By Anil Idiculla

Well well well.  It is almost Christmas.

Huh? It’s June, right? Did I miss something?

Yup. You heard me. I call this time of the year Christmas. School is out or about to let out for the summer and the floodgates going to open for Snaggle Central. Every orthodontist is giddy this time of year, but also anxious. The next 8-12 weeks can make-or-break the entire year for many offices.  And then the tumbleweeds of September roll in and since the kiddos are all back in school, we have all the time in the world to ramp up marketing, tweak systems and annoy our staff to no end.To me, this entire scenario is a scary and stupid approach.It is the same as putting all of your money into one investment category (real estate, a certain stock, etc.). Investment advisors tell us all the time to diversify our financial portfolio so that if one category of the portfolio tanks, the rest can keep us afloat so we do not sink.Doctors…we need to do the same with our patient portfolio.

There is more than one way to do this.

One way is to have multiple locations.  If one of your locations sees an economic downfall or loses a major referral, then you have other locations that might be more immune to those pitfalls.  I would never open multiple locations with the prime objective of diversifying your patient portfolio, but it is an added benefit.  If you are strongly tied into one or two dental referral sources, beware.  You are investing too much of your patient portfolio into too few referral sources that can change like the wind. My favorite way to diversify my patient portfolio is to expand my referral sources through direct-to-consumer marketing, specifically targeting adults and the number 1 reason why treatment is pursued:  vanity.  More and more adults are seeking orthodontic treatment each year. Treatment is getting more predictable and faster. Invisalign is here to stay and is the esthetic treatment of choice for the adult consumer. Do not be fooled into thinking anything else.

The practices that build up an adult population will rarely go through the seasonal peaks and valleys that a child-centric practice experiences. Doctors, please do not misunderstand what I am saying though: our bread and butter patient portfolio investment is treating children. However, if you can convince a greater number of adult patients to come visit your office and provide them the treatment they need with the appliance they want, you can level out the rollercoaster that most of us ride every year. Yes, adults are typically harder to convert into starts. Yes, as the economy faces hardship, adults will put certain things on hold for themselves that parents will not for their kids. We orthodontists tend to focus on these reasons we cannot start more adults, but don’t forget about the reasons you can and why you should! People are people and patients are patients. They need treatment and we need patients – it’s a natural win-win.

Doctors, we must be smart… and strategic. I strongly encourage you to ramp up adult marketing now and embrace all patients with any form of orthodontic treatment you feel comfortable with, especially Invisalign. Remove barriers to treatment for them and remove barriers to treating adults for yourself. Hone your clinical and presentation skills. Have confidence in what you present to adults. Listen to what THEY want, not just what the textbook says. Remove all financial hurdles in front of them – financing and affordability is way more important than price these days. Scale your clinical systems when treating adults to not overly tax your schedule. Give every parent of children that start this summer a discount to start treatment by October 1st. Follow-up on your pending adult patients and offer some incentive to them to start. Directly market to adults in your area.

Remember…adult snaggle is most effectively diagnosed with a mirror and a camera. But it’s not the ones you have in your office. It’s the mirror at the patients’ home or their cell phone selfie that they just posted online.

Merry Christmas, people. I hope this helps you enjoy your holidays a little more.

I’ll see you under the mistletoe.
Live Life Smiling ™,

Dr. I

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