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7 Marketing Strategies: Then and Now

In the late ’60s, Virginia Slim cigarette ads used the saying: “You’ve come a long way, baby!” I don’t think there’s a more targeted saying that could be used to describe marketing as we know it today….from even just a few years ago.

Traditional marketing meant direct mailers, print ads in magazines and telephone books, radio and TV ads, even billboards to reach viewers and potential new patients. But the problem with traditional marketing is as people have become better at blocking these traditional messages, traditional marketing has become less effective.
Let’s take a walk back in time a few years ago to get a better picture of Then and Now:

1. Then: An employer could purchase a “targeted” e-mail list of names for sending newsletters and special offers.

Now: Spam filters are used extensively plus marketer’s are limited by the National Canned Spam Act from sending “unsolicited messages”

2. Then: Sending out direct mailers to large lists of purchased names for a specific area

Now: Peoples mail boxes are full of junk mail and the mailers rarely make it past the trash can

3. Then: Specific trade publications had a large subscriber readership for reading your ad

Now: Publications are losing subscribers, laying off staff , and in some cases have stopped publication or scaled back their issues

4. Then: Businesses hired telemarketing firms for business solicitation

Now: Caller ID has become a standard feature on home, work, and even cell phones plus more and more people are adding their numbers to the national Do Not Call Registry making it more and more difficult for even the best of trained telesales reps.

5. Then: Radio and TV advertisements in cars and homes were almost guaranteed to generate results

Now: Commercial free channels and programs like Sirius radio, DVR’s and TiVo, DVD’s, MP3, iPods and iTunes has dramatically limited radio and TV effectiveness in advertising.

6. Then: Trade Shows were great for reaching the business audience and came with high “booth” rental fees

Now: Trade shows today have seen a huge decline in their attendees due to airline and hotel fees and lost production if the practice or business had to close while attending the trade show, causing many shows to scale back or to go out of business.

7. Then: The effectiveness of your marketing for the most part was measured by the amount of money you were able to afford to spend on your advertising budget. But even the “big guys” ads were static in nature, meaning no contact, no engaging, no information exchanged, and no relationship formed. Once placed they just sat there until they expired or they were renewed.

Now: Today people are tired of the barrage of marketing messages and are very good at deleting, trashing, and blocking traditional marketing, which is also changing. However, with social media marketing you no longer have to spend vast amounts of money for advertising to reach your target market. With social media, you build your online communities, you build relationships with your followers, and there IS contact and engaging conversation, information IS exchanged, and relationships ARE formed and the good part is….it’s working for you and your business 24/7 – 365! You really have come a long way, baby!

Consumer shopping has totally changed from Then! Is your marketing ready for social media Now?
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Livvie Matthews, Dental Social Media Consultant and Coach, provides “how to’s” on Internet marketing and social media networking for dental professionals who want to keep it simple and easy to understand. Free 8 day Social Media eCourse delivered immediately to your inbox http://bit.ly/dQEZof Visit http://www.SimpleSocialMedia.TV Contact Livvie: Livvie@simplesocialmedia.tv

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Your Secret Weapon…Obnoxiously Detailed Narratives

You’ve experienced it before…the dreaded letter from a patient’s insurance company: We need more information, there is not enough evidence of need, please send us a diagnostic film (after you have initially sent one!). Several things are critical when submitting dental claims on behalf of your patient:

  • Most patients are unaware that employers set the boundaries and limitations on their employee’s dental benefit plan
  • Initially writing a good “obnoxiously detailed” narrative is imperative to resolving your patient’s claim early
  • Diagnostic films are two-dimensional and don’t necessarily tell the whole story. A detailed narrative and/or attaching a photo should always accompany the claim

This article will deal with the challenges dental practices face when attempting to gain dental benefit payment on behalf of their patients. Whether you accept assignment of payment or are completely “insurance free”, it is important to supply enough information for the patient to receive benefits on their claims.

First and foremost, fill out the claim form correctly. Just because you supplied the insurance company with a diagnostic film doesn’t guarantee they will acknowledge receiving the attachment unless you mark the box on the claim form that you supplied the film. The same thing applies for the diagnostic photo. The most recent ADA claim form has a place to check notifying the insurance company that this information has been sent. When a narrative is attached to the claim form, mark directly on the form that you included a detailed narrative. Draw attention to your claim by highlighting any pertinent information. Most often, when a claim has a narrative attached, it must be referred to a live person for review therefore reducing the risk of requesting more information.

There is a wonderful tool available to dental practices now that allows the financial coordinator to send supporting information electronically. An electronic claims attachment service can allow you to send your attachments electronically. Note, not all insurance companies are accepting electronic attachments. However, there are enough insurance companies that will accept electronic attachments which can help to de-stress your environment greatly. Just remember to make full use of the tools available to you and you will have greater success!

Below is a sample narrative which can be uniquely detailed to each patient’s dental condition warranting the need for treatment.

Narrative Sample for insurance claim

Date___________________________
Patient_________________________
Insurance Co.___________________
Group #________________________
ID#___________________________

Dear Dental Consultant:

A ___________________ has been prescribed for restoration of tooth #____ because:

_____1. The _______________________________cusp(s) has/have been destroyed by caries or fracture and require restoration.
_____2. The _______________________________cusp(s) has/have been undermined by caries and/or previous restorations.
_____3. The tooth has a symptomatic crack or fracture on the ________________________________surface(s).
_____4. The tooth has had endodontic treatment.
_____5. There is recurrent decay under the present___________________.
_____6. Other: __________________________________________________________________________
_______________________________________________________________________________
_______________________________________________________________________________

Note: Prosthesis/or restoration is/is not an initial placement.
Date of prior placement ____________________________.
Extraction date ___________________________________.
A Bitewing ______ , or periapical(s) _______ x-ray(s) is /are enclosed.

Sincerely,
_______________________________________________________
Attending Dentist

One stumbling block which dental practices face is creating a narrative claim form that is too generic. The insurance industry calls this “not patient specific”. So, a word of caution…always be sure to design your narrative form in a way which allows the patient’s unique condition to be conveyed on the form.

Make sure that the treatment rendered matches what is listed on the claim form. If a dental benefit plan has an “alternate benefit” clause on the contract, there can be an opportunity to ask for an alternate benefit. For example; a fixed bridge is recommended but, the dental benefit plan has a “missing tooth clause”, which means if the tooth was missing prior to the effective date of coverage then the fixed bridge would not be a covered benefit. An alternate benefit equal to individual crowns on the abutment teeth can be requested. Please remember, it is imperative to bill for the procedure(s) that were actually performed. Therefore, bill for a fixed bridge utilizing the fixed bridge codes and in the detailed narrative, request an alternate benefit for individual crowns on the abutment teeth. A benefit for the pontic will most likely not be available if the tooth was missing prior to the effective date of coverage regardless of the available benefit for individual crown. Never promise the patient that their insurance company will cover an alternate benefit. Let your patient know that you will give it your “best attempt”. Patients want to know you cared enough to try.

Always be prepared to involve your patient in the process. They are your “squeaky wheel” and can always go to their employer to have the decision on their claim reversed and considered for benefit. Have your patient use the information available to them to make them your best weapon in resolving claims issues.

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Lois Banta is CEO, President and Founder of Banta Consulting, Inc., a company that specializes in all aspects of dental practice management. Lois has over 35 years of dental experience and consults and speaks nationally and internationally. She is also the owner of The Speaking Consulting Network. To contact Lois for a personal consultation or to invite Lois to speak to your organization; Office-816/847-2055, Address: 33010 NE Pink Hill Rd, Grain Valley, MO 64029, Email: lois@bantaconsulting.com or check out her website: www.bantaconsulting.com.

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Patients Prefer e-Reminders

NO-SHOWS – a classic issue which has plagued dental practices since the time of good ol’ G.V. Black.

No-shows are frustrating and expensive. You can get militant and charge patients if they no-show. That’s a great way to create pleasant Kumbayah relationships.

You can be proactive and call everybody on the schedule a few days in advance. This is great because it keeps the staff busy – not productive – just busy. Many if not most patients never answer the phone and when they do it is a convenient chance for them to cancel.

Technology to the rescue:

Some interesting research from Sesame Communications:

  • The typical missed appointment rate is 18% to 22%.
  • Patients prefer email appointment reminders to telephone calls by a margin of 3 to 1.
  • 77% of practices report automated appointment reminders reduce no-shows.

How much is it worth to reduce or eliminate no-shows? According to Sesame:

A typical practice loses $138,000 to no-shows each year.

Not only are automated reminders more effective than phone calls they are much less costly to the practice. The reason is that e-mails can be automated using an e-service. That means everything is done online by machines for a low monthly fee. You are not paying expensive humans to dial the phone, wait on hold and leave a voice mail.

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Dr. Larry Emmott is one of the most entertaining speakers in dentistry and he is considered the leading dental high tech authority in the country. He has over thirty years of experience as a practicing general dentist in Phoenix, AZ. He will have you laughing while you are learning. Check out his site at emmottontechnology

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