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Marketing isn’t a bad word. The thought of it may make you feel uncomfortable or even a little anxious, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore what a good marketing plan can do for your practice. And while most of you already know you need to market your practice to survive, 54% of you said dental marketing is bad for the profession, according to a survey from The Wealthy Dentist.
Marketing isn’t a bad word.
The thought of it may make you feel uncomfortable or even a little anxious, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore what a good marketing plan can do for your practice.
And while most of you already know you need to market your practice to survive, 54% of you said dental marketing is bad for the profession, according to a survey from The Wealthy Dentist.
If you’re among those who cringe when you hear the word marketing, it’s time for an attitude adjustment. There is plenty of good that can come from marketing, so make the move to bust out of your comfort zone and benefit from all a little self promotion has to offer.
Why you hate it
You aren’t taught marketing in school, so most dentists aren’t familiar with the different ways they can promote their practice, said Jackie Bailey of Emerald City Consulting. All too often dentists have no idea where to begin.
Beyond that, some dentists believe they shouldn’t have to market their practice to attract patients. Good dentistry is all you really need. Besides, there is that negative connotation surrounding the word “advertising” and that’s something many of you would rather not be associated with.
“I don’t feel marketing is dirty at all. It’s all how you look at it and what you do to market your practice,” Bailey said. “If dentists feel it’s dirty, it’s because they don’t realize what’s out there for them. There will always be those dentists who advertise in a dishonest way, which is another reason marketing seems dirty to some dentists.”
Getting over it
Before you label marketing as bad, make sure you have the right definition. Re-frame what marketing is to you, said Robert Spiel, MBA, of Spiel Consulting. Marketing is a tool to convey the value and the values that you bring to the market place. It’s about emotion and conveying the emotion you want the recipients to feel. Your marketing should capture their interest and lead them to want to ask you questions.
There are a lot of ways to market your practice, Bailey said. Be creative. One practice she works with in a downtown area sent staff members from the office to nearby businesses. They reached out to human resources departments, taking magnets and toothbrushes to human resource managers and befriending them. The result was when these HR managers talked with new employees, they mentioned the dental office right down the street with the nice employees and the dentist who takes their insurance.
“Doing something like this doesn’t cost a lot but it can mean a lot,” Bailey said. “It’s an inexpensive way to make a difference. It’s a matter of creatively thinking and brainstorming with team members to find the right niche for your practice.”
Where to start
Often times dentists don’t market their practices as effectively as they should simply because they don’t know where to start. It can be intimidating, but remember there’s no shame in asking for help. Consultants like Spiel and Bailey can help you develop a marketing plan for your practice that will help you attract the type of patients you’d like to serve.
If you don’t sit down with a consultant before diving into a marketing plan, you may end up costing yourself money, Spiel said. Many dentists shy away from marketing because they tried it once or twice but felt like their efforts were a waste of time and money. But if dentists don’t get the result they’re after, it’s likely because they didn’t take the time to work with a professional and really think about the message they wanted to convey and how they wanted to convey it.
“It’s not complicated, but it does take time,” Spiel said. “It takes an investment in terms of the dentist working with that professional consultant to really drill down and get a keen sense of what their uniqueness is in the market place and then how they want to communicate that.”
And remember internal marketing is the foundation. If you believe in your work you shouldn’t be afraid to ask patients for a referral, Spiel said. Give your patients business cards and tell them you would love to have more patients like them in your practice. No matter what kind of external marketing plan you develop, don’t forget word of mouth is another great tool to help you grow your practice.
If you’re still not comfortable with this type of conversation, there are scripts you can use to help get you through it, Spiel said.
Getting your staff involved
For a marketing plan to work, your staff has to be on board. Meeting with your staff regularly can help keep them excited about your marketing plan and up-to-date on the practice’s latest efforts.
Staff members are a huge part of internal marketing-from the way they greet patients to what they say to patients while they’re in the chair, Bailey said. The message should be consistent, and staff members are key to making that happen.
If staff members know their roles and perform them well, patients will be more comfortable. If patients are comfortable, they’re more likely to come back and to talk about how great your practice is to family and friends. It comes down to building trust and giving your patients an experience that makes them want to come back.
Now’s the time
So you’ve decided to make that call and get started on your marketing plan-as soon as the economy gets a little better. Don’t use the economy as an excuse to put this off.
“This is the moment for proactive dental professionals to realize that while other guys are holding back, this is when you go out there and start to invest in marketing,” Spiel said. “But you don’t want to do the shot gun method. You have to have a clear plan and know who you are, what you offer, how to get your message out there effectively, and who you are marketing to. Every bit of market share you pick up now will pick up huge dividends once this recession starts to turn around.”
This is the time to have confidence in your skills and to target a marketing message to specific types of patients. Marketing isn’t dirty and you shouldn’t see it as selling yourself. It’s a way to let people know how great you are so they have the opportunity to benefit from your work.
“Don’t market dentistry-that’s not what you’re selling,” Bailey said. “You’re selling hope, health, confidence and/or beauty. That’s what your marketing efforts should be about.”