Podcast: Chris Collins on building your dental brand online

Hello and welcome to Ascent Dental Radio. A program dedicated to the balance between the clinical aspect of health care and the business of health care. And now here is your host, Dr. Kevin Coughlin.

Kevin: Good afternoon. This is Ascent Dental Solutions. You’re listening to Ascent Radio. My name is Dr. Kevin Coughlin and I want to thank Doug Foresta. Without his expertise and his business, Stand Out and Be Heard, we would not be able to have this podcast on a weekly basis. Doug, thank you so much for your expertise and your knowledge in podcasting.

I also want to give special thanks to VOCO. VOCO has also been a sponsor of Ascent Dental Solutions. VOCO is a German company with headquarters in South Carolina and they provide over 210 different dental products to the dental market. These products are excellent. They can compete with any brand and their care and service to my organization has been exceptional. Thank you, VOCO, for your promotion.

Today, our guest is Mr. Chris Collins. Chris is a web designer, a graphic designer, a creative freelancer. He works with entrepreneurs, small businesses around the world to help their businesses grow and start their dream products.

In full disclosure, the logo for Ascent-Dental-Solutions, which focuses on knowledge, consultation, development and training, was produced and done by Chris. Chris, nothing but positive reviews for my logo. I want to thank you very much.

How can you help the healthcare profession, but dentists in particular, improve their branding? What are your suggestions and recommendations? And is branding even important for a solo practitioner or a small group practice or large group practice?

Chris: Thank you for having me on and thank you for complimenting me about the logo. It was a lot of fun to make and I’m glad that you got good feedback. I think branding is of the utmost importance for all businesses, dentists and healthcare alike. We’re living in an age where folks can pick and choose a lot of different options and the world is at their fingertips on the internet. A quick Google search away they can find many different options, get in the car and go to many different practitioners, dentists, anything.

Having very strong branding, I think, is quite important because a lot of people make their decisions based on what they see online or what they see in print and sometime it just comes down to do I like the look of this business? You want to have it be consistent as well.

I see a lot of businesses thrown around different materials both online and in print and in person that don’t really give a cohesive and consistent look into what their business is all about. So I think that branding can really help with that and especially logos and flyers, advertisements, all those things.

Kevin: In your research, Chris, in your opinion, from the general public standpoint, what is probably most important in our listeners, or let’s just say our patients or clients? What are they looking for that, in you research, is most important to the physician or dentist in healthcare? What are their patients and clients really looking for?

Chris: I think it depends on the person who’s looking. I think there are a lot of different aspects to why someone would pick a certain business. So the way that you present yourself, both online and in print through marketing of any kind, is very important.

So you want to kind of cover all your bases and think about the type of audience that you have or the type of customer base you have. You want to look at the reviews you’re getting online, which are very important, and see what people are saying. You want to take a look at your competitors and see why maybe they’re getting more business than you are. And use marketing and use the internet and social media and design to your advantage.

Kevin: I’ll share with the listeners a story that just happened to me last week. I started business in 1983. For those listeners, we have 14 offices, about 150 employees here in western Massachusetts. I’ve been doing double trunk ads in the Yellow Pages back in the early 80’s, radio shows, TV, all kinds of different marketing. Recently, one of the individuals associated in our business thought it might be sought of comical to do a TV ad where the doctor is actually holding a carpenter drill and that drill is held in the hand like they’re drilling on a patient’s mouth.

The objective, in my opinion, was to lighten up the advertisement, to add some humor. The negative feedback from that, in my opinion, was astounding. In other words, I spent 34 years building a state of the art practice with the highest levels of efficacy, service and care, and in a 60 second pitch you sort of defeated almost all of that in such a short period of time.

I know that the intentions were positive, but the results, in my opinion, were less than positive. And certainly, the feedback that I’ve heard from individuals like, “Dr. Coughlin, what was the idea of having that old-fashioned drill? That scared me.”  Et cetera, et cetera.  

I learned firsthand how something unintentional can have very intentional consequences.  It could have happened to me, it could have happened to any of our listeners, but I would be very cautious on how you present your business and yourself and the points you made, also depends on the individual clients that you’re promoting.

My particular expertise is you generally have three categories of patients or clients. You have those gold card patients that have no insurance. They demand the highest level of care and service. They have the financial means to get that care and service. They can be extremely demanding and want only the best.

Then you have the other extreme that are many times under subsidized government plans. They generally pay for no care and no service. These are subsidized by taxpayers and generally their treatments are dictated by government agencies. In other words, they only pay for certain procedures and processes, not everything.

Then the vast majority falls somewhere in the middle. They’re looking for the highest level of care and service, but it has to be affordable for them or at least terms have to become available for that affordability so they can get the care and service they’re looking for. In your professional opinion, with those three basic marketplaces, do you see anything particular in a brand that works better in one area rather than another?

Chris: Yeah, I think it goes without saying that I’m learning something. Thank you for telling me a lot about this. I don’t know too much about dental industry, but that makes a lot of sense that those three exist and that you may want to look at them in a different light. I think that yeah, your branding can definitely differ.

If you have someone who has a lot of income to spend on this and is basically paying for things out of pocket, if I’m understanding that correctly, they want to know that the quality is there. And maybe the price isn’t as important, so they want to see all the options. They want to be impressed by what you have to offer.

Whereas other folks really want a kind of down to earth, very comforting like you come in, we are not going to cost an arm and a leg, we’ll take care of everything for you. Your insurance will be accepted. Everything is going to be easy and painless.  And they may not want to be scared away by the big ticket items that they may want but they just can’t afford.

I’m not sure if that answers your question, but branding can do a lot and marketing can do a lot to discourage folks from coming if they only are interested in one thing, say price, or it can encourage people if they’re interested in more. So you can’t ignore those aspects of marketing and let customers fall through your fingers or be scared away.

Kevin: Chris, take us through the process. For those listeners thinking about hiring you or just trying to gather additional information, what is the actual process where you educate the healthcare professional in how to create a brand, how to market that brand? What are the actual steps and the time that’s associated and potentially the cost of creating a brand that’s going to be successful in the short and long term?

Chris: It’s different for everyone and I think that’s an important part of my process which is every business and every person and every entrepreneur has a story. I really liked hearing your story about the failed TV ad, that was really interesting to me. So if I were meeting with you or any other business, I would want to hear your stories first and usually within a few minutes, I get a very clear idea of what the business is like and what the person is like and the kind of customers that they get, and more importantly, the kind of customers that they want.

It’s usually very clear quickly what their target demographic is and what their business is all about. It’s funny that in such a short time I can get that information.

People, when they start speaking about their passion, project or their business or whatever we’re working on, it becomes clear that they are interested in a particular demographic. There’s a particular vibe, I guess. And that’s one of my strengths, I think, is seeing right away the type of business and the direction that they want to go in.

From there we kind of know who they’re looking for as a customer and we can kind of drill down what has worked in the past and what could work. And a lot of times what they’re doing now they may know I want to attract this kind of customer to my business.

But everything that they’re doing in terms of branding or marketing isn’t really attracting that type of person. So we can kind of look at it and say, “Why don’t we start here? Why don’t we design a brand that speaks to those people?”

First we may start with the logo. Website is of great importance. Do we want to do advertising? Do we want to do social media? Are you thinking you’re going to be getting a lot of new customers from the internet? If so, we probably want to spend a lot of time thinking about SEO, which is Search Engine Optimization. So I do pretty much all of that for my clients.

They could start with just an idea and by the end of working with me we have a logo, we’ve got a website, we’ve got a whole plan going forward, we’ve got a store online. Whatever it is they want, I guess in your case it wouldn’t be a store, but we can do it all. It really starts with the vision that they have.

Kevin: Nationally, the United States, the average dentist has revenues depending on who you’re quoting and the data you’re looking at, of anywhere between $800,000 and $1.2 million. And as a general rule of thumb, the marketing budget for that is between two and four percent.

So basically speaking, if we took $1 million and we said five percent, you have roughly a $50,000 to $ 35,000 budget yearly. Are those dollars adequate to create the expertise that you have for, I hate to use the word average practitioner, but to give our listeners some down and dirty information so that they can help process the information and create the right processes and procedures that work best for them?

Chris: Yeah, I would say that’s adequate. I know that all businesses are different and I pride myself and I hope other people in my profession do too, on working with companies of different sizes. I really like working with small businesses as well as larger businesses and entrepreneurs.

Typically, to create a brand and a website and just to get it all started online, which is the biggest part of my business, usually costs less than $5,000 at least for a basic but beautiful website. That leaves quite a bit for, I would suggest, advertising.

I don’t know if you want to talk more about advertising, but advertising using Google is an amazing tool. You talked about your television ad, but nowadays you can target your ads; who is searching for a dentist within five miles of this particular location?

So you can really drill down and you’re only paying for it when people click on your ad and go right to your storefront or your website or you’re paying only when people call your business. So you’re really drilling down to potential customers. You’re drilling down to I’m paying for when people call, new customers call. And then you can work with your staff to make sure that hopefully they make the appointment and you get a new client or customer.

Kevin: I can tell you from my own 34 years of experience owning a small business and building a small business that there’s two things our listener should consider. One, getting them to call the office. How do you get them through that front door? But equally, if not just as important, if you screen, your profile, you evaluate the calls coming in, the single biggest question that we get day in and day out, is do you accept a dental insurance?

Since the vast majority throughout the United States has some kind of dental insurance, for the vast majority of dental practices, they would be marketing to an insurance based clientele.

And no matter how great the brand is, no matter how much the patients love you, at the end it many times comes down to dollar and cents for the vast majority of patients. And the question that we’ve been charting for years, and that single one question is, do you accept our plan?

For our listeners out there, please make sure you know the dental plans that you’re accepting and not accepting. Because you can have a hundred calls in a week, but if I’m correct — and I believe I am — that they want to know, is the procedure covered, do you accept my insurance, and the answer is no, then you may be paying for a click you may be marketing. And really I think for the vast majority of healthcare professionals, certainly in the field of dentistry, certainly your easiest clienteles to deal with, your most profitable clienteles are those that are fee for service.

You don’t need ancillary team members to process claims, call insurance companies, hunt down those finances, determine what’s approved and what’s not approved, what would be paid for, what’s not paid for. So those individuals that don’t have insurance, in my personal experience, those are the ideal, best clients for your practice to build the most profitable and successful business.

For all of us we probably have to meld these different groups of clients in there and I would caution you to make sure your front desk team members, your patient coordinating schedulers know exactly what plans are covered, what plans aren’t covered and what kind of dollars would be generated from the procedures that you’ve accepted in those plans. And if not, you many times find out you’re seeing plenty of patients but you’re losing money month after month because the plans that you’ve signed up for are no longer cost effective.

I’ll give you a quick example. The state pays $14 to provide inhalation sedation. And I’m saying to myself, if it’s costing me $100 to get my nitrous oxide tanks filled and I’m being reimbursed $14, you don’t have to be a mathematical wizard to find out that this is probably not a profitable procedure for you and your staff.

We’ve got a few minutes left and Chris, if people were trying to find you, if they wanted to get out there and give you a call or send you an email, what’s the best way to contact you?

Chris: I would say, just go right over to my website which is www.chriscollinscreative.com. My brand is Creative. I was going to mention, if we do have a minute, about what you just said. You can be very creative about getting in front of some of these problems that you had.

You said a lot of people are asking the question, do you accept my insurance? If I heard that from a client, I would say, this is maybe something you’re wasting a lot of time on answering that question, maybe saying no, maybe saying yes. So we should have on the website a very easy to spot place where that question can be answered right away for them.

In terms of the advertising, you’re right. You don’t want to be paying for a click from someone who may not end up being customer, so why not create advertisements online that cover those basics? I know when I’m searching for a practice I may say, who accepts in the western Mass area, my insurance. That may be my search online. And you can profit on that by creating an ad that targets people who are searching for just that.

So you could have a series of ads that are targeting folks who only accept the types of insurance that you accept. Or if you’re looking for people who don’t have any insurance because they’re the better customers, create ads that look for folks who don’t have insurance. So there’re a lot of ways to do that.

Like I said, my website is www.chriscollinscreative.com. So if you’d like to find creative ways to get more business, that’s pretty much what I do.

Kevin: Chris, it’s been a pleasure for you to take your busy schedule and speak to us on today’s podcast. Again, my personal thanks. The logo you developed and the assets that you’ve helped me with in developing a brand for Ascent-Dental-Solutions has been instrumental in providing success. Thank you so much. And again, for the listeners, it’s www.chriscollinscreative.com. Thank you Chris so much for your expertise.

And I want to thank Mr. Doug Foresta and his company Stand Out and Be Heard for the production of this podcast. Week after week he spends his expertise and time to put out the best product available.

You’ve been listening to Ascent Radio. My name is Dr. Kevin Coughlin and the knowledge, understanding, education and training of Ascent Dental Solutions is paramount.

And I also want to end by thanking VOCO for their expertise and their help in sponsoring this information to get out to the healthcare profession and businesses in general.

My name is Dr. Kevin Coughlin, thanks so much for listening and I look forward to speaking to you very soon.