Take this step-by-step approach for long-lasting dental marketing success.
No matter how popular trends seem in the moment, very few fads are able to withstand the test of time. It’s hardwired in our human nature to want to follow the pack, and so it makes sense we want to wear the same clothes or live a comparable lifestyle as our neighbors.
While following fashion trends is relatively inconsequential in the grand scheme of life (except for the occasional embarrassing throwback photo), subscribing to marketing trends without due diligence and oversight-well, that can be a costly mistake for dentists.
In our current era of flashy digital marketing and tech solutions galore, there’s an unlimited number of ways to promote your dental practice. But, similar to many of the get-rich-quick schemes of the past, there’s simply no replacing good old-fashioned preparation and planning.
Whether you’re currently marketing your practice through traditional methods or a combination of offline and online tactics, these time-tested marketing tenets remain as effective today as they were decades ago.
Create a plan
You, or someone on your staff, likely field numerous sales calls from marketing vendors on a weekly basis-each one as compelling as the last. If you don’t have a marketing plan in place, it can be incredibly easy to fall into the trap of saying “yes” to too many things, which can then snowball into a spray and pray mentality, ultimately resulting in lost time and a lot of wasted money. So, before you commit to another lackluster marketing scheme, stop and take the time to build a strategy.
First, identify your five ideal patient profiles, and then determine the best methods to reach those “types.” For example, if you want to reach the moms in your community, choosing social media is likely more effective than print advertising. Determining a budget upfront will help you to decide which methods to prioritize and which ones go on the back burner.
Keep it targeted
If you have an unlimited marketing budget, please skip ahead to my next point. For all of our other dentist-readers, keep this in mind: you have to know who it is you’re marketing to. Only then can you determine how to reach your target audience.
Sure, you can pay big money for a billboard ad or a TV infomercial. You’ll likely get thousands of eyeballs on your advertising, but you have to ask yourself if those are the eyeballs you want to actually reach. To make your marketing plan most cost-effective, keep it local and targeted specifically to your ideal pool of prospective patients.
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As you identify your target audience and develop your marketing plan, build in frequency. Try to hit your target audience as many times as possible. You need to reinforce your message as often as your budget will allow. If your budget is tight, consider reducing the size of your audience to one that’s hyper-targeted and market to it on a steady basis rather than reaching a larger group only once.
Momentum is a key component of a successful marketing plan, and you can’t build momentum without consistency. Whether you’re working with direct mail or Google AdWords, you need to commit to each individual tactic for a minimum of four to six months. Repetition, or “frequency,” as we call it in the world of marketing, is how members of your community will begin to recognize and trust you, so when they’re ready to make a dental appointment, they’ll choose you.
Spend the money
In a perfect world, word-of-mouth marketing would be enough to sustain your practice growth. It’s possible your existing patients are referring plenty of new prospective patients at the moment. However, it’s not likely a permanent solution you can depend on.
Imagine you decide to bring on an associate or transition your practice and you want to boost your practice numbers. Imagine the competitive landscape in your area changes and you suddenly decide you need to reach more new prospective patients. The point is there will come a time when you’ll need to market your practice, and to do so successfully, you’ve got to be comfortable spending the money.
Determining how much to spend can be a challenge, so here’s a rule of thumb: plan to spend 3 to 5 percent of gross annual production in a typical year, and 6 to 8 percent every third or fourth year when your marketing infrastructure (e.g., branding, website, etc.) likely needs an upgrade.
Follow through and follow up
Your marketing plan should be fluid. It needs to be flexible enough to allow for changes based on returns and budgetary concerns. While creating a plan is the necessary first step, it doesn’t stop there. You need to be monitoring performance to be sure you’re spending your marketing dollars most effectively.
The front desk can be invaluable in helping to track responses. Help get your front office team in the habit of asking every new patient caller or online inquiry how he or she heard about the practice, and have them record each response in a shared document. Additionally, there are tracking and reporting capabilities built into your online marketing efforts (e.g., Google Analytics), or unique tracking phone numbers to use for traditional or print advertising. Make sure these methods are fully leveraged and monitored consistently by making a single person in the practice accountable for tracking new patient sources across all marketing campaigns.
Don’t just set a marketing plan and then forget it. Keep checking in on a regular basis to be sure it’s working for you, helping you to meet your business goals and recruiting a new pool of ideal patients. While there will always be new and innovative ways to promote your dental practice, proven marketing fundamentals will never go out of style.