EP48: Little-Known Strategies for Dental Practice Growth

Today’s episode of the Double Your Production Podcast is all about kids’ dental visits! Wendy Briggs is discussing how creating a great experience for kids can create positive ripple effects across the practice. She’s sharing specific strategies to help kids (and parents) have such great, one-of-a-kind appointments that they can’t help but share their experience with their communities, friends, and family.

Start preparing for back-to-school and take advantage of all the strategies Wendy has to offer when it comes to treating families and kids at an incredible, world-class level.

Welcome to the Double Your Production podcast, with the Team Training Institute. The one place designed for dentists and their staff who want to grow their practices by following in the footsteps of those that have done it, are  in the trenches, who know exactly what you're going through.

And now, your leaders, the stars of the podcast, Dr. John Meis and Wendy Briggs.

Hey, Double Your Production listeners. We've got an awesome episode for you today. So we are coming at you here from the beaches of Florida. I'm here with Wendy. And we are on a little excursion out by the beach. So we stepped out and you may hear the waves and the whistles and people kind of behind us as we film today. So Wendy, how are you doing?

I'm great. Obviously, it's that time of year. Right? That time of year where the beaches are full. And people are on vacation, enjoying the last few weeks before school starts again in the fall.

Awesome. So let's talk a little bit more about that. With back to school coming up, we thought it would be fun to do an episode about kids and their role in our practices. So Wendy, I'm just going to turn the time over to you and let you kind of talk and fill us in about your thoughts on back to school.

You bet. I can't tell you how many times dentists say, "I don't really want to see kids in my practice." They don't enjoy it. The kids don't enjoy it. And so there's some practices that have just not really focused on that as a growth opportunity. And one of the things that I've learned through the years-- obviously, seeing kids and taking care of kids is near and dear to my heart. I worked for a pediatric dentist before I went to hygiene school. Back in those days, they were called pedodontists. And so that was our entire focus. Right? One of the things that I've learned is that when we focus on a great experience for all patients, things get better. But certainly, when we focus on a better experience for kids, things get better. So one of the things that I've learned is that if we provide a really great experience for the kids in our practice, everyone enjoys seeing them, even, sometimes, the doctor. So when the kids are happy, and the mom is happy, sometimes the team realizes, "You know what, taking care of kids isn't really such a bad thing."

And I think it's important to consider how much revenue kids and families actually bring into the practice. Practices, dentists that are looking to grow really shouldn't overlook this potential impact. It's been said that the average expenditure on a child is about $10,000. Now, that's from, in the time that we start seeing them, when they're 2 or 3 years old, for a happy visit, clear up until they're 18 years old. And that doesn't include ortho or wisdom teeth. So I think, when we look at the opportunity to serve families in our community, that's a pretty big potential revenue impact if we do it well. Another thing that, I think, we've got to consider is that, as dentists age and mature in their practices, so do their patients. We find that the age of the patients typically does follow the age of the dentist. And so if we don't have strategies and a way to attract younger people and younger families into our practice, we may get to a point where we really don't have much of a practice to sell when the doctor decides it's time for them to transition out of-- so that's something else that we need to consider. So one of the things that we found is that if we focus on creating a world-class experience for the kids, it can become a potential draw to really help the practice grow by adding more families. Right? And we've also found that the fastest way to attract more children is to focus on that experience from all aspects, especially things that are going to be impressive to the mom.

Right. Right. And in this day and age with social media, I know me, as a young mother, I see all the time people posting pictures of their dental experiences as something they want to document. So I think it gets the word out there.

For sure. And so one of the things that we found is this time of year-- any time of the year is great to focus on your children's program. We teach a 17-step children's program. We've taught it in general practice offices. We've taught it at seminars. We've also had quite a few pediatric practices that we consult with and work with, and they love our 17-step children's program. And really, it's just how to create that world-class experience that's impressive to the mom so that Mom has a reason to rave about this on social media and share. And then, of course, that translates to, typically, referrals of new patients and other families as well. And this time of year, the reason that we thought it would be a good topic and the reason I love to focus on it this time of year is because as everyone is focusing on back-to-school, there's a variety of opportunities that practices can embrace an affordable investment that can have a big return on helping fuel better experiences for kids and also new patients in the form of children and families.

Right. And to get smart and to have that as the focus because I can't tell you how many times I've had moms say to me while I'm treating them in the chair, "Oh, you guys see kids?" I don't think it's a common thing for people to know that general dentists can also see children.

Right. I can't tell you how many times people have said, "Well, we go to this dentist. My kids are still seeing a pediatric dentist down the way," and they're not aware that we can take really great care of the kids as well. So obviously, there's a reason for pediatric dentists. And if you've got children that are really difficult to handle or anxious or have special needs, that's probably where they fit. But most of the time, families love to stay together as a family unit. And you're working for a great dentist right now, Katie, and your practice does an excellent job with children. We've been working with them for a long time, and one of our coaches actually works with you. You're coworkers. And so there's a lot that you do there for kids. And so you can understand and speak to how valuable that is. Right now, your doctors at a capacity they're growing so fast and they don't have room for all the new patients. And I think, certainly, the kids' experience is just one small piece of the reason for that. But it is a big piece, especially if you're in a community that is actively growing, that has lots of young families. And as you mentioned before, as a young mother, you appreciate the focus on creating a world-class experience for kids.

Right. One of the things that we did earlier this summer is we went and saw Toy Story 4. And you might wonder what does that have to do with the topic and what does that have to do with the dental practice, but. One of the things that I learned when my kids were little was that McDonald's gets it. Right? McDonald's provides really fun toys in their Happy Meals because they want to attract families to visit their businesses. And even though it's not the healthiest food or sometimes McDonald's gets a little bit of a bad rap, the toy in a Happy Meal often can attract the entire family to come and have lunch or have dinner. And recently, Toy Story 4 had their toys in the McDonald's Happy Meal. And I remember reading a blog from a young mom who-- that's what they decided to do that day was to go and visit as many McDonald's as they could to get all of the Toy Story toys. So she kind of wrote about this adventure. Well, certainly, I don't think most families are going to go to that level of trouble to get those Happy Meal toys, but we can learn something from this, right? When kids come to the dentist what do we give them? They usually get a token for the prize machine, which they do love, or they get something from the prize drawer, which is usually a sticky hand or a bouncy ball or a Chinese finger trap or some low-end toy or prize. One of the things that we can learn from McDonald's is that sometimes, having an amazing prize just makes the experience better. And it gets kids excited about coming. And we've actually seen moms refer their friends because our prizes are so good. So this time of year, we love to talk about this because as you see back-to-school-- that's one strategy that we're going to talk about. One strategy is having better prizes. It invokes better behavior, but also, it gives mom something to talk about, something to rave about when the conversation comes around to the dental office.

So this time of year, with all the back-to-school sales-- I was just looking this morning, and you can get really great prizes for your prize box. We had a basket for girls and a basket for boys that had-- the girls' basket had more girl-themed prizes. You certainly would need to do that. You can have one good basket that has a variety of things for both. But Target, for example, office depot. All of the stores have really affordably-priced back-to-school items. So you can get like a 10-pack of Crayola markers for less than $1. So one of the things that we decided to do-- one of the things that we teach is that if you give yourself a budget for these prizes, you can actually find some really great things for your rewards for less than $1 each shop.

Yeah. Yeah. That's super smart.

And think about it. When you take kids to the dollar store, they love it. They love it even though we might, as parents, view the prizes as kind of cheapie or low-end stuff, they love being able to choose whatever they want. And kids get just as excited at the dental practice when they can pick a good prize. So that's something that's really quick and easy for you to do that you might not think is going to have much of an impact. And the kids are not really the ones that comment on it, right, but it's the moms that comment on it.

Yeah. And they're the ones who are telling their friends and having the word spread quickly through that social media outlet or the soccer games that you're sitting at and wondering where Tommy walked away with this big football where he got that from, so. I know there's lots of different wholesale places that you could get those bigger prizes for cheaply discounted-- or like you said, I love the back-to-school idea where you're getting all of the notebooks and binders and things like that for discounted prices that just make it look kind of that wow factor.

For sure. Yeah. You get a 10-pack of Crayola markers for 88 cents on a back-to-school sale, and usually, they're $3. So I used to go and buy them by the case. And people in line would always say, "Are you a school teacher?" And I say, "No. I actually work for a dentist and this is what we give our kids as prizes." And even in the line at the checkout, they're like, "Oh my gosh. That's amazing." So that's one quick and easy strategy that anyone can do with a fairly limited budget. Just go upgrade your prizes. And if you do tokens, that's great too. They do get excited about the candy machines. But we did that in addition to a really great prize. So if they behaved well, they had something bigger to look forward to. And, of course, the main reason is we want it have that be a part of a broader, a bigger experience for the kids. And just that one thing is going to make a difference. But when you add it up with everything else that we do, it can make a big difference.

Right. Okay. Well, yeah, let's dive into what else you do.

Yeah. We also love to see appreciation days or kids' days. This time of year is amazing for that because even when you go back to school, it doesn't have to be this time of year. But once the kids are back in school, it can become a lot more challenging for Mom to be willing to schedule them an appointment outside school hours. We're going to talk more about that in a minute. But one of the things that we love to see is having a day where it's all hands on deck. Sometimes, we can call these a hygiene blitz day or kids appreciation day where we are doing primarily kids throughout the entire day. And sometimes, we don't schedule the doctors [at?] restorative because we want them to be readily available to do exams all day long. You may do one column of high production for the doctor. If you have multiple doctors, you can have some doing restorative, some just on call for exams, but we love these kids days to be focused on amazing experiences for kids. So for example, you can have a theme, right? We like to joke that the longest line at Disney World is still Elsa and Anna. So hire a couple high school girls, put them in princess costumes, let them come and be characters for the day. You can do Avengers. This is big right now, right? So you can have superheroes. You can have any kind of character there that you want, and you build an entire experience around those characters. So, for example, you would have the characters, but you might have prizes that are all themed that way. We've seen practices do dinosaurs, and they have actual fossils there for kids to touch, and the staff members are dressing up in the funny dinosaur costumes for social media. So there's a lot of fun things you can do and have it be a day that's focused on kids. So that way, I found that when we do that, parents and families get more excited to attend on those days because it's more fun, but also the team can kind of gear up for it, right?


And we make it fun for everybody. But the team expects that, hey, this is going to be kids day. They can be a little bit crazy, but they also could be super productive. So those were some of our best production days on the hygiene side, was when we did kids days because you're doing sealants all day. You're set up. You're geared up for it. And it just makes it, I think, more fun when the whole team is focused on creating delight and an experience that moms are going to rave about for their kids.

Right. Right. And that's awesome. I mean, even if you recruit a few more operatories than you usually devote to hygiene and get some of the assistants on board, that can make it a super-fun day.


And I mean, put on your running shoes because you know it's going to be crazy from the start, but yeah that sounds like a blast, whether you have photo ops or, like you said, characters or games up front or just anything to go along with the theme, especially if you're in a place that's highly populated with children. That would be an awesome thing.

Yeah. You can all roll that into kids club events. We've also had kids club where everybody that comes in-- a lot of practices will do a no-cavity club, but then, there's those kids that no matter how hard they try always end up with a cavity or two. So we changed it. We don't do a no-cavity club anymore. Now, we teach people to have a kids club, and all kids get an opportunity to participate. And when we do kids club events, we love doing something like renting out a movie theater or having a barbecue at a park with jumpy toys and games. It doesn't take a huge budget. I think most dentists are surprised to find out how much it actually costs to rent out a movie theater. It's really not that bad if you go in an off time. So Saturday morning at 10 o'clock, we have a kids club event in a movie theater, and you're able to book the whole theater. What we love to do there is have the families. Anybody can come. And the tickets are free, but they have to come by the office and pick up the tickets so that you know how many are--

Going to be there.

--being used. Yeah. And the other thing is we encourage them to invite a friend. So we have seen kids club events and patient appreciation events like this really lead towards a lot of new patient referrals and new patient families joining the practice because they invite friends, and they come, and they see how engaged the team is with the families and how much fun they're creating as a part of the process, and they want to be involved. So we love seeing Kids Club events too. So one other thing that I wanted to mention, before we moved on from Kids Club events or Kids Club days, is that once school is in session, we have found great days to have as for Kids Club events, kind of some of the off-holidays like Columbus Day, or President's Day, or holidays where the kids are off school. I would also suggest that you look up your school district calendar because sometimes they have teacher prep days that the kids are off of school but it's not necessarily a holiday. So we're going to be there when they practice working. Those are the ideal times to have a kid's day, is to really take a look at the schools around you, look at their calendars and plan for when the kids are out of school. We've all seen moms-- and we all appreciate that because then there's less demand on our after-school time for those appointments.

Right. Right. And we can see some people after work and things rather than kids after school, which makes a lot more sense.

Right. One other thing I mentioned earlier is we found another great phrase. Once school is in session, it can become a little bit of a problem because mom doesn't ever want to schedule kids when they have to miss school. So if you are focusing on kids and you're worried, "Oh. Gosh. What about the schedule getting full in the afternoon?" One phrase that we teach practices to say is if mom says, "I really don't want our kids to miss school." We teach team members to say, "Doctors ask that we reserve our after-school appointments for children who have trouble in school." And then, usually, mom says, "Oh. My kids don't have trouble in school. Great. Then it's probably not going to have much of an impact if they miss school once or twice a year for a dental visit." And that helps mom see that not everything has to be after school. And then, of course, if they say, "Well, my kids do struggle in school," that's exactly why we have that strategy. We reserve that time for children who do have trouble in school. So sometimes I think we have these fears, right, that if we start to promote, or reach out to kids, or start to gear some of our efforts towards attracting families, that we create these headaches for ourselves. And what we found is, there's more opportunities than there are headaches when we do it the right way. And this is the best time of year that we found to take advantage of some of these opportunities.

Another fun idea that we've seen - one last strategy before we're done here today - we love to see drawings, right? So some of our practices will load up a back-to-school backpack with all sorts of back-to-school supplies and materials and that can become your drawing for the month. And we found that little strategies like this that engage patients, that get them excited, are powerful. And that's what gets posted on social media. So if you give away five to ten back-to-school backpacks loaded with all those school supplies, you've got five to ten patients that win that backpack. And when they come pick it up, you take the photos, you encourage them to share and tag the practice. And those are the things that make an impact, right? Every single one of these strategies that we've talked about today is a small ripple in a bigger pond. But every single one, we have seen pay off time and time again. So if you're looking for strategies to help you grow your practice, don't overlook the potential opportunity that comes from helping to serve kids in your community.

Well, wonderful. I think that that's a wealth of ideas, a lot of really fun things to get your juices flowing. And not every one of these strategies necessarily have to be implemented exactly as you hear it. I think it's neat that you can kind of adjust and figure out what works for your practice and your team and apply those. So thank you so much, Wendy.

It's been great chatting.

Yeah. Well, we'll see you all next week.

Thanks for listening everybody.

Yeah. And, again, know that you can find this episode, and transcripts, and any information on attending our live events at www.theteamtraininginstitute.com/podcast.

One other thing, Kati. Let's go ahead and include a link to an amazing video. We love to promote videos to help with your children's program. And we have a really fun video that we produced with puppets. All of these videos are readily available for people who subscribe to our member website, but let's share one with our podcast listeners.


We'll go ahead and post that link. So go to the site that Katie just mentioned. Why don't you give it to them one more time, and we'll include that video link right there.

Yep. Yep. And that's theteamtraininginstitute.com/podcast. So thanks again for listening everyone, and we'll see you next time!

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