Table of Contents

Continuing Education
Periodontics

Inside Dentistry

September 2008, Volume 4, Issue 8
Published by AEGIS Communications

Generating New Dental Business Opportunities in an Economic Downturn

Court Cunningham

CEO, Yodle, Inc, New York, New York

While understandable in a shaky economy, the tendency to think only in terms of cost-cutting opportunities may be shortsighted or, worse, counterproductive. Tough times can actually provide dental practices with growth opportunities.

Why? Because it is precisely these times when most practices (large and small), as well as individuals, look for new, different, and potentially less expensive ways to conduct their business. Much like Wall Street brokers see downturns as a chance to buy, dental practices must also recognize the opportunity to generate new patient leads during these tough times. And, more importantly, they must take advantage of it.

NEW AVENUES

How do dentists take advantage of economic downturns? Traditional advertising and marketing have their place, but more and more studies are showing the incredible impact of online efforts:

  • According to the US Small Business Administration, more than 50% of small businesses fail in the first year and 95% fail within the first 5 years. Yet, small businesses that advertise online fare better overall. Source: “Why Small Businesses Fail.” Small Business Administration, Robert Longley. Available at: http://www.usgovinfo.about.com/b/2005/03/17/why-small-businesses-fail-sba.htm.
  • Contrary to the common perception that every small business needs an ad in the local Yellow Pages, surveys show that newspaper and print Yellow Pages are on their way out. Yellow Page sales are expected to drop 10% this year. Source: “Marketplaces Analyst Picks and Predictions for 2008.” Kelsey Group, Peter Krasilovsky. Available at: http://www.kelseygroup.com/visitorsearch.
  • What’s more, a recent Nielsen study shows that 74% of people now use major Internet search engines like Google and Yahoo! to find local businesses. Source: Webvisible-Nielsen Survey, October 2007. Available at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/gjsterling/2174429471/.

So, with millions of potential patients now searching the Internet for local services (tooth whitening, root canals, etc) every day, dental practice owners can no longer afford to skip these online alternatives.

One group of firms called online lead generators provide full-service, turnkey solutions that connect dental practices directly to people searching for them. Moreover, these firms offer real, measurable results for reasonable rates.

How do they work? By putting commonly used search engines to work to drive traffic toward custom-built small business sites, online lead generators turn clicks into calls and, as a result, practices’ phones are kept ringing with new patient inquiries, even during tough economic times.

It’s time practices take advantage of the Web-based opportunities that lie before them. Traditional sources of advertising like print and radio have their place, but are extremely difficult to measure in terms of effectiveness. And in these times, it is especially important that businesses can rest assured that they are getting a good return on their investment (ROI).

BRINGING TRAFFIC TO YOUR SITE

If you build it, they will come...well, not necessarily. One common misconception is that people will magically show up to a newly created Web site. Unlike a storefront, however, where businesses benefit from walk-in traffic, more than 100 million Web sites compete for online users. You can’t expect Web surfers to just show up. You need to give them a hand. Online lead generation services bring traffic to your site by promoting your practice on leading search engines and local sites such as Google, Yahoo!, and MSN, where people are actively searching for local services.

TURNING CLICKS INTO NEW BUSINESS CALLS

When potential patients click on your online ad, they are sent to your site (or a Web site personalized for your business) that encourages them to call you directly or inquire further online.

One of the major benefits of using an online lead generation service as opposed to going it alone online is that these services know from experience what motivates prospects in the industries they work with. As such, working with online lead generators often increases the percentage of clicks that turn into calls, and ultimately can give you a better ROI.

MAKING SURE YOUR ONLINE ADVERTISING INVESTMENT PAYS OFF

David Ogilvy, the “father of advertising,” famously stated, “Half my advertising works, I just don’t know which half.” When times get tight, dental practice owners want to know what their ROI is for every penny, which means vague advertising ROI metrics no longer cut it. With online lead generation, advertising results are more transparent than ever, and everything—yes everything—becomes measurable.

Online lead generators have developed techniques to measure exactly how many clicks, calls, and e-mails are generated from a single ad. This gives you confidence that you will have the information you need to determine whether your online efforts are successful, and the ability to change your approach if they are not.

In short, while advertising can be expensive and the temptation to cut costs strong, the Internet provides a real opportunity to cash in on new business for less. Online local lead generation companies are cost-effective and deliver results in a way small business owners have never seen before. Go ahead. Take advantage of this moment to make your phone ring.

To find out more about Yodle, visit www.yodle.com; call 877-77-YODLE; or e-mail info@yodle.com.