You went to dental school, not business school... but you ended up a small business owner. If you sometimes feel a little lost, you're not alone. This is why most practices employ staff bookkeepers and office managers, so the guy in the mask with the aching back doesn't have to deal with insurance companies, appointment setting, personnel issues, and sundry on his lunch break. But at the end of the day, it's still your business, and the long-term health of that business is up to you.
There's a lot to tend to. There's a lot of money on the table. According to the ADA, the average gross for a general practitioner in 2014 was $646,440, with an $857,110 specialist's average. As you know, that's not all profit, and you have to hustle for every dollar that ends up in your wallet. Happily, marketing is easier than it used to be, and in lieu of forking out even more overhead to a dental services organization, you should give it a shot yourself.
The tips in this article are based on Rebuild Nation's experience assisting dental practices implement marketing campaigns, as well as hard data from their marketing survey of dental patients and dental practices across the country.
Doctor, Know Thyself
The most important thing you can ever do in dental marketing is position your practice. Know what makes you unique. What sets you apart from the competition? After-hours dental care? Better waiting room for kids? Cutting edge dental technology? Use your signature qualities to position your practice against your competitors.
To do this, it's crucial to understand how you fit into the local market. Which services do you offer? Implants and Cosmetics? Surgery? Zoom? Brand new laser drill? What's the local competition for each service? Who else is offering it? This will tell you how much effort to devote to advertising each service, AND, it will tell you when and where exactly to espouse the after-hours care, kids' waiting room, and other signature qualities that makes you a better option. Excel within your niche. Set yourself apart from the guy down the street offering the same services.
Here's how to do it.
Embrace Referrals And The Internet
According to Rebuild Nation's research, data shows that the two most common ways people find their dentist is through the internet and/or through word of mouth referrals. As such, these two channels are excellent areas to focus on for attracting new patients - 57% of dental patients find their dentists through word of mouth, and 13% find them online. Combining your efforts this way potentially reaches 70% of your future patients.
Start With Google - SEO & Pay-Per-Click
Since Google is the first place most people go when they need something, it's wise to start your online marketing plan with them in mind. Whether you have in-house expertise in this area or you're using a marketing agency, here are a few tips:
- Pay-per-click ads on Google (called Google Adwords) can start bringing in new patients in just a few days
Highlight Special Offers
Our survey of dental patients shows that cost is the number one factor patients consider when choosing a dentist. The data also shows that dentists simply aren't responding to consumer demand in this area. According to RBN's national survey of over 200 dental practices, only 24% display coupons or special offers on their websites. If you're among that 24%, it means you have the jump on 76% of your competition. Use PPC to funnel people into these special promotions and cash in on your advantage.
It pays to keep a blog on your website. According to Dental Economics, 57% of dentist offices state that they acquired a new customer from their blog. It does take some work, though. Updating your blog and publishing relevant and interesting content is a must. It's important to post content that is both enjoyable to readers and attractive to potential patients. To keep the content fresh, many practices have team members share in the responsibility. Consider getting a different team member to post something on the blog each week.
Integrate those blogs with your social media profiles by sharing the post. This is called a cross-post. This particular tactic works best with platforms like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook, and does wonders for getting people interested in your practice. Social media combines the top two ways patients find a dentist - word of mouth and online. Today's word-of-mouth IS social media - use it to attract people to your blog, and thus to your website, and ultimately, your practice.
Comfort Zone: The Guiding Light
Working your niche and smart marketing will get you in front of people, but getting them to walk through the door is another story. So how do you do it? Survey data shows that 22% of patients said a good reputation was most important when deciding who to see. An additional 21% said bedside manner was most important, and 11% said they just wanted a painless experience. Translation: 54% just want to feel comfortable and at ease. They want to TRUST you. You can foster this with familiarity. Post photos and bios of the dentists and staff on your website. Also, consider soliciting patient testimonials. You can publish them in text form on your site, or in video form through YouTube integration.
Most importantly, be transparent in your marketing and in your communication. The more someone feels as though they can trust you, the more likely they are to become a patient.
This article originally appeared on HealthWorks Collective. Reprinted with permission.