You always have to look at your business as a business.
And all businesses need customers.
You can grow your customer base by word of mouth, advertising, and location.
However, for a business to grow by organically by word of mouth, you need to have something very spectacular to offer that will have your customers telling so many others, that new customers will beat a path to your door.
But if your business is also about repeat business, as opposed to one-off business, then your offer to those new customers has to be so compelling that people keep wanting to come back again and again and again.
In the early days of a business, you need to be offering something dramatically different to your competitors that helps create this endless procession of new customers.
Along with the word of mouth, which can be slow when the customer base is small, there also needs to be a significant injection of advertising and marketing to your proposed market base that screams:
“This business is different, and you need to come and see why!!”
If you have a long term commitment to the success of your business, then the investment of significant dollars in the initial marketing of your business will be returned in spades as your business grows and grows and grows.
However, if you treat your business as a hobby, or a part time venture, and you continually look for that Thursday night Powerball rescue to come along, or worse still, some unsuspecting wood duck for you to guiltlessly offload your millstone to, then your business will always flounder.
Members of a golf club I know have been battling to sustain their club, which takes a certain amount of money each year just to remain operational.
What the club really needs is an injection of marketing funds, as well as some necessary minor cosmetic improvements around the clubhouse.
Everybody who comes to play at the club loves the course, it’s condition and it’s challenge.
But the lack of “interest” from the owner in building upon this is palpable.
A recent letter from the owner to the Club President echoed this disinterest:
“Dear Mr Club President,
I am sorry I cannot be with you. As of today, there has been no “rescue package” that substantially reduces my company’s losses on your golf club to an acceptable level, nor a deal to buy the lease of the golf course.
The owners of the adjoining hotel have no interest in selling the hotel or the land on which the golf course sits.
I would like to thank all the members who have helped with the course and clubhouse in these difficult times. I understand fully that uncertainty is not the best news but I did state earlier this year that it was my company’s intention to close the course if there was no acceptable “rescue package” and that is still the situation.
The course will remain open for all of the January whilst we have further discussions and ideas.
I trust you and your families have a very merry Christmas.
Best wishes, Mr Owner.
Merry Christmas indeed.
In 1997, when I was unable to sell my dental practice for $160K, I sold my house and invested the equity from that house back in to the dental practice, with advertising and infrastructure, and in 2007 I was able to sell that dental practice for cash and shares that ended up totalling over $4M.
Putting my heart, and my money, into that business raised the collections of that dental practice from $423K in 1995 to $2.4M in 2007 and then to $3.2M in 2011… [I worked on in that practice as an associate for seven years following the sale.]
Relying totally on organic growth with no marketing is not a good strategy.
The right injection of marketing is the petrol that adds flames to your business’s fire.
When I talk to dental practices about some of their patient issues, the most common factor in all of their problems with patients always comes back to a distinct lack of communication.
And this lack of communication is usually caused by dental office employees having a reluctance to “pick up the phone” and call the patient. Instead of doing this, there is an unhealthy reliance by staff on other media for communication with our valued patients.
The Telephone is your best friend.
Contrary to popular belief, the telephone, and human to human interaction, is still alive and far from being dead.
Though social media and other online methods are in the trend, when all fails, people will still go back to making a phone call.
Look at this logically.
When your patients need an appointment with you, what is their number one method for making that appointment?
Do they write you a letter?
Do they send you an SMS?
Do they send an email?
Do they go to your Facebook page and send you a message?
I’d suggest that 99% of your patients who want to make an unscheduled appointment with your office do so by calling on the phone.
And if that’s the case, then why is it that dental office staff are hesitant when it comes to communicating with those same patients in exactly the same way?
Let’s take a look at the patients who we need to phone:
1. Patients with incomplete treatment who do not have an appointment.
The best way to schedule these people is face to face.
If you cannot talk to them face to face, then the second best way to talk to them one on one is using the telephone.
Sending them an SMS text message is limp.
Sending them a letter is even more lame.
I’ve been in dental offices where something called “reactivation letters” are sent and that’s it.
The staff believe that sending a letter is all they have to do.
I’ve heard staff say:
“Well, we can’t MAKE them make anappointment.”
I’m sorry, but as health care professionals, and that means staff too, it is our duty to do everything in our power to ensure that these patients receive the diagnosed treatment they need.
Because the cost of neglect for them is always going to be greater than the cost of treatment.
And dental conditions always get worse with time.
So, firstly, no patient should ever leave our office without a future appointment, but when they do, they must be followed up BY TELEPHONE.
2. Patients with overdue hygiene requirements who do not have an appointment.
The same goes for these patients.
If their hygiene visits are overdue, no form of written communication will motivate them to suddenly call our office for an appointment in the same way that a telephone call will.
Don’t send out “Reminder cards”.
These are useless and a total waste of time and money.
Save a tree, and save money.
Pick up the phone.
The Telephone is your best friend.
The reason that the telephone is the best means of communication is simply this:
When you are on the phone with the patient you have the opportunity to respond to their questions and solve their problems.
An email and an SMS and a letter cannot talk back.
They just lie there…
A team member on the phone can create urgency and concern and can respond.
The result of your communication with the patient by phone is that they will schedule their necessary appointment.
Even if your written communication does inspire the overdue patient to pick up the phone, the result is that they are on the phone, so why not just use the phone in the first place?
[Or better still, create sufficient urgency and concern when the patient is in your office, that they make their next appointment then and there, and KEEP IT!!]
“But David, my staff are scared of the phone…”
I hear this often.
The good news is that the fear of the phone is false and can be overcome by learning better ways of communicating and better things to say.
And both of these can be taught and learned.
In the same way that no baby was born with a golf club in its hand, no baby was born speaking, or bearing a telephone either.
Speaking confidently, and use of the phone, are both learnable skills.
The reason why some dental staff are masters of the phone is because they have chosen to be.
The success of a dental practice is reliant on having good people with great communication skills and great phone skills.
You can be the best dentist in the world but if your practice is bleeding patients because of poor phone skills and poor communications, [and poor systems], then your life will not be as rewarding as it should be.
Don’t let your schedule suffer because of poor phone skills.
And don’t allow your business to suffer because of poor phone skills….
In the email, Shep had listed some of the many reasons that people choose to do business with one business over another.
The list was intriguing, as were some of Shep’s explanations.
I’ll share some of those reasons with you shortly but in the meantime remember this fact:
Twenty to twenty-five percent of the population out there do not CARE what your competitors are charging to deliver the same service because those people consider the SERVICE that you provide to be exceptional value, and they would never think of changing.
Couple this with the Pareto Principle, that being that twenty percent of your customers will provide you with eighty percent of your income, while the remaining eighty percent of your customers will provide you with only twenty percent of your income, and will probably provide you with one hundred percent of your headaches…
And you’ll realise that there is a need to scale as well as slice and dice your community.
Because not only can you NOT BE everything to everybody in your community, but it also makes perfect sense to choose NOT TO BE everything to everybody in your community.
So here are some of those reasons why customers chose to do business with you:
1. Customer Service.
Your customers love you and your team, and the way your team makes them feel, whenever they do business with you. For your customer, they would never ever think of doing business with someone else, because they have a relationship with the people at your business that is more than just a “business relationship”.
Your customers trust you, and your business, and they know that whatever you say or recommend, is always in their best interests. Nothing else.
Your customers understand and know your values, both personally as well as professionally, and they recognise and appreciate the congruence of those values with theirs.
Sometimes people chose a business simply because it is easy to go there, despite the people and despite the price.
Sometimes these people are willing to tolerate a little less service and bear a little more cost for that convenience.
There will always be people who will choose a business because of the low prices they charge, despite the fact they have a friend with a similar business.
When they find a cheaper price elsewhere, then they move their custom.
It’s all about the price.
Remember, you do not have to do business with every single person out there.
Choose a lane, and then hold your line.
Some lanes are easier and more pleasant to operate in than others.
Other lanes may be more profitable, but more difficult.
Shep Hyken is a customer service expert, keynote speaker, and New York Times bestselling business author. For information, contact +1  692-2200 or www.hyken.com. For information on The Customer Focus™ customer service training programs, go to www.thecustomerfocus.com. Follow on Twitter: @Hyken