Each year, one of your most important business tasks as a dentist is to adjust your fees. Whether to accommodate regular inflation rates or higher ones of late, raising fees is essential to keeping your practice profitable. When you have a dental membership plan, it too must go through this annual evolution! Should you increase membership plan fees? We think the answer is pretty much always yes, but let’s talk about why…
Costs Are Up
We published a blog post discussing all the ways your operating costs as a dentist have gone up and different tactics to combat those increases. You should read it, if for no other reason than to feel validated in how difficult recent months have been!
Here’s a summary of the key points:
- Supply costs are higher than ever.
- Shipping delays for supplies cause procedure delays that cost you money.
- Finding and retaining hygienists is increasingly difficult, and larger salary incentives result.
- Making patients feel comfortable in a post-pandemic environment demands extra cleaning and sterilization services, plus PPE.
For all of those reasons, as well as the normal adjustment for inflation, you should definitely consider raising your dental membership plan fees this year.
But you might be thinking, “Won’t I lose patients?”
Maybe, but that doesn’t always equate to less profit.
Fewer Subscribers Doesn’t Have to Equal Decreased Revenue
DentalHQ founder, Dr. Brett Wells, explains it best: “You can increase your fees by 30%, and even if you lost 15% of your patient base, you could still end up with a net positive because of the additional profitability of the ones who stay.”
The secret is to do the math in advance! But also remember, there are tactics you can employ to avoid as much subscriber loss as possible.
One proven approach is to be upfront and honest about the price increases. In a piece titled If You’re Going to Raise Prices, Tell Customers Why, Harvard Business Review’s Utpal M. Dholakia advises us to avoid euphemistic language like “updating price” or “adjusting price” in favor of simply saying, “We’re increasing the price of your plan, and here’s why.” A memorable takeaway from the article? “Decades worth of consumer psychology research has consistently found that attempts to obfuscate bad news rarely pay off for brands.”
One great marketing move here is to add something to the plan alongside the increase.
Of course, you’ll want to ensure that the product or service you add isn’t one that costs you a great deal of money. You don’t want to merely break even after you increase your membership plan fees.
Here’s an example: Let’s say you have a whitening procedure that costs you very little overhead. Maybe you increase your monthly membership fee by twice what the whitening would normally cost the patient, and then add it into the package. Now, your marketing team can say, “We’ve increased the fee for your monthly membership plan to adjust for inflation, but we’ve also added in a brand-new feature! You can be on the books for one whitening procedure each year as a part of your membership.”
You could also organize the announcements into a multifaceted campaign. Send an email to members announcing that their plan now includes a whitening treatment, and then send the increased price notification two weeks later, or vice versa.
The important thing here is to understand your audience. What approach do you think most of your patients would appreciate? And don’t forget, not every practice would make a good candidate for the added-feature approach to begin with. Is your area populated with mostly elderly patients? They might not care so much about the whitening, so the appeal won’t be the same.
For Many, Price Upticks Are a Way of Life
Remember that you are not the only business telling your patients they’ll be paying more in the future. Owing to inflation, and especially the cost implications of the pandemic in past years, this is something consumers anticipate. While some will undoubtedly still be a little peeved about it (and yes, a few will leave your membership program), most will be unsurprised and unphased. (Do you care beyond a passing thought when Netflix increases your monthly fee? For most of us, the answer is “Eh, nope.”)
DentalHQ’s Director of Client Experience, Nick Lyons, offers a reassuring take: “I think the general population expects this, especially if it is a fairly nominal increase like a few dollars more a month or a $20-$30 annual addition. Also, most of our offices are discussing increases with us right now. New usual customary rates were published this year, so it opens the door for price increases. What does that mean? Well, it’ll be happening across the board!”
You read that right! Implement a price increase in 2022, and your local competition will probably be doing the same.
But also note, if those example increase amounts sounded low to you, Lyons has seen DentalHQ partner practices up their membership pricing by as much as $80 a year, or $6 a month, successfully.
You Want to Ensure Graduality
Here is perhaps the most compelling reason the answer to “Should you increase your membership plan fees?” is yes. If you don’t do it now, and annually moving forward, you’ll be in a tough spot later.
No matter how happy you were with where you set your fees at the beginning (and let’s face it, most of us aren’t anyway), increases will eventually be necessary. We live in a world where inflation is, as we quipped before, a part of life. That means that if you don’t gradually increase your fees over time, you’ll find yourself slamming patients with a 70% membership fee increase in one go. Now that, we would be willing to bet, will make enough patients leave to mess with your bottom line.
So, let’s recap …
Should you increase your membership plan fees? Probably, yes. Because:
- Costs are up, so increase your pricing to keep revenue in line.
- You will likely still see an overall uptick in cash flow even if you lose some subscribers as a result of increased fees.
- Most of your patients will be expecting the increase.
- If you don’t do it now, it will seem more dramatic later!
For those of you who felt your heart rate spiking at any and all points throughout this blog post, we’d like to make a suggestion: Get in touch with our team here at DentalHQ. We make the process of running your membership plan more seamless from behind the scenes. Our team also has financial experts at the ready to consult you—and even do a little hand holding ;)—when these sorts of decisions come into play.
Email us at email@example.com or click the button on our home page to schedule a complimentary demo.