Understanding why a lack of marketing can be detrimental to the dental practice
A great deal of attention is paid to why it's important for dentists to market their practices. But what happens if they don't? What is the lost opportunity for dentists who don't engage in marketing their practices?
In today's competitive landscape, word of mouth can take a practice only so far and sustain it for only so long. Whether a dentist is preparing for retirement, is bringing on an associate, or has just purchased a practice, whenever there is an imperative to grow the practice, marketing will eventually come into play.
The reality is that in 2016, patients spend a large portion of their free time online-so dental practices looking to add new patients must be online too. It's fair to assume that if a dentist isn't marketing, particularly in the online sphere, he or she will be missing countless opportunities to connect with new patients and grow the business.
So what should a dental practice's marketing plan look like in 2016? The Internet plays a critical role. Dentists need to have a strong presence online in order to reach the 72% of Internet users who search online for health information.1 The term "online marketing" is very broad. For dentists who have little experience, it can be very daunting to try to craft an online marketing plan, so it's best to focus on a few key areas.
According to Brian Halligan, CEO and cofounder of HubSpot, an industry leader in Internet marketing, "To be successful and grow your business and revenues, you must market your products the way your prospects learn about and shop for your products." For dentists, this means having a modern website, positive patient reviews, and engaging social media profiles.
The dental practice website
Having a modern website is the cornerstone for a solid marketing strategy. The website needs to be responsive, meaning that it will load, display, and function properly across any and all devices patients may use-computers, smartphones, or tablets.
Not only is responsive design important from a user standpoint, but Google prefers these mobile-friendly sites, displaying them in mobile search results and even excluding those that are not mobile-friendly. Failing to have a website, or even failing to modernize an outdated website, means innumerable lost opportunities to reach new patients.
Sites such as Facebook and YouTube and apps such as Instagram have revolutionized dental marketing. Never has it been easier or more fun to stay in touch with patients on an ongoing basis. Social media gives dental teams the chance to show a more personal, less clinical side of the office. In addition to posting office news, dentists can run contests, share blogs, post photos and videos from around the office, and encourage patients to do the same.
When dentists don't participate in social media, they're missing out on meaningful and consistent patient communication opportunities. Engaging with patients on sites they already visit multiple times a day will help to stay in contact with them and build a familiarity and loyalty among patients that will keep them coming back-and referring their friends and family-for years to come.
According to a survey by the online experts at BrightLocal, 92% of consumers read online reviews, and 80% of users believe those reviews to be as reliable as personal recommendations.2 Online review sites, including Yelp, Google, and Healthgrades have completely transformed word of mouth. In the past, one person would recommend a dentist to another family member, friend, or coworker. Now, word of mouth is online and one person can post a testimonial for the entire world to see.
Many dentists hesitate to encourage patients to leave reviews online for fear they might leave reviews that are less than positive. What dentists may not realize is that patients are already leaving reviews, whether dentists are aware of it or not. Yelp and Google, two of the most prominent players, automatically create business listings and leave it up to dentists to claim them.
If dentists aren't monitoring their practices' online reviews, they are missing out on capitalizing on positive word of mouth, and they are also leaving their offices vulnerable, potentially allowing others to control their images and reputations in the online sphere.
Dental marketing truths
Can a dental practice survive without marketing? Possibly. If stagnant growth and maintaining the status quo is acceptable, then perhaps marketing is not essential. However, for dentists looking to build or grow successful practices with consistent new patient flow and a sustainable revenue stream, marketing in general, and online marketing in particular, is absolutely fundamental.
The good news is dentists do not have to do it all on their own. Resources such as Officite (officite.com), WEO Media (weomedia.com), and Sesame Communications (sesamecommunications.com) help dentists build modern, mobile-friendly websites, implement successful search engine marketing strategies, create engaging social media profiles, and generate positive online reviews so that practices can see the biggest returns on their marketing investments.
Red Adair famously said, "If you think it's expensive hiring a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur." He was right. In the case of dental practices, the development of an online marketing strategy is not without cost. However, an investment in a seasoned dental marketing consultant and partnering with trusted industry resources are money well spent.
1. Health Fact Sheet. Pew Research Center website. http://www.pewinternet.org/fact-sheets/health-fact-sheet/. Accessed December 22, 2015.
2. Local Consumer Review Survey. Brightlocal.com. https://www.brightlocal.com/learn/local-consumer-review-survey/. Published August 2015. Accessed December 22, 2015.
Naomi Cooper is CEO and cofounder of Doctor Distillery, a B2B advertising and media-buying network that targets more than 100,000 dentists in the United States and connects them with dental companies online. She is also president and founder of Minoa Marketing and serves as chief marketing consultant for Pride Institute. Dental companies seeking more information about reaching dentists and generating dentist leads online through Doctor Distillery's advertising network may contact her at [email protected].