Webinar Transcript: Survive or Thrive?

Read the transcript of our webinar to learn 10 marketing and payment strategies for dental practice to thrive during COVID-19

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Jeff Cole
Chief Executive Officer
29 min read
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Watch the webinar here


Webinar Transcript

Jeff Cole:

Thank you for joining a webinar presented by Pearly and The Doc Sites, Survive or Thrive: 10 Strategies to Grow Your Dental Practice During the COVID-19 pandemic.

My name is Jeff Cole, and I'm the co-founder and CEO of Pearly. Pearly helps forward-thinking dental practices generate subscription revenue with in-house membership plans and collect more past due balances faster with AR automation software.

I'm excited to introduce my co-host, Ali.

Ali Soufi:

Hi, this is Ali Soufi, founder and CEO of Doc Sites. We do websites and marketing for dentists, and we created Doc Sites due to a need of a quality website and good online marketing for dentists at a very affordable price, with no long-term contracts and nothing needed from the dentist or their team. We do all the work for them, and thank you, Jeff, for having me.

Jeff Cole:

Today we're going to talk about, is your practice going to survive or are you going to thrive during this challenging and difficult time?

Ali Soufi:

Right now there's about three types of different doctors that are coming through the pandemic. One is the doctor that's same or worse off than before. That's the doctor who hasn't changed, is not willing to adapt, and is looking at things with a negative point of view.

Then, we have the dentists that are doing better and stronger than before due to the fact they were able to adapt. They are offering things that they weren't offering pre-pandemic.

Then, there's dentists who are finding this opportunity to either retire or just get out of the business and using this time for selling their business.

But we're looking here to focus on the guys that are doing better and stronger than before.

Jeff Cole:

That's exactly right, Ali, and you hit on it. Adapt, right? That's really the key.

Between both of our businesses, we worked with a lot of dental practices. We've seen a lot of the good and a lot of the bad. From where we sit, we're really trying to combine our resources here with 10 strategies that your practice can implement today, this week, or this month. We want your practice to continue to grow and become a practice that comes out of this challenging time better and stronger than before.


Strategy 1

Ali Soufi:

Number one is to make sure you have a modern and effective website. A website is your first impression. It's your face of what the patient or prospective patient sees. Before they even see you, they see your website. So, does your website have what it needs to communicate your message properly and show your offerings and what you're doing different to help through this pandemic?


Strategy 2

Jeff Cole:

Number two, once your patient has come in, they've hopefully seen your great website, either it's a new patient or an existing patient, and you've provided treatment. Payment, it's such a critical topic in dentistry, always, but especially today. To ensure that you're keeping your patients safe, contactless payment is so critical. So, the second strategy that we recommend is allowing patients to pay your practice by text message, and contactless payments are really the new normal.

So, Pay-By-Text is a great tool where instead of the patient providing their credit card, handing it to you over your front desk, or having to put a check in the mail, you can simply send them a text highlighting the amount they owe and they can pay from a safe distance, in your office or at home, and complete payment.

A side benefit for this is that people open text messages and respond to them. So, if you're still sending bills in the mail, you're going to see your days to pay increase. Now, by sending a quick text and allowing the patient to pay right away, you're going to capture more payments faster.


Strategy 3

Ali Soufi:

Number three, is communicating your COVID-19 protocols and updates and offering virtual or tele-dentistry consults to, as Jeff said, to safely through, this pandemic, a touchless way of communicating. Having that first point of contact with the patient through tele-dentistry, through virtual consults, and showing on your website that, hey, with this COVID-19 pandemic here, what is your office doing differently to make the patient comfortable into coming in? Do you have the proper PPE gear? Do you have the new air filters, the UV lights?

Whatever you've invested, you've paid all this money to make your office COVID safe, you have to mention that on your website. You have to tell the patient what you're doing to make them safe when they come into your office. Those things, by communicating them properly, they create a safety and a trust factor for the patients to actually come in. Then, once they do decide to come in, you can have that initial consultation through a web form, through tele-dentistry, through other means of getting to know them before they actually step foot in your office.

A lot of it could be done prior to them actually stepping foot in your office. So, you'll find that you could build the relationship before someone even comes into your office.

Jeff Cole:

To add on to this, from a patient perspective, or even speaking with some of my friends, this pandemic has added the additional hurdle for dental practices: "Is it safe to come in for my scheduled appointment?" Or, maybe, "I've rescheduled my appointment from April when the office was closed."

This screenshot here shows what the practice is doing and outlining exactly all of the amazing steps that offices are taking to ensure their patient's safety. It's so critical that you're not forgetting to actually communicate all that you're doing to either your existing patients or new prospective patients.


Strategy 4

Jeff Cole:

We'll move on to four here, offering in-house membership plans. So, for those not familiar with membership plans, it's like Amazon Prime for your practice. It's a direct relationship between your practice and the patient, and providing them a subscription plan where they can pay either monthly or annual for preset treatments. Now, specifically for your uninsured patients, and why I mentioned this as part of our communication related to the pandemic is so many of your patients may have lost their existing dental insurance.

With in-house membership plans, you're able to engage those uninsured patients from the standpoint of attracting new ones, making it clear that, "Hey, no dental insurance, no problem." As well as for your existing patients, allowing them a better financial policy where they can pay each month or they can pay each year. What you're going to see is that your uninsured patient production is going to increase because they're going to come into the office twice as often on average. There's that additional sort of membership effect there that many businesses outside of dentistry take advantage of.

If your practice is not offering an in-house membership plan, this is a great time to start because patients are looking for options to receive that comprehensive and affordable oral care, and you can do it with an in-house membership plan.

Ali Soufi:

To Jeff's point, Pearly's in-house membership plan software work seamlessly with the website. It integrates perfectly. We have many happy clients that use our website and use Pearly's in-house dental membership plan software. A lot of them used to do it a manual way, trying to manage it themselves, which is a big headache. So, we found that our patients that we're offering the no insurance, no problem call to action, and they're now integrating Pearly's in-house membership plan, they're very happy and it works perfectly with the website. It goes hand in hand and they come together to make a great experience for the patient that, like Jeff said, doesn't have insurance or loss the insurance during this time


Strategy 5

Ali Soufi:

Number five is, okay, you have the website, you have the pay by text, you have the in-house membership plan. Now, how can you attract people to see these things? Online marketing is the way to do that. There's different avenues to go for, there's search engine optimization, paper click ads, Facebook ads. It all starts with the customer usually going on Google, making a search dentists near me, dentists with membership plans, dentists with in-house dental plans.

Whatever the keywords are, someone may be looking for a veneer. They usually go online and either search this on Google. Some of them will be more on Facebook and they'll get served Facebook ads, if they have that in mind. Some of them you could retarget if they've been on your site, you could serve them ads on Facebook. So, we find that patients, clients that actually have the website and are doing marketing for it are getting a much more better return, because now people are seeing their offers. They're seeing their COVID messaging.

They're seeing their in-house membership and pay by text options. So, they're making the best out of all these tools by getting people to actually see them.

Jeff Cole:

I know that when most dental practices across the country were closed, a lot of them did pause their paid advertising. But now, as I think probably most all practices are reopening or are reopened, is this the time to kind of double down on your paid marketing to attract new patients in the door who have likely been delaying their dental care during the pandemic?

Ali Soufi:

Yeah, and this kind of goes back to the, are you surviving or thriving? The guys that actually didn't pause their ads and continued them during the pandemic, we switched them over to promote emergency services when dental practices were closed, but they could still serve emergency patients. The guys that did do that, they did very well because people were, like you said, a lot of guys were turning off their ads. A lot of dentists were halting that marketing, but the guys that stuck through it made a big benefit during that time.

All those emergency patients they got are now their lifelong patients. Yeah, I think one thing is now you should definitely get back into the paid ads. The search engine optimization should have never stopped because that's like building real estate online that serves more of a longterm. The more you optimize your site, the more content you have. If you're an implant Invisalign specialist, whatever you'd like to focus on, adding content about those services helps you get found for those services.

That's what we typically do with search engine optimization, is add content every month to the site, to social media that supports the service the dentist is trying to promote.


Strategy 6

Jeff Cole:

You mentioned emergency treatment and that obviously still continued throughout office closures. What we found is that offering installment plans is a great way to make treatment more affordable. Now, third-party financing, this is something that we've actually sort of identified as something that's really worked for a lot of practices during the pandemic, specifically, is most practices do have a third-party financing partner. Those are usually used for larger treatment balances, which is great.

Installment plans fit between patients that aren't able to pay in full, but the balances aren't large enough yet for third-party financing. So, with Pearly's billing system, it's really easy to offer patients the option to either pay in full or in installments. So, it's not a loan. Usually, this is sort of similar to what you'll see on a lot of e-commerce sites now, where you can say, "Hey, pay us every two weeks." Many dentists will say, "Oh, well, if it's for 300 bucks or 400 bucks, that's not something that I necessarily want to offer a payment plan to."

But in this economic client and environment, showing your patients that you understand that they're going through a challenging time and cashflow may be tight, allowing them to spread out those payments is so critical. What we recommend is the dentists that are thriving during this time are adapting. They're adapting and saying, "Okay, for smaller balances, I still need to offer this option, because I don't want this upfront cost to be a barrier, whether it's preventative care or emergency treatment." It's such an easy thing to do to show that your patients care and more importantly, encourage them to start payment.

So, especially for those outstanding balances, Installments is a great way to encourage your patients to start paying you and make it really seamless and automated for you.

Ali Soufi:

You're absolutely right, Jeff, and the practices that do adapt and actually cater to their patients and the struggles people are going through these days are the guys that are thriving. Like you said, setting up those installment plans and those payments really help people right now that may not have insurance, that may not have $2,000 for a treatment at one time. Breaking it up for them makes it really a valuable service that you could offer.


Strategy 7

Ali Soufi:

This goes into number seven, a new patient's page on your website and all the things that could attract a new patient, whether that'd be installment payments, you could pay by texts.

We've also found that when we add a new patient page on the site, that page is one of the top visited pages because when you're marketing online, or when you have a website, the new patient typically will click a page that says new patients. You want that page to have information like your patient forms. You want them to fill out these forms online before they come in, not only during COVID, but that also saves you time. It saves their time. You want to put your videos, if you have an intro video, your testimonials.

One thing now that we're also doing more than ever before are special offers, because people know financial times are tough right now. So, a lot of our dentists are promoting their special offers, putting what they could do to help. They have an intro offer like, for example, X-ray exam and basic cleaning for $59. It gets someone in the door. You win that patient's service, he likes your service, he likes your treatments, and then that becomes a patient for life. So, offering a new patient a special is always a good way to get that patient in your door.

Then, obviously, you have to provide good service and treatment and get them to become your lifelong patients. So, getting that new patient with all these different avenues will definitely help keep them as a lifelong patient of yours

Jeff Cole:

Something I've noticed whether I'm looking for care or anything, there's so many practices who don't do the sort of simple thing of just having a new patient's link. So, you're a patient, you're searching for different dentists in your area, and if you go into a site, maybe the website's outdated, you don't see a new patient link, a lot of those patients are going to say, "Oh, he or she is probably not accepting new patients." What a dumb way to lose a prospect, right? Especially if you've been spending money on advertising, they've come to your page. You only have those couple seconds to get that interest.

If there's not that real obvious, "Oh, I'm a new patient, click here." Obviously, then presenting all the information in a really obvious way, as well as a special or something to entice them to come in, it sounds almost so silly. But so many practice websites that I look at don't have that obvious new patients tab or button that's really clear.

Ali Soufi:

Exactly, and you won't believe like how many, because we go through, we review leads with our clients, we check out the data and you won't believe how many people actually in their contact form say, "Oh, are you accepting new patients or things of that nature?" So, we definitely want to make sure the new patient is highlighted. We want to say, "We welcome new patients." We want to say, new patients specials. We want to say, "Here's the insurances we accept." If you are accepting any, or, "Here's the dental plans we're offering with Pearly's in-house dental plan." For example.

Ali Soufi:

Because that new patient, like you said, they might not think that this practice is offering new patient services, especially during COVID. So, it's a great thing to highlight things that attract new patient's eyes, because once you have the patient, that they don't go to your website as much as the patient that actually finds, looking for a dentist near me, or these keywords that people are searching these days to find a new dentist in the area. Targeting them with new patients pages, special offers, and different ways to get them in the door is definitely a great way to get them in.


Strategy 8

Jeff Cole:

Heading back to payments here, strategy number eight here is allow patients to use Apple Pay, or other digital wallets like Google Pay, or Microsoft Pay. When we speak with a lot of practices who are struggling with collecting payments, maybe they have a large AR balance. The biggest and the easiest thing is open your door to more payment methods. You should not be making your, forcing your patients to pay you the way that you prefer, whether that's a check in the mail. We live in a time where you have a large and diverse patient base.

You're going to have some millennials who couldn't imagine putting a stamp on an envelope, or even necessarily opening an email on their computer, and going to a non-mobile optimized payment page. You want to make that distance between a patient receiving a bill and paying you as short and as frictionless as possible. If you're able to reduce friction, similar to what we're talking about, when someone lands on your website and they see, "Oh, you're accepting new patients." When you are sending a bill, you want to make it as easy as possible for them to pay because, one, the patient will appreciate it.

You may provide amazing service. The patient could be so happy. If they're opening a paper statement and navigating to a really annoying online bill pay site, now, you're having this negative experience. So, an often kind of forgotten area is giving your patients a delightful and a frictionless billing experience. Digital wallets now, tens of millions of Americans are using Apple pay each year. It needs to be an option for your patients, especially your younger patients who are used to being able to pay instantly on your phone.

If you're sending them a bill or it's get buried in an inbox, combining pay by text with the ability to pay via digital wallets, you're going to see patients, one, be happier, and two, pay you faster, which is so critical in the time of COVID, where cashflow is so key for most practices that we speak with. Next under reviews, I know this is one of your favorite Ali.


Strategy 9

Ali Soufi:

Number nine, showcase your recent positive reviews. We see so many dentists that have good reviews on Google, good reviews on Yelp, but then you go to their website and those are nowhere to be seen. So, first of all, your website's the only thing you control, you don't control Google. You don't control Yelp. In your website, you're able to only put your great reviews there. You're able to put five star only. You don't want someone to maybe go to Yelp or Google first before they go to your website.

So, the website is the one piece of real estate online that you control. By you adding your reviews on that, not only will make the conversion better for a new patient or whoever visits your website, but it will also show that you're working on providing friendly service. Your staff is great. There's actually clients of ours that take videos of every patient that comes in and shows their casework, and the patient says great things about them. We embed those videos into the site, and that goes so much further.

Maybe five years ago, it was old school text testimonials that anyone could fake, anyone could just write some bogus review and put it online and put it on their site and no one trusts those anymore. So, now, we're actually embedding reviews. We're bringing it in directly from Yelp, it has an embed feature that we're putting five star reviews from Yelp into the websites. We're putting five star reviews from Google automatically using our tools to pull them in and only showing positive ones. So, when these reviews are showing directly from the source and they're on your website, there's no need for someone to now go search you on Yelp or Google, and maybe come across that negative review.

It's not surprising a lot of people have negative reviews, and it's not necessarily the worst thing in the world. It happens. There's always going to be that person that might go online and say something negative, but you could control that in some aspect by putting the reviews on your website and making sure when they are on your website, which is the only place that you control everything, where you have your offers, where you have your bio, your experience, your specials. Now, also showcase your reviews, because if they see all of that on your website, there's no need for them to go online, get distracted, maybe end up on Facebook and see their cousin and forget that we're even looking for a dentist.

So, just make sure if you're working on getting good reviews, and in most cases, almost every dentist right now has some kind of review online, whether they know it or not. If you do, you should definitely incorporate those into the website. We could actually have tools to put in place to help you get more reviews and how you get positive feedback from clients directly and get those right on your side as you get them.

Jeff Cole:

I imagine too, especially now given that patient's safety in the office is so important, encouraging your patients who have been into your office in the last few weeks or few months, having them write a review about how safe they felt, about all of the different initiatives and precautions that you're taking to make the patient feel safe. If I'm a patient that's considering coming in, but I'm a little bit nervous given COVID-19, if I'm seeing a review where the patient is highlighting, "Wow, I am so surprised. They've totally transformed their protocols to make sure that I'm safe and we're taking all of the recommended precautions." That's so great and convincing that hesitant patient, that it's safe and it's okay to come in to get treatment at the dentist.

Ali Soufi:

You're absolutely right, Jeff. A lot of these reviews we're seeing, the current ones are mentioning something, like I felt very safe during COVID. One of our previous strategies mentioned having that COVID safety page on your site. So, we're doing that for anyone that wants to do it. We're including it in our services, adding a page that says, what they offered, the aerosol suction, the filters, the UV lights, all of these things should be shown on your website. Like Jeff said, if you have a review now and the perspective patients looking to find a dentist and he sees on your site, "Hey, this guy has all these COVID safety precautions."

Ali Soufi:

There's reviews of people talking about how safe they felt, they're offering virtual consults, they're doing pay by texts, they have the in-house dental plan. All of these things create that conversion factor for that patient to pick up the phone or fill out that form to contact you, to become your new patient.


Strategy 10

Jeff Cole:

Finally, here for strategy 10, provide an outstanding experience for your outstanding patients. So, what I mean here is, your patients that are past due, maybe they're 30, maybe they're 90 plus, collections, especially during this challenging time is sensitive. So many practices, I would say, have an outdated strategy where they maybe send a letter. By the way, it's about $5 to $10 every statement that you send. The patient may not open it, and typically maybe the office manager or someone else from your staff is calling to collect.

Especially during this time, when so many people and families are really struggling financially, that can be kind of a tone death call. So, really think about your patients that have past due balances as an opportunity to engage them and provide a great experience and show them you care. So, here at Pearly, with our AR Automation Software, we're able to automate a lot of that. So, they're receiving friendly and intelligent reminders via text and email that they have a past due balance and they can complete payment.

Then, following up on some of the other strategies and really combining them, allowing them to pay with credit card, ACH, Apple Pay, Google Pay with the option to also pay in installments. That's a great way to encourage those patients to pay. Ultimately, you're trying to collect money, but the way in the manner and the systems in which it's done, you can achieve what we call here collection excellence, which that means your collection rate's high, but also and equally important, your patient satisfaction is high. So, going back to that kind of keyword for this whole webinar is adapt.

You need to adapt your collections process for the times. Calling or sending kind of mean letters, we're all struggling, we're all in a difficult environment and differentiating your practice and the quality service that you provide by how you're collecting and the systems that you're using to track your AR, because cashflow is important, but not forgetting that patient experience, is going to lead to a more successful practice, happier patients, and allowing them to post those positive reviews, which are so critical.

Jeff Cole:

So, in summary, the goal here with these 10 strategies are come back stronger than before. I'd see every one of these strategies or things that you've probably heard before, but COVID, in this difficult time during the pandemic, is not the time to just throw up your hands and say, "Wait and see." The practices that are thriving out of this are the practices that are doubling down on their marketing, in improving their website, evaluating their billing system, launching an in-house membership program.

Really focusing on their accounts receivable and how they can ensure that patients are pleased with the process and experience. Fast forward a year from now, or however long we're in this situation, the practices that I've used this time to evaluate their operations, improve, attract new patients are going to be the winners out of this pandemic. So, it's something that I know Ali and I really encourage practices, where this is the time and you have an opportunity to actually grow your practice and improve your practice.

We hope that all of these tactics, maybe all of them resonate with you, maybe only one of them, but take this opportunity to improve your practice and come back stronger.

We have time for just a couple questions. People have written in here. I have one. Then, I think Ali has one here. This one's from Jenna, an office manager and she's asking:



What are the best ways to promote my in-house membership program to patients?



This is a great question, Jenna. First of all, good on you for having an in-house program.

Second of all, promoting that and making your patients aware of it is key. We actually did a study and I think it was something like 7 out of 10 patients across the US had no idea if their dentist offered an in-house membership program. So, the first step is awareness. If you go to pearlyplan.com, we have a lot of different guides and content on this. But the first thing is, and I've worked with Ali on this before is, as someone comes to your website, including a widget or including a link to showcase that you offer an in-house membership plan.

If they don't have insurance, they are very welcome at your practice and you have a very attractive solution for them. Once the patient comes in, having beautiful printed brochures. So, when uninsured patients are checking in, you're able to, again, highlight that membership program. Then, making sure your entire team is engaged with promoting that, sending it out in your emails, incorporating that on your social channels, making it, just making patients aware. Once they're aware, the next step is having a super simple sign-up process.

Do not make patients sign up and fill out a long form. With our software, they can sign up on their phone anywhere online in less than 90 seconds, as well as your team at your front desk and enroll patients right away. So, the key, again, is treat it like anything else, treat it like your marketing, treat it like this is a core part of your practice, and you want to communicate that to your patients on every channel, and then two, making sure that the enrollment and management process is super, super simple and easy for patients.

Ali, you have a question?

Ali Soufi:

Yeah. I have a question here from Dr. Ross asking:



I never knew where to start SEO, social, and all of these things are always thrown around, but I never knew where to start and how much all of this costs.



So, whenever we get asked these types of questions, we always say is your mothership, which is the website, in place and in a good state? Because if you don't want to start marketing, or doing SEO, or ads, or anything and sending people to old outdated website, because then you're just throwing money away in the conversions won't happen.

So, number one is, get your website to a place where it's attractive, mobile friendly, has all the special offers, call to actions, reviews, what you offer, how great you are, and all that information front and center. Then, once you have that together, we usually recommend starting with some kind of SEO program, because SEO lays the foundation for being found on Google. Ads are great on Facebook, ads are great on Google, but ads, once you stop paying that click budget, the ads go away instantly. Whereas SEO built over time, and SEO is optimizing your website with content that gets picked up by Google for the services you're targeting.

So, we have guys that tell us, "Hey, I want to do more Invisalign cases." So, every month we're blogging about Invisalign. Things like, "Am I a candidate for Invisalign?" Invisalign for teams. How much does Invisalign start at? Things of that nature. So, every time you add content on your website, that gives you a better chance to get found versus some guy that just has maybe a paragraph about Invisalign on his services page. Whereas if you have pages, blogs, special offers, social media posts, ads, Facebook links, and all of that regarding Invisalign, all those things work together better.

So, yes, have a little bit of everything. Have some SEO that sets the foundation. Then, you could target different offers with ads. Facebook ads are great depending on your area in your offer, Google ads go a long way. They all depend on level of competition. A guy in Beverly Hills might be paying much more than a guy in a suburb of Chicago, for example. We could fine tune these programs to make sure you're getting the most of your ad budget, but also as you're doing ads, keep building up that foundation with- SEO.

Jeff Cole:

Yeah, totally agree. I think that if you guys have more questions, I know we didn't have a ton of time, you can shoot me an email, Jeff@PearlyPlan.com, or Ali an email at Ali@DocSites.com.

We appreciate everyone joining this webinar and want to give some special offers to help practices thrive, help adopt these strategies and help your practice really grow and thrive in and out of this pandemic. So, for us here at Pearly, if you're interested of launching in-house membership program, we have a great solution and we're offering two months free through the end of the year.

Our new AR automation software is also free for two months through 2020.

So, we can get you up and running, have our expert team really help you implement it. Then, you can see the value to decide whether or not you want to continue going forward. So, we're really focused on helping our practices that we work with thrive during this time, and you can get going for free.

Ali Soufi:

That's a great offer, and our offer is basically we have 50% off of a new website or website start as low as $999, and go up to $2,500 one time fee. They're very affordable. They're customized. They look great. They work great. Or, you could even get a free website depending on the marketing packages. If you decide to start with the marketing packages, those start as low as $199 a month. They include SEO, social media, and other things that help you get found online. Just mention this webinar and we could definitely go through something that fits your practice and your budget.

Jeff Cole:

Awesome. Well, definitely go on and check out docsites.com and pearlyplan.com. You can text or call us as well. You'll be getting a follow-up from one of us if you watch this webinar, and we hope that you enjoyed these 10 strategies to grow during COVID. We hope that your dental practice takes advantage and thrives.

Thank you so much for joining!

Ali Soufi:

Thank you!


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