A: “My goal is for my practice to get more new patients.” 

B: “My goal is for my practice to secure 50 new patients by June 30th next year.” 

Which of the above goals is more likely to be achieved?

If you chose B, you’d be right. It shows serious intent about achieving a goal by placing numbers and dates on it. If you chose A – well, hopefully by the end of this post you will have changed your mind.

So, what are the goals for your practice in the next 30, 90, 365 days? And how can you go about setting goals that are more likely to be achieved?

With the turn of the year, it’s a good idea to take stock of where your practice is now, recalibrate, and set new goals for where you’d like to be.


In this post, I’d like to share three important tips that will help you take your dental practice to new heights in the coming months – tips that will help turn your general “wishes” into actionable GOALS!


The difference between wishes and goals

Non-specific goals that are not written down and cannot be broken down into definite actions are essentially wishes.

Wishes are fine – for children. They can be wild and wacky, unbound by logic. But they should occupy no space in the minds of dental practice owners. It’s no use saying: 

“I wish my practice could achieve $750,000 in annual revenue.” 

“I wish my practice had more competent office staff.” 

“I wish my practice was more well known in the community.”

If you haven’t set proper goals, you are pinning your hopes on wishes. You can’t plan your business around them. You can’t commit to them.

When asked what their goals are, almost everyone will say “I want to be happy, healthy, and prosperous.” This is fine and sounds good on a New Year’s greeting card – but they are general wishes rather than actual goals.

Similarly, almost all dental practices want to either increase revenue or reduce costs; or both. These are not goals either. They are just business realities.

Well-considered goals should be the basis of every practice’s strategic plan. They create the foundation of your work activities over the coming days, weeks, and months. They are what spur the necessary actions. They should shape your daily activities and provide the direction for where your practice is heading.

You commit to making them happen and this commitment needs to be taken seriously.

Shape your goals correctly and all this is possible. By committing to doing the three things outlined below, you will start creating actionable, achievable goals that help your practice to thrive… 

1. Create S.M.A.R.T. goals

There is a lot of information out there on goal setting. You can go and try to read it all OR you can cut to the chase!

Make SMART goals: that’s not just a convenient or clever name. It’s a simple acronym to remember and apply every time you create a goal.

It means the following:

  • SPECIFIC – your goal should be no longer than 15 words and be aimed at something very specific;
  • MEASURABLE – you must know when you’ve achieved your goal: that means you need to make it measurable by including numbers;
  • ACHIEVABLE – make sure that the goal can be achieved in the timeframe you set (see the final point);
  • REALISTIC – make sure you have the right tools and resources to complete the goal;
  • TIMED – include actual dates rather than a timespan. With a date, you are more likely to commit and work towards that specific day and take the action necessary.

Simply by focusing on the above with every goal you set, they will be easier to commit to and to achieve.

But there are two other guidelines you should follow to really create perfect goals…


2. Write each goal down

If you did a snap survey of the population and asked them what their written goals were, most would stare back blankly at you. Around one percent might be able to show you a set of written goals.

With dental practice owners, they might pull out a business plan…but unless that includes a set of goals that are clearly defined, specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timed, they are also falling short.

Those practice owners who write down their goals have over an 80 percent higher success rate of achieving them than those who don’t.

In a much-referenced Harvard Business School study of MBA students in 1979, it was found that three percent of the class had both written goals and a plan. When they were resurveyed 10 years later, this three percent was making ten times more than the remaining 97 percent of the class!

The bottom line is that to be truly effective, goals must be written. Only then will you commit to the necessary actions. 


3. Focus on the activity – not the goal

If you’re a football placekicker lining up for a field goal, is it best to focus on the scoreboard or the goalposts?

Ultimately, the goal is to win the game by getting the highest amount of points on the scoreboard. HOWEVER, if you focus on that (the end goal) you’ll miss the kick…and be less likely to achieve the end goal!

To achieve a goal, you need to focus your sights on the specific actions necessary to complete it.

Now apply this to your own practice: break each goal down until all that is left is the action required.

For instance, say it’s the end of December now. If your main goal is to secure 20 new patients by the end of Q1, what does that mean in terms of activity?

When you consider the end goal, that may seem tough; a real challenge.

Let’s look at an example of how you might use marketing to bring in new patients – breaking it up into the specific actions needed to produce the results you’re after

Using Google Ads to Offer a New Patient Special to local residents searching for a dentist…

let’s start breaking it down:
  • How many “New Patient Special” appointments must be conducted to generate 20 return patients: 25
  • How many call-ins does it require to book 25 new patient special appointments: 30
  • How many visits to my website (during Q1) are needed to generate 30 call-ins: 450
  • How many visits to my website are needed each month: 150 (450 website visits / 3 months)
  • How much ad spend should I devote to secure 150 website visitors per month? $1,000


The goal that once seemed so far off (20 new patients during Q1) now seems far more achievable because you know the specific action and budget required to accomplish it.  Of course this is just an example, and the cost for online ads vary greatly by location, but hopefully you get the idea 😊

So remember – without following the three guidelines above, your so-called ‘goals’ may be no more than wishes.

By setting real goals you have positive, purposeful, reachable signposts for the future of your practice; rather than simply being reactive, you are in control of your own direction and destiny.

This is important stuff! Follow the steps outlined and you can make a big difference to your practice in a relatively short span of time – if you are prepared to commit to the actions.

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