Marketing, or your overall marketing plan, is the ongoing process of creating awareness around your practice, the services you provide, and the image you stand for, such as exceptional patient experience and community involvement. It’s the umbrella under which all of your individual marketing pieces and campaigns fall. It is (or should be) a continuous process with no end date that includes a wide array of media to reach different target audiences in different ways.
Marketing campaigns are smaller segments within your marketing plan. Each campaign is its own organized, strategic effort designed to achieve a specific goal (e.g., increase new patients by 20% in 90 days). A campaign has a start and end date, a defined goal, a set budget, a target audience, and entails a series of elements and actions in a planned sequence that typically follows a consistent theme.
Campaigns are more than just a single piece of advertising; they involve a multistep, multimedia process. Think of a marketing campaign as a puzzle comprised of multiple well-crafted, intricate pieces that, when properly combined, form an impressive result. In today’s high-tech world, “pieces” include all sorts of compelling, eye- and ear-catching multimedia elements, not just traditional print materials (though print is still a high-performing option).
In the October issue of Dental Economics, I laid out the six proven fundamentals of marketing that will help you create killer marketing pieces.1 These six fundamentals will drive new patients to your practice, which equates to profitability and growth: target audience, test, track, tweak, scale, and capture.
Proven principles for effective marketing campaigns
Once you have something that’s working, build a comprehensive marketing campaign around it. That takes planning, but it’s not as complicated as you might think. Follow these proven principles to run profitable, business-building campaigns.
Set goals and parameters. Define what you want the campaign to accomplish by when (e.g., increase hygiene production by 15% in 60 days). Identify a target audience (e.g., moms with young kids). Clearly articulate any offer to be included (e.g., free whitening for life if scheduled this month). Determine the messaging you will use to tie all campaign pieces together (e.g., look better and improve overall health).
Determine metrics for success. Decide on the metric you will use to measure success, ensure you have the right tools in place to track that metric, and establish a baseline for where you stand before you start the campaign. Track and monitor progress along the way so you can make a fact-based decision to adjust or discontinue the campaign if it’s not proving to be worth the cost.
Set a budget. Marketing is an important and necessary investment in the growth of your business. Budget for campaigns with the expectation that you will generate more revenue than you spend, resulting in a positive ROI. Investing next to nothing will give you exactly that much in return, so set your campaigns up for success with realistic budgets.
Map out a media plan. Decide which communication media will best reach and resonate with the target audience. Today’s array of print, digital, video, audio, and social media choices make it easy and affordable to reach everyone in one way or another. A very simple campaign could include a direct mail piece, followed by a reminder piece, and then a final notice and follow-up phone call. Get creative and don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone and see what happens. The more marketing you do, the more facts you’ll gather about what works well for you, what doesn’t, and what you need to tweak and retry.
Maintain a marketing calendar of campaign action plans. Ideally you would plan out the entire year, but at a minimum lay out the campaigns planned for the next three months. For each campaign, create a timeline and detailed action plan for each element. Map everything out on the calendar so it’s visually compelling and will help keep you on track. This also gives you a record of what you did and when.
Execute each element. Write your copy and have it proofed, confirm dates, have pieces designed, etc. Check off items on your action plan calendar as they are completed to stay organized and motivated.
Measure results. While the campaign is running, it’s critical that you measure its success. At the end, finalize the data so that you know what happened as a result. Did you achieve your goal? What were actual costs for all pieces of the campaign? What was your ultimate ROI? Many sophisticated marketing software programs exist to help you plan and measure your efforts, but you can do it yourself with a simple Excel spreadsheet.
Continuously improve your marketing strategies. Learn from what works and what doesn’t for your specific practice, based on campaign results. Repeat or broaden a really successful campaign; tweak a promising one, one element at a time, then test again; and discontinue a campaign that didn’t work so well. In all cases, apply learnings to future campaign plans.
Test and retest all response methods. Whether it’s a landing page, website, QR code, phone number, etc., make sure it is working before you send the piece. Also make sure it’s working when it’s received. When it comes to phone calls, make sure they are scripted perfectly to get the result you desire: a new patient on the books.
Prepare your team to welcome new business. According to our research, 97% of offices are missing this one essential element of marketing.1 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. 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.
Author’s note: For a limited time, SI is offering DE readers a custom Blind Spot Analysis to shed light on a practice’s blind spot, its cost to your business, and what can be done. Visit schedulinginstitute.com/de to receive your custom analysis today.
1. Geier J. Marketing is not complicated, but it is necessary. Dental Economics. October 1, 2020. ttps://www.dentaleconomics.com/practice/marketing/article/14186173/marketing-is-not-complicated-but-it-is-necessary
JAY GEIER is a world authority on growing independent practices, which can be kept for a lifetime of revenue or sold for maximum value. He is the founder and CEO of Scheduling Institute, a firm that specializes in team training, doctor coaching, and helping people live up to their full potential.