In the second part of his series on marketing, Toks Oyegunle explains how creating the perfect patient avatar can help move your practice forward
What target market do you currently attract — and why do you attract it?
This question should hopefully make you think of the current effect of your past marketing efforts. The simple fact is that the leads and patients you attract are a direct reflection of the target market you choose to focus on.
To answer this question — and many others related to your marketing activities, I am going to use a tool that I call the “triple M” profitable marketing framework. This framework is about getting the right message to the right market using the right media and methods effectively, efficiently, and profitably. It can help you to simplify, understand, and apply the essence of what profitable marketing really is.
The power of three
To fully understand the market you currently attract, there is a simple, but extremely valuable, exercise you can do.
Create a project to review your patient database going back as far as you can, and group all your patients into three distinct categories:
- Best patients
- Average patients
- Worst patients
You should have your own criteria for deciding what constitutes the definition of patients in each category, but you may wish to consider the following.
Your “best patients” category should consist of people you really love to see for one reason or another; typically they will be the most profitable patients your practice has.
The “average patients” will be just that — they are not the most profitable, but they are probably loyal, relatively easy to treat and satisfy with minimum stress to you and your team.
The “worst patients” are the ones that give you headaches — I am sure some may come to mind already. They are the ones that are regularly late for appointments, thereby messing up your work schedule. They regularly complain about your prices, staff, or services. You actually dread treating these patients as you have come to realize they are just very difficult to satisfy.
Having done this exercise, I would urge you to nurture all the best patients you can identify. Make them feel special in all inter-actions with your practice; explore the many ways you can provide more value to them while also extracting more revenue from the relationship. You will generate the most revenue from this group directly and sub-sequently from their referrals, assuming your practice has the appropriate referral generating systems in place.
Study the average patients carefully; seek to understand them better as there is a good chance of converting between 10% and 40% of them to your best patient category, depending on their profiles and the marketing strategies you deploy to this effect.
Most of them will, however, remain average patients, so you need to make sure they are profitable, reliable, and to keep them loyal to your practice for as long as possible. There are a number of patient retention strategies you should seek to deploy in this regard.
With the group you identify as your “worst patients,” you should realistically consider “firing” as many of them as you can, as soon as possible. While this may sound somewhat harsh, you should realize it’s most likely the best thing you can do for your practice; you will save money, time, and improve team morale in the long term. In the short term, however, you should try to understand why they are in the worst patient category and convert those that have similar profiles as your perfect patients. There are a number of ways to do this, but really, you should be sure they are worth this effort, hence the need to limit the exercise only to the ones that match your perfect patient profile.
Please understand that the process of categorizing your existing patients is very important and a necessary part of fully understanding who you have been attracting with your existing marketing. You can actually do this yourself; you can delegate it to your practice manager or get a consultant to help you with the process. How you do it doesn’t really matter, but it is something you simply must do if you are serious about creating a thriving dental practice.
With a good understanding of your current patient base, we should explore creating a profile of who you really want to attract as a patient moving forward. The previous exercise will be quite helpful as you should have observed some trends among the best patients you have already identified.
This next exercise requires you to think in futuristic terms and develop a crystal-clear profile, or what I call the “perfect patient avatar,” a detailed description of the ideal patient you want to attract to your practice.
Having identified the best patients you currently have, the next step is to describe what a perfect patient would look like to you. How much do they earn? How old are they? Are they married or single? What do they do for a living? How important is their appearance to them? What car do they drive? Where do they go on holiday? What party do they vote for? These questions are to give you a general idea of how much you need to know about your perfect patients in order to attract them effortlessly to your practice.
The simple goal here is to develop an avatar — a profile that describes a very clear picture of who you really want as perfect patients for your practice. You will need to understand and apply the demographics and psychographics of the market.
The dictionary defines demographics as the statistical data of a population, especially those showing average age, income, education, and so on. It defines psychographics as the study and grouping of people according to their attitudes and tastes, especially for market research.
With demographics you are able to describe people by groups that they belong to. This may range from gender, age, ethnicity, disabilities, mobility, home ownership, employment, status, location, and even sexuality. For example, will your perfect patient be in the age range of 25-35, 35-45, 45-55, or 55-plus? Will your perfect patient be male or female? Will he/she be a self-employed tycoon, a high-ranking executive, or a celebrity?
On the other hand, psychographics helps you describe the interests, opinions, attitudes, values, and behavior of your perfect patients. What are their likes and dislikes? What are their opinions on politics, religion, and money? What is their attitude about health and lifestyle?
The key to your success here is the ability to describe your perfect patient in as much detail as possible. Your whole team should be crystal clear on whom exactly you are looking for as a potential perfect patient.
The other side to this is that with such a detailed understanding of whom you are looking for, identifying them and locating them becomes relatively easier in terms of your lead generation advertising. For example, if your perfect patient is a BMW-driving corporate executive, it’s relatively easy to locate all the corporate executives with a BMW in the country for a laser-targeted marketing campaign. A perfect patient avatar will also help make your referrals more profitable, as people tend to know people who are similar to themselves professionally and financially.
If you haven’t created a perfect patient avatar for your practice before, get one developed as soon as possible. If you have one already, now may be a good time to review it and establish if it is still ideal for your practice. Getting this right is critical, as it is the foundation on which you can build the marketing strategy of a thriving dental practice.