Riding the Dental New Wave

How Gary Bird and SMC National are delivering a jolt of fresh energy to new patient marketing.

Gary Bird loves to innovate.

The founder and CEO of dental marketing powerhouse SMC National, Gary leads a company that has doubled in size – twice – since the beginning of 2020, earning a place on the latest INC. 5000 list of fastest-growing companies and a long roster of happy clients. While Gary would be the first to attribute that success to the efforts of his team, a key element has been his willingness to try new things in an industry that even insiders will admit is sometimes behind the curve.

Take, for example, the company’s subscription pricing model, under which clients pay SMC a single monthly subscription fee to bring new patients through their doors. More commonly associated with companies like Netflix, subscription pricing means an end to contracts – and can be adjusted to provide different tiers of service depending on each client’s needs.

“If we build a service and a culture capable of producing great results, clients will want to stick around – no contracts necessary,” Gary says. 

At SMC, those results flow from the rigorous use of data to drive new patient generation. While every marketing company incorporates data into their work, many are notorious for flooding their clients with reports detailing junk stats like page views, impressions, and click-through rates that have little impact on a client’s actual returns. However, the SMC team is zeroed-in on separating the signal from the noise – capturing and using only the numbers that lead directly to new patients.

As Gary puts it, “We are not an SEO company or a pay-per-click company. We are a new patient generation company.”

To make it easier for practice owners to understand exactly where their money is going and what their outcomes look like, the company has created its own app, which updates key metrics in real-time. Gary describes the app as a marketing dashboard where a client (and SMC) can identify, for example, how many calls placed to that client’s front desk resulted in a new patient appointment. If the conversion rate falls below, say, 85 percent, SMC can step in to train that client’s phone team on how to do better at turning calls into visits.

Likewise, practice owners can track their ROI – monitoring their monthly marketing budget against accurate new patient data – while SMC uses the app to regularly tweak each client’s marketing campaigns and optimize performance based on current trends. 

“We’re hyper-focused on the relationship between marketing and business operations,” Gary notes. “We use data to alert us when marketing isn’t working or if the operations side isn’t converting the marketing opportunities they receive. Then, we know exactly how to make improvements.”

Gary sees a strong culture as equally essential as numbers, and sustaining that culture as a big piece of his job. The all-remote company thrives while operating across four time zones, hosts a Slack channel that often alternates between endearing shows of mutual appreciation and zany humor, and gives full-timers two Fridays off every month. Within the dental industry, SMC team members have a reputation for being both friendly and dedicated – which those inside the company say is also the case behind closed doors. 

“We really go the extra mile to take care of our team, so they do the same for our clients,” Gary says. “We believe that’s a winning recipe for all parties involved.”