Nearly every dentist today has some sort of online presence, so what can you do to set your practice apart?
Have you ever felt as though online marketing is an exercise in futility? After all, it seems as though every dentist in 2018 has some form of digital presence, making it harder than ever to set your dental practice apart from your competition online.
Don’t let thoughts like this trick you into thinking that online marketing is impossible because here’s the secret: Not every dentist makes a real investment in his or her online presence. And your competition pool grows even smaller when you consider that many dentists have yet to invest in a content marketing strategy.
What is content marketing?
It’s a method of marketing where valuable, relevant information is created and distributed to a targeted audience online in order to position the content creator as a thought leader and trusted resource, also known as a “subject matter expert.” The content itself can take many forms: blog posts, social media updates, podcasts, webinars, photos, videos, memes, infographics - the list goes on and on.
When you think about dental practice marketing 10-15 years ago, dentists were mainly limited to print ads and direct mail, types of promotion marketing that pushed your brand upon patients as an interruption, without providing much value. These traditional methods of marketing also weren’t easy to track in terms of performance and effectiveness. Today, content marketing strategies put your practice in front of patients using a less intrusive, more organic approach that can also be measured in real time to help achieve a more profitable return on investment.
Content marketing is especially advantageous to dentists considering the fact that many patients have some measure of anxiety about coming into the practice for care. Content marketing breaks down traditional barriers to allow dental teams to showcase a more personal side of the office, which helps patients to feel at ease before they ever sit down in the dental chair.
However, because most dentists are not content marketing experts, they shouldn’t expect to have all the answers themselves, so here are five simple ways any dentist can create a content marketing strategy that resonates with patients:
1. Know your audience
It can be tempting to write extensively about your credentials and expertise, and while your experience is worth sharing, a better approach is to keep the content focused on the benefits to the patient - a welcoming staff, patient-focused treatment, easily scheduled appointments and late office hours are a few examples. Also, keeping the patient in mind, consider steering away from two things: 1) dental jargon that can confuse the average layperson (e.g., use “cavities” instead of “caries” or “metal fillings” as opposed to “amalgams”) and 2) graphic images of dental disease or surgery (e.g., photos more appropriate for your study club) that can easily turn patients off.
2. Create a content marketing plan
Whether you decide to post new content daily, weekly or even monthly, the key is to keep it consistent. Brainstorm ideas for material ahead of time and create a schedule so that there is always a stream of new content. This presents an opportunity to involve the entire office team with marketing the practice. Getting input from each department will provide a good mix of content topics that will appeal to a wide range of patients. It’s also important to tailor the content to the season like sharing Easter/Halloween candy tips in the spring and fall, summertime sports injury prevention tips or benefit expiration reminders near the end of the year.
3. Have fun with video
Speaking of images, visual content is incredibly powerful, and none more so than videos. The good news for dentists is that patients don’t expect high-production, Hollywood-quality video. Some of the most successful videos on YouTube are shot using the cameras on web cams, smartphones and tablets.
What matters most is that the content is of compelling interest to patients. Videos briefly describing aftercare instructions, explaining the benefits of common procedures, giving office tours and broadcasting employee greetings are all great examples. But some of the best dental practice videos, the ones that gain the most traction on social media, were clearly created just for fun - videos featuring lip syncing in the operatory, Halloween costume contests and other office shenanigans are the ones that really go viral!
4. Experiment with live streams
Live streaming has heightened the popularity of online video even further. In fact, more than 80 percent of users would rather watch a live video than read a social media update or a blog post. Live videos provide a way for patients to interact with the office in real time, personalizing the dentist and the staff, which helps to increase the patient’s connection with the practice and makes treatment less intimidating. A word of caution: Live videos do require a strong internet connection and the sound quality needs to be top-notch to make them most effective. But definitely consider this medium for demonstrating a new tech tool or having fun with a quick get-to-know-the-staff Q&A session with your team.
5. Don’t be stingy with your content
Once content is created, don’t forget to share it. If you write a blog post answering a popular patient question, share a link to the blog across social media and highlight it in an enewsletter too. Ask patients on Facebook what questions they have about your practice in particular or dentistry in general, and create a blog or vlog series around your answers. Remind patients about your content and social profiles while they’re in the chair. You can even add signage around the office directing them to the practice blog, and add a “Like us on Facebook” link in the email signature to further help build your online audience and enhance the reach of your content.
Creating dynamic content that resonates with patients, and doing so on a regular basis, requires time and effort on the part of the dentist and team, which is likely why many dental offices have yet to develop a content marketing strategy. However, you can use this to establish your competitive advantage. Working on your dental practice’s content marketing and thought leadership potential now will help raise awareness of your practice online and can lift your practice’s brand presence above and beyond all the rest.