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Marketing is not complicated, but it is necessary

Oct. 1, 2020
There are many incorrect ways to think about marketing your dental practice. Jay Geier wants to help set the record straight with a few marketing necessities that will help your practice with the natural patient attrition.
Jay Geier, Founder, Scheduling Institute

Many doctors think marketing their practices is unnecessary. By being outstanding clinicians, they believe ample new patients and referrals will just happen. Others have done some marketing and concluded, “I’ve tried everything and nothing works.” And some think it must be too complicated or too costly, so they never even try. In all cases, this is incorrect thinking and stagnates practice growth.

Even the most successful practices lose patients every single day—patients change doctors, move, go off to school, change insurance plans, and pass away. If you aren’t generating a steady stream of new patients to compensate for natural attrition, you’ll do worse than stagnate—your practice will inevitably decline.

Whether you are working on a print campaign or digital marketing strategy, there are proven fundamentals of marketing that will help you create campaigns that drive new patients to your practice, which equates to profitability and growth.

Marketing fundamentals

Let’s look at five marketing fundamentals that can help you get started or refine your current approach.

Target audience—Put some thought into identifying not only what will attract new patients to your practice, but also who specifically you want to attract. Then craft your messages so they resonate with those potential patients, not other dental professionals. Put yourself in the head of that ideal patient. Try to imagine what they are thinking about or wanting and what motivates them. For example, if your patients are children, your target audience will typically be mothers. Explain how you will care for their children as if they were your own. Similarly, target soon-to-be brides by encouraging them to beautify their smiles to enhance the wedding pictures they will treasure for a lifetime.

Test—Even when armed with solid market research, marketing is a game of trial and error. If you know that going in, you won’t be discouraged when campaigns don’t work as well as you had hoped. After all, not every hit can be a home run; it’s usually the singles and doubles that win a game anyway. Such is the case with marketing. Learn from all of the campaigns that you send out, and apply that learning to adjust your strategy.

Track—Keep it simple at first. Just tracking how much you spent on a piece or campaign and how many new patients you got from it will give you the ROI. You can do that through your software or even a simple Excel spreadsheet. To find out where new patients are coming from, simply have the front desk team ask new patients where they heard about you when they first call in, and record the answers. 

Over time you’ll gain confidence and want to tap into the myriad of tools that exist so you can track every step in the process by using things like custom URLs, tracked phone numbers, landing pages, etc. Monitoring and analyzing metrics is a crucial part of the marketing process, but it doesn’t have to be complex. Don’t be so intimidated that you never get started.

Tweak—Based on results from your tracking, continue the trial and error process. Nix pieces that aren’t working well, and tweak the ones that show promise.

For example, change just the subject line of an email; resend and see what happens. Or change out the headline, the picture, the background color, or the offer itself. Resend and reassess results. You will be surprised sometimes by what a big difference a little change can make. The key is to change only one thing at a time, though, or you won’t know what made the difference.

Scale—Campaigns that are getting consistently good ROI should be scaled up to reach a larger audience. Ultimately, you will want to have “evergreen” campaigns that stay relevant over time. For example, a tried-and-true offer that works every year for dentists is along the lines of: “Time’s running out! Use your insurance benefits by year-end.” Many orthodontists successfully leverage the same evergreen offer every summer when kids are out of school. 

Capture!—Before you send out any piece within a campaign, read the words carefully and follow the entire process just as a prospective new patient would. Go to the website to verify that the link works and the site says exactly what you want it to. Call the phone number yourself and see what happens. Do you get right through? Is the call handled how you would like?

According to our research, 97% of offices are missing this one essential element of marketing that’s often overlooked: We find that the team is not prepared to capture new patients quickly and efficiently. When that’s the case, even those marketing efforts that generate a slew of additional phone calls, website visits, and walk-ins are wasted money. Marketing dollars are an investment that is intended to provide a return, as measured by new patients and, in turn, collections. Make sure your team is trained on how to turn those calls into actual new-patient appointments. 

Finally, never forget that you offer valuable services that help people lead healthier, happier, and longer lives. You’re proud of what you do and how well you do it, so don’t be reluctant to let people know!

Author’s note: Scheduling Institute is offering DE readers a custom Blind Spot Analysis, which will shed light on the blind spots in your practice, how much they are costing you, and what you can do to remove them. Visit schedulinginstitute.com/de to receive your analysis.

JAY GEIER is the founder of Scheduling Institute and creator of the 5 Star Telephone Training Program, which is designed to increase new patients and improve practice results across the board. Contact him at [email protected].

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