that, as you probably know, are not covered or not covered completely in patients are misled. You know, I had a discussion with a great longtime patient this week because she’s, you know, going on to Medicare and changing our plan and things and you know, she’s being very misled by what The representative at the insurance companies telling her because she needs things like gum maintenance and fluoride, and she’s got old crowns and bridges to replace.
And they’re telling her these percentages that you and I both know are not accurate, because when it comes down to it, they’re gonna cap out at a certain dollar amount. What they’re telling her is preventative is not, you know, because she’s on periodontal maintenance and other things. So those are the kind of things that we really have to think about when we create a membership plan and how you can really make it better.
And most of all, being obsessed with the experience you provide for your patients. So when you look at great businesses, great practices, they become very obsessed about the experience they provide for their customers or patients, and how they’re treated. And everything that happens a tizzy what happens before the visit, during the visit after the visit? Not just the dentistry. And when we’re in the chair and have our heads down, it can be very difficult to see the big picture of what’s going on around us. And then we could sit back and wonder, Well, why is the hygiene schedule falling apart, we’re all the new patients, while our collections went off the charts last month, and this month, a little bit slow. I was looking at some things this week in my own office and noticed a couple patterns in some of the things that our hygiene schedule was, you know how it was evolving. And fortunately, you know, because I have an associate, and I’ve set the schedule to have some days where I can plan and work on the practice not in it, which is something I highly recommend. But because of that it allows me to adapt and improve the care we offer our patients and really think about their experience. So you know, when you go to a sporting event, you buy a ticket to get in. So we paid pretty good money, you know, to get a Rose Bowl ticket per ticket, easily a few $100. But that ticket doesn’t include your food and drinks and souvenirs and anything else you may want to buy inside. You know, when you go inside of a game or a theme park, the food’s not cheap, relatively for what you get, you know, but they have a captive audience. They’re really good, making the food smell good and look attractive. And like I said, even if it’s a bucket of chocolate chip cookies, it’s made to look really attractive. So that you want it now.
Now, when patients can be misled with dental insurance if they think because they have insurance, it’s gonna entitle them to all those other things they want: implants, crowns, whitening, veneers, you know. And a lot of people are really misinformed on that. And so when you when you craft your membership plans, and you put those together, think about how you can improve that, you know, when I was thinking about at the Rose Bowl specifically, you know, if they would have offered me some type of VIP meal voucher that I could have purchased in advance, that maybe would offer you know, some kind of price you pay up front and then maybe you get you know, a meal and drinks and you know, souvenir cup or whatever they may offer, I probably would have gone for it. Not necessarily because I’m, you know, a coupon shopper, I don’t really, you know, do that kind of thing. I personally think it’s a waste of my time. But, you know, I do like and appreciate convenience, and simplicity when, you know, you go somewhere and they say hey, if you buy this package, it contains everything you need, and it’s gonna get you there. You know, and maybe for a one time football game, you wouldn’t have something like a season pass or a membership. But you know, a VIP pass or a game they pass that provided you with, you know, a commemorative t-shirt and a drink and an entree or something. You know, I bet they would have sold a lot of those.
I mean, I saw so much gear that fans were wearing on both sides, not knowing if their team was going to win. Buying that, you know before during after the game, and I’m always amazed, you know, a couple companies that come to mind. Costco, you know, I think they have the best membership model of any retail company. If you know, if you haven’t listened to it, you go back to a couple other recent podcasts we talked about but you know Amazon is obviously the 800 pound gorilla when it comes to volume of retail sales. But when you look at profit per employee, and the profit margin, Costco blows Amazon and Target and Walmart out of water.
So, with your dental practice, you know if your practice in a city or town where there’s competition, which, you know, it’s no secret, that there’s almost nowhere there isn’t now, thanks to social media and the Internet, we all know all the good places to live. So if you live in a place that’s fun to live, there’s probably some competition. And the truth is, I don’t think that other dental practices are even our biggest competition, our biggest competition is indifference putting off care, lack of urgency, being confused, you know, looking at the family budget, we’ve got a vacation coming up, we’ve got to get new tires on the car, we’ve got to get contacts or LASIK, you’re competing against all those things, that’s your true competition.
And, you know, what Costco does really well is they sell their memberships up front, which is really just admittance, inside the building, you know, it admits you to go inside, they’re selling air, essentially. And then you go in, and you see all these great products, you know, their warranties, excellent, you can return almost anything.
Whereas when you buy things on, you know, sites like Amazon, you can still buy some really cheap quality things. Costco is generally known for a little higher quality, and higher profit. And so, you know, unless you want to be Amazon, which means you’re the biggest, largest practice in your city or your state, you may want to look more at the Costco model, which is, how can we be really profitable, and deliver incredible value to our members. And that’s a much more sustainable model for most of us, because we’re small businesses.
Disney is another one, Disney, you know, they’ve kind of changed this from my understanding. But over the past 10 years or so, up until the pandemic hit, my family had gone to Disneyland once or twice a year. Now, the visits have been a little less frequent, because of park closures and things. But Disney always had an annual pass, and annual pass holders get discounts on dining and souvenirs and those kinds of things. And we weren’t actually Annual Pass holders, we didn’t consider it even though we lived out of state, you know, if you go I think, two or three times a year you breakeven on what was their annual pass and but you know, those kinds of things provide ongoing value for their customers and members.
So it’s not just a, hey, buy this and get in the park, it’s by this, you’ll get in the park unlimited to some capacity, and then some and so with your membership plans, think about things you can offer on an unlimited basis, and you have to excuse me, I’m kind of fighting through a cold here, home from the office today. So anyway, you know, when you look at how they do things, you can think about how could you offer something, your own practice that maybe have extra value to your patients.
That is different from insurance, because you really should think about your membership as apples and oranges don’t try to be like insurance, sound life insurance, smell like insurance, or you’re going to be compared to insurance. And that might be a battle that you lose. But if you offer something like, you know, unlimited emergency exams, on your membership plan, you know, that can be up to one per month, or that can be completely unlimited. That’s something that no dental insurance on the planet offers.
And it might be very valuable to your patients, you know, that alone might be enough of a proposition for them to say, hey, you know what, this sounds pretty cool, then I don’t have to feel like I can’t go to the dentist or I’m going to have a big bill every time I walk in. It provides the patient with some peace of mind and security, so that they can come see you. You know, obviously the other services and charges are extra. But you know, that’s just one example of something you could offer in your practice.
So what might your patients be looking for or asking for? To really reach and give value to their unspoken needs that they have? You know, you can look at things like whitening, you can look at things like office visits, you can look at things like implants, clear braces, sedation.
Those are some things that we commonly incorporate to our membership plans because that allows for you to, you know, be an apples and oranges comparison, right? Some implants are now covered by dental insurance. But you know as well as I do when a patient comes in, and they need three or four, six or full mouth implants, that’s not something that’s going to be covered by dental insurance. And when you can build some savings into your plan, and I’m not suggesting, or even recommending that you give those things away for free, you have to, you know, protect your bottom line and make sure you’re making a profit.
So knowing the numbers is important. As you know, the famous marketing legend Dan Kennedy said marketing is half psychology and half math. So when you are putting together a membership plan, that’s a form of internal marketing, and even external marketing doesn’t mean it’s salesy, or pushy, or, you know, a big billboard, saying, Look at me, it simply means you’re seeing who’s interested in raising their hand. And you have to know the math, and you have to know the psychology behind your patient.
Aside from those two, what you offer matters much less than knowing your patient. And we use, you know, a free app called Survey Monkey. There are others like it that I recommend, we’ve been doing this for many years. We will text or email patient surveys, and ask about their experience in their visit. And I would recommend you do paper surveys as well. Some people prefer paper surveys, obviously, they take a little more work to distribute.
But when you do paper surveys were nearly 90% or higher completion rate of people who fill those out. So we will actually give our patients a survey that’s pre stamped with envelopes, they go home and fill it out. They don’t have to look for a stamp by a stamp, send it back to you.
Most practice owners won’t do this because they think well, stamps are too expensive, or nobody’s gonna fill that out, or how’s that going to help me. But I’m telling you, right now, when you get those surveys back, and you read through them, and have someone in your office, enter those data sets into a spreadsheet, or, like we do, they enter right into Survey Monkey.
And then there’s a separate one for the link that we share with our patients to fill out in Survey Monkey. And, you know, I think we actually had to upgrade Survey Monkey because they give you, I think, a few 100 or a 1000 Free surveys. And then when you get to a certain point, you have to use the paid feature, but it’s well worth the press, because that’s a database of what our patients want.
So your patient demographic is different from mine. And it’s different from your friends. So when your friend says you should do this, or do that, you always have to take it with a grain of salt. And think about, you know, your top 50, top 20, top 100 patients, who they are, what they do on the weekends, what makes them tick, what kind of work they do, what their lifestyle is, like, what their family size is like. And that’s when you craft your membership plans accordingly.
So be careful of, you know, companies who are telling you to set up this membership plan and you just do a blanket discount on everything. And to me that is very vanilla. That’s a very easy way. But it’s also a less effective way of building loyalty with your patients, right. Because if you just do that your patients may hop back into insurance, you know, or they may go to another practice offering the same thing. So you have to really customize and personalize your membership. And it doesn’t have to be hard. You know, we started out with this seven or eight years ago, and it was pretty bare bones. But it started to gain momentum and people saw value in it. And people who had been cash patients for years now had a loyalty program that helped them stay as patients in the office. It helped them have a great experience.
And our renewal rate is incredibly high for those I have. I don’t have the numbers in front of me. But the renewal rate on patients who you know, don’t move away or pass away, or maybe change jobs where now their job offers insurance. These are people who a lot of my patients are retired or they’re self employed. And so you know, they’re not offered dental insurance, our renewal rate is 80 to 90%. On the majority of our membership plans and when you look at you know dental insurance people bounce around that year after year after year and That’s where, you know, you have to be careful of what insurance plans you take, especially if you’re, you know, not a drill-fill-bill office that is high volume. You know, because that can really eat away your profit margins. And, you know, your patient might get a new plan, and you don’t accept that plan, but you just kind of sit down and explain to them, “Hey, look, we can still work with your insurance, here’s how…” whether you accept the benefit or not, and remind them that, you know, in 12 months, they’re probably going to get another plan and for your patient to transfer dentists usually cost more than the out of pocket from being out of network or not having their insurance.
So what I mean is, you know, you know, as well as I do that if a patient goes to 10 different offices, they’re going to get 10 different treatment plans. And that’s not because, you know, dentistry is not on board with what’s right for our patients. It’s because we all have different services we offer, we all have different personalities, we all have different ways of treatment planning. And as long as you’re giving patients options, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with different treatment plans in different offices.
But when a patient bounces from office A to B to C, over a few years, if they had to have any work redone, if they had something to slip between the cracks, and now it turned into a root canal when it could have been a crown or filling that caused the patient a lot more. And that’s where you know, your renewal rate on memberships is a number you should know and measure and really look at because if the renewal rates low, if you have a lot of people who are doing a membership for one year in your practice, and then next year, they’re off to back to insurance or they’re out talking to their insurance agent looking for a plan. That means your plan probably didn’t meet their needs.
And so we do have, you know, a little brochure we typed up in our practice, and I would recommend you do the same. And if you’d like a copy, you can email me at email@example.com. I’d be happy to share the template with you. But it’s essentially a guy that made our patients that explained the difference between traditional dental insurance and membership plans. And you’re welcome to use that. Or you can make your own. And that’s something I would have on hand so that your patients can really know what that means. And you can preempt or intercept their questions about well, “I better wait on these implants because I’m getting insurance next year.” And, you know, “HR told me that they’ll cover it,” we know that’s not true, at least not in the sense of what the patient has in mind. So I hope this has been helpful. You know, I always am seeing examples in real life of membership plans. And you know, when you own a practice or you own a business, it’s a great lesson to go and be a customer or prospect, other businesses, other events. And so I would encourage you this week as you go shop places online in person, other health care facilities, where you interact, take some notes on things that you see and hear and people want.
Another good place is if you go to your local grocery store, and pull out some magazines, yes, those paper printed magazines, you can look through things anywhere from AARP. If you have patients, you know, in that age range, you know Better Homes and Gardens Health magazine. You think about your patient demographic and what types of media they read, what type of social media channels they’re on, and what’s appealing to them. And you can really use that to reverse craft new and better benefits to your membership plan.
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Hope you have a great 2022 And we’ll see you on the next episode.
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