by Diana P. Friedman, MA, MBA
With 97% of consumers searching for local businesses online, the Internet has become the Yellow Pages of the 21st century. Given that 78% of dental practices have some sort of website presence, the dental industry seems to have embraced this shift in practice marketing. The competition for new patients has escalated in most markets; therefore, being found and chosen by prospective patients requires more than simply creating a website and expecting new patients to flock to the practice. To help your practice rise above the online digital marketing "noise," follow these four simple steps.
Tune Up and Supercharge Your Digital
Assess your existing digital marketing approach, and evaluate whether you have the optimal marketing channels required to meet your new-patient and production goals. The four areas to evaluate are:
1. Your Practice Website - Users decide whether to stay on the site or leave during the first 10 seconds of the page visit. Ensure that your website appeals to patients by providing a content and navigation experience that will convert website visitors to new patients. As smartphone usage now exceeds that of desktop computers, ensure that your website automatically optimizes for viewing and navigation on all mobile devices and that it has a construct that supports your search engine optimization (SEO) strategy. If it doesn't, it's time for a new site.
2. Your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Strategy - 72% of Internet users report having looked online for health information within the past year. Your practice website may not rank well on search engine results unless a focused, locally targeted SEO strategy is deployed. Ranking below the second page of results means drastically fewer visitors and new patients. Make sure the vendor you choose focuses on dentistry, understands the nuances of local search, and provides you with success metrics.
3. Your Social Media Strategy - 78% of small businesses attract new customers through social media. An effective social media strategy needs to address the platforms (e.g., Facebook and YouTube), as well as the type and frequency of content delivered, in order to create a social community around the practice and educate existing and prospective patients about the valuable services that your practice offers.
4. Your Online Review Syndication Strategy - 90% of people are influenced by online reviews when deciding whether to purchase a product or service. The secret to a successful online review syndication strategy is to ensure that reviews are written by actual patients who have benefited from treatment in your practice. Second, the online review syndication strategy must ensure that your verified reviews are automatically published to prominent topical search sites, such as Healthgrades, that patients visit to find new dental care providers. With more than 20 million prospective dental patient searches on Healthgrades each year, this strategy will drive, on average, 11 requests for appointments per month.
Track Results and Make Adjustments
Once you upgrade your digital marketing strategies, keep an eye on performance metrics. A recent study found that 75% of small businesses did not use analytics tools to measure website performance. It is critical that you monitor website performance, search performance, social media interaction, new-patient calls to the practice, and which marketing channels bring in new patients. While some metrics, like new-patient calls, need to be captured by your practice, other metrics can be gathered and provided to you by your digital marketing vendor(s). These performance metrics should guide improvements to your digital marketing strategy so you can optimize results.
Establishing a predictable stream of new patients is a key contributor to practice growth and profitability. While many practices have embraced the Internet as the source of these new patients, they have yet to adopt a systematic method of success. By making improvements to your digital marketing strategies and measuring performance, your practice will be well positioned to take full advantage of the Internet as your most valuable channel for new patient acquisition.
References available upon request.
Diana P. Friedman, MA, MBA, is president and chief executive officer of Sesame Communications. She has a 20-year track record of success in leading dental innovation and marketing. Contact Diana at [email protected].