Secrets to Dental Practice Success With Dr. Frank Caputo

On this episode of Dental Marketing Secrets, Dr. Frank Caputo, Director of The Milwaukee Implant Institute, reveals:

  • How this practice in Wisconsin has over 20,000 active patients
  • The importance of good mentorship
  • “The Golden Rule” for patient retention
  • Why everything is all about the human interaction

Watch the Interview Here:

Or, Read the Transcript:

Alyssa Ege:

Welcome to Dental Marketing Secrets. Thank you so much for joining us today, Dr. Caputo. So, you want to tell us a little bit about yourself, who you are and what you do?

Dr. Frank Caputo:

Absolutely. Well, my name’s Frank Caputo. I have a practice in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. We’re a group practice in kind of a unique setting, which we’ll talk about in a little bit. But my practice is mostly isolated to implantology and prosthetics. Maybe 80% of it is that and then the other 20% is kind of just bread and butter, general dentistry. But majority of what we do is implant based, whether it’s surgery or prosthetics that’s associated with it.

Alyssa Ege:

Awesome. And how did you get dentististry? How did you fall in love with dentistry?

Dr. Frank Caputo:

It was definitely not the, “I was seven years old and I’d had a …” It was nothing like that. It was, I knew I liked healthcare, I knew I loved science, but I also grew up loving working with my hands, doing whatever it could be. I mean, it was artistic. If I was painting or drawing or sketching and I knew I wanted to go into healthcare and something with an artistic spin to it. And then I fell in love with medicine, but I shadowed a lot of different physicians and it ended up … Nothing really clicked, except for cardiology. That was one pretty sweet field. But nothing really clicked that well. And then one of my mom’s best friends had said, “Why don’t you shadow the dentist that I work for? He’s a great guy.”

Dr. Frank Caputo:

And I did, and it was jaw-dropping. And then now that I’m in the dental world, this guy is, he’s still my mentor. He’s a super dentist. He’s still one of the most incredible dentists I’ve ever seen, like his hands, what he does. And he happened to do a lot of implants and prosthetics as well. He definitely ignited that fire. And so probably by the end of my freshman year of college is when I decided, I think this is definitely the career path I want to go.

Alyssa Ege:

That’s awesome. You’d mentioned mentorship, and I think that’s really important. So, how has mentorship changed your career?

Dr. Frank Caputo:

Oh, I mean it’s completely shaped it. What I’ve learned is it’s not like you can … You’re not isolated to having just one mentor. I have a multitude of mentors. I have one mentor that’s a little more business savvy. I’ve got one mentor that’s so clinically oriented with the details, like the 10 minute difference in performing a surgery that turns it from so-so to just incredible.

Dr. Frank Caputo:

And I’ve got many mentors that can help guide whether it’s a specific scenario. But it definitely has shaped so much about how I practice and how I approach my cases and in the day to day practice, but also those weird anomaly cases that come up too. But I’m always leaning on my mentors, which has inspired me to become more of a mentor for a lot of younger dentists or some dentists that are even older than me that they want me to mentor. It’s changed me, so my hope is that it can help change them.

Alyssa Ege:

Yeah, I know I really love teaching other people things. It just brings me so much joy when I’m able to help somebody learn something.

Dr. Frank Caputo:

Absolutely.

Alyssa Ege:

And I feel like you feel the same way.

Dr. Frank Caputo:

Yeah.

Alyssa Ege:

Yeah, it’s a lot of fun. That’s great. I think mentorship is so important no matter what industry you’re in. So tell me about your practice and what you do to market your practice. What does that look like?

Dr. Frank Caputo:

My practice is in a blue-collar town in Cudahy, Wisconsin. It’s kind of a factory town and it’s a little bit of an older town on the Southern portion of Milwaukee. And I love it. It’s definitely not the most fancy practice, but we are so busy, it’s unbelievable. We do have 20,000 active patients, which seems incredible, but it’s, we just recently did an analysis and found that out.

So there’s a group of seven dentists, there’s three of us that own the practice together and we have four associates. One of them is a pediatric dentist and the other three associates are generalists and sort of my other two partners as well. And throughout our building we do a lot of dentistry. So you asked about marketing though? We don’t really market, like we don’t do newspaper ads, we don’t have a commercial or a billboard or anything that’s external.

Alyssa Ege:

Okay.

Dr. Frank Caputo:

We’ve typically been … We are an established practice now. There were a number of senior partners that spent their entire 40 year career at this office that have just recently retired over the last few years. And now we’re kind of the newer, younger crop that is kind of now driving the bus and we’re only busier. I think some of it, I mean there’s definitely a percentage of our practice that is considered in network or it takes insurance or PPOs, but I think being in metropolitan area, like Milwaukee or Madison, which is the neighboring larger city, it’s very common for practices like ours to be in-network provider for a handful of PPO insurance.

Dr. Frank Caputo:

So that helps too. That drives traffic, but marketing externally doesn’t really happen. Our marketing budgets like $200 for the year, that’s the annual budget.

Alyssa Ege:

So what do you attribute to the success? Like I know that you say that there were people that were there for 40 years working there and you’re taking PPOs, which is great, but is there anything you think specifically that’s really helped you guys have such a successful practice?

Dr. Frank Caputo:

Yeah, absolutely. So just to step back for a second, looking at these practices where you could definitely have volume, right? You can have a practice that’s based on tons of volume and you can get emergency patient after emergency patient and you could have a day full of people who broke a cusp and you could just do crowns all day long. That’s one way of generating a practice. But you also have to retain these patients and keep them and have them want to come back and have them not want to go anywhere else.

And so that’s been the key for us as far as creating, obviously, I mean you want to have a nice experience, but we’re creating a very nice, pleasant patient experience having your predictable clinical outcomes. But what we find the most is we kind of help control the way patients feel when we’re discussing things that make the tension go up.

Dr. Frank Caputo:

Whether there’s differences of opinion or there’s a conflict of how the patient sees something versus how we see something. We’re pretty careful in how we choose our language. I think we do it in a way that helps create a safe environment.

Alyssa Ege:

And that’s really important.

Dr. Frank Caputo:

I’ve learned over and over again of patients that have left our practice to go to a different private practice or maybe they went to a corporate entity or maybe they went to a big clinic, the conversations flow is different. And so I’m learning how important that aspect has been.

Alyssa Ege:

Yeah. So I mean when it comes to marketing, it’s all about communication, right? So that technically is a form of marketing because it’s how you communicate with your patients.

Dr. Frank Caputo:

It definitely is.

Alyssa Ege:

Oh yeah. So that’s something that you’ve obviously nailed down. And I know a lot of people struggle with that.

Dr. Frank Caputo:

Absolutely. And it’s just about how do you have this conversation and not have them panic, you know? And a lot of it is the golden rule. Treat others as you want to be treated. Right? I mean that plays a big role. But also shedding light on things without you looking like you’re either, dentists are always getting accused of, “You just want to make a payment,” it’s like the running joke on your boat or you want to go on another vacation and it’s like, obviously it’s not the case, but it’s still a business. And profit isn’t definitely not a dirty word in the dental community, but you still have to be able to run a business effectively if you want to keep the lights on and your staff paid. And what we figured out is I think communication, like you had said, is kind of the key to doing that.

Alyssa Ege:

Yep. And how do you think that communication plays an important part, like at your front desk as well? Because that always seems to me the first place that people will ever experience your practices at the front desk or a phone call that they answer.

Dr. Frank Caputo:

Sure. I mean that definitely sets the tone. I think the front desk is probably one of the most crucial if … We’ve always had if a front desk person has had a bad day, you’ve had people not scheduled because of the attitude of the front desk person. If the person at the front desk, or a treatment coordinator, someone that they had an interaction with was having a rough day and was kind of they sighed or they crossed her arms or they did something like that. It’s kind of game over. Like patients are turned off real fast because they have a lot of options. So I think the first person that they interact with is crucial.

Alyssa Ege:

Oh yeah. So how do you train them? Are you responsible for that and do you train them?

Dr. Frank Caputo:

So my partners and associates, we’re kind of all on the same page when it comes to how we want our patients to be treated and then because we have a team of 30 plus people, it’s important that each doctor plays a role in training their more immediate family or their immediate team. Yeah, and we definitely have, because we’re big, we’re also compartmentalized, so we have an insurance or a treatment coordinator team. We have our front desk team and we have kind of a lead team member to help manage that part. We also have a dental assistant team and a hygiene team who have leads and we have an overall office manager, but we all try to, we strive to be on the same page, which can be difficult in a big practice.

Alyssa Ege:

Yeah, so I can only imagine that you’re ridiculously busy. How do you stay on top of everything? You have a baby, right? How old is your kid?

Dr. Frank Caputo:

Yeah, I’ve got a 20 month old at home.

It’s so much fun. My wife and I both work full time. We both have careers and she’s in marketing as well for a big company and it is, it’s tough and you have to be able to carve out the time. I’m in the office most days throughout the week, like Monday through Friday, but I’m not clinical. All those times I kind of have time open, so I leave and when I get home, I’m home. But I still love learning and I’m still constantly learning. I mean over here I get the stack of textbooks that I just like to read through and I’m always on either podcasts or listening, I take in knowledge. So if we’re driving and I’m listening to a podcast whether it’s dental related or business related, I try to listen to an audio book every couple of weeks, whether it’s business related or dentistry. Sometimes there’s some audio books available. But for that I would probably choose a podcast. But I like taking in that knowledge and if I get one tidbit from something, it’s worth it.

Alyssa Ege:

So question for you. A lot of people are talking these days about how old school marketing tactics aren’t as successful I would say as new age, that everything’s shifting over to digital, everything’s on our phones, commercials aren’t working. What’s your theory on that?

Dr. Frank Caputo:

So I have my thoughts on this. I think that digital marketing is huge, especially with social media. I think that when someone spends the dollars on a gigantic commercial campaign for dental implants or something like that, it’s kind of an advertisement for dental implants in general not just that company is I think what the research is showing us. But I think that dentistry will always and continue to be a very human-based, interaction-based field. And so I still think that there’s no way of getting away from old school ways of marketing. If you’re trying to create relationships, guess what? You got to knock on doors and go meet people just like when you’re in the operatory. That’s my internal marketing. As far as people, I mean, if my target patient base for dental implants is between a 50 years old and 90 years old, people like receiving stuff in the mail, they don’t want that to go away.

Dr. Frank Caputo:

It’s part of who they grew up being. They’re not waiting to see what comes next on their Instagram feed. These patients are, even the ones, I mean, there are people who are in their 50s or certainly not old, but my elderly patients today, 70 plus and 80, they’re not on Snapchat they’re waiting for something to come in the mail. They’re looking through the local, not even the local newspaper, but these local, like a free, almost like mini papers that they get at the diner, like they’re looking through all that stuff. I think that it’s still all over the place.

Alyssa Ege:

At the same time though… My grandma uses Facebook more than anyone I know and she’s 86!

Dr. Frank Caputo:

Absolutely. That’s incredible. And I do agree. I mean most of … They’re the biggest growing population on Facebook right now is grandparents. And so I think Facebook is definitely … You cannot get away from having to be able to market on Facebook. I think it’s huge.

Alyssa Ege:

Yeah, definitely. And I think you’re really correct when you say that it depends on who your target market is. You know, like if you’re going after people who are in their 50s to 90s and sending them something in the mail might be the best avenue, but at the same time, those people are also on Facebook. You probably don’t want to go with Instagram or Snapchat because those people are not on there, you know?

Dr. Frank Caputo:

Right. And I guess it depends on who you’re trying to get to.

Alyssa Ege:

Yeah. Well, so do you have any advice for somebody who’s just starting off in the field? What would you tell them in order to get to a place of success like you’re in?

Dr. Frank Caputo:

Find a mentor. That’s number one. You’ve got to find a mentor and I would say one of the best pieces of advice that I could give if you’re starting out as an associate in a practice or you just bought a practice or you’re building one from scratch. I would say that think of things when you’re talking to your patients and managing those conversations. Think of things as a marathon and not a sprint. So one of the best pieces of advice I got that was from my friend Justin Moody who said, “When you first meet that patient for the first time, it’s been at your practice for the last 30 years or the last 20 years even. And you’re doing that exam, take it easy. You don’t want to walk in and immediately you kind of say, wow Mrs. Jones, you really need basically a full mouth rehab. I think that your smile is not great and I think that we need to do implants here, here, here and here. And that’s how you’ll be. Take it easy their very first time you meet them.”

Dr. Frank Caputo:

I mean provided that things are okay. I mean, we’re not … Obviously if there’s an infection or an abscess or something you need to address those things clearly. But if it’s yeah, a little wear and tear. Maybe there’s a couple of fillings that are starting to get a little bit questionable. Maybe that first visit you say, “Wow, Alyssa, you’ve had some fantastic dental work done over the last few years. I think this is all great. There’s a couple spots that I’m concerned about. There’s a couple things that I’m going to red flag and put in your chart that I’ll check from time to time. But if anything comes up in the short term, give me a call.”

Dr. Frank Caputo:

But then as time moves on, you can start to think about, oh hey, you know, you’ve got a couple of areas that this is, this filling is breaking down. But I think that that very first time is important to kind of put a stamp on all the good work that’s been done in the past and put that you approve and you’ve seen everything and it’s amazing work. Sure. I mean sometimes it’s a little bit of an embellishment and of course you’re not lying to the patient because this isn’t 100% of patients, it’s a good chunk. But always listen as well. I mean it seems like such a stupid silly thing like listen to your patient, but if their immediate concern is not cosmetics and it’s not their missing tooth, you can take it easy and you don’t have to be like you need that.

Dr. Frank Caputo:

Okay. We’ll get there. But it’s okay to be somewhere in the middle. Because in dental school we’re working up very, very complex, comprehensive cases constantly. And a small percent of them accept treatment. And I think that in private practice or in regular real world of dentistry, it’s okay to slow it down just a little bit. We don’t have to be cavalier with our treatment plans from day one. But we get there. Now it’s incredible how, I’m so surprised all the time that every month that goes by, we’ve got patients who are accepting, $30,000 to $50,000 treatment plans. I’m just, I’m blown away. I’m like, you mean you’re … And they come in waving their paper, I’m ready. You have this treatment plan from a couple of years ago. I think I’m ready to do what we had talked about. Great. But the main thing is that they’re coming to you. They’re not going to somebody else. They’re coming to you because you’ve established that human interaction, that relationship. So that’s the biggest advice.

Alyssa Ege:

Okay. I think in any business it’s about people want to work with people, you know? So a lot of times, I think today, these days, especially everybody’s trying to automate everything. Like, “Oh, you know, we’ll send a text message, we won’t actually call them,” but people want to talk to people and that’s how we build relationships.

Dr. Frank Caputo:

Absolutely.

Alyssa Ege:

Yep. Awesome. Anything else you want to add?

Dr. Frank Caputo:

Hmm, nothing in particular. I guess in my interest of mentorship, one thing I do like to add is I am the Director of the Milwaukee Implant Institute and what we do is we mentor doctors who’ve kind of taken a ton of implant continuing education. Maybe they’ve taken a Maxi Course or something along those lines that actually has given them a huge foundational knowledge. Maybe they even bought a bunch of equipment to help get their implant practice going, but there’s still a little bit nervous. One thing that I do routinely is in office mentoring, where I travel, I come see you and maybe it’s as simple as we’re just talking about a case on FaceTime or something. But for a lot of people I come in and I assist the doctor, and we kind of make sure these cases go by in their own home court. So I think there’s something to be said for doing that. But that teaching is always going to be a good place in my heart for doing that. I love doing the teaching and mentorship. It’s a blast.

Alyssa Ege:

That’s awesome. I love that you’re doing that too. You’re really giving a lot more people the opportunity to enjoy placing implants.

Dr. Frank Caputo:

Absolutely.

Alyssa Ege:

And that’s the goal, right?

Dr. Frank Caputo:

And doing it right.

Alyssa Ege:

Doing it right. That’s also important. Awesome. All right, well thank you so much, Dr. Caputo. I really appreciate all of your time.


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Guest Expert on Dental Marketing Secrets: Dr. Frank Caputo

Frank Caputo Dental Marketing Secrets

Dr. Frank A. Caputo, general dentist, board-certified oral implantologist, and partner of Cudahy Dental Associates, has many years of experience in implantology, reconstructive and cosmetic dentistry. He always places patient comfort first. He believes patients deserve all of the information they need to make educated choices about their oral health. His approach to dentistry is comprehensive and tailored for each patient. Dr. Caputo earned his Doctorate of Dental Surgery at Marquette University.

Following his passion for implant dentistry, Dr. Caputo has completed over 700 hours of continuing education dedicated to implant and restorative dentistry. He has successfully passed the rigorous examination process within the American Board of Oral Implantology and Implant Dentistry. In addition to practicing, Dr. Caputo dedicates a portion of his time educating aspiring implantologists across the country in a hands-on clinical environment.

When he’s not practicing dentistry or educating, Dr. Caputo is spending quality time with his wife and son. He is committed to his patients and making their experience at Cudahy Dental a positive one.

You can visit his website here: http://www.cudahydentalassociates.net

 

Alyssa Ege

President and Lead Strategist at Sail Away Media. Loves to come up with creative solutions for our clients to help them achieve their goals.

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