“Help! I am starting a new job at a small, 10-person dental practice. They brought me on to be the receptionist and grow the business. This is a little bit daunting to someone with very little experience in marketing. The question is, where do I start?”
This happens more often than you think. Younger employees are given social media responsibility and marketing work even though they have no background or training in it. Kimberly A. Kalista, an experienced marketing strategist consultant in northeast Ohio, gave guidance for new employees hired and assigned marketing tasks.
In marketing, you need to ramp up your digital presence. The first stop is to figure out who your audience is and make sure you have a content management strategy in place for each platform. For these purposes, let’s focus on an adult dental practice that is 10 years old and wants to keep growing.
Here are some ideas regarding social media channels to get you started.
- Facebook: Do you have a Facebook page? What are you putting on it? Does it make sense to offer a discount or some kind of promotion for your business? Perhaps, offer a free trial of teeth whitening to bring potential patients into the office. Are you making weekly posts? With FB, you can geotarget by audience and location for a small fee. You choose the zip codes such as the east suburbs of a city as well as user interests. Then select a 25-50-mile radius. Keep in mind, people have specific preferences about the convenience of having their dentist closer to work or to home. This is one way you can extend your circle to target new business. If you are extending the practice’s hours to a second evening or weekend day, this is a great way to get the word out.
- Twitter: Make sure you’re using your audience insights under Analytics in Twitter. This help you better understand who’s following you and who in your audience is most likely to be online. Not only will this help you determine when to tweet, but it will also decide your frequency of your Tweets.
- LinkedIn: This is a professional platform, but it’s also a great way to promote your accomplishments and recognize your staff. Write articles from the employer perspective. This targets professionals who have insurance and would be looking for a dentist or practice online. LinkedIn is more than just a job search tool. It is a great place to remind users of the importance of getting a regular check-up every six months.
- YouTube: Video content is in high demand these days. Streaming options are becoming more common than cable TV. Short video clips showcasing relevant content is a great way to engage a new audience. Plus, YouTube videos can also be shared across your other social platforms.
- Instagram: Are you putting pictures of your office and staff out there? Photos are a great way to introduce your new staff and showcase new technology. If you get new equipment, post pictures of it. You can even share patient videos with a signed consent form. Today, more millennials are following Instagram than other social channels. Think about showcasing before and after pictures of a successful outcome featuring your happy patients.
- Pinterest: This is a platform where you can offer unique facts about dentistry, like how oral health is connected to your overall health and wellness. Infographics are great for Pinterest, as are content relating to teeth, gums, and good oral hygiene.
Traditional marketing methods for new business development.
- Audit your website. Look at Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Find someone knowledgeable in SEO so that you can rank higher on Google and Bing, identify a strong call to action online, such as make an appointment, write a review, or attend an event.
- Advertising is always paid. Set aside a budget to run digital ads to test and invest in the channels that convert best for your practice.
- Reminder postcards. Direct mail still works. Reminder postcards help prevent no shows and a quick letter to lapsed patients who haven’t made an appointment in over a year is a good retention strategy.
- Print advertising. The common thought is that print resources, like newspapers ads and newsletters, is a dying medium. That is, unless you’re promoting events. That is where you can see more bang for your buck.
- Brochures. You need good print collateral to be able to give to potential referral sources as well as potential patients. A business card isn’t as effective. Consider partnering with primary care physicians and specialists to reinforce the importance of your annual cleaning.
- Open houses/programs in the office. These include meet and greets, health talks, and panel discussions. How do you get people to come? Food. (Ok, wine works quite well.) Giving away free samples from vendors like an electric toothbrush or holding a raffle for an iPad will bring in a crowd as well. There will be better attendance from other businesses in your office building if there is a raffle that is appealing to everyone. Plus, you this is a great way to collect emails and addresses from attendees, and then send promotional materials out to draw in new patients.
- Community events. Consider partnering with hospitals at community affairs and have a table or booth. Get involved at health and wellness events. Make sure that you have an engaging personality at the booth. Have a give-away for lead generation and pass out brochures and talking points for the volunteers working your table. Once the event starts, there won’t be much time to engage with everyone. Remember to smile, establish eye contact, and get attendees to fill out a form for the raffle as you start up conversations. Questions like, “When was your last teeth cleaning? Are you on social media? Electric or manual toothbrush?” will keep the conversation going. The goal is to keep them at the booth longer and make them laugh. This will leave a memorable impression which can lead to new patients.
- Billboards. Forget it. It will cost $10,000-$15,000 and no one has the time to write down a website or phone number while driving. This type of advertising will not benefit a small dental practice.
When it comes to your social channels, it is critical to plan your content in advance as well as establish a response strategy for social monitoring. When someone responds to a post or has a question, you need a designated response online and offline via private message. If they had a good experience at your practice, ask them to write a review. If there is a negative comment, address it immediately and see how you can turn it into a positive. Typical response times are within 24-48 hours of a posting. Yelp is now getting into the healthcare market, so this is another platform you need to monitor for user reviews.
There is a science behind marketing that professionals have been trained and educated in. Hiring an expert is always an option, but if the budget isn’t available, try some of these ideas and start thinking outside of the box. Just telling a new employee to create social media posts for your practice is not going to generate the results you are hoping for unless you have a strategy behind it. Make sure the employee creating social media content works with your office IT person. See if there are workshops that you can send them to. Libraries are a good place to find out about training opportunities. These are just some ways to start building your practice’s reputation and to grow your business.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your social media strategies and new business development ideas that have worked for your practice.