Whenever I talk to dentists or orthodontists about CRM systems, I tend to get a similar response:
“What’s a CRM?”
“What does that stand for?”
“I have an Excel spreadsheet – is that what you mean?”
I can understand this attitude – most practice owners are already shelling out for practice management software, and it’s hard to get excited about the prospect of paying for another computer program if you can’t immediately see the value of it.
It’s a shame though, because a good CRM system can have a transformative effect on your business. For example, in the three years since we first implemented a CRM at East Midlands Orthodontics our annual turnover has quintupled from £60,000 to £300,000.
No, that isn’t a typo. All those zeros are exactly where they should be.
In this piece, I’m going to walk you through the basics of what a good CRM can do for your practice, and give you a flavour of how we were able to use ours to power such explosive growth.
So, what is a CRM?
For those who don’t know, CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management. You can think of it as an extension of – and complementary to – your existing practice management software.
Your practice management software lists all of your current patients with the details and dates of their treatment, along with all the other information you need to make sure they have the best possible clinical experience.
A CRM, on the other hand, is where you store information about people who have made contact with your practice, including valuable data from both before and after they’ve decided to become your patient. Along with a host of other useful details, it tells you:
- Who has been in touch with your practice
- Their personal details
- How they first contacted you
- What kind of treatment they are interested in
- Where they currently sit in your sales funnel
- Patient treatment history
- What products they have used/purchased from you
…and so much more. The point of a CRM is to give you, as practice owner, complete visibility over your sales and marketing process. At a glance, it lets you see how many people are making inquiries with your practice, what your staff are doing to nurture these leads, and how many are converting into paying patients.
Some practice owners will use a simple spreadsheet to track this information. This is a cheap option, but it requires a lot of manual upkeep. Spreadsheets also lack the extra functionality you get from a dedicated CRM. A top-of-the-line CRM like Keap comes with a whole ton of useful features, but for now I’ll tell you about some of the most important.
Transparency and ease of use
You don’t need to be a spreadsheet wizard to use a CRM. They’re designed to be accessible both to management and to frontline staff, which means they’re quicker to use, require less training and minimise the potential for human error. In most cases, it’s possible to pull lead data directly from your web forms or digital ads, so your staff won’t have to spend hours manually updating the database.
A CRM also allows you to monitor the actions that your staff are taking with regard to each lead. Have they sent that follow-up email? How many voicemails have they left? It also provides your staff with to-do-lists and reminders to help them stay on top of their workflows. The management team can check all of this at a glance, so you can be sure that no promising leads are left hanging.
A good CRM system allows you to craft and queue up automated responses to customer enquiries. This can be anything from a simple greeting sent when a person first contacts your practice to sophisticated email nurturing sequences that drip-feed useful information and build up the prospect’s engagement with your business.
For example, let’s imagine that someone finds your email address from your website, and sends a message asking about treatment options.
If you’ve no CRM system, then you’re relying on your staff to pick out that email from the hundreds that flood into the reception every week. Depending on how busy they are, it could be days before they get around to responding. According to my own market research, the response time for many practices can be between seven and fourteen – yes, fourteen – days!
This is obviously a massive problem – two weeks is a long time for a person to get cold feet, or to start shopping around for other practices. A simple automated message acknowledging their enquiry and promising to get back to them in good time goes a long way to helping your prospective patients feel valued and reassured.
Once you’ve got your leads into your CRM, you can sort them into groups based on different factors – age group, treatment type, NHS or private, and so on. This allows you to see which groups you should be targeting for marketing or outreach.
For example, if you can see that your practice is attracting a lot of teenagers looking for orthodontic treatment, then you can start offering this group tailored communications, or organise an open day for younger patients. Likewise, if it turns out that you’re getting more inquiries for Invisalign than for fixed braces, you’ll know that using Invisalign in your marketing will probably generate better returns.
The most popular CRM tool currently on the market is DenGro. This is the first system we used at East Midlands Orthodontics, and if you’re a small practice at the beginning of your growth journey I’d wholeheartedly recommend it. It’s easy to use and install and, for a relatively low upfront cost, allows you to see the inquiries coming to your sales pipeline and track what your staff are doing to engage them.
Another option, if you’re an established small or medium-sized practice looking to scale, would be Keap. Keap has a great range of customisability and functionality that allows you to tailor the CRM to the needs of your specific practice – which is what you really need if you want to achieve exponential growth.
Because Keap is customised to your business, it can take a bit more work to set it up. To smooth this process, it can help to bring in specialist help.
The power of a great CRM system
When we first implemented CRMS at our practice, we doubled our annual turnover from £60,000 to £120,000. Then, in the space of eighteen months, we suddenly boosted our turnover from £120,000 to £300,000.
To be clear, most of this growth has come from getting more out of our existing leads, rather than increasing the number of leads overall. It isn’t that more people have started getting in touch with our practice, it’s that we’re doing a much better job of nurturing and converting leads into patients – and our CRM is a huge part of what’s made this possible.
In the coming weeks, I’m going to delve into the details of how we were able to achieve this incredible growth, so please subscribe to our mailing list for more practical tips that you can start implementing in your practice.