Our guest this week Dr. Christopher Vo, sits down with Shaun Keating and shares his journey from practice owner to associate and what made him re-structure his long term goal as a Dentist early on in his career. Dr. Vo talks about his love for Visual Arts, Branding, his role as a Dental Marketing Consultant and his passion for story telling. He touches on a few key marketing strategies and his thoughts on the use of Social Media in today’s Dental Industry. You will hear all this and much more on this week’s episode of The Dental Up Podcast.
On this Episode you will hear about:
- Understanding your “Why” in your career/life.
- What is your marketing plan and what works best for you?
- Is social media right for you and your practice?
- The use of AI and the pending impact on the Dental Industry
- Why being a fee for service, patient centered practice works for him.
For more information on Dr.Vo and his practice check out the links down below:
Practice website: http://www.brantleydds.com
View Full Transcript
Host: Ladies and Gentleman. This is the Dental Up podcast brought to you by Keating Dental Lab, a full service award-winning dental laboratory. Each week you’ll learn tips and techniques from real world dentists bringing you in depth interviews, motivating stories, current events and sports. Here’s your host, Shaun Keating. Shaun keating: Hey everyone. Shaun here. Welcome to another episode of the dental up podcast. Our guest this we graduated from UNC School of Dentistry where he earned his doctorate of dental surgery degree. Combining his interest in dentistry and the visual arts, our guest works closely with other practice owners by helping them discover and establish their brand while teaching them how to authentically market themselves online. Currently practicing from Wendell North Carolina. Please welcome Dr. Christopher Vo, DDS. How’s it going, Dr. Vo? Christopher Vo: Doing well, Shaun. Thank you for having me on the show today. Shaun keating: Thank you so much for taking the time, man. I know how busy you are and I’m very appreciative of you coming on the Dental Up podcast. I’ve been off a few weeks with a couple of our other guys taken over, Brandon and Bob here taking the helm, I guess, for a few of them. And actually, you’re going to be my last one. I’m actually going for back surgery here tomorrow morning and I’m not looking forward to… Actually, I am looking forward to it. It’s been a long time, about a year and a half of just constant nagging back pain, as many people have. But I’m finally going to get it done and yes, I’m ready to get it done and sit in that bed for three or four weeks. I think it’s going to take about a month, almost, of recovery time. But man, I’m glad to get it done. So Dr. Vo, you’re my last guy. I’ll have other guys taking care of the next few weeks going forward. But thanks again for coming on board. Shaun keating: I always like to start off a little bit talking about sports. Now, man, your Panthers out there, you guys are… At the beginning of the season it didn’t look too good. Now you’re coming around, man. Had a big win last week and everything else. What do you think? You’re in Raleigh, right? Or you’re- Christopher Vo: I’m in Raleigh, yeah, but I split a lot of my time in Charlotte. My girlfriend lives in Charlotte and she lives about two blocks from the Panther stadium. Shaun keating: You’re kidding. Christopher Vo: Yeah, no. I’m super stoked. Cam Newton is our quarterback, he didn’t play so well the first two games. I think he’s just been playing hurt for probably the last season or so. And then Kyle Allen stepped up to the plate and I think he’s broken some records, basically starting second string quarterback, probably that he’s got the most consecutive wins as the second quarterback though. We’re doing well and I’m hoping that Cam is getting time to rest up and he comes back strong. Shaun keating: Yeah, he’s an awesome athlete for sure. And he’s been banged up quite a bit here and there, but when he’s healthy man, he’s unstoppable. And you guys are 4-2 and it’s pretty amazing. Your coaching staffs phenomenal, and I love that Christian McCaffrey running back. He is like a stud of all studs and he’s the best running back been around in a while and I just love watching him, man. He’s just a great, great running back. And I think you guys got a lot of great players. You never know man, you could go to the big dance, he keep going. I mean our Rams won the first three and probably was three in a row. Christopher Vo: Exactly right. You’re exactly right. We got some exciting football in Charlotte, for sure. Shaun keating: That’s so cool. Yeah, my brother lives out there in Greensboro. My son’s out there and my nephew, my brother’s son, he’s a dentist also. He flies in a little plane now, he’s got his own plane and flew into Greensboro and then they flew over to the stadium, and all three of them and watched a few of the games recently and they love it. But yeah, my hats off to my nephew Casey Keating, man, he’s a young kid, 32, and flying a plane, and my brother trusts him to get in there, and my son. That’s awesome, man. I said, time to get you a little jet, or something, down the line. You never know, maybe. Christopher Vo: Yeah, we’ll put that on the plan for next year. Shaun keating: Exactly. It’ll take a while for that, I’m sure. Well, okay, let’s go ahead and dental up, Dr. Vo. So tell me, why did you get into dentistry and at what point did you think I want to be a dentist? Christopher Vo: I knew I wanted to be in a science career and I explored a bunch of different options throughout undergrad, and actually high school as well. Probably the first option that I looked at was entomology, which is the study of insects. And then I decided that really wasn’t for me. I wanted to work with people more so than just sit in a laboratory and look through a microscope all day. Actually I explored medicine next, but I really wasn’t a big fan of being in a hospital. And then I had a friend who worked at a dental office and he was like, “Why don’t you come shadow my dentist?” And so I did. Christopher Vo: And immediately I was like, this is it. This is like the perfect blend of what I’m looking for, which is science, working with people on a daily basis, helping people, getting to build things with my hands and seeing them come to completion, a lot of times the same day. And then also in dentistry I saw a lot of dentists have free time to explore other things if they were only working four days a week, or some of them were working three days a week. They had time to do other things, so it seemed like a really nice balance between life and work. And so all of those things are what got me interested in dentistry and made the decision and haven’t turned back. And I really haven’t regretted that decision for one moment. Shaun keating: Oh that’s so cool. I love that you feel that way and you knew it going in. A lot of doctors don’t really realize it as much like that. But no, that’s really awesome. And especially the whole relating with people. A lot of dentists, that’s kind of lower on the list for them when they’re getting into… They like the science, working with their hands. Sometimes people thing is not a lot of the dentists first thing when get into dentistry. But because it’s so true though, you’re with them every day and it’s like, “You better be into that because that’s going to be part of your life for a while.” Shaun keating: But no, that’s so cool. Well tell me a little bit about where you attended school, your college journey. Tell me a little bit about that. Christopher Vo: Yeah, so I was born in North Carolina, raised in North Carolina, went to school in North Carolina, undergrad, I went to East Carolina University. Okay. And then I was very fortunate to have gotten into dental school the first try, the first go round, at UNC School of Dentistry. And that was my dream school ever since I was a little kid. Shaun keating: No kidding? Christopher Vo: I grew up watching the Tarheels play basketball and man, it really was a dream come true to get into UNC School of Dentistry. So I went there for four years and then graduated in 2012 and I’ve been practicing ever since. Shaun keating: Oh, that’s so cool, man. You’re just a puppy. 2012 man, I got underwear older than that. No, just kidding. That’s awesome, dude. So tell me, did you start as an associate, did you purchase a practice? Tell me a little bit about that if you could. Christopher Vo: When I graduated, I took a job as an associate in Charlotte, North Carolina, and worked there for about a year. After about, actually about six months in, so working as an associate, I ended up… Sort of really weird story I won’t get into, it’s a long story, but I ended up taking a position as a prosthodontic resident at UNC graduate prosthodontic program. Shaun keating: Oh God. Christopher Vo: So after a year of practice, I ended up going to a grad [inaudible 00:08:15] program back in Chapel Hill. After a little bit of time in that program, I realized that really wasn’t what I wanted to do. So I left that program and went back to being an associate and I associated for about six months before I found a practice that I wanted to purchase. And so in 2015, almost on my birthday, I purchased a practice in a little town South of Raleigh, North Carolina, Benson. Christopher Vo: And I ran that practice for about two and a half years, and then I sold it. And a lot of people have asked me why I sold my practice and it was really related to the fact that it’s really consumed so much of my life and it became a tremendous source of stress. And in the back of my mind I felt like there was something else that I was meant to give to the world, something maybe more suited to my skillset. So I sold that practice, took a little bit of time off and then came back as an associate, but more so in a part-time capacity. And then I spend the other portion of my time working on marketing and branding, helping other dental practice owners, mostly my friends, build their practices in different sort of business oriented ways. So that’s where I’m at right now, and that’s been my journey. Shaun keating: Well it’s quite a bit, such a young journey. But you know what? You felt it and you got to go with your feelings, how that works. So tell me a little bit about on the practice you’re in now, tell me the layout of it. How many ops and tell me how many days you’re working and stuff. Tell me a little bit about your day in the office, if you could. Christopher Vo: Sure. Yeah. So I’m currently an associate at a practice in a small town of Wendell, which is slightly East of Raleigh. This is a three doctor practice and we are open five days a week, Monday through Friday. We usually have two doctors at the practice at all times, except on Friday, which it’s just me. I work at this practice Thursdays and Fridays. So I’m two days clinical. And then I spend the other three days of the week helping the practice with its marketing. This practice also has a second floor to it. And on the second floor we have a learning center, basically a dental education center for dentists and their team. Shaun keating: Oh, perfect. Christopher Vo: And so I spend a lot of my time helping build the courses and do the marketing for that learning center. All sorts of things that I do with the learning center. And to tell you a little bit about the kind of practice that it is, we’re an incredible fee for service practice. Very patient centered, and probably the most exciting thing that I like about our practice is how technologically advanced we are. We basically have all the newest tech tools in dentistry and are always expanding. So it’s a fun place for me to work. Shaun keating: That’s awesome. So what about on the systems you have in place, you have impression scanners? Tell me a little bit about what you have in the practice. Christopher Vo: Yeah, so currently we are using CEREC machines. We actually just expanded and got our second CEREC machine. Yeah, we’re on the new CEREC, which is the prime scan, so we have to two CEREC systems and two mills. We actually just got a new zirconia furnace so we can fire our own zirconia in house as well as e.Max, which is traditionally what people use CEREC for. We actually just got a a dental microscope that the two other doctors are probably going to start using for endo, doing root canals. A little bit easier by finding canal that we probably couldn’t find in the past. I’m excited about the microscope because it gives me a chance to document cases in a way that I’ve never been able to do before. We can strap a camera to the microscope and do things that are a lot of fun that we, like I said, couldn’t do before. Christopher Vo: We also use dental lasers in the practice, so a lot of people think about dental lasers as soft tissue lasers. The laser that we used for the CO2 laser that we do soft tissue work with, but we can also do hard tissue work. And what that means is we can do fillings with a, laser and a lot of dentists aren’t aware that. There are lasers out there that can cut enamel, but we have one of those. We actually have three of those lasers and it allows us to do a lot of restorative work without having to give people shots. Shaun keating: No kidding? Christopher Vo: So, that’s a huge thing and it’s something that I get to work on from a marketing perspective, which you give me something so incredible like that, it’s easy to sort of sell the story, “Hey, come see us, we’ll do your dental work without having to give you a shot and you don’t have to walk away with a numb face.” We have other small things, we just introduced some oral ID, which is a oral cancer screening device where you use certain fluorescent lights to look for cancer in people’s mouths and in their throat. So we have a lot of smaller technologies like that, but the other ones are the major ones. Shaun keating: No kidding? What kind of lasers you got going on there, BIOLASE or AMD lasers. What kind of brand are you using on the lasers? Christopher Vo: Yeah, so the one that we have is called Solea. I think currently there may be two or three lasers on the market that are hard tissue lasers. And from what I can tell, and in my experience, I think the Solea lasers the best hard tissue laser on the market currently. Shaun keating: Tell me a little about, what’s your favorite procedure in dentistry? What do you like doing at such a young start of your career? You got to know what you like, kind of don’t like so far, but tell me some of the likes and some of the dislikes so far. Christopher Vo: Yeah. So like I said earlier, one of the reasons that I got into dentistry was because I really wanted to work with people to help people one-on-one. And a lot of people will sort of ask me the question, what’s your favorite procedure or favorite part of dentistry? My favorite part is really sitting down with people eyeball to eyeball, having these one-on-one conversations. People come to see me and come to see our practice and they’ve got their concerns and maybe some problems, challenges that they’re facing. And it’s really rewarding for me to sit down and sort of create a plan, talk these things through with people and then help them improve their lives in whatever way that they want to improve their lives. So I’d say that’s my favorite part of dentistry. Things I don’t like, hmm, I don’t like doing root canals, so I don’t do root canals. Shaun keating: Yeah, most dentists don’t, I get it. Christopher Vo: Yeah. And thankfully there are two other doctors at the practice that don’t mind doing them and are good at doing them, so I can refer those procedures to them. And I think that’s one of the tremendous advantages of having a multi doctor practice. Shaun keating: No kidding. So you don’t really outsource much work, I guess, try to keep most of it in-house or do you outsource any of your procedures? Christopher Vo: Yeah, we keep most of our work in-house. I mean the challenging cases we don’t mind referring and we have a great network of referring specialists that we utilize, but we try to do most of the stuff in-house. That’s one of our sort of selling points, or one of our strengths as a practice. “Come see us, we can get things done efficiently, quickly and under one roof.” And I think a lot of patients really appreciate that. Shaun keating: Oh absolutely, for sure. So tell me, I know you’re into the marketing and stuff like that, helping grow practices, your practice and others and stuff. What are some of your marketing strategies? Let me know a little bit about that if you could. Christopher Vo: Yeah, sure. So I do some consulting in terms of marketing with other dental practice owners. And a lot of times these doctors will ask me, “Chris, what’s the best strategy? What should I be doing?” And really, that second question is the one that is most relevant. Doctors really want to know what marketing strategies will be most successful for me and my practice. And so a lot of times what I’ve done and what I did with the practice that I owned, those strategies aren’t going to be relevant. The practice that I owned was in a small town, 10,000… Actually it was like 7,000 or 8,000 people were in the town where my practice was. In that town there were a total of three dentists. And so my marketing strategies are going to be a whole lot different than a dentist who’s in a large city and has 20 or 30 dentists within a mile radius of them. Christopher Vo: And so really to get to the answer of your question, what’s been my marketing strategy and what are great marketing strategies? I think the first thing that doctors have to do is actually step back and do sort of a deep dive into their practice. They need to understand their audience. They need to understand their community. They need to understand where their practice is located and then they need to start asking questions about, what do they stand for as a practice. If you want to talk about dental marketing, well the question is what exactly are you marketing? What’s special about your practice? Are you pretty average? Do you offer just standard general dentistry procedures or do you offer more than that? Christopher Vo: And once you start to answer these questions what you end up doing is you’re starting this foundation, or you’re talking to create what I call… I sort of stole this term from Glen Powell on the way the [inaudible 00:18:10] podcast, he called it a comprehensive marketing plan. And I like that terminology because we like to think about comprehensive treatment plans. And so the best marketing strategy for dentists is to first develop a comprehensive marketing strategy and then go from there. Shaun keating: How’s that working with you? I thought I heard you’re fee for service only. So you don’t take any insurance at all do you have a bunch of people calling that have insurance and are wondering if you have it? Tell me how that works for you guys with being just a fee for service practice. Christopher Vo: Yeah, that’s a great question. So the practice that I owned was a fee for service practice and the practice that I currently work at is a fee for service practice. We do accept one insurance but they reimburse at a pretty high rate. So we don’t really take that many write offs. But yeah, so fee for service practices, they operate differently than PPO practices in terms of marketing. It’s a different ball game if you’re operating in a fee for service practice. And, it’s this question of what are the different marketing strategies for fee for service versus PPO. There was a recent very interesting report put out by a financial firm, a dental financial firm, and they sort of showed that practices, like the higher level practices, the ones that seem to have a great reputation in the community, are oftentimes the fee for service practices. Christopher Vo: They don’t employ the same marketing tactics that say, start-ups do. And it’s almost like once you get to a certain level, you don’t have to play by the same rules as everybody else does. This survey showed that a lot of the top practices don’t really spend that much on marketing and they don’t do Facebook ads, they don’t do mailers, they just over 10 years or 20 years, they’ve developed the reputation in their community of being the go-to dental practice. And as long as they maintain their customer service, essentially, they’re going to get new patients without trying so hard. Shaun keating: Yes, exactly. Christopher Vo: So it’s interesting. It’s interesting. It’s very interesting. Shaun keating: That’s so true. Where the best marketing is internal with your existing patients, treat the people good, try to do good dentistry and with time, I mean probably, most of the practices that I know, and I’ve been known this a long time, probably 80 to 90% of their new business is from referrals, and it’s free. It’s basically, take care of your people and then maybe work up a little bit of program. Like, “If you could, tell your friends, or if you know someone that needs a dentist, let them know about us,” in a nice gentle way and maybe give them a Starbucks card or something, a thank you card, thanking you for referring someone. And a lot of times you only didn’t have to give them anything but just a little bit of reward. Not a big reward, but a little bit just shows the thoughts that you guys are very thankful for it. Shaun keating: That it is so true. But it’s hard when you’re a new business starting off trying to find that business and to get them into your doors. You know? So that’s where a lot of guys will have to do the flyers and a lot of them are doing the social media. And who knows how that really works. It’s kind of hard to get that audience, to get them narrowed down to exactly… But you guys are kind of lucky because all the public could be a patient, where like with me, I got to find those few dentists that are in this little social media world and to get them to engage in something that we offer and/or just a hear them and learn a little bit about our laboratory. Shaun keating: But for you guys, I mean you’ve got a big pool of people out there, but it’s just how you find them. Is it, “Oh, I’m going to give you some bleaching,” or, “I’m going to do six teeth and throw in four other teeth so I can go from four to 13.” I got Howard Farran that does that, “I’m going to charge you for six, but give you 10,” and it’s just different things. And that’s a fee for service type situation there, where you can make your own rules and do your own things. But it’s a pretty tough to start. But just like me, I’m going on my 20th year on my own and it’s just amazing how after year, after year, after year, after year, people get to know you and you just try to keep a good reputation. And it’s like you don’t need to spend so much, with the marketing, and I’m finding that even with us, but with most dental practices, take care of your patients. Kind of like the golden rule, treat others how you want to be treated. It’s not going above and beyond, it’s just doing what the right thing to do is and practice good, solid dentistry and I think you’re going to get it. Shaun keating: But then there’s some doctors that really… You see them on TV commercials, you see them on billboards and it’s just you lose a lot out of the bottom, you’re getting all these new ones, but if you just concentrate on the existing accounts, what you have, taking care of them, and have them work for you a little bit. I think you get more of a return on investment, take care of your original patients. That’s like what we’re always here, it’s like, “Quit worrying about these new doctors, so much of getting new doctors in the door, but just strive to give excellence to our existing accounts.” Christopher Vo: [crosstalk 00:23:52] . Shaun keating: Yeah. And it’s so much easier to keep an existing account than to find a new one and to keep them engaged. And so we really try to focus on our accounts that we have. And I think that’s what a lot of great dental proxies, they treat the people good, and all that. Christopher Vo: I think it’s the same. I think that sort of strategy works in the dental lab business. I think it works in the dental practice business. There was a recent interview where somebody asked Jeff Bezos what his best business strategy was and he basically said, “Focus on making your customers happy.” And they were asking him in context of competition and he said, “Don’t worry so much about your competition, worry about your customer. Make sure that they’re happy and if they’re happy, you’re going to be successful in business.” Shaun keating: Exactly. Christopher Vo: And I think if business owners keep that in mind, keep that sort of as the thesis of their business marketing strategy, they’ll be successful. You mentioned earlier that startup practices may have to go through sending mailers out and all these other sort of external marketing type strategies. And I think that’s very true. I think as a dental practice kind of grows over time, or maybe use the word matures over time, marketing changes. You might spend a tremendous amount early on to market just to get people in your door. And once you get people in your door, if you can make them happy, then all of a sudden you can start generating internal referrals, word of mouth referrals. But you’ve got to get that initial group of patients in the door before you can start executing on these other strategies. Shaun keating: Absolutely. And I think what you’re doing also too, with the education center upstairs, that’s huge because that’s going to come back 10 fold for you. It’s so important to keep your peers… Coming in, helping them, and stuff like that. And then even patients, you can do certain programs for them on different things, come with personal hygiene with your mouth and just different things like that. I mean, we have the same thing here. We have a full dental operatory, we do educational seminars all the time. We do them for vendors that I’ll come in even sometimes and just kind of show different products at dentists. But then we’ll do clinical stuff and it’s kind of the same thing with you. I know there’s a bunch of doctors that do that same concept that have a few days a week, a few times a month, or whatever. Shaun keating: They’ll have lunch and learns and/or they’ll have full day programs. And it really is, its sets yourself apart. And like you said that earlier, you need to… We all drill, we all fill, we all do crowns, and some are doing more and more implants, but to set yourself apart, you kind of need to do that. And now, I mean, I think there’s a guy out there, Agarwal Tarun, he’s kind of doing his little thing there with… He has his little programs and he’s kind of doing what you need to do to move and separate yourself. And I think even too, you guys are out there in Wendell, North Carolina, a little bit outside of town, but you guys, before you know it, I mean, you keep doing what you’re doing, you’re going to have people coming in from Raleigh and Charlotte, taking a little drive to go visit these guys that are doing quality dentistry. Shaun keating: It’s just, people, people will go to something that they find that it’s standing out from others. And I just think that’s a great thing you got going there. We do it and we’re a whole different… we’re just a laboratory, but we do that stuff for a long time and it comes back in spades to you, man, it really does. And just trying to set yourself apart. And so that’s huge. And I think where you’re at, doing what you’re doing, you’re doing your dentistry still, but you’re doing the other aspect of it. And I’ve seen different dentists do the same thing. They’re good dentists, but they’re greater marketers. And some of these guys that kind of went like you’re doing, they end up after 10, 15 years in, owning two and three practices and having different people that are part owners, so they all got skin in it, that are pretty much doing all the work. Shaun keating: It’s kind of like buying all your apartments and rentals, once you can get in the beginning and get the foundation set up, they’re paying all the bills and everything else. And it’s just kind of a neat thing. And the same thing with dental practices. If you can replicate a successful single practice, there’s no reason you can’t replicate it two, three, four, plus times. You know, especially with a lot of dentists don’t want that full responsibility of the payroll, of human resources, of hiring and firing, and taxes. And I understand that. I mean, I would go nuts if I had to do all that. And that’s why I have people do it for me. I’ve never felt it. I feel it, but I don’t, it’s just something, you get the right people in the right places and you just keep doing, like you said, the good deed with the patients and taking care of those patients. Shaun keating: And those people will talk to you… It’s like an old Stephen Covey’s, he’s a big guy he used to listen to just on a motivation and marketing. You keep one happy customer, they’re going to tell 10 people about you and then that person’s going to tell 10 people and it kind of goes on and it’s just, it’s from the caveman era. You do a good service and the word gets out and you just kind of try to do that. It’s in any business, it’s not just in dentistry, it’s in anything in life. And I think you guys are right on the right track, man. Well dude, thank you so much. God bless you and your family and thanks again for coming on the Dental Up podcast. We really appreciate it and if there’s anything we can do here at Keating Dental Lab. You need anything done, let us know, we’d love to help you guys out there. Christopher Vo: Absolutely. Shaun, thank you for having me. It’s an honor to be on the Dental Up podcast with you today. Shaun keating: All right, thanks Dr. Vo. We’ll talk to you real soon, buddy. Christopher Vo: Alrighty, thanks. Shaun keating: Bye-bye. Host: Thanks for joining us on the Dental Up podcast show this week. Make sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, or search the dental up podcast on iTunes for our weekly feed. Don’t forget to visit keatingdentalab.com/promo for exclusive offers. Keating Dental Lab is a full service dental laboratory, and we’re nationwide. We’d love for you to send us a case so we can show you the Keating difference. If you dig what you heard, please leave a review on iTunes. And we’ll be back next week.