How to build on what you already know to create a more dynamic online strategy.
Only five short years ago, a dental practice Facebook page was nice to have, but not a must-have. And a practice website was typically a static online version of the practice brochure, if the dentist chose to invest in one at all.
Fast forward to 2017, when these digital marketing tools are an essential part of any dental practice’s marketing mix-and for good reason.
Dental patients today are online. They use search engines like Google to find a dentist. They expect to be able to view dental practice websites from their smartphones while on the go. They read online reviews and rely on testimony from complete strangers to get a feel for your practice before they ever call to make their first appointment.
Dental practice marketing has changed rapidly in recent years; traditional marketing tactics that may have worked seamlessly in the past (Yellow Pages, anyone?) may or may not produce the same return on investment in today’s digital world. What’s more, traditional marketing assets, such as “Care to Share” cards, new patient welcome kits or direct mail pieces, were often one-time investments that a practice could recycle for years, if not decades.
A robust online presence for the dental practice, on the other hand, requires regular maintenance and ongoing effort-not unlike the kind of ongoing home care required of your patients in properly maintaining their oral health.
And just as you talk with your patients about the current condition of their teeth while planting the seeds of what else they could be doing to achieve their optimal smile, the same idea applies to online marketing. In this article, we’ll examine the must-have strategies to improve your current efforts and outline the next steps you can take to elevate your online marketing to an even higher level.
Current approach: While you know that “Joe Jones, DDS” and “Jones Family Dentistry” are simply variations of your practice name, those nuances may be lost on your patients. It’s critical to confirm that the practice name and logo appearing on your business cards and office signage matches those on the website, and that these also agree with what is used for the practice’s Facebook page, the Google Business listing and profiles on sites such as Yelp and Healthgrades.
Next steps: Just as patients may not recognize variations of the practice name, search engines and online directories certainly won’t connect the dots. Using inconsistent branding can lead to confusing search results and even duplicate listings-which makes it exceedingly hard for patients to find you online.
This is why it’s important to keep the practice name, logo, address and phone number consistent across all online properties. This will make sure it’s easy for both new and existing patients as well as search engines’ “spiders” to identify your practice.
Next: What you need to change about your practice website.
The practice website
Current approach: If it has been awhile (read: three years or more) since you last updated your website, it might be overdue for some much-needed attention. Statistically speaking, consumers (i.e., your patients) now access the internet more often from mobile devices than from computers, so if your site isn’t optimized for mobile, or if you are still employing a separate mobile site, converting to a responsive website should be your number-one priority.
Branding and contact information needs to be easy to find on all pages. Links to active social media profiles should be included. Photos of the doctor, staff and practice are important visual components, and online appointing features are what patients crave most today.
Next steps: Start a blog. This isn’t a new concept by any means, and many dentists have long-abandoned blogs on their websites, with a couple of posts dated a few years back. But sporadically blogging won’t generate any meaningful results. Instead, commit to posting regularly, whether that means weekly or monthly-whatever best fits your busy schedule. And remember, a blog post can be a quick 250-word blurb; it doesn’t have to be a feature-length article.
Blogging will help organically build a content library on your own website that will be useful for patients to reference. Blog posts also build what Google calls “authority”-essentially giving your website more gravitas, which positively affects your search engine rankings.
If you’re unsure of what to blog about, start with what you know best. Blog about the five most common procedures performed in the practice. Then blog about the after-care instructions for each of those procedures. Then blog about the five procedures you’d like to do more of.
You can also use topics previously covered in your new patient brochures or past newsletter articles. And perhaps most importantly, ask your front desk team, financial coordinator(s), assistants and hygienists what questions they most commonly get from patients. Turn each one into a blog post that will be helpful to patients and search engines alike, and soon you’ll have a blog with true authority.
Social media engagement
Current approach: Setting up a Facebook page for the practice is a great way to stay connected with patients of record while sharing a more personal side of the practice with the greater community. Uploading the logo and branding scheme, entering the practice contact information and mission statement, and linking to the practice website are important steps in building the profile page. And taking the time to create a social media calendar for the practice (i.e. mapping out 30-90 days worth of posts ahead of time) helps to keep things on a consistent schedule without being disruptive or distracting.
Next steps: If you’ve done all of the above, here are a few ideas to go even further. First, enable reviews on your Facebook page so that patients can rate their experiences. True, as always, there is the potential for negative comments, but you can counteract any negativity by working proactively to encourage a steady stream of positive reviews.
Second, start a YouTube channel for your practice. Patients naturally fear the dentist; why not use the power of online video to showcase your practice, your team and your overall office personality to put their minds at ease? Share the videos to your Facebook and other social media profiles. Include them in your blog. Videos are rich content sources that can be helpful in gaining valuable online traction for the practice.
At the end of the day, marketing is an ongoing process and a perpetual challenge that dentists shouldn’t expect to accomplish all alone. Quite frankly, in most cases, the doctor shouldn’t even be involved in the day-to-day responsibilities that running an online presence for the practice requires. Outsourcing these efforts is a smart way to ensure your online reputation is upheld and up to date, particularly for dental offices without a dedicated marketing staff member. Choose a partner like Sesame Communications, ProSites or My Social Practice, companies that have proven experience and success within the dental industry niche.
The online marketing landscape is in a constant state of change. As a dentist, your job is to staying informed on the latest marketing trends so that you know who to hire to execute on your behalf to keep your online presence and reputation as dynamic and engaging as your practice is in real life.