by John Rottschalk, DDS
There used to be a time when, if you had a toothache, you'd scramble for the nearest copy of the Yellow Pages® and search for a dentist. By the time you thought you found a doctor, the pain went from bad to worse. Thirteen years ago, when my staff and I started marketing our practice, the Yellow Pages were all the rage. The return on investment, or ROI, as you might expect, was not nearly what I had hoped for. We were getting roughly five new patients per month while spending $21,000 per year on advertising. Something needed to change.
Today as more people use the web to research and purchase goods and services, a dental practice without an online presence is virtually invisible to a prospective patient at home. A patient can now simply open their laptop to find a practice within seconds. The world now runs on connected mobile devices and computers supported by search engines.
Like most dentists, I know how crucial a website is to the success of a practice. But today you have to think beyond a website, with a strategy that includes having a mobile-friendly site and a robust social media presence.
While traditional marketing was king just a decade ago, advancements in digital marketing means practices like mine can no longer afford to sit back and do nothing. It wasn't until 2008 that I started exploring other options. After visiting with several dentists in the area and attending industry tradeshows, I had enough information to tell me that I needed to not only join the pack, but had a very unique opportunity to lead the pack. Surprisingly, I discovered that a huge percentage of my peers were very much in the same boat as I. I was completely bewildered about where to start and what to do. Do I say goodbye to traditional forms of advertising for digital marketing? Is this really the best course for my practice? What's that famous line… Ah yes, "procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday." I knew I could no longer postpone the future well-being of my practice.
The timing, however, wasn't exactly the best to pull the trigger. Not only financially, but also logistically: I was going through practice transition, moving from partner to sole owner of my practice. At the same time, a number of colleagues referred me to an online marketing company that focuses exclusively on digital technology for dentistry. After speaking with them at length I knew I had to take action. No more procrastination. The trigger had been pulled. I was now part of an elite few that discovered the power of leveraging digital technology in dentistry and what it could do to help me acquire new patients, retain existing patients, optimize efficiencies and grow my practice.
Even though I launched a new website, I was still reluctant to give up advertising in the Yellow Pages for another year-and-a-half. My fear was that I would lose the three new patients I was counting on each month. It was at that point that my consultant told me to simply "get rid of that phone book ad." I'm an optimist, but giving this up entirely? I just wasn't sure.
Today, the ad is gone. Yes, I still have a phone listing in the Yellow Pages, right alongside 500 other local dentists. But, I couldn't be happier. I found that a comprehensive digital marketing strategy is less expensive and more effective than traditional methods alone. In fact, according to research recently conducted by Sesame Communications, digital marketing campaigns yield a new patient acquisition cost of $49.75, compared to the traditional $275.
Unlike traditional marketing methods that offer no real form to gauge ROI, I can now better measure and forecast my marketing efforts in real-time, through valuable analytics tools. With the help of a phone tracking system like First Call™, I now know that my practice has received 35 new patient calls in the past six months.
A website coupled with a mobile site, search engine optimization and social media allows my practice to thrive while allowing my staff and I to do what we do best-care for our patients.
John Rottschalk, DDS attended the University of Illinois, where he received a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology in 1994. He then attended Southern Illinois University School of Dental Medicine, where he graduated Cum Laude in 1998. He is an active member of the American Dental Association and the Southern Illinois University School of Dental Medicine.