What the Relocation Clause in Your Office Lease Actually Means

Imagine you have developed the dental practice of your dreams. You have a loyal group of patients, a constant influx of new patients, and a team you trust. Things couldn’t be going any better. Then suddenly, you get a notice from your landlord that you have to move your practice to another location. What will this mean for the practice you have worked so hard to nurture? Welcome to the relocation clause.

What Is the Relocation Clause?

Sometimes known as the substitution space clause, the relocation clause is extremely common in commercial rental contracts. In essence, it gives your landlord the right to insist that you move to another space within the same building or commercial center. Landlords may invoke this clause for many reasons, but it is often used to combine a small rental space with another space next door to accommodate a larger tenant. The relocation clause typically gives you a short window, such as 30 days, to move to the designated space of the landlord’s choosing.

How the Relocation Clause Can Hurt Dental Practices

Dental practices are generally expensive to maintain, and they often require highly specialized build-outs. There are many potential pitfalls to a sudden relocation that all dental practice owners should consider. These include, but are not limited to:

Relocation expenses: Some leases require the tenant to cover all costs of relocation, from building out the new space to reprinting all marketing materials and hiring movers.

Increased rent: If you are moved to a larger or more “favorable” location, you may be responsible for paying higher rent on the new space.

Size and usability: You might be downgraded to a smaller or less usable space. That could require you to reconfigure your entire setup, or even lose valuable accessibility that is essential for many patients. You might even be relocated to a hard-to-find space with no foot traffic, reducing the potential for walk-ins.

Competition: Odds are, you carefully selected your existing space for many reasons, including sufficient distance from any competitors. A relocation could put you in close proximity to other dental offices, making it tougher to gain and retain new patients.

Downtime: Building out a dental practice takes time. If you are relocated, you may face extensive downtime while you wait for your new office to be prepared. Every day with your doors closed is a day without revenue or the ability to care for your patients.

Loss of patients: From accessibility concerns to an inability to wait through your downtime, there are many reasons patients may choose not to make the move with you.

Fighting Back

It is highly unlikely that, as a small tenant, you will be able to have the relocation clause removed from your rental contract. However, there are many ways to make the clause more favorable for you as a tenant. Some of these ideas are relatively common in commercial rental agreements, and they may even exist in the first draft. Others are a bit rarer. Either way, it is worth negotiating up front for as many of these terms as you can get.

Landlord is responsible for all relocation expenses: This term is actually fairly common, but by no means guaranteed unless you ask for it. In this case, if the landlord makes you relocate, he or she will pick up all of the associated expenses, from build-out to moving expenses to printing new marketing materials.

Rent freeze: This ensures that if you are moved to a bigger or more favorable location at the landlord’s discretion, your rent will remain the same.

Comparable location: You can add language that ensures the new space with be comparable to your existing location in everything from size and configuration to view and level of foot traffic.

Notice period: Ask for a reasonable notice period that gives you time to build out the new space and prepare your patients and staff. The exact length depends on your needs, but many dentists find that a period of 120 days is sufficient.

One relocation per rental period: Relocating is hard work, so try to include language in your contract that will limit your landlord to relocating your practice only once per rental contract term.

Right to terminate: If possible, include language that allows you to terminate the lease without penalty if the landlord is unable or unwilling to find you a suitable space that meets all the terms specified in the clause.

Although it is certainly exciting to start a new dental practice or take over an existing one, it is vital to read through the fine print on every document you sign. A bit of negotiation up front can save you hundreds of thousands of dollars and innumerable headaches in the long run.

Ready to Get Started?

If you are interested in learning how to take your dental practice to the next level, please contact Ascent Dental Solutions today at (800) 983-4126 to learn how Dr. Coughlin can help.

Marketing Your Dental Practice: What You Must Know

Naturally, you have certain things that differentiate your dental practice from everyone else’s. Perhaps you hold unique certifications, you have the latest gadgets, or your technical skills are unrivaled. Yet none of those things matter if your prospects are unaware of them or, even worse, are unaware you exist at all. Regardless of your level of service, you must follow the same basic marketing practices as any other service provider. Here is what you must know.

Why Market Your Practice?

Today’s world is busy and ever evolving. People move in and out of town. They get buried under a constant onslaught of information. Even your most satisfied patients tend to move on to other priorities. Marketing helps you stay top of mind to both current and prospective patients, and lets newcomers in your community know you exist. It also gives everyone a boost, including your staff and loyal patients, by making your practice feel like an important part of the community.

Developing a Marketing Plan

A good marketing plan is a natural outgrowth of a strong business plan. You need to fully understand where your practice is now and where you want it to go in the future. You also need to define both your short-term and long-term goals in practical, actionable terms. Finally, you need to become aware of your target market and the best ways to reach those people who are the best fit for your practice. For example, a big city cosmetic dentist who specializes in high end procedures has a very different target market than a rural family dentist who focuses on making dentistry as affordable as possible.

With your goals and target market clearly defined, you can begin to focus on the specifics of marketing your business. There are endless ways to market, from branding small items such as pens and stationery to sponsoring a local baseball team to hosting a charity event. Think through the ways you feel most comfortable interacting with and giving back to your local community, and marketing ideas will begin to flourish. Match your marketing to your natural interests and comfort zone, as well as your practice’s brand identity.

Implementing Your Marketing Plan

A key decision is determining who will actually be responsible for implementing the marketing plan. Remember that in addition to doing the actual marketing tasks, you will need to track the results, so you can get the highest return on your marketing investment. Present your marketing plan to your team, and pay attention to who becomes the most enthusiastic about which parts of the plan. You may want to run the show, or you might prefer to delegate authority, but either way, you will need support and assistance from your team. Let team members take on the tasks that naturally suit them, and they will be motivated to ensure the plan is a success.

Getting Started

The hardest part of any big new project is finding the motivation to actually start. When it comes to marketing, there is no perfect “right way” to start. Just sit down at your computer or pick up a pen and start making lists. Then choose something to try. Trial and error can get you unstuck and give you the feedback you need to create and implement a formalized marketing plan.

If you are interested in learning how to take your dental practice to the next level, please contact Ascent Dental Solutions today at (800) 983-4126 to learn how Dr. Coughlin can help.

People Management: A Vital Skill for a Successful Dental Practice

Today’s dental practices are fast-paced and often stressful, with a seemingly endless list of conflicting tasks that must be accomplished. It can be tough to find time to build relationships in between all of the other pressures of running your practice. Yet relationships are critical to your success.

The best dental practices not only provide excellent care, but foster thriving relationships between the dentist and the team, the dentist and the patients, and the patients and the team. Here is what you need to know.

Talk to Your Team

Research shows that beyond money, staff members in every industry seek a sense of connectedness, autonomy to make decisions, ongoing growth and development, and the feeling that they are making a difference. Foster these intangibles by holding regular staff meetings, seeking feedback, and acting on the information you are given. Help your team members feel like stakeholders in the practice, and they will become far more personally invested in it.

Lead by Example

Model the behaviors you want to see. Never ask your staff to do anything you would not do yourself. Work hard to get to the bottom of team member conflicts in a way that makes everyone involved feel valued. Share your passion for dentistry and your dedication to helping others. Show your team your vision for the practice and ask for their help in achieving it.

Be Tough but Fair with Problem Patients

Every dental practice has that one patient who insists on a very early or very late appointment to accommodate her schedule, and then fails to show up without so much as a phone call. It is always best to give a warning the first time, explaining that you know things happen but next time you will have to bill for the appointment. If the patient makes a habit of no-call, no-shows, send a bill with a courteous but firm explanation.

Pay Attention to Agitated Patients

Unfortunately, some people are aggressive in their daily lives. Even more manage to be polite most of the time but may turn combative when under stress. Keep an eye out for situations that could turn aggressive, such as:

– Patients who owe significant balances
– Patients who tend to skip appointments
– Patients with alcohol or drug addictions
– Patients who cannot be helped right away
– Patients who are especially fearful or in a great deal of pain

Certainly, not everyone who falls into one of these categories will become combative, and it is important to give people the benefit of the doubt. Still, making sure that you and your team are up to date on the latest de-escalation techniques, and using a team approach to potentially volatile situations, can help your staff and other patients feel more comfortable, and can help you provide needed care to agitated patients.

Warning signs that a patient is about to lose his cool include, but are not limited to:

– Tense body language
– Changes in speech volume
– Behavioral changes such as fidgeting or suddenly becoming very quiet

De-escalation techniques include, but are not limited to:

– Empathizing
– Active listening
– Allowing the patient to finish speaking
– Calmly addressing the stated concerns

People management may not be your natural strong suit, but learning basic skills can help boost your dental practice to the next level. The goal is to foster trust, support, and communication between all stakeholders in your practice: the dentist, the staff, and the patients.

If you are interested in learning how to take your dental practice to the next level, please contact Ascent Dental Solutions today at (800) 983-4126 to learn how Dr. Coughlin can help.

Managing Review Sites: What All Dentists Need to Know

Whether you love it or hate it, the reality is that patient reviews are a significant factor in potential new patients’ decision on which dentist to choose. Consequently, it is vital for you to monitor and manage your online reviews, and to encourage satisfied patients to write reviews. Here is what you need to know.

Major Review Sites

To manage your patient reviews, you first need to know where they are. Your practice is likely listed on some of these sites already, while others require you to take active steps to create a listing. Search each site to see if your dental practice is there, and then update any inaccurate information such as your business name, address, or phone number. For sites where you are not yet listed, create a listing as soon as possible. Major review sites include:

Yelp: Yelp covers all types of businesses and service professionals, and it is currently considered a market leader in review sites. Make sure you have an accurate, up to date listing, as many of your patients and prospects will naturally gravitate there.

Angie’s List: Angie’s List charges a small monthly fee to see your reviews. This charge is generally worth it, though, as the site has positioned itself as an excellent place to find trustworthy professionals in many different service categories.

Google: Google’s My Business pages are an interesting hybrid. Reviews from other sites are regularly aggregated there, and users can also write reviews directly on your page. It is absolutely vital to claim your page and ensure that your business information is accurate. Since so many people start with a Google search, reviews on your Google My Business page can make or break your quest to attract new patients.

Of course, there are numerous other review sites as well. Run a quick Google search to find those that seem relevant to your practice and your geographic location. Besides correcting inaccurate information, consider uploading photos to each listing to provide more insight into your practice.

Getting Reviews

The best way to get reviews is simply to ask for them. Consider offering your existing patients a small incentive, such as a free toothbrush or a few dollars off the next cleaning, in exchange for a review. Be sure to provide specific instructions on which review site(s) you prefer and how to go about leaving a review.

Managing Bad Reviews

No matter how hard you try, you cannot satisfy everyone. Sooner or later, you will receive a negative review. The best way to manage it is to face it head on with diplomacy, concern, and tact. Publicly respond to the review. Ask for clarification if needed, but be careful not to come across as confrontational. Apologize for the situation and offer a resolution.

You do not need to engage with someone hostile or offer rewards that far outweigh the severity of the patient’s experience, but a genuine apology and attempt to resolve will go a long way toward influencing the opinions of others who read the review, if not the person who left it. No matter how tempting it may be, never attempt to remove a negative review except in the most extreme cases.

Ready to Get Started?

If you are interested in learning how to take your dental practice to the next level, please contact Ascent Dental Solutions today at (800) 983-4126 to learn how Dr. Coughlin can help.

Overtime Pay: What Dental Practice Owners Must Know

In May 2016, the Department of Labor raised the minimum salary for employees to be exempt from overtime pay from $23,660 per year ($455 per week) to $47,476 per year ($913 per week). There are other new rules for determining whether an employee is truly exempt as well. The deadline for compliance was December 1, 2016, but it was blocked by an injunction.

The final fate of the changed regulation remains unknown. If it does eventually go through, though, many dental practice owners are still unclear on what they need to do. Here is what you must know about overtime pay, both as it exists now and how it may change under the new law.

The Legalities of Overtime Pay

The relevant statute is the Fair Labor Standards Act, the same act that governs the federal minimum wage, child labor, and other employee rights. The relevant portion of the law determines which employees are not entitled to overtime pay. It was last updated in 2004.

“Exempt” employees are those who are paid a salary above the threshold and meet specific tests. Even if you pay a salary, if it does not meet the minimum of $23,660 (now) or $47,476 (if the new rule takes effect), you must still pay overtime if that employee works more than 40 hours per week (8 hours per day in California).

Assessing Your Staff

With the new rule on the horizon, now is an excellent time to audit your records and ensure that you are in compliance now, and are ready to move into compliance with the new law if needed. First, determine exactly which employees fit the rules for exemption. Besides the salary threshold, employees’ jobs must meet a rigorous set of criteria. Be sure you understand the specific tests that must be met.

In a dental office, the most likely exempt employees are office managers and team leaders. Hygienists, receptionists, and other front-line staff members are rarely, if ever, considered exempt. Business owners, executives, and dentists typically do not fall under overtime rules at all.

Establishing Compliance

Once you know which employees are considered non-exempt, you must make sure that you are properly compensating them. These are your options:

 

  • For an employee you considered exempt who is actually non-exempt: Either increase her salary and change her duties to meet the exemption criteria or accept that she is non-exempt
  • Establish a system for tracking non-exempt employees’ time
  • Pay non-exempt employees overtime whenever they work more than 40 hours in a workweek (or eight per day in California)
  • Consider removing duties or hiring additional staff to limit overtime expenses

Managing Overtime

It is important to note that a non-exempt employee can NEVER waive her right to overtime or work off the clock. The best way to manage overtime is to create a written notice in the employee handbook that overtime must be authorized, and delineating the penalty for unauthorized overtime. If a non-exempt employee works unauthorized overtime, you must still pay correctly for the overtime hours worked, but you may also impose the designated penalty.

Ready to Get Started?

If you are interested in learning how to take your dental practice to the next level, please contact Ascent Dental Solutions today at (800) 983-4126 to learn how Dr. Coughlin can help.

5 Creative Ways to Boost Your Dental Practice Valuation

If you are interested in selling your dental practice, it is only natural to want to get the highest possible price for it. For the most part, a dental practice valuation is fairly straightforward. It is based on formulas, and modified by certain intangibles such as brand equity and intellectual property. Still, there is always an X factor, which is the personal feeling that the practice evokes in a potential buyer. Here are 5 creative ways to boost your dental practice valuation.

Website

If you do not have a website for your dental practice, adding one will boost your valuation quickly, as long as it is of high quality. Fill the website with content and educational materials that add real value for patients. Put your new patient forms online so that patients can complete them ahead of time. This will improve your valuation by demonstrating a genuine commitment to the patient experience, as well as an acknowledgement of the digital world we live in.

Social Media

In addition to a high-quality website, a strong social media presence is vital. Start connecting with other dentists on LinkedIn, and with your patients on Facebook and Twitter. Start updating your social media pages several times per week with interesting, interactive material. This shows potential buyers that your marketing is up to date and that you are making a real effort to connect with current and potential patients. You can even track your conversion rate to see how many new patients you attract on social media.

Reviews

You also need to learn what people are saying about your practice. Patients tend to leave reviews only when they are extremely happy or very angry about the service you provided, and you need to know which is true for your patients. In addition, a quick, heartfelt yet professional response to a negative review can turn around a bad situation and build trust with others who are reading the review.

Start asking your patients to leave reviews on your website, social media pages, and third-party sites such as Yelp. Read and respond to your reviews at least once a week.

Office Décor

Once your online presence is up and running well, take a look around the office. You may have heard of “staging” a house for potential buyers, using simple decorating tips to make it look more appealing. Staging is just as important for your dental practice. Replace furniture that looks worn and dated. Update the lighting if it is dim or harsh. Remove personal items and family artifacts.

Look at pictures of modern dental offices online for inspiration, or schedule a free consultation with an interior decorator who specializes in office spaces. You don’t need to spend a fortune. Even a few small tweaks can make an enormous difference in attractiveness to buyers.

Business Plan

In an ideal world, you would already have a business plan that is updated regularly and guides the growth of your practice. If yours is outdated or, worse, you don’t have one at all, it is time to get to work. Your business plan should contain a plan for growing the business, such as ideas on how to encourage referrals from existing patients and how to work with employers and insurers to bring in new patients. The more active growth potential you can demonstrate, the higher your potential valuation may be.

Ready to Get Started?

If you are interested in learning how to take your dental practice to the next level, please contact Ascent Dental Solutions today at (800) 983-4126 to learn how Dr. Coughlin can help.

4 Easy Ways to Reduce Dental Patient Anxiety

Dental patient anxiety is, unfortunately, quite common. It can range from a mild nervousness to an outright terror that can be classified as a phobia. Some patients actually go out of their way to avoid even needed dental work due to their anxiety. Fortunately, there are some easy ways for dentists to help reduce dental patient anxiety.

Specific Fears

To help your patients combat their dental anxiety, you first need to understand what they are really afraid of. Dental anxiety typically breaks down into 5 specific fears, though many patients have multiple fears.

Pain: While it is true that modern dentistry is virtually painless, many patients have undergone a previous painful experience that makes them afraid of it happening again.

Numbness: Few if any patients actually like having their mouths numbed, but those with a genuine fear of numbness worry that they will not be able to breath or swallow. Patients who have had trouble breathing or experienced choking in the past, even if it was unrelated to dental work, are more likely to have this fear.

“The Dentist”: Patients who have had negative experiences with uncaring dentists tend to categorize dentists in the same way as “the DMV” or “the IRS,” as a cold and unfeeling behemoth or even an active sadist.

Needles: Those who fear needles may be fine with the rest of the procedure, but terrified of the numbing injections.

Sensory Fears: From the sound of the drill to the sights, sounds, smells, and tactile sensations of the average dental office, sensory triggers can be tough for patients to cope with.

Soothing Office Space

Helping your patients cope with their dental anxiety starts when they enter the office. Take a critical look at your reception and waiting areas. Is there a place for patients to speak privately with the receptionist? Is the lighting scheme calming? Does the furniture feel warm and welcoming or cold and sterile? Creating a soothing space can help patients relax from the outset.

Sensory Aids

Many patients can block out their anxieties with sensory aids and distractions. You might play soothing music in the treatment rooms and/or offer chairside movies. Warm blankets provide a physical barrier as well as temperature control. Heated face cloths help patients clean up after a procedure, helping them to decompress and relax before heading home.

Communication

Communication is absolutely essential. Every staff member that patients interact with should know the signs of dental anxiety and how to communicate with nervous patients. The receptionist might offer information on amenities. The hygienist might offer to get the patient a blanket or show her how to operate the remote control. The dentist should take a few minutes to sit with a nervous patient and find out what the fear is, and discuss how to help. For example, a patient might feel more comfortable if the chair is not all the way back, or if she can give a hand signal as a cue she needs a break.

Sedation Dentistry

Sedation dentistry can be a wonderful solution for nervous patients. From mild nitrous oxide to deep IV sedation, there are options for patients with every level of fear. Note that sedation dentistry should only be performed for the patient’s comfort and not to make the dentist’s job easier. Always be sure to offer rather than demand, and never try to talk someone into a sedation option that makes him uncomfortable.

Those with severe dental phobias may need additional help from a mental health professional before they are ready to see the dentist. For the majority of nervous patients, though, a few simple changes to your routine and a dedication to communication can help ease their anxiety.

Ready to Get Started?

If you are interested in learning how to take your dental practice to the next level, please contact Ascent Dental Solutions today at (800) 983-4126 to learn how Dr. Coughlin can help.

Three most common problems surrounding dental payroll

Handling payroll is one of the most arduous tasks a dentist/owner has to deal with on a regular basis. Doing it yourself eats up valuable time that would be better spent treating patients. I recently spoke to Jamie Scherban, Senior Business Consultant at Paychex to discusses the most common problems dentists face regarding payroll.

When I started out back in 1983, there was no punching in or punching out. My office worked on the honor system. This worked well until I got into trouble with a disgruntled employee.

I then moved to sign in sheet to a punch clock – both of which also got me into trouble. Obviously administration was not part of what I was taught in dental school. And it showed as I made mistake after mistake until I finally outsourced this part of my practice to someone who knew what they were doing.

A dentist with 6-10 employees can spend anywhere between two to four hours a week focusing on payroll. “Our job is to give that doctor the ability to earn as much as they can based on the hours they work,” according to Scherban. “They should be focusing on their practice rather than focus on this stuff.”

When Scherban comes into a practice, any practice, he generally finds them making the same three mistakes that cost them time and money.

1-Incorrect setup

Did you set up the business correctly with the state and IRS? Even with existing businesses a lot of the time taxes are filed incorrectly because they were set up incorrectly. This results in late filings, penalties and notices from the tax man.

2-Filing taxes on time

Dentists are generally very good at being dentists. However when it comes to general administration duties like payroll tax filing – things can get overlooked. So taxes are not filed on time.

3-Managing employees

How do you manage benefits and time off? How do you track who punched in? Did they punch out?
This takes time away from the core business of being a dentist. So finding a solution that takes these issues off the table reduces the stress and makes the workplace run more smoothly and with less conflict.

In the end it is your responsibility to ensure that everything is properly tracked. If you choose to do it yourself, you are going to spend less time with billable patients which will cost you money. So it just makes sense to outsource this type of admin to a company such as Paychex, so that you can strike one of the least interesting tasks off your to-do list.

Why Every Dentist Needs to Be on Google My Business

Google My Business is among the most important tools you have to convince prospects to choose your dental practice rather than a competitor’s. Yet many dentists know little or nothing about what Google My Business is, why it matters, or how to set it up. Here is what you should know.

What is Google My Business?

Google My Business can be viewed as the core of your local SEO (search engine optimization) campaign. Until 2014, Google had quite a few options for business owners including Google Plus pages and Google Places pages. Today, Google My Business unifies all of these diverse pages into a single, streamlined, free tool that puts your business information, photos, and most importantly, reviews all in the same place.

Your Google My Business listing will show up in Google’s Local Maps. If your Google My Business page is fully optimized, you may even show up in the Local Maps 3 Pack search results. As the name suggests, this is a premium listing of the top 3 local dentists as determined by Google’s algorithms.

Setting Up Google My Business

Google My Business should always be used in conjunction with Google Analytics and Google Search Console. These three tools are designed to integrate to give you a complete picture of your overall online performance.

There are three different levels to setting up a Google My Business page. Start at the beginning and work your way through the steps as you have the time.

Beginner: The very first step is to claim and verify your Google My Business page. This lets Google check that you have a legitimate dental practice at the listed address. When verification is complete, you will gain access to the Google My Business dashboard and tools.

Next, you will need to optimize your business NAP (name, address, and phone number). Make sure that your practice name, phone number, and address are correct, and are identical to all other listings you have online.

Intermediate: Photos and videos help prospects learn what to expect. Try to provide a good mix of success stories, behind the scenes peeks, and “getting to know you” clips of yourself and your staff. Encourage satisfied patients to send in photos and videos as well, as prospects always like to hear from their peers.

Reviews are a huge part of any Google My Business page. Ask your existing patients directly to write a review, and consider offering a small incentive like a few dollars off their next cleaning. If you get any negative reviews, do not delete them, but do respond to them. Prospects like to know that if they have an issue, your practice will help them resolve it.

Expert: Use Google Posts to link up your blog. You should already be blogging regularly, as this will keep your website fresh, informative, and up to date. Use the free tools to link your blog to your Google My Business page. Include top-quality photos with each post, along with a call to action that leads readers to your full website.

Monitor your Questions and Answers section. There is no tool to alert you that a question was posted, so you will need to remain proactive. Anyone can answer questions, so it is important to make sure that user-posted answers are accurate. This is also an opportunity to engage directly with your patients and prospects, building credibility and loyalty.

Ascent Dental Solutions is a full-service agency dedicated to helping dentists build their practices and map out their careers. It is the brainchild of Dr. Kevin Coughlin, who earned his doctorate at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine and currently serves as a faculty member there. While Dr. Coughlin continues to practice dentistry as the principal owner of the 14-location Baystate Dental PC, he has a strong passion for helping fellow dentists maximize their success. If you are interested in learning how to take your dental practice to the next level, please contact Ascent Dental Solutions today at (800) 983-4126 to learn how Dr. Coughlin can help.

Using online testimonials to promote your dental practice

Many dentists do not realize the tremendous power of online testimonials in bringing in new patients. Yet according to poll data, a whopping 92% of prospective patients claim to read them, and 67% admit to being influenced by them. Here is what you should know about using online testimonials to promote your dental practice.

Benefits of Online Testimonials

Google Visibility: The Google algorithm is built to showcase the most authoritative and relevant websites in Google search. Online testimonials, particularly on multiple sites, assure Google that yours is a legitimate practice with high social proof.

Promotion: Research shows that patients tend to stay longer on websites they trust, especially if there are videos to watch. They are also more likely to actually visit the practice whose website caught their attention. Ask your satisfied patients to record a video testimonial, and you have the seeds of a tremendous promotional campaign.

Trust: Patient testimonials are a powerful way to build trust with both your current patients and your prospects. In fact, your current patients may be more likely to recommend you to their friends and family members when they see that their positive impressions of you are shared by others.

Reputation and Brand Awareness: Every time someone sees your practice reflected in a positive light, it makes an impression. The more testimonials you have, the more power you have to build your reputation and, ultimately your brand. This translates into more patients, more repeat visits, and more positive word of mouth throughout your community.

Insight: You can glean a great deal of information from what your patients say, and don’t say, in their testimonials. Use this opportunity to learn, and you will improve your overall patient experience.

Types of Online Testimonials

Savvy dentists will incorporate all three basic types of testimonials into their online marketing.

Written with a Single Photo: This is still the most common type of testimonial. An eye-catching photo of the patient is used, along with a few sentences about his or her experience.

Before and After Photos: Many patients are reluctant to share their “before” photos with the world, but if you have a few who are willing, these testimonials can be extremely powerful. A written account of the patient’s process accompanies two or more photos documenting the journey.

Videos: A video testimonial should be no longer than one minute, and it must be tightly edited. People enjoy watching their peers talk about their experiences, so don’t be shy in asking for volunteers. Choose patients who are articulate, present well on camera, and are not prone to rambling.

Building a Great Testimonial

Although a testimonial must be presented in the patient’s own words, many patients do not know how to go about describing their experiences. Asking open-ended questions helps the patient frame his journey and build an authentic, but well-presented, narrative. Here are a few possible questions:

  • What, if anything, nearly prevented you from choosing this practice?
  • What made you decide to choose us?
  • What was your favorite part of your experience at our office?
  • What are the top three benefits that our office provides?
  • Briefly describe your journey with our practice from your first appointment through your most recent visit.
  • Would you recommend us to your friends and family and, if so, why?
  • Is there anything you wish someone had told you about our practice before you started treatment here?

These questions will not only help your patients articulate their experiences, but they also provide insights into what your patients value most. In turn, you can focus your marketing efforts on the things that are most important to the highest number of patients, drawing in prospects who value those same features.

Ascent Dental Solutions is a full-service agency dedicated to helping dentists build their practices and map out their careers. It is the brainchild of Dr. Kevin Coughlin, who earned his doctorate at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine and currently serves as a faculty member there. While Dr. Coughlin continues to practice dentistry as the principal owner of the 14-location Baystate Dental PC, he has a strong passion for helping fellow dentists maximize their success. If you are interested in learning how to take your dental practice to the next level, please contact Ascent Dental Solutions today at (800) 983-4126 to learn how Dr. Coughlin can help.