You shouldn’t be too busy to consider marketing for new patients, Jan Clarke says.

Conversations often go one of two ways with dental business owners:

  • Can you help, we need to do some ‘marketing’?
  • We’re too busy to do any marketing and we don’t need new patients anyway.

The first type are quite easy to help, first we have to understand their definition of marketing and then explain what we feel marketing is all about.

Marketing is most definitely not a local advertising campaign or a set of Facebook adverts, although these may be considered as part of a marketing campaign.

I have written before about this and we talk about marketing being everything you do:

  • How you answer the phones
  • How you treat your customers/patients
  • How you treat your team
  • How you treat your suppliers
  • How you behave in your local community – involvement.

Marketing activities may include:

  • Website
  • Signage
  • Brochures
  • Social media
  • Blogs
  • Flyers
  • Adverts
  • Team training
  • Community involvement – external advocacy and so on.

The question, therefore, is, if you are too busy and don’t need patients, are you really too busy to participate in the above activities?


If we consider that marketing is everything that you do then we can see it as a dynamic activity that starts to set the scene of how the business appears. If you want a vibrant, forward thinking, dynamic, thriving business then I think yes, even the busiest businesses should be marketing.

I am sure in these currently litigious times you would agree that your dental business should be continually trying to improve in all areas, after all, is that not what you try to do with your clinical work? Audit may be an activity that is done to fulfill criteria but aren’t you all constantly auditing activity informally by reflecting on clinical practice?

The same has to be true of running your business. You or your manager will look at your systems, protocols, and procedures and see how they can be made more efficient. When a patient complaint occurs at reception because lab work hasn’t arrived back on time for an appointment, your team will look at putting in place a system to ensure that doesn’t happen again. This is constant improvement because it is simply a much better to place to work when everything is done efficiently. You will have fewer complaints, you will sleep better at night. Is this really marketing, I hear you say? Yes, I do think so.

Richard Branson has famously said you don’t need to look after customers just look after your team and the rest will follow, and while this may seem simplified there is a lot of truth in this.

Team development

Marketing your practice should come from the core of your business purpose, what is your value proposition? How do you want your business to be viewed? Who will be in your team? Many inherit teams and in these times of career changes it sometimes seems a hard task keeping staff for more than a few months. However, with the right people on the bus your journey will be less bumpy.

So now we can see that marketing includes:

  • Business vision
  • Team development.

Most dental business owners are also the highest earner and ‘doer’ in the practice. When your door is shut and you are busy concentrating on giving your patient 100% attention, are you confident that your team are delivering the right message and understand what is expected of them? I think it is also important to note that team development is not ticked by having a one-off telephone training course. Developing your team is constant, it never stops. A yearly appraisal just won’t cut it, regular reviews with personal development plans that cover the next three to four months of all areas of work life pay off immensely. Implemented properly, a PDP will start to reap the rewards after just one cycle. A PDP would typically include five areas:

  • Clinical
  • CPD
  • Customer service
  • Internal teamwork
  • External advocacy – marketing.

Spending time to communicate to your team and really develop their capabilities will pay off. I understand to a very busy practice and dental business owner the above can seem a pipe dream, when and how am I going to implement that? Only you can make the changes to start moving forward and I would argue that if you’re not moving forward you will be moving backwards.

I don’t need new patients

Returning to the start of the article and the practice that is so busy they don’t need new patients, can this ever be true? Every practice will have a drop off of patients that should be replaced, but what about the dangers of a practitioner never seeing new patients, have you considered that from a professional point of view? It is easy to keep seeing the same patients you have known for year after year, who don’t need much in the way of dentistry. New patients challenge your thinking, help keep your clinical skills updated and your critical thinking fresh. Without new patients, burn out and boredom can be insidious unwanted enemies.

My advice would be, don’t be too busy being busy that you can’t consider marketing, and remember that: ‘marketing is everything you do’.

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