How to master the online marketing game—even if you don't have time

Think you don't have a marketing team? Think again!

Think you don't have a marketing team? Think again!

Marketing is a key ingredient of any fee-for-service dental practice's business plan. New patients are the lifeblood of the practice, and external marketing is a necessary part of the picture. Yet many dentists don't have the time or the skills to launch and maintain a successful online marketing campaign, and few have the resources to hire a full marketing team.

What dentists fail to realize is that they do, in fact, have marketing teams! For every dental practice, there is likely a web developer who designed the practice website and someone responsible for managing the search engine optimization (SEO). A graphic designer likely created the branding and logo. Happy patients and staff act as brand ambassadors to spread word of mouth around the community.

All of this together makes a pretty powerful marketing team. And it illustrates another important point: A dentist simply can't do everything alone, so just as lab work, complex endo, and tax preparation are outsourced, marketing can be as well.

However, managing various marketing vendors can sometimes feel like a full-time job. How can you manage an outsourced marketing team to maximize ROI and keep your fee-for-service practice thriving? Here are three quick tips to make your marketing vendor work for you.

No. 1: Assemble the right team.

Managing vendors can be as simple or as complicated as you make it. The question is whether to hire and manage multiple experts or hire one company that can do it all. There are many companies that excel in particular areas: one with SEO expertise, another that specializes in social media marketing, and another that does only website design. Dentists can turn to companies like Wpromote (wpromote.com) for search engine optimization and marketing, Demandforce (demandforce.com) for patient communication and online reviews, MySocialPractice (mysocialpractice.com) for social media, or Officite (officite.com) for website design.

However, getting multiple companies on board with the same vision and strategy can be challenging, and accountability is often difficult to determine when so many parties are involved. Sometimes it's in a dentist's best interest to hire a single vendor that can perform multiple tasks. Sesame Communications (sesamecommunications.com), for example, can help build a practice's online presence from the ground up. Having one team working toward your goal facilitates communication and ongoing progress and accountability, and it's especially helpful to have a single point of contact for any questions or issues that arise.

The bottom line to look for is experience in the dental industry. While it may be tempting to hire a local company that seems to have local expertise, it's truly in your best interest to partner with a company that has already honed its skills within the dental industry and one that already grasps the unique relationships you have with your patients and the unique language and imagery that is appropriate for the profession.

No. 2: Be the squeaky wheel.

Online marketing isn't second nature for most dentists, and it can be overwhelming talking with a sales or customer service representative who, for all intents and purposes, seems to be speaking a different language. Don't be intimidated! Never hesitate to ask as many questions as necessary to get the answers that you need. Ask your vendors to work with you to clarify the strategy, process, and results.

The vendor is going to charge for services every month like clockwork. It's up to you, the client, to get the most out of the contract. Ask the questions. Read-and make sure you understand-any progress reports. You need to know enough to know when things are going well or awry. A true professional will want you to get the best results possible, so if anything could be done better, it's in everyone's best interest to have a conversation about that.

No. 3: Get outside help.

Most dentists don't have time to manage vendors on a daily basis. If you have a staff member who has the knowledge, time, and desire to facilitate the vendor relationships, this can be a terrific opportunity for added responsibility. However, most dental teams don't have an internal resource like this. For those that aren't as fortunate, someone needs to be managing the marketing vendors. This is a ripe opportunity for outsourcing. Hiring an outside consultant ensures that ongoing attention is paid to the marketing plan and that efforts are coordinated, especially if you are using multiple vendors.

Keep in mind that marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. And when it comes to online marketing, it's not enough to simply sign on the dotted line. A successful marketing campaign requires ongoing focus, a coordinated effort of continual monitoring, and a steady tracking of results in order to maximize ROI and keep fee-for-service patients coming through the practice door.


Naomi Cooper is the chief marketing consultant for the Pride Institute, the president and founder of Minoa Marketing, and the CEO and cofounder of Doctor Distillery. She is a respected dental marketing strategist, consultant, author, speaker, and industry opinion leader. She teaches Pride's marketing courses and consults with companies throughout the dental industry to help them develop a cohesive marketing approach and create momentum-and tangible results-for marketing efforts aimed at dental professionals. Naomi can be reached via e-mail at naomi@minoamarketing.com, and she blogs regularly at minoamarketing.com. For regular updates from Naomi, including dental marketing and social media tips and tricks, follow her on Twitter (@naomi_cooper) or "like" Naomi Cooper - Minoa Marketing on Facebook at fb.com/minoamarketing.

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