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Masterful marketing

Jan. 1, 2007
Doctors throughout the world - through our surveys and those of industry friends - repeatedly mention marketing as one of the key areas in which they’d like to see improvement.

Doctors throughout the world - through our surveys and those of industry friends - repeatedly mention marketing as one of the key areas in which they’d like to see improvement. What is marketing? Do dental practices really have to market themselves? Don’t people just choose a dentist because he or she opened a practice in a convenient location?

Marketing is a necessity and something you already do, whether you know it or not. Marketing is a part of every decision you make, from the way you dress in the office to the way you speak to your patients. Your business cards, office décor, brochures, Web site - just about everything - is marketing or at least relates to marketing. So if everything you do is marketing, then how do you know if you are doing it correctly? How can you make it better?

1 Identify your message.All of your marketing needs to be geared toward one succinct message. You can have submessages, but it all needs to relate back to the central theme. Misty Absher Clark uses Ford to illustrate this point. Ford’s main theme is that their cars and trucks are “Built Ford Tough,” implying that the company makes solid vehicles. They also advertise several types of vehicles you can purchase, based on customer needs, without straying from the original message. The same is true with Coca-Cola®. Coke’s message is it is a “refreshing drink,” and it also offers diet versions of the drink for the health-conscious. Why are dental offices any different?

Find your message, whether that message is that you are a family-based practice with a small town feel or a cosmetic practice with a cosmopolitan feel. Determine what your practice represents, create a succinct message, and carry it throughout all of your marketing. You still can market other aspects of your practice, as long as you ultimately stick to the main message.

2Brand your practice.This is similar to finding your message, and actually goes hand-in-hand with it. Once you find your message, you need to create an image consistent with it. Create a look and feel for a logo to be used in your marketing materials, in your office, and on your Web site. Stick with it in everything you do. Never stray from your brand, which is your message and your look. If your practice is focused on cosmetic dentistry with an upscale feel to it, then you will want to make sure your image reflects that. For instance, your business cards should be upscale, high end, and without any cartoon characters, etc.3Be consistent.All of your marketing materials should match your brand and match each other. If not, you are wasting dollars and effort. What if the Oklahoma State Cowboys continuously changed the color of their ads? Instead of using their signature orange and black, let’s say they used purple and yellow. How long would it take to figure out the ad was for OSU? It’s not any different for your dental practice. You want everything to be consistent. This also goes for your office. The look and feel of your marketing materials and advertising should match the look and feel of your office. Many practices find they advertise with companies that include ad creation as part of the fee. In doing so, the company will create a beautiful ad. The only problem is that these companies don’t always take into consideration the branding of the office. As a result, they create a beautiful ad, but it doesn’t have the same look and feel as the other advertising nor does it compliment the practice’s marketing material. The bottom line: You won’t increase your bottom line with inconsistent marketing efforts.4Get creative.What can you do besides your basic newsletter and without significant cost? Collecting patient e-mail addresses allows you to keep in touch for free via e-mail updates. Creating catchy postcards can be fairly inexpensive in the world of direct mail, and it saves readers the step of opening an envelope. Stay in touch with your audience and think of new ways to do so.5Think in thirds.You use external marketing and advertising as you try to reach prospective patients. You also have your internal team members to keep happy so their energy overflows to your patients. You have existing patients to keep happy so they’ll send referrals and keep visiting your practice. Don’t forget any of these three important audiences!6Don’t underestimate your Web site power. In this day and age, you better have a great Web site that you update regularly. It’s a requirement and a great way to connect people to your practice - you want your patients to have reasons to visit your site time and time again and to tell others about it and your practice.

One blunder that people make is building a beautiful Web site that’s lost in cyberspace. Make sure you consider all search engine optimization strategies as you craft your Web site’s format. Consider utilizing listing agents to increase your Web site’s visibility. It is important for your site to be easy to find through a Web search and to look attractive to potential clients and current patients once they find it.

Interactive forms, before-and-after photo galleries, along with informative patient-education details are important aspects of your site. Arrange everything in such a way that the potential patient or existing patient can quickly learn more to add to the value of your relationship.

7Share, tell, shout in unison with your team. Don’t be shy. Share your message! Be sure to talk to your patients and make sure they understand your message. If you are trying to promote yourself as a leading dentist in the area, you need to inform your patients of your extra training, certifications, organizational recognition, etc. Most dentists are modest and do not feel comfortable doing this. That’s OK; let your team do it. You also can send newsletters to your patient base letting them know about the additional training you received. No matter what your message, make sure your team is on board with it. You want your entire office to reflect your message.

Jameson Management Inc. is an international lecture and consulting firm providing instruction and coaching in four vital areas of practice development: communication, business, hygiene and clinical efficiency, and technology. For further information on how to take your practice to the next level, contact JMI at (877) 369-5558 or visit the Web site at www.jamesonmanagement.com.

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