Growing a practice as an associate

The hard work has finally paid off-You've been working toward this point practically since you were in kindergarten, and now it's here.

8 strategies to get you started

Prerak Patel

The hard work has finally paid off-You've been working toward this point practically since you were in kindergarten, and now it's here. You're officially a dentist, and according to U.S. News and World Report, you have the No. 1 health job in America.1 Most recent graduates undertake the path of being an associate, then ultimately take over or buy an existing practice, or build a new practice from scratch.

Owning your own dental practice is often the ultimate achievement in your career. Not only are you your own boss, but you're able to implement what you truly came into this field for-caring for people the way you really want to, while excelling in business and carving a stable and comfortable lifestyle. However, while very fulfilling, creating and growing a successful practice-either from scratch or through purchase-is challenging. Buying an existing practice can be akin to buying a secondhand vehicle: you have all the makings of a car, but often have to replace a lot of parts in order for it to run efficiently and get where you need to be.

Attracting new patients is a fundamental part of growing your new practice. There are many ways to market your practice to local clientele. It is imperative to reach your clients digitally. There are over 500 million devices in US homes connected to the Internet. It's crucial to have an online strategy that allows you to reach these clients who are searching online and possibly finding your competition instead of you. With over 10 years of marketing experience and results for our clients, we've compiled a list of methods that we know get proven results for new practices or graduates who want to buy an existing practice and expand faster than their colleagues who are too busy for a change.

Strategy No. 1: Build on relationships

With a new practice, you want your patients to identify you as a person, not a corporation. Develop a sense of trust, confidence, and loyalty by maintaining your public image. Never underestimate the impact and importance of personalized, face-to-face networking or the power of positive word-of-mouth advertising from your current clients.

Strategy No. 2: Be social

Having a social media presence is essential in today's online community. Be active in social media outlets such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Google+. These outlets will bring your brand to your customers in a relaxed and friendly environment. Engage in conversations and listen to the online voices of your clients.

Strategy No. 3: Be visible

Although it's easy to focus on the online opportunities available, it's equally important to use visual and print ads when promoting your practice. Even in this digital age, signs and billboards were reported to be the second most effective advertising outlet for small businesses in 2014, with advertisements in local newspapers, magazines, and periodicals close behind.1

Strategy No. 4: Build a local presence

Local sponsorships are an excellent way to build publicity for your practice. Consider sponsoring an event, cause, or even a Little League team. Community involvement and goodwill create positive brand awareness so your customers are more likely to notice and appreciate your efforts. Depending on the type of sponsorship, you can expect your name and logo to be seen in multiple event advertisements, including fliers, banners, T-shirts, newsletters, websites, and local TV.

Strategy No. 5: Keep your website active

Content is king. Your practice's website is an opportunity to show the world you're a knowledgeable professional. Consider building a blog, forum, or informative e-newsletter to drive prospective clients to your site. Up-to-date information and regular fresh posts will help build your image as an authority.

Strategy No. 6: Stay at the top of the search list

When a potential patient performs an online search for a dentist, be sure that your name makes its way to the top of the list. Even the most beautiful websites won't be found if they do not incorporate appropriate tags, keywords, and links that draw traffic and results from search engines. Make sure that the backend of your website contains the vital elements of online search engine optimization (SEO).

Strategy No. 7: Use online directories

Online business listings and local citations are today's digital phonebooks, and they're invaluable local marketing tools. Be sure to take advantage of listing sites, such as Yelp, Google+ Local, and Angie's List. Not only must you make your business information easily accessible through these sites, but be sure to monitor associated customer reviews and respond to feedback quickly and appropriately.

Strategy No. 8: Invest in your strategy

The most successful marketing campaigns have clear goals and dedicated expert people behind them. Make sure that marketing responsibilities are defined and an appropriate amount of time is set aside to see them through. If your practice does not have the knowledge or time to maintain your online social presence or build components for SEO performance into your website, consider delegating that work to a professional online marketing company.

References

1. Best jobs 2015. U.S. News & World Report. http://money.usnews.com/careers/best-jobs/rankings. Accessed April 27, 2015.


Prerak Patel is a serial entrepreneur who founded DentistsBranding.com, an Internet and direct response marketing agency that specializes in cementing dentists' reputations as authorities in their regions, thereby delivering high quality clientele and ensuring success. Mr. Patel can be reached at info@dentistsbranding.com.

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