Podcast #106

Attract, Retain, Grow: Strategies for Dental Marketing Success with Industry Expert Jacob DeMorris

This week on Ignite, Cardinal’s CEO, Alex Membrillo and industry expert, Jacob DeMorris, explore how to enhance your dental practice's marketing and patient care. Our hosts dive into the importance of operational impact, patient satisfaction follow-ups, and leveraging both digital and traditional marketing tactics. Tune-in to gain actionable strategies to attract and retain patients, improve care, and grow your dental business.

Episode Highlights:

Alex Membrillo: “You have a ton of multi-location experience, which is fun. What have you seen works best? When you go into a new group, what’s the first thing you look at?”

Jacob DeMorris: “You have to get an understanding of the lay of the land, but every place I’ve ever been, the number one thing is always the same. How do we get new customers in the door? How do we get new patients into the door? Once we get them into the door, how do we keep them activated and have that full engagement with our patient or our customer? That’s always been the main focus… let’s see where we’re at, and how do we get those new patients, and how do we keep them coming back?

When you look at it from a marketing perspective, nowadays, we have a full stack of opportunities and tools at our resources that we can leverage, but the number one thing is, do what you do and do it well. If you’re in pizza, do pizza really well. If you’re giving haircuts, give good haircuts. If you’re in dental, do good dental. That’s the number one focus right there.”

Episode Overview

Join us on Ignite as CEO, Alex Membrillo delves into the world of dental marketing and patient care with seasoned industry expert Jacob DeMorris. With over 15 years of operational and marketing experience across various industries, including QSR, retail, and healthcare, Jacob brings a wealth of knowledge to the table.

In this episode, you’ll hear how Jacob’s diverse background informs his approach to enhancing patient satisfaction, operational efficiency, and marketing effectiveness. From leveraging digital and traditional tactics to optimizing referral programs and streamlining operations, Jacob shares actionable strategies to attract and retain patients while maintaining a local touch.

Learn the importance of aligning marketing and operations, understanding your market, and maximizing your marketing spend to differentiate your practice. Explore the impact of HIPAA compliance on marketing efforts and how transparency can build trust with patients.

Get insights into the evolving landscape of dental marketing, including the shift towards larger group practices and the opportunities this presents for both patient care and recruitment.

Related Resources

Announcer: Welcome to the Ignite Podcast, the only healthcare marketing podcast that digs into the digital strategies and tactics that help you accelerate growth. Each week, Cardinal’s experts explore innovative ways to build your digital presence and attract more patients. Buckle up for another episode of Ignite.

Alex Membrillo: Welcome back to Ignite, everybody, you’re up for a treat. You know how I always say you’re up for a treat, but it’s always fun when I get to invite friends on here. You know what’s best about having friends is they can’t say no, and the friends that are best to come on here are the ones that have not just done healthcare their whole lives because some of the other industries can do some more innovative stuff because they have less HIPAA restrictions. Jacob DeMorris, who we’ve got on today, has come from a variety of different industries, always multi-local [unintelligible 00:00:50] Jacob, what, from QSR Pizza Pizza to salons and then to healthcare, right? Welcome to Ignite. What’s up?

Jacob DeMorris: Yes, thank you, man. What’s going on? How are you?

Alex: I’m good. I’m at a new podcast studio. They thought we looked like hoodrats at our office, and now we’re very fancy and renting something out. Look, everybody can see. It’s got a background. Hey, Carly, say hi from the [mumbles] There’s Carly. She said, oh my God, we can’t use this clip. Jacob, I’m excited. Tell all six of our listeners the different places you’ve been.

Jacob: Listen, I’ve been in the game for 15 years now, and it’s all been operational and marketing experience, heavily focused in multi-unit retail spaces. I started in QSR, Little Caesars Pizza Pizza. I moved over to a retail position, so I went from the franchisor side to the franchisee side. I worked for the largest franchisee of Regis, and that was a group called the Alline Salon Group. They had 400 locations, operated in 3 different markets and 103 different brands, most commonly known as Supercuts or Cost Cutters and Holiday Hair, although lesser known, but still more of a high-end boutique situation.

Then from there, I moved over into the DSO healthcare space and had a small stint with a boutique group, so eight locations here in Metro Detroit, and then was recruited over with a larger DSO that at the time had 50 locations and then spanned out to just under 95 today.

Alex: That’s it. That’s awesome. You never worked for a car brand being in Detroit?

Jacob: You know what? I always wanted to, but I grew up with car guys in the family. All different facets from corporate level down to mechanics. While cars were always a fun hobby of mine, nobody wanted me to go into it. They said, go somewhere else. I graduated, and I thought, well, pizza, how fun is that?

Alex: Pizza was fun. We had Papa John’s back in the day, but man, we’re a Ford family. If I could ever do anything for a car brand, it won’t be Cardinal, but if I could ever do something for that brand one day, that’d be cool. All right. The commonalities, so you got a ton of multi-location experience, which is fun. What have you seen works best? All of our provider group, it’s all multi-location, we do the same stuff. What are the marketing strategies? When you go into a new group, what’s the first thing you look at?

Jacob: Really, you have to get an understanding of the lay of the land, but every place I’ve ever been, the number one thing is always the same. How do we get new customers in the door? How do we get new patients into the door? Once we get them into the door, how do we keep them activated and have that full engagement with our patient or our customer? That’s always been the main focus is, let’s see where we’re at, and how do we get those new patients, new customers in, and how do we keep them coming back?

When you look at it from a marketing perspective, nowadays, we have a full stack of opportunities and tools at our resources that we can leverage, but the number one thing is, do what you do and do it well. If you’re in pizza, do pizza really well. If you’re giving haircuts, give good haircuts. If you’re in dental, do good dental. That’s the number one focus right there.

Alex: I just got an appointment reminder while I was on the phone with this one, I’m not sure about this one. I agree with you, patient satisfaction is number one, do good dental. These people that jabbed my teeth and they didn’t use a lot of numb cream, I don’t think I’m going back, but do good dental. Then how do you activate that? Is patient satisfaction enough? How do you activate the happy ones or do they just come back on their own?

Jacob: No. It’s a little bit of both. The happy ones, you want to engage them and ask them for patient reviews and self-promote that. You’re going to use the tools available for you. You’re going to do a paid ads campaign. You’re going to do social and Facebook and all that type of stuff. You’re going to push that out. If you’re doing the right job, they’re going to communicate that out to people.

The unsatisfied ones, you still have an opportunity. We jabbed you. You were at the dentist for the day and you felt a little pain. We got to make sure that we’re following up with you and still actually asking you for a patient satisfaction survey so that we can identify what we did incorrectly. Then there’s a whole set of opportunities that are available to us.

First, we can get you back in, into the chair because we’ve identified, maybe we didn’t do a great job and here’s what we can do to make that correct in the first place. Maybe we didn’t fully identify or fully explain to you what the procedure is going to entail. That goes back where marketing works hand in hand with operations. We’re going to look at that from a training perspective of what we can do better to communicate that to you.

In today’s world, there’s a lot of technology that can do that for us. We have a lot of AI stuff that can digitally show you in advance the procedure that you’re going to have to hopefully remove some of those unknowns or anxieties about going to the dentist.

Alex: That’s awesome. To my six listeners, important what Jacob said, it’s not just marketing for the sake of marketing. If you’re a great marketer, you’re also thinking about the operational impact, like the things that we should do should make the business better. If you’re going to get a bad review on Google, fine, but you should be following up for the patient satisfaction scores and the qualitative info that may come from following up. “Hey, what did we do wrong? We jabbed you. Okay. Do you remember when you came in?”

Then you’re passing those insights back to those locations and ahead of the DSL, whatever it may be, and improving the patient care and access and experience, very important. Don’t just like marketers. Jacob, I’ve been talking about moms this whole year on LinkedIn. I’m sure people are sick of it, but marketing and ops alignment. My friend Teresa gave that one to me. It’s becoming more important that we feel comfortable sitting at the table with the ops folk even.

Jacob: I can speak to that. That’s been my entire career. I learned early on the importance of that. Typically, I get the feeling, whatever organization I’m in and whether it’s QSR retail or in the dental space, operations and marketing, they butt heads. That’s always been a goal of mine when I come into an organization is aligning with that team specifically. I think early on, because I started in an operational standpoint and then moved over to a local marketing position, it really allowed me to draw a dotted line between the two teams.

Whenever I’m trying to execute on even just a local marketing strategy or if there’s a new campaign that we’re deploying, bringing in operations with me on that and giving them a little authorship, it leads to leadership on that. It tends to help execute it at a local level better. If marketing is always trying to just push things out into the field and operations isn’t in tune or on board with it, it’s going to drop. Being aligned together from the get-go and having some say in it will allow that campaign to execute stronger.

Alex: Absolutely. If ops can’t support it because we don’t have the capacity and specialty or GD or whatever it could be, our locations are full and they’re booking out or whatever, then it won’t work. Guys, what Jacob said there is when he starts anywhere or if anyone comes in, he’s going to go meet with them and make that ops person their buddy. I would also contend, Hey, you got to go make the lawyer your buddy, the compliance person, the technologist person, the CEHR, all of these. There’s like a good bit.

I think COVID made us bad at this. We’ve become too accustomed to Zoom and we’re not comfortable networking or selling ourselves. Guys, if we as marketers want to push things forward, you’re going to need buddies in the system that are aligned with you and what you want to do instead of you just pushing stuff that will not go anywhere like Jacob said, so spend more time getting to know your future buddies within the org.

We call it like what, politicking or something like that? That’s such a negative connotation. It’s not go make friends so that you guys can all push forward together. When you were in these DSOs, did you market GD and specialty different? I don’t know the makeup of those two DSOs. Did they even have specialty stuff or did you look at them different?

Jacob: We did. In both instances, we had a combination of both, and you do have to market them differently. Typically, I find that specialty is where we’re heavily digital. That’s where you’re really promoting and sharing quality caring outcomes. You’re identifying that there’s a need and we’re going to show you how well we do it and the results of that. Where general practice, I think that really my basis is digital is always important. It’s always awesome when you have a full stack that you can work with, but going back to– boots on the ground tactics really work well in a regular practice versus a specialty. Specialty I think you have to get a little bit more creative.

Alex: More creative in the general. You’re saying the boots on the ground, what are some of the boots on the ground thing that worked for general dentistry? We’re in digital, I’m not as familiar and I’m curious how much time and money they spend on that. What is it? What’s [unintelligible 00:09:39] the sign off front of the door?

Jacob: That’s one of the things that I think is one of the biggest missed opportunities when I’m working with a practice is that, obviously, technology and advancement, you’re taking advantage of it. It’s important, but going back to the basics, the boots on the ground, what’s one thing that used to happen when you would go to the dentist that just doesn’t exist anymore? You’re a new patient, you go to the practice, you’re there for the first time, you leave with your little goodie bag.

Alex: A card, a goodie bag.

Jacob: Yes, exactly. Right there, the card. The handwritten note. I’m new to the practice. I think this is important because a lot of times when practices join a larger DSO, they’re really excited about all of the new opportunities that are available to them. All the new technologies that are available to them, advancements, and they back away from the basics. I’ll tell you a handwritten note from your new doctor or a thank you item for choosing your practice. Typically depending on where you’re at, for most places I’ve seen, the new patient will generate $850 in revenue is somewhere on that scale.

Taking a little bit of extra time sending them a thank you gift for coming into your practice I think goes a really long way. Then another piece of that is– The same thing with referrals, but I think that what’s really important about referral programs is being able to– That’s the boots on the ground tactic, but being able to streamline that in, say, more modern pace. Nobody’s carrying around a business card anymore and saying, “Hey, I’ve got this dentist, and here’s a punch card or whatever it is, and reference my name.”

Being able to, at a practice level, streamline that to where it’s a text message to your current patient. You’re saying, “Hey, thanks for coming in. Leave us a review. Excellent. You gave us five stars. If you’re for us, forward this text message to your family or friend or whoever, and bring them back in.” Those two small things I think eliminated a lot of times because people are so excited about the new technology, and it’s important, but when you’re talking general practice, I think sometimes that gets forgotten and it makes an impact when it comes back.

Alex: Then you want the shiny DSO tricks, all the tech and integrations and stuff. You forget what made you all successful was that you were a local practice, local flavor, local attention. Don’t become the behemoth, use the advantages that we have. I went in for a heart procedure, and then a month later, I got a handwritten note from the signatures from all the NPs and PAs and all that. The doctor said, “Thanks for coming in, hope you’re alive, et cetera, et cetera.” I’m paraphrasing. I was like, “That’s really cool. They sent a handwritten thing.”

Jacob’s right, guys, the simple sometimes can be the most effective because it’s the only thing no one’s doing anymore. Everybody’s like, they got the SMS reminder. That’s important. What would you say for general, what proportion of time should be sent on the traditional stuff, high school sponsorship versus digital? Was digital a really important activation piece for the general? You know the LTV 850. I want to talk about that in a second. Was digital still important for bringing in new patients?

Jacob: Yes, absolutely. You can’t forget about it. Absolutely, you have to invest into it. I also think that you have to have an understanding of an adequate budget depending on your market. If you’ve always been in the rural mountains or the rural South, those high school football games and local sponsorships are really important. Tapping into digital, it was really interesting. I had a market that they were new to digital and they were a larger group. They were over in Alabama.

They mentioned to me, “People don’t go on the internet here. People don’t check– They’re not on the internet.” I’m like, “I don’t really necessarily believe that because everyone including their grandma has a phone in their hand and they’re at least on pace.”

As soon as we started investing in a page strategy, what was really unique to me is that the new patient numbers increased immediately, for a really small budget. Maybe the difference was is that they were the industry leader in it and that was the mindset of the area that nobody had invested in digital. As soon as we did, we saw a huge gain of market share.

Alex: You could have looked at search trend and been like, “Look, there’s 20 people looking in Dothan, Alabama. I told you. Let’s get all 20. No one else advertises.” It still works. You know what I hear from some of those rural towns is that yellow pages still works. That’s what people get. I’m like, “Okay, and can we run ads?” “Yes,” and then it works. You have a great point that even though some areas may be more used to something, digital is pretty effective just about everywhere you go, and it’s trackable.

850 LTV. You looked at that and you said, “Hey, the value of a patient is 850.” Did you back into the net new what we’re willing to spend on digital based on that? Were you willing to lose on the first patient interaction?” That must people don’t know their LTV. I’m fascinated.

Jacob: What we ended up doing is we– In these new markets that we were tapping into, and we knew what our lifetime value of the patient was, we didn’t back into it. We went with an industry standard of what I thought the spend needed to be to dip your toe into the sandbox and see what that would generate for us. Especially that it was the first time that we were doing anything like that, we needed to be prepared to enter at a minimum threshold and see where that was going to take us.

Then once we received that data, number of impressions and click-throughs and seeing how the ads were populating to determine whether we needed to be a stronger presence or not. One of the practices that we were working with, it was a heavily competitive market and our entry-level fee that we were paying for paid ads wasn’t even generating. The money was being spent, but it was going so quickly that four days later, the famous thing is, I didn’t see the ad, but we could see that the dollars were being spent too fast. We had to either make a decision to increase our budget, to be competitive with the market, or determine whether we were going to take our dollars and do something different with it.

Alex: Yes, absolutely. I guess it just comes down to business insight and whether you’re willing to roll the dice more or not. I think in the beginning with [unintelligible 00:15:49] or any new acquisition, you just get into play and it’s going to be expensive to get some awareness wherever you’re entering into.

Jacob: You have to understand, when you’re acquiring a practice or you’re doing a DeNovo, specifically if you’re acquiring a practice, I think that it’s a little bit different. You have to look at what their prior marketing spend was and how long they’ve been in business in that current market, and how strong was their brand identity to begin with. Then you can make an informed decision from there. DeNovo, I think it’s almost a completely different strategy. You come in strong with a full funnel grand opening marketing plan.

Alex: Jacob knows all about it. You launched that, how far out and just try to get bookings, how far out?

Jacob: For a DeNovo, we would look at that about six, eight weeks out.

Alex: You’re filling calendars that early and full funnel. You’re running and stuff, Facebook, YouTube, anything you can get your hands on in that local area. Smart. Then the acquisitory ones are a little different. You look at where they’re at, how strong the brand presence is, and then you modify accordingly. Our clients come to us often for media playbooks. DeNovo is an easier one to construct, but the acquisition one is difficult because it depends on where that one is at, and they might be better at marketing. We don’t need to touch it. Maybe that should be your agency and not me.

It totally depends on where they’re at. I’m just kidding. Nobody’s better than Cardinal Jacob in the last year and a half. The HIPAA, the HIPAA has come around. Have you found that it changed a lot of what you were doing, any of what you’re doing? Can’t stand it, love it, what’s the deal?

Jacob: Listen, it’s one of those things that I probably didn’t pay enough attention to, and I needed to because it changed the game completely. From a marketing standpoint, it limits your data availability. It’s stringent on what information you get and how you get that information. It mandates that you notify the patient that they’re going to be sending them or getting their permission to send them this type of marketing communication.

It’s a pain point from a marketing standpoint, but I’ll tell you the positive that I do take away from it, is that it can build trust with your patients. They have trust in HIPAA that HIPAA is going to protect them. By being open and honest with them, I think it builds trust and transparency with the patient that, hey, we’re protecting your information and we’re putting the ball in your court to determine whether or not you’re going to receive a marketing message or incentive from us.

Alex: That’s smart. You’re letting people know when they land on landing pages and email communication, “Hey, we take this stuff seriously.” “Yes, that’s good.” I’ve seen a lot of good come from it. It’s been a pain that people are getting sued. A lot of groups have had to innovate very quickly on the technology they use, and it has yielded better advertising effectiveness, CPLs are coming down, we’re understanding who’s in that new patient, not who was not returning.

All of it, not cheap to fix, but it is yielding better advertising, but none of us paid enough attention to it. Now we are. I think Jacob, what you said is important. It can be a differentiator because there’s still a lot of groups out there that are not taking it that seriously. You can use that as a differentiator while privacy is all the rage.

Jacob: The practices that aren’t paying attention to it, it’s only a matter of time before they get their hands slapped heavily with some huge fines. I was late to the game in that. Partnering with guys like yourself and teams that have adequately resourced that information to figure out what do we need to be doing, [unintelligible 00:19:16] It can be a costly mess if you’re not following the rules.

Alex: The benefits of the agency support is that we’ve seen all of that slappery of the hands across 80 other clients. We can help a lot of people avoid the gotchas and we’ve seen the integrations because it takes a lot of technology upheaval. You got to get call lead tracking a different analytics system. You got to get a CDP. Holy smokes. [unintelligible 00:19:43] in house knows how to do that because we barely do. It’s not been a cheap beer for healthcare marketers. I sympathize, but I have seen on the other end, CPLs and advertising has dramatically improved.

Jacob, finally, we just talked about threats this year. We don’t need to talk about that. Everybody knows what the big threat everybody is this year with HIPAA compliance and VHI being handled correctly. What is the biggest opportunity you see with multi-local marketers, healthcare marketers, dental marketers? What are you most excited about when you go into a new group? What advice would you give a marketing director, hey, pay attention to this this year?

Jacob: Don’t do it. No, just kidding. The biggest thing that I think gets me excited– and we’re coming out of COVID. Everyone’s mentioned COVID. It’s this long-haul thing. Finding the right people to work for you has been a really big challenge in really every segment. I talked to my buddies that are still in QSR, still in retail, and now in health. What I’m really excited about in dental marketing is the fact that a lot of the new dentists that are coming out of school, they’re leaving that traditional mindset of wanting a solo practice, and they’re looking to these larger groups to join for personal security, for being access to larger technology, for having the ability to have the support of the group.

I think that’s unique and it’s one thing I’m excited about. From a recruiting standpoint, that’s been a challenge in every industry, and to see the shift in mindset from doctors and dentists that come on board to a DSO organization, I think that that’s pretty cool. I think in turn, what that can do for us as it can lead to better patient care because when you have more doctors in play, you’re allowed to spend a little bit more time with them, give them that better patient experience so we’re able to celebrate that.

Alex: That’s awesome. Better care and easier recruiting. That’s good. I hadn’t even thought of that, that our generation wants lifestyle coming out. The DSO MSO space is going to be a lot easier because right now, they feel the pain point. It’s almost more on the mid-level stuff, especially behavioral that all the groups are struggling.

Jacob, this has been extremely informative. Guys, it’s rare that we have someone with so much multi-local experience inside and outside of healthcare. He can do that. He’s done the innovative stuff. Marketing Pizza and Pizza is one of the most fun ones. I love getting people fat. Jacob, now we need to get them healthy. I love it, skinny and healthy. Jango, thank you for joining us on Ignite. We can’t wait to learn more from you in the future.

Jacob: I appreciate it guys. Thanks for the time.


Announcer: Thanks for listening to this episode of Ignite. Interested in keeping up with the latest trends in healthcare marketing? Subscribe to our podcast and leave a rating and review. For more healthcare marketing tips, visit our blog at cardinaldigitalmarketing.com.

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