Tales of a successful startup: Nautical Dental
Every practice has its challenges, but fee-for-service practices have challenges to spare.
At Nautical Dental in San Antonio, Cheryl Cornelius is the one solving those problems. As the head of Marketing and Growth Development, she’s in charge of making sure there’s a steady influx of new patients, and she has a few tips to share about Nautical’s success.
(Nautical Dental and Braces staff at their grand opening)
“As a fee-for-service practice, we’re not in-network with any insurance,” She told us. “In some ways that’s good, in some ways it’s bad. We have to work a lot harder to get our patients, because they aren’t coming from insurance sources. We really need to stand out in order for patients to choose us over an in-network practice.”
How does she approach these challenges?
First, with great doctors. That’s a given. But there’s another secret ingredient - a passion for customer service that focuses on removing roadblocks that would prevent new patients from booking.
Cheryl knows that most people don’t really enjoy going to the dentist. “In my own observations,” she told us, “I’d say 8 out of 10 people have some kind of anxiety about a dental visit. Even calling a dental office can trigger some of that anxiety, so lots of our process revolves around removing those anxiety roadblocks. LocalMed, in particular, is perfect for that.”
“For example, this Saturday I was at a school, and I met a woman who told me a horrible story about her dental experiences. I tried to tell her - ‘just call us, we’ll take care of you!’ But even then, she still wasn’t sure. So I said, ‘you know what? You don’t even have to make a phone call. Let me show you how you can do this online.’”
Cheryl pulled out her phone, went to Nautical’s website, and showed her how to schedule an appointment via LocalMed. The patient booked later that week.
Organic ground marketing like that is a large part of Nautical Dental’s strategy, but the biggest player is PPC (pay-per-click advertising). “We’re in a very competitive area,” Cheryl told us. “So we have an aggressive marketing plan in place to be in front of the potential patient when they need a dentist.”
After doing this for over a year, Cheryl told us she knows the normal level of appointments that should be scheduled in a given month.
So when something looked off a few weeks ago, she had a problem to solve. They weren’t getting as many appointments as they should have been getting, and at first, Cheryl thought that perhaps something was wrong with their website.
It turns out that there had been a mistake with Nautical’s PPC. Their zip code was wrong, and their ads were appearing to people living over an hour away. After that got fixed, everything was back to normal.
“LocalMed gives me a pulse on my marketing. When it drops off and I realize it’s been a while since I’ve seen a LocalMed appointment, instead of calling you guys up and being like ‘You don’t work, nobody’s scheduling, what’s going on?’ I actually call my SEO guy and my pay-per-click campaigns and ask them what’s up. It’s a win-win for everyone!”
Despite her success, Cheryl was initially hesitant to sign up for LocalMed.
Nautical uses a very unique scheduling system that organizes time by individual providers, not blocks. Basically, each block has blocks within it that correspond to all their hygienists and doctors. That’s not a very common way of doing things. “I was concerned that it wouldn’t work,” she told us, “but after working with LocalMed to create a system that’s a better fit for our office, it works great!”
Cheryl’s #1 tip for using LocalMed might seem strange: change your voicemail message.
Why? Because some of their appointments come through after-hours. And that’s saying something, since Nautical Dental is open 12 hours a day, Monday through Saturday. Changing their voicemail message drastically changed the number of new patients they were able to secure.
“On Sunday, and when we’re closed, we don’t use emergency lines or give out personal cell numbers. Many times, what a patient calls for isn’t really an emergency anyway. Instead, we changed our voicemail message to say that you can schedule an appointment online. Just go to this address, and you’ll get your appointment. Then we show up first thing in the morning with emergency patients. Otherwise, those patients would be trying to get ahold of another office.”
What’s next on the marketing plan for Nautical?
Cheryl plans to work on their social media presence, and will be implementing LocalMed on their profiles to schedule new patient appointments from that channel as well! No matter what channels they choose, LocalMed will be there to schedule appointments 24/7.
LocalMed lets patients schedule appointments straight into your practice management system, just like your front desk would. You set your scheduling rules, and they’ll start booking appointments around the clock - even at 3am on a Sunday.
Learn more about how LocalMed can help your dental practice fill its schedule, 24/7.
Topic: LocalMed Success