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August 27, 2014

Digital marketing may get all the attention, but the humble postcard may still be the king of dental patient acquisition. Here’s the how-and-why of the surprisingly successful postcard. 

Digital marketing may get all the attention, but the humble postcard may still be the king of dental patient acquisition. Here’s the how-and-why of the surprisingly successful postcard. 

 

Despite advances in digital marketing for dentists, experts say the best method for growing your practice may just be one of the oldest: direct mail. And while you shouldn’t abandon key digital marketing tactics such as maintaining an up-to-date website, participating in social media and keeping a close eye on your online reputation, neither should you ignore tested direct-mail products that have proven to deliver returns on investment as high as 400 percent.

 

In fact, when it comes to marketing for dentists, the postcard may just be the most effective product since … well, since the postcard. Postcards are physical, visual, affordable and measurable. In an age when most people are experts at avoiding advertising, postcards are nearly impossible to ignore.

 

Most important, there’s a lot of research showing that they are effective

 

Postcards may not be the sexiest form of marketing, but according to a recent survey by Target Marketing magazine, direct mail scored the best ROI for customer acquisition, customer contact and customer retention. And a 2010 report by Marketing Sherpa found the response rate for direct mail averages 3.4 percent compared to 0.12 percent for email.

 

How can this be?

 

According to Virginia Tech communications professor Robert G. Magee, PhD, it’s simple: Printed material is tangible. 

In a 2013 survey comparing the effectiveness of print vs. digital versions of the university’s alumni magazine, recipients recalled the online version 49 percent of the time vs. 82 percent for the print; and 77 percent of those surveyed read the print version vs. 49 percent for the online version.

 

While this survey studied print vs. digital publications, the results can also be applied to physical marketing materials. Unlike email, a postcard is a physical product that is nearly impossible to ignore, says Mike Ryan, president of Cactus Mailing Company, a direct-mail marketing agency that has run successful postcard campaigns for more than 1,000 dental practices nationwide.

 

“A well-designed postcard instantly grabs attention and communicates your marketing message,” Ryan says. “People don’t even have to open it to see who you are and what you’re offering. That immediate engagement draws them in, reading further about your offer, your practice and how they can respond. No other dental marketing medium approaches this kind of instant appeal.”

 

A survey by global research agency Millward Brown revealed that: “Physical media–AKA direct mail–left a ‘deeper footprint’ in the brain.”

 

In other words media that consumers can touch and feel resonated more than digital materials. And according to a study by ICOM, the world’s largest network of independent advertising and marketing agencies, this resonance applies to all age groups, including the 18-to-34 demographic. Magee also found this to be the case.  

How to succeed with postcard marketing

Not all postcard campaigns are created equal. A successful dental postcard campaign requires exactly the right target audience, image, copy and offer to ensure excellent results. A postcard has to immediately communicate its message at a glance. And that message includes not just the words, but also the imagery.

 

“Everything has to work together to communicate not just your offer, but your practice image,” Ryan says. “It has to engage. And it all has to happen in a moment.”

 

Additionally, you need to be able to accurately track the campaign to properly measure its effectiveness. A skilled postcard marketing expert knows how to use the limited real estate on a postcard to get the optimal results, and how to target that postcard to ensure it reaches the right people.

 

“It’s not just about blasting ZIP codes,” Ryan says. “You need to fine tune your audience to ensure your message is reaching the right households.”

 

For example, Ryan says, if you’re a pediatric practice, you want to make sure you are hitting homes with children. If you focus on cosmetic dentistry, there are specific income demographics you want to hit. 

 

How to choose the right direct marketing agency

 

With so many moving parts, dentists need to work with agencies that are specialists in direct mail. A reputable, high-quality direct-mail marketing agency is more than just a print shop that does mailing. The best direct-mail agencies understand your market and best practices in list selection, design and copy writing that work for dental practices. They have a reputation for reliability and honoring their clients’ timelines.

 

When considering an agency, be sure to do the following:

 

  • Ask for examples of postcards the agency has created for other dental practices. What works for a hair salon or auto body shop won’t work for dentists.

  • Ask to see the results of previous dental campaigns, with a particular focus on ROI. How much production was directly attributable to the campaign?

  • Get references and talk with previous dental clients. Review the testimonials on the agency’s website.

  • As with any vendor, be sure that the agency has an “A” rating or better with the Better Business Bureau. 

 

To learn more, watch this free, on-demand webinar, which features three case studies from dental practices in Arizona, New York and Colorado, and shows you how to choose your list, create a strong offer, track results and ensure success with your postcard marketing.

 

 

This article is part of Dental Products Report’s Partner Voice program, which provides a channel for industry experts to present quality content to our audience. This article is sponsored by Cactus Mailings.