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Ken Newhouse
Ken Newhouse

Creating A (REAL) Viral Growth Machine for Your Practice

Creating A (REAL) Viral Growth Machine for Your Practice

3/9/2015 9:47:21 AM   |   Comments: 0   |   Views: 238

The Step-by-Step Formula for Creating A (REAL) Viral Growth Model for Your Practice

This post is my first in a series that I've put together in order to show you the step-by-step process for creating a viral growth model for your practice. QUICK NOTE:  The following information applies to both Dental practices and to dental companies who are selling either services and/or tangible products.  The models I'm presenting would be slightly altered if your product was 100% digitally-based. I have intentionally started with the simplest possible model because this subject, albeit a very important and potentially profitable one to be familiar with, is unfamiliar to a majority of Dentists, dental marketing experts and practice management companies.

After I have walked you through how to construct (and use) this first (simple) model we will work our way up to a model that simultaneously accounts for non-viral channels, how you retain users over time, and even how a user's virality changes over time. A model like this can arm you with realistic expectations, and can give you a predictive tool that you can keep up to date with real data. NOTE:  This material is covered in great detail in the Dental Marketing University Modules on Growth Hacking and Gamification.

According to Andrew Chen "Viral marketing is not a marketing strategy. Many times, viral marketing is seen as a "marketing strategy" that is interchangeable with other methods of acquiring new users/customers (in our case "patients"). That is, you go through three steps:

  • Through the process of practice development you create a plan on how to make attract and convert new patients... then retain them... then generate referrals from them

  • Declare viral marketing is one of N approaches (along with SEO, SEM, PR, Referral marketing, etc.)

  • Or perhaps you have gotten interested in using a Facebook widget or something like that to make it "viral."

If your idea of viral marketing is that it's a hot new marketing strategy, you’re already set up for FAILURE. Dental practices that have achieved virility don’t have viral marketing bolted on once the practice management program has been developed and incorporated.

Instead, it’s designed into every aspect, function and fundamental architecture of the experience patients have in your practice. Viral marketing is not a feature of your dental marketing program. Similarly, no single feature of your practice (i.e., "same-day-crowns") determines the viral success of a practice.

Instead, it’s part of a viral growth model (i.e., "viral loop") that connects a disparate set of functions into a cohesive motivation for your patients to tell their friends. If the fundamental experience patients have in your practice doesn't drive a viral motivation from them, then it’s very hard to force it. Viral growth in your practice can only be accomplished through a fundamental understanding of product design and predictive analytics.

Creating A Viral Growth Model for Your Practice:  What Does a Dental Practice That Has Achieved A Level of Virility Look Like?

Dental practices acquire new patients via a variety of channels, such as press, advertising, online efforts and joint venture relationships. Perhaps the most intriguing channel of new patients comes from your existing patients. A dental practice that has achieved a level of virility derives much of its growth from its existing patients recruiting new patients (i.e., "referral"). A patient could recruit another through a simple invitation ("You should check out my Dentist... He's cool/affordable/didn't hurt me once/etc.")

Is there a way to predict how viral your practice will become? How long will it take to acquire 500 new patients? Will we get to 5,000 active patients in our practice before we max out? To answer questions like these, we need to build/create a viral growth model for your practice.

Where to Begin Creating A Viral Growth Model for Your Practice? With the Simplest Possible Model

To keep this easy and interesting, let's say we start with 1,000 existing patients in your practice. How many new patients (referrals) will these existing patients recruit into your practice? Well, some patients will love your practice, whereas others will dislike some aspect of it. Some patients will refer many people, whereas others will not refer anybody at all. Some patients may refer people after their initial visit with you, whereas others may not refer until their first hygiene visit.

Let's sweep all these uncertainties away, and say that, on average, 1 in 5 of your patients will successfully refer a quality new patient into your practice within one month of becoming a patient of yours. In other words, our viral factor is 1/5 = 0.2, and our initial 1,000 patients will recruit another 1,000 * 0.2 = 200 new patients after their first month. These 200 users will then recruit another 200 * 0.2 = 40 users in month 2, who will then recruit another 40 * 0.2 = 8 users in month 3, and so on. What does your new patient growth look like? (Follow along on the sheet labelled "1. Simple".)

Using the base number of 1,000 existing patients in your practice and the referral rate of 1 referral from 1 out of every 5 patients (during the first month of their care) you will (in this example) acquire users at a decreasing rate until we have 1,250 active patients in your practice. Stay with me because if you really want to create sustainable growth in your practice the process we're working through now is going to help you achieve it. This will NO DOUBT get your Growth/Production/PROFIT Juices Flowing!

What happens if our viral factor is instead 0.4? With a viral factor of .4 it means that 2 out of every 5 patients you have (and will obtain in the future) will refer one additional new patient within 30 days of starting treatment with you.

Again, we acquire new patient referrals at a decreasing rate. But this time, our growth tails off at around 1,666 active patients in your practice.

Now what happens if our viral factor is instead 1.2?


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