Marketing: Easier than you think

March 21, 2012

According to economists, who know these things, the RECESSION IS OVER! Yet, we still are getting massive feedback from dental practices regarding concerns about:

According to economists, who know these things, the RECESSION IS OVER! Yet, we still are getting massive feedback from dental practices regarding concerns about:

  • New patient flow

  • Conversion of new patient inquiries to first appointments

  • New patients and patients of record committing to ideal treatment plans

It’s because although the financial picture is improving, we all are still dealing with the very real fallout in our day-to-day practice lives. Potential new patients and existing patients are a bit more cynical and skittish about spending money or going deeper into debt. They are saying “maybe,” “later” or “no” to discretionary care. Before you get depressed, at the same time we see struggles financially, there are new models for marketing and branding that are low cost and yield very high rewards. The patients are out there and a smart marketing plan will drive them into your practice.

Developing a successful marketing plan and brand
Successful marketing today needs to create awareness, engagement and commitment. If you have a website that’s visited nightly by little old ladies surfing the net in Belgium, you may have generated some awareness, but you have no hope of providing these ladies with implants or new dentures. Therefore, whether you are looking to generate more new patients through internal referrals, traditional advertising or Internet (new frontier) activities, the campaign must fire on all three pistons: awareness, engagement and commitment. And when it does, you will see immediate returns.

The first step in unifying your marketing and communication strategies is to take a close look at your brand: who you are and the promise you make to your community with the intention of never breaking it. When you brand your practice you don’t have to hire an expensive advertising executive to look into a crystal ball and find your advertising slogan like, “World’s Best Cup of Coffee.” Your brand is your vision, your values, what makes you unique compared to the other dentists in your same ZIP code. The more authentic the brand, the more likely the messaging will be consistent. You can create loads of awareness, but engagement is created when people connect to your brand. The additional benefits of having a strong practice brand are:

Branding differentiates you from all the others. What makes Burger King different from Wendy’s?

Branding unifies all your communications. If you are a modern, high-tech, sophisticated practice that focuses on cosmetic and long-term health solutions, you better not feature Garfield the cat flossing on your continuing care postcards (unless you’re a pediatric practice and then Garfield works fine).

Customers are loyal to brands. I’m pretty sure most of you haven’t left Charmin or Northern toilet tissue behind for generics just because of the economy. And they will pay more money for that brand. Whether it’s your favorite shampoo, hotel or restaurant, we love what we love and we do pay more!

The new frontier
Before you fully define your brand, you need to know WHERE your patients come from and WHO they are, so you can ensure your brand is meaningful to them. Once you are branded and you have a logo that matches that brand, you are ready to market your practice!

In the old days, when we had to fold, stuff and stamp direct mail pieces or spend a significant amount of money to have a quarter inch ad in the yellow pages, marketing was incredibly costly from a financial and resource point of view. Today’s new frontier (online) marketing strategies are incredibly low in ongoing cost and resource allocation and exponentially touch so many more potential patients that any dentist can market a practice successfully! New frontier marketing includes:

  • Online communication strategies

  • Website design and upkeep

  • Search engine optimization

  • Social media interaction

  • Ongoing online reputation management

In defining new frontier, this is where we usually start to lose the baby boomers (don’t worry-I am one of you, too). Considering that boomers grew up using rotary telephones, this whole topic can be overwhelming and create a fair amount of inertia. The great news is that in every dental practice in America, there is at least one team member who is very comfortable with Facebook and Twitter. There also are outside experts, companies that make it their business to understand online marketing. They can guide us ole’ folk toward a new horizon.

Don’t get left behind
And the truth is…every dental practice must go in that direction. The fastest growing demographic on Facebook is comprised of seniors. Studies have shown that 66% of all medical/dental prospects use the doctor’s website as the primary decision driver as to whether to make an appointment. So if you don’t embrace these new opportunities, you will be left behind. This month, we have called on our experts to help guide dentists and their teams to make the best decisions and gain the best results from their marketing strategies. In these challenging times, there is no greater opportunity for continued success, so read on and grow!