From the prospective of a new patient, there are three stages in the customer journey:
- what happened before I made my first contact with the practice
- we call that “marketing”
- what happened between first contact and my first decision to buy
- we call that ‘pipeline management’
- what happened after I decided to buy
- we call that CRM – customer relationship management
I would suggest that 15 years ago, there was very little marketing, no pipeline management and some CRM in dentistry.
Then the business of dentistry happened and now we have…
- elaborate marketing and CRM systems in many practices
- yet still very little in the way of pipeline management
I regularly discuss this with clients and contacts and ask them to spell out clearly EXACTLY what happens between the creation of a treatment plan and the completion of the case. It can sometimes be flaky – and this is very dangerous.
Firstly, God forbid that you are sending substantial treatment plans out in the post. The patient must be brought back into the practice for a treatment plan presentation – with the proviso that if there are any other ‘financial decision makers’ they must be at the presentation.
Secondly, you need very tight control systems so that every single outstanding potential new business case can be carefully tracked, monitored and, if necessary, nudged along the decision-making process.
Such ‘pipeline management’ has been embedded in sales for decades and yet is still largely absent from many dental practices.
Software can help – but many systems are very complicated to work – and a simple spreadsheet will often suffice.
I’m grateful to my ship-mate and friend, Simon Reilly, who pointed me to www.lessannoyingcrm.com over the weekend – a neat, cheap and simple package that would work very well for a small dental practice.
Pipeline management is essential if you want to land the fish after you have hooked it – the bigger the fish, the easier it is to slip off the hook if you don’t pay attention.
p.s. if you have a GDP referral practice – same principles apply.