How is that three college students can create the foundations of a multi-million dollar company from their garage, with minimal overhead?
I am part of an exclusive group called “Badass Marketers and Founders” that is made up by marketers who predominately work for startups or are founders themselves. Their ability to create something from nothing, to start a business from zero, and to continuously ideate new business ideas as old ones fall victim to the market is impressive and it speaks to a systemic factor.
No doubt we can speak of grit, bravery, and the will to continue despite repeated failure, as all tech founders like to speak of when talking of their success. There’s something more fundamental to it, though.
To scale a product or service implies producing more of it while reducing its average cost of production. This typically happens when there is high overhead, or fixed costs, that can be spread out among a growing number of widgets produced. It can also be achieved if you can produce more without marginal costs that offset the increase in revenue.
How do you produce more without a proportional increase in costs? By making your existing team more productive.
The “secret” behind the start-up phenomenon is simply how relatively inexpensive new technology has made running a business. What took a team of people to accomplish now requires one person who knows how to use the software. And what took one person many labor-days of work now takes only labor-hours.
It’s no surprise the flood of online literature on “growth hacking,” then. Likewise, there has also been an expanding availability of advice on how to bootstrap a startup. And it all speaks to a growing technological ability to produce a lot, certainly a viable company with a good product or service, with minimal capital.
Imagine the labor and capital it took to launch a print campaign to market a dental practice or law firm to city residents. The print material and mailing them might cost $20,000 alone for a one-time batch. Whereas, today it’s possible to gather email addresses at scale for much less money and target an audience with a focused message through an automated system, without the risk of having your postcards thrown in the trash and for the audience to never hear of your business again.
The lessons learned in the tech and marketing sector, the cost-saving technologies used by start-ups and other tight-margin businesses that are harnessing new techniques to produce more at less cost, can all be applied to small businesses.
Let’s explore that below.
Improve Lead Quality and Improve Front Desk Efficiency
The goal of any marketing is this: acquire leads, and the more high quality leads the better.
Lead quality varies highly depending on their source, however. Leads that come through a very broad Facebook campaign tend to be very weak, those that come from Google Ads are often price shoppers, while those who find you through search or, especially, from word-of-mouth are typically the strongest.
Poor lead quality often discourages small businesses from investment in marketing on channels that, on the surface, bring leads that are harder to close. Poor leads require the expenditure of labor and capital on tasks that won’t bring the business enough revenue to justify them, like calling dozens of people a week who aren’t becoming patients or customers.
Not investing in acquiring more business from a diverse set of channel, however, also means that you are foregoing the revenue growth you could be earning if there was a system in place to help make sure your staff’s time is allocated only to where their time is most productive.
Lead quality can be gauged before your staff gets on the phone with the prospect, and leads of poor quality can over time be turned into leads of high quality by nurturing them with value-added content and offers that help measure their interest and level of commitment.
For example, several of our clients invest heavily in Facebook. Any ad on Facebook that hits a new audience will deliver leads of questionable value. It doesn’t mean that they’re useless, they just need to be nurtured. We accomplish that by emailing them value-added guides that help them come to the right decision as it relates to their goals and offering other content, such as videos and offers, that measure their evolving willingness to commit. More narrow audiences can be retargeted with ads, emails, and texts that have narrower, more tailored messages that drive revenue directly.
By building a funnel, you can make your phone staff more efficient, you can produce more, and you establish the infrastructure you need to get a consistent flow of new leads through a highly automated system that does for you what once took a whole team, or was otherwise not profitable to do.
Upsell Existing Patients and Customers More Proactively, and Increase Average Lifetime Value
In my experience as a patient, most of my dentists’ upsell attempts come when I’m in the chair, and it’s not an upsell it’s a recommendation based on expertise and experience. I’ve said no to a lot of those attempts, in part because I was ignorant of the treatment and wanted to do my own research first, or otherwise because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to afford it.
A business can anticipate and address objections early on by reaching out to current patients and customers on a consistent basis, without additional labor costs needed for each additional patient being contacted.
Through an automated email campaign, you can offer value-added content, such as guides, videos, and links to resources, that talk about your services in an educational way. Automation makes it easy to segment your customer base and allows you to deliver very narrow and focused messages that anticipate your customers’ needs. Once these systems are in place, you can stay in touch with your patients and customers without having to expend additional capital or labor for each new person you market to.
Furthermore, you can trigger automation so as to reach out to patients after they’ve talked to you in the office. Those who understand the need for the service, but have objections, can be engaged and these objections can be answered even when they are not physically in the office. You could, for instance, follow-up with information about your payment plans and financing offers if the patient’s objection was finance-related.
The end result is a higher upsell close rate and, therefore, a higher average lifetime customer value, helping to grow revenue without having to hire the staff needed to engage using more labor-intensive methods.
Support , Assist, and Get More Out of Your Search Engine Optimization Strategy
Google’s search algorithm is more complicated today than it was ten years ago, even two years ago. Google uses machine learning that helps the algorithm evolve on its own, interpreting data to tweak the weights on different SEO factors.
Google’s algorithm is getting better at understanding the searcher’s intent, the context of the content on the page, and is better able to gauge associated metrics that measure user engagement. Which metrics exactly, no one knows, but give an idea they are likely similar to bounce rate and time on page, among others.
To get ranked highly for relevant terms, your content needs to prove itself against competitors. If you don’t already rank, how does this happen? By promoting your content to your “warm market,” you can get early traffic that can help give Google the data it needs to make ranking decisions.
Beyond assisting and accelerating your SEO strategy, you should always seek to leverage your content in as many ways as possible and profitable. One of the biggest mistakes less experienced marketers make is that they use content once and for one channel, rather than allow the content to produce more value by using it across channels. They are often concerned that the content will be seen as “duplicate” or will have, at least, lost its force, but the truth is that users rarely see the same content across channels because the audience is different.
Automation plays a part because it can help you distribute content to a wider audience. Rather than just living our your website and (hopefully) ranking, your content can be used in emails, ads, and other placements, and so automation in this context helps you get more out of your marketing budget.
Furthermore, automated marketing systems can measure the content’s traction and keep track of who engaged, using these signals to automatically move the user down a personalized funnel that gradually turns them from a cold to hot lead.
For example, when I analyzed the content on tonyrobbins.com a couple of years ago, I found that certain content really resonated with the company’s social media audience, which brought in mostly new business, and other content resonated more with email audiences, which brought in mostly repeat business. With this kind of insight, we were better able to pick and choose what content is displayed to whom, making these channels more efficient by delivering the audiences what they wanted instead of what they thought they wanted.
Decrease Lost Income From Missed Appointments
Automated systems can help remind patients of upcoming appointments by texting and emailing in the days leading up to the visit. This, in fact, has become a pretty standard automation strategy for dentists and there are many out-of-the-box solutions that fit this description.
With a more flexible automation platform, like Infusionsoft, we can make these systems more comprehensive and personalized. For example, patients who have a history of missing their appointments can be delivered a different message and set of incentives than a patient who has only missed one appointment, or a patient who has never missed an appointment at all.
This degree of automated personalization can save you dozens of thousands of dollars every year, without needing to hire the staff to do it.
It also allows you to engage with patients and customers on a much more personal level, rather than the cookie-cutter approach that simple out-of-the-box solutions offer. This form of relationship building comes back to your business in the form of higher average lifetime customer values and higher retention rates.
Manage Your Brand’s Reputation
Reputation management is also another area where automation is becoming standard, with simple out-of-the-box solutions available.
These systems reach out to patients after their appointments and request feedback, typically sending the patient to one place if they are unhappy and to another if they’re happy. That way, you can funnel good reviews where you want them — Yelp, Google, Facebook, et cetera (where they are most visible) — and bad reviews to where they’re hidden.
Beyond getting the review, there are processes which can be automated that many out-of-the-box solutions don’t offer, and they would help you reduce churn without having to hire the additional labor to engage with unhappy patients and customers. For example, you can re-engage unhappy patients after their feedback, using their feedback to determine their pain point and then sending them a very personalized sequence of communications that persuade them to give you a second chance or to at least address the issue.;
Automated systems can also help to make your staff aware of these issues more quickly and can offer support, making your staff more effective at turning bad experiences around. This can include supporting materials that they can send to the patient or support that will make them more effective on the phone, which is where communication often breaks down because front desk staff aren’t always equipped with the tools, debriefings, and training they would ideally get.
Therefore, automated systems not only help increase the efficiency of engaging with the patient, they also help increase efficiency within the team. And for you, the leader, it helps provide more support to your team without requiring more of your physical attention, which is undoubtedly better spent seeing patients.
The Possibilities are Literally Endless
I’ve used automation is a variety of contexts, including in my role here at Now Media Group, for our clients, and in past positions. Automation platforms like Infusionsoft offer remarkable flexibility and makes possible automation campaigns that are unique to your practice and how it does things.
Out-of-the-box solutions for Infusionsoft are available, as well. Partners like Now Media Group, who have extensive experience in different small business niches, and especially in dentistry, offer ready-built campaigns that can be launched very quickly and customized, and further built-out, over time. This offers you immediate capabilities and also the ability to make your company and your team more efficient, better supported, and more productive.
Automation makes all of this possible without increasing your production costs at the margin.
Director of Marketing at Now Media Group, with a background in quantitative economics and analytics. Formerly at [Tony] Robbins Research International.