Marketing is not usually the first thing on dental professionals’ minds. However, it’s an important part of building a successful dental practice. So for those who are relatively new to the marketing game and simply want to get their message in front of as many local dental patients as possible, here are 20 tips you can use to shape your marketing plan.
Marketing for Dentists
Find the Local Market That Is Most Likely to Choose Your Practice
Pinpointing a target audience is an essential component of marketing any business. But for dental practices, it’s not just about choosing a few demographics or interest groups. You have to find the people in your area who are actually the most likely to appreciate the specific services and branding messages that your business has to offer.
Holly Hutchison Patrick, managing editor of Patient News, said in an email interview with Small Business Trends, “In today’s fiercely competitive market, defining your marketing audience solely by age, gender, and income isn’t enough. It’s absolutely critical to identify your target audience — those who are in your local market (live in your practice neighborhood) who have the highest propensity to call your practice. When you target these people, not only will your in-bound call volume increase, but so will your call-conversion rates because the people who are calling are seeking the experience you offer. These are also the prospects who are most like your best patients-of-record and who will accept treatment plans at a higher rate, bring their family, refer friends and colleagues … and who will stay with you and positively impact your bottom line year over year.”
Call Attention to Your Unique Value Proposition
Another must for every marketing tactic, your UVP should be the thing that makes your practice stand out from all the other options that patients might have to choose from.
Patrick says, “It needs to solve a patient problem, appeal to your strongest decision makers, communicate specific value unlike your primary competitors, and be the top reasons your practice is distinctly the better choice over other practices. Your UVP will drive everything else you do when making decisions about marketing your dental practice.”
Focus on the Results
Beyond simply pinpointing your niche, it’s important to always frame the conversation, whether it’s talking with patients in person or creating a page for your website, in a way that calls attention to what the patient gets, rather than what you do for them. “You can enjoy a completely painless experience” sounds more appealing than “we use techniques that lessen the pain during dental procedures.”
Build a Responsive Website
Building a website is another must. But since so many people today use mobile devices to research local businesses, it’s just as important for that website to be responsive and have a professional design that looks great on everything from desktop computers to smartphones.
Include Calls to Action
Each page of your website or content you create online should also be very clear about what a prospective patient’s next step should be. Do you want them to call? Fill out an online form? Be very deliberate and make it super easy for them to reach out to you.
Focus on SEO
For today’s customers to find you online, it’s also incredibly important to optimize that site for search engines. Find keywords that correspond with your unique value proposition so that it goes beyond “dentist/location.” For example, a cosmetic dentistry practice might create pages dedicated to teeth whitening and straightening, while still optimizing tags for your particular location.
Manage Business Listings
Lots of dental patients also find practices by perusing sites like Yelp and Google My Business. So you need to sign up for all of those platforms and make sure your business information is fully updated.
Monitor Your Online Reputation
From there, you also need to monitor those sites, reviews, and other mentions of your business online. Even a couple of negative reviews can drive patients away and make your site more difficult to find. So be sure to respond to reviews and encourage friendly interactions among your loyal patients as well.
Engage With Customers on Social Media
Signing up for a Facebook page or Twitter account isn’t enough to move the needle for a dental practice. If you want these platforms to make an impact, regularly share funny content, ask questions, offer helpful resources, and respond to followers in a really genuine way. The more you can interact with patients and get people to share your content, the greater your reach becomes.
Try Video Marketing
Video is becoming more and more popular on social media and elsewhere online. So creating a series of educational videos that frame your team as experts and show off your expertise can potentially be very valuable.
Brand Your Business Consistently
Throughout all of these marketing materials, make sure you use the same name, logo, tagline and design elements to describe your business. Customers who see those elements more and more are likely to remember them when they are in the market for a new dentist.
Be Active in the Community
As a local business, it can also be beneficial for you to be an active part of the community. Attend events, network, sponsor local sports teams, etc. This can really appeal to those who want a friendly, neighborhood dental practice that shares their values.
Frame Yourself as an Expert
Being active in the community or contributing your expertise to events of local publications can also help you become known as an expert. When people in the area see your name over and over again, you become known as the go-to within your particular niche.
Don’t Ignore Email
Email has become the marketing tool du jour in a lot of industries. For dental practices, it can help to remind current patients to schedule appointments or share helpful resources. Patrick does say that it’s a worthwhile tactic in some situations, but it shouldn’t be your main point of focus either.
Focus on Direct Mail Too
That’s because she believes direct mail can be a much more impactful way to actually get people’s attention.
She explains, “Because email has become the preferred transactional communication style, personally addressed direct mail stands out and gets noticed. Direct mail is key to ushering a new-patient’s journey directly to your practice. It ensures brand awareness … which, for potential patients who search online, leads to a direct “name-based” search for your practice. Contrary to the belief that the journey starts with a random online search, name-based searches ensure you jump the queue and are first in line, ahead of your competitors.”
In all of your marketing materials, from direct mail to social media, your goal should be to create content that offers genuinely helpful points and tips that patients can use to improve their oral health.
Patrick says, “The educational component is really important. Content-driven marketing campaigns really support a practice. Rather than a promotional drop, patient education contributes to the trust, love, and respect they get from your patients, team, and community. It’s really one of the most effective, proactive, and positive marketing methods to represent their practice and philosophy of patient education.”
Be Ready to Convert
Once your marketing tactics start to work, you’re likely to have more and more people calling into your practice to inquire or schedule appointments. So you need to be sure that you’re ready with enough staff and friendly help to answer those calls and dedicated the time that can be necessary to convert those inquiries into actual patients.
Monitor and Analyze Results
No matter what your initial marketing plan consists of, it’s likely that you’ll make some tweaks along the way.
Patrick says, “Set your perceptions aside. You must know — definitively — what campaigns are driving results. Impartial dental marketing results data give incredibly valuable insights that enable you to make immediate changes and build effective long-term strategies to grow your practice.”
However, you do have to wait for a large enough sample size before completely changing your marketing plan.
An effectively designed, targeted, educational dental marketing campaign that is sent regularly and consistently into a dentist’s local market will deliver results. And because marketing lives and breathes, each campaign should be tweaked continually to respond to real-time metrics to capture ever-increasing results and maximize return on investment. When a direct mail campaign is abandoned after one or two mailings, effective frequency – the number of times a person must be exposed to an advertising message before a response is made — is never reached … which means your campaign, your ROI, and your patient acquisition goals are immobilized.
Consider Outsourcing the Work
Lots of local dental practices are very lean. So if you don’t have the time or resources to dedicate to creating thorough marketing campaigns for your business, it could be beneficial to find a dental marketing firm like Patient News or a consultant who can guide you through the process.