February 6th, 2020

The Importance of Finding the Right Location for Your Dental Practice: A Tale of Two Dentists

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

At least that was the case for two particular dentists, each of whom sought to open their own successful practice.

Dr. Charles and Dr. Dickens came from similar schooling, possessed similar expertise, were of a similar young age, and had similar career goals. But somehow, they eventually found themselves in very different circumstances.

Dr. Charles currently has one of the busiest fee-for-service dental practices in her area. Her patient base has grown steadily without much advertising, thanks primarily to a steady stream of referrals and walk-in patients. She has added a partner, expanded to 8 operatories, and has a staff of 12 people, including 4 hygienists and 3 assistants. Her fee-for-service collection rates consistently exceed 95% and she genuinely enjoys what she does and has a wonderful work-life balance.

Dr. Dickens, on the other hand, has been less fortunate. Although he is a skilled and highly respected dentist, he has struggled to retain patients and attract new patients to replace those who leave. His limited revenue forces him to have a small staff with only one hygienist, one assistant, and a receptionist. Although he originally hoped to have a fee-for-service practice, he has found it necessary to participate with several dental insurance plans and rely on emergency appointments to keep production numbers up. All of this frequently throws his daily schedule into chaos and creates a great deal of workday stress for himself and his staff. The stress and below average salaries also result in frequent staff turnover and a revolving door hiring process.

So, how did these two promising young dentists end up in such drastically different circumstances?

(Spoiler alert: It all came down to making smart decisions when choosing the right dental office location.)

It was the age of wisdom…

Dr. Charles took a very calculated approach to opening her practice. Knowing that she wanted to open a fee-for-service practice, she researched demographic data for the locations she was considering. With a clear picture of who her ideal patient was, she looked at such key factors as:

  • Population density and total population
  • Population growth rate and forecasted population growth rate
  • Number and type of housing units
  • Number and type of jobs
  • Median household incomes
  • Median age
  • Average household size
  • Number of households with dental insurance coverage
  • Dentist to patient ratio

Once she narrowed her list of ideal neighborhoods, she turned her focus to specific properties. Her first step was to find a dependable dental practice broker to assist in finding, evaluating, and negotiating real estate. She also had a clearly defined list of requirements for her new practice location:

  • Room for future growth: more operatories, more staff
  • Convenience for patients: easy parking, easy access, short driving distance
  • High visibility: high traffic area (preferably near a grocery store or other daily-needs business) with no restrictions on signage
  • Good neighbors: established family-friendly businesses that create a favorable impression

The search took some time, but proved to be well worth the wait. As a result, Dr. Charles has a stress-free work schedule, plenty of time for her family, and a genuine love for the work she does. The amount of new patient traffic she gets just from passers-by frees up a significant amount of money that she would have otherwise spent on basic marketing. That money can now be invested back into her practice for state-of-the-art equipment, advanced continuing education, or more sophisticated dental marketing efforts.

It was the age of foolishness…

Dr. Dickens followed a very different path, finding his dental office location by chance. At the time, it seemed ideal. It was on a busy street (next to a small daycare center). It had room for two operatories, which was all he really needed. And it was in a blue collar neighborhood, so he figured the rent would be reasonable.

Anxious to get established, he hastily signed the lease. (It turned out he was wrong about the rent.) He ordered signage, but found out the size he could display was restricted based on the local zoning ordinances. No big deal, he rationalized, he could just advertise to attract new patients. Shortly after hiring staff and opening for business, the daycare that he expected would bring families to his office moved out, and a tattoo parlor moved in. New patients slowly started to come, but most complained about dropping quarters into parking meters since there was no parking lot available. Many were also disappointed to learn that his office did not accept Medicaid and they would have to pay out of pocket. It generally didn’t take very long for those people to move on to one of the several other dentists in town. (Dr. Dickens never realized how much competition he would be up against.)

It was the spring of hope…

If you’re fortunate enough to be like Dr. Charles, congratulations! Much of the heavy lifting of marketing your practice has been taken care of by simply being in the right place. With a highly visible location that is convenient for your patients to visit, it should be fairly easy to bring a  consistent inflow of new patients through your door with a simple, straightforward marketing plan.

It was the winter of despair (but we can help)…

Even if you find you’re a little more like Dr. Dickens and struggling to find patients, don’t despair. A comprehensive marketing plan can overcome many of the challenges that a good practice in a less-than-perfect location might face. At Golden Proportions Marketing, we take a full-scope view of your practice and carefully consider everything (especially location) when customizing your marketing strategy.

Whether your practice is in the best of times, worst of times, or somewhere in between, we can help you bring more new patients through your front door. Schedule your FREE 30-minute Marketing Breakthrough Call with Erica today!