by Rhonda Savage, DDS
The best marketing plan combines traditional and digital marketing, but for a dental practice, digital is sometimes the ideal strategy because of better reach and lower cost.
While traditional marketing was top dog just 10 years ago, advancements in digital marketing mean practices can no longer afford to sit back and do nothing. But, does this mean that traditional marketing should be replaced solely by digital marketing?
In my opinion, it’s not an either/or; it’s both. The right mix of traditional and digital marketing can help any practice achieve the best results.
You’ve heard the discussions and you’ve read the endless articles surrounding traditional vs. digital marketing. It’s not about choosing one over the other, but it’s about using the two together to achieve the greatest traction for your practice. More importantly, what do patients want? Scratch that. What do they expect? Knowing this will dictate how to build your marketing plan.
What Do Patients Want?
Patients want and demand more than ever before, due to the ease of Internet access and the increased need for instant gratification. Patients want a welcoming and friendly atmosphere with reasonable wait times. Patients also want to feel special and to know that you care about them and their families. Most importantly, they want a relationship. A newer marketing term for this is “relationship marketing,” which is defined as marketing developed from campaigns that focus on customer retention and satisfaction.
Research conducted by Sesame Communications shows that patients want good prices, especially since the 2007 economic downturn, and technology-enabled practices with the ease of making appointments and paying bills online.
Digital Marketing for Dentistry
Before the Internet, the only available marketing tools were the traditional methods of newspapers, magazines, Yellow Pages, direct mail, and local television and radio, if you were lucky. In the past, marketing meant advertising. It was a one-way street, from the dental practice to the potential patient.
Digital marketing, on the other hand, consists of methods designed to reach patients via the Internet, email, and wireless technologies. Digital marketing tends to be more active and more relational than traditional marketing and includes websites, mobile sites, search engine optimization (SEO), social media marketing (SMM), pay-per-click advertising (PPC), and online appointment and bill pay functionality. Most importantly, digital marketing allows two-way communications with new and current patients.
The courtship of dentistry and digital marketing is a new and bold frontier. In a highly competitive and volatile economic climate, the success of any dental practice depends on being discovered and selected by new patients. A dental practice without an online presence is virtually invisible to prospective patients. Success is also determined by the ability to strengthen relationships with existing patients and remain the provider of choice.
Digital marketing allows you to locate and convert your audience with immediate results. Unlike the ambiguity of traditional marketing, digital marketing offers greater measurement, often in real time. You can gain insight through valuable analytics, measure your goals and determine return on investment (ROI).
New evidence indicates that combining digital campaigns such as a website with SEO and SMM will produce significantly better results and greater ROI than utilizing one online channel alone. A study conducted by Sesame Communications confirms that multiple online marketing campaigns have a positive impact on both total calls and amount of new-patient calls to a practice. One recent study found the largest improvement was when an account with one online marketing campaign added two additional campaigns. This led to 137% increase in new-patient calls during the five-month study period.
The Bottom Line
Practices desire better results from their marketing efforts without overextending themselves. Look to integrate digital marketing into your marketing plan to achieve the greatest traction and ROI for your practice. Search for a digital marketing company that understands the intricacies of the dental industry and has the expertise to customize and execute a strong digital marketing strategy. With the right company, you’ll increase new-patient acquisition and retention programs, as well as enhance ROI for your practice.
Digital marketing is here to stay. The power to grow your practice is literally at your fingertips.
Rhonda Savage, DDS, graduated from the University of Washington, School of Dentistry in 1989 with multiple honors. Dr. Savage was in private practice for 16 years, has authored many published peer-reviewed articles, and has lectured internationally. She is the chief executive officer of Miles Global, founded by Linda L. Miles. Contact Dr. Savage at email: [email protected].
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