Twenty five years ago, I had the good fortune to marry a young dental school student while I was starting my own career in marketing. As an experienced strategic planner and writer who grew up in the agency world, I handled his dental marketing and his start-up practice quickly grew into a profitable business. I did not, however, intend to do it for thousands of other dentists . . . until that opportunity was thrust upon me.
Back in April of 2001 while trying out life as a stay at home mom (a terrible idea for all involved!), a consultant for my husband’s practice liked my work and casually mentioned my name on a dental CE forum. That very night, I had dentists calling for marketing help and I made a decision on the spot. Within 24 hours, I was at Staples buying a laptop, phone and office supplies to set up Golden Proportions Marketing.
Through a combination of serendipity and hard work, I hired 4 full time employees within my first year and have grown steadily since. As someone who always looks at life through a lens of logic and strategy, it was important to me that we take a big-picture view of dental marketing for our clients. At the time, there were (and still are!) numerous companies who espouse a silver-bullet solution, telling dentists that the answer to their new patient problems lies in a direct mail campaign, or a website, or some other one-off product they sell. I knew that dental practices were like any other business, and needed a plan that addressed every part of the marketing experience. I wanted our dental marketing to help doctors with branding and internal marketing, lead generation through traditional and web marketing, and clear measurement of the results. That 360 degree approach is what drove our success.
I’ll be the first to admit that our rapid growth came with some inevitable bumps and bruises. Like many dentists who open or purchase a practice, I suddenly owned a successful business but had very little training on the basic elements of business ownership. Things like accounting principles, government regulations, team development and leadership were learned the hard way.
Statistically, 50% of businesses never make it past the 5 year mark. In my 5th year, my amazing team nominated me for the “Top 50 Pennsylvania Women in Business” competition and somehow, I was honored with that award by Governor Ed Rendell. And yet underneath it all, I longed to be one of the 50% who just threw in the towel. Running a small business is HARD, especially when you’re feeling your way through all the daily muck. It took connecting with my first business coach to learn that most successful business owners rely on a team of talented advisors, and a coach was the smartest investment I’ve ever made in myself.
Through the two coaches I’ve worked with in the past decade, I’ve learned that the success of a business comes not from knowing how to do a job (dentist, marketer, etc) but instead from knowing how to build a team, create a healthy culture, develop a strategic plan for growth and smart management of all those assets. The most talented marketers and dentists in the world are destined to fail if they continually struggle as a leader.
When the recession hit in 2008, we saw that marketing was the first thing most dentists would cut to save money. To make dental marketing more affordable, we developed a low cost product called GPM Express that gave dentists access to fast, professional marketing at an affordable price. That helped us survive the recession, and the slower pace gave us time to build the high-service model that we offer today. The pressure of the recession made us a stronger agency in the end.
With the right coach at my side, I was able to build one of the oldest and largest full service dental marketing companies in the US. We are strategic planners, we custom develop the marketing programs, and we track every single campaign to ensure we are providing the best possible results. Our clients love that they no longer have to call one company for a website, another for social media assistance, and yet another for direct mail or design work. At Golden Proportions Marketing, each client has one dedicated account and creative team that knows everything about the practice. Our account executives actually coach our clients on how to maximize their marketing, relaying the principles we learn from our own coach. It means we can have a larger impact on their marketing success so doctors can focus on taking care of patients.
After 18 years of working in the same industry, I can say that being married to a dentist has its advantages and disadvantages. My team undergoes training in his office to learn the terminology, technology and science of the dentistry that they will market. They learn about the patient experience and the importance of word of mouth marketing. Because he’s my spouse and also my target market, I’ll often guinea pig a new idea in his office first. Those are huge advantages for GPM (though I do catch a little flack at home if the strategy needs some adjustment :). The downside? Dentistry dominates our lives. We’ve learned to leave work at the office. While starting my company was unintentional, I can’t imagine doing anything else. Nearly 18 years later, we’ve worked with over 1500 practices of all sizes, literally all around the world. I work with 22 exceptional marketing professionals who help our doctors to grow their practices and reach more patients seeking health and confidence. One simple post on a forum has turned into a lifelong passion for dentistry, marketing and leadership.
Also check out: Social Media in Dentistry: Raw or Perfect, Just DeW You