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Inside Dentistry

May 2012, Volume 8, Issue 5
Published by AEGIS Communications


Improve Your Marketing Results—Now

Whether your practice promotion is doing great, just so-so, or downright lousy, here are six things you can do right now to help your practice grow in the right direction.

By Howie Horrocks and Mark Dilatush

If you are the “bottom-line” type of person, here is a priority list for you to follow to improve your practice marketing results. Do all six initiatives simultaneously, right now, and watch your practice grow accordingly.

Prioritize Where to Invest Your Marketing Budget

The idea is to systematically use portions of your annual budget to secure a dominant position in your marketplace within each of the media types listed below. If you do not have the budget resources to take the next step, do not take the next step. The list is in order of least risk to most risk. In some cases, mail can—and should.come before the Internet. For the most part, this list will serve as a useful guide as your career unfolds and your practice grows.

1. Internal Projects (generate more referrals, increase patient awareness of offerings)

2. Internet (ie, website, SEO, SMM, mobile website, web video)

3. External Direct Targeted Media (ie, direct mail)

4. Print Media (all variations)

5. Mass Media (radio, television, billboards, etc.)

Track All Calls, Not Just New Patients

Dentists everywhere stop promoting their practice because they are fed erroneous information. Solve the problem. Connect a unique telephone number to any promotion that consumes more than 10% of your annual budget. We use www.callsource.com and www.acicalltracking.com for our clients. Our clients can view every phone call, listen to every interaction, see calls from new patients that went unanswered, along with several other benefits that give the dentist total control of their marketing. Do not rely on your practice management software or your business team’s opinion on whether something is working or not. A word of caution, though: You may be temporarily shocked at what you hear when first reviewing your calls, so be prepared to hear some unpleasant facts—and act quickly to change the perception those facts have caused.

Keep an Eye on Conversion

If you know how many calls each promotion is generating and you can listen to each phone call, you should be able to determine how good your conversion is. There are many reasons why your calls are not being converted to new patients. Your staff may need phone skills training. Your office hours may be prohibitive. The amount of time required for a new patient visit may be prohibitive. The bottom line is, if you are getting phone calls but few patients are ending up in your chair, you need to figure out why and get it fixed. Promotion dollars are a terrible thing to waste.

Understand the Dental Consumer

There is not enough room in this entire issue to do this topic justice, so in the interest of saving space we will greatly boil this all down for you.

The dental consumer market is split in half. Half of the dental consumers out there will choose a healthcare provider based primarily on price. The other half is anywhere from neutral to.completely turned off by healthcare professionals using price as a primary motivation to promote their practices. This puts you, the dentist, at the crossroads of a decision.

For simplicity, let’s define the two halves as the top half and the bottom half (those who will respond to price incentives). The bottom half of the market will return more initial volume of responses (more appointments filled) as well as a lower average-revenue-per-patient. The top half will return a slightly less initial volume of response, but a much better average-revenue-per-patient. The top half also generates a very robust exponential return over time.

It is your choice. Choose one and stick to it. If you attempt to promote to both in the same ad or medium, you will only succeed in confusing both halves and you will likely not be pleased with the end result.

In case you were wondering, the definition of the top half of the market is not necessarily limited to celebrities and CEOs. In fact, the top half of the dental market can be characterized as “soccer moms” who are not willing to choose healthcare providers for themselves or their family based primarily on price—and there are literally millions of them out there.

Understand Return on Investment

If you choose to go after the bottom half of the dental market to fill your capacity, we already mentioned the lower average-revenue-per-patient during the first year. That first-year return may double once, within a 6-year period.

If you choose to go after the top half of the dental market to fill your capacity, the higher average-revenue-per-patient we discussed above will double every 3 years for 6 years. Then, it will double again in 6 more years.

Some dentists get caught measuring return on investment with a myopic view—either as a single month, or they believe the return is over after the first year. This is absolutely not true. With the right type of patients, the return on investment is just beginning after they have been in your practice for 1 year. This misunderstanding can cause a dentist to abandon otherwise wonderfully producing investments.

If you know which half of the dental market you are going after, you now know what to expect and what is building as the days and months pass. For the most part, most dental practices should be focusing their attention on the top half of the dental market if they want to generate a healthy robust exponential return.

Avoid Promoting a Singular Benefit to the Dental Consumer

When you are promoting your dental practice, you are basically paying for space and taking advantage of a distribution method that someone else has already paid for. For instance, if you use mail to promote your practice, you are paying the post office to distribute your mail, and the space you have is determined by the size and layout of your mailer design. The same holds true for the print media and certainly for radio or television, where the word space equals the amount of time your advertisement will consume (typically 30- or 60-second spots).

Why would you promote just one aspect of your dental practice within the allotted space? Why would you purposely limit your potential audience that way? Tell the world all about the many reasons to choose you—not just one. Every dentist reading this article has at least a half dozen marketable attributes that can be.communicated in such a way to sound or be perceived to be unique.

For media such as radio and television, where time is actually the space you are allotted, it is difficult to say many things about your practice in a 30-or 60-second spot. No problem. Just create five or six different ads, each about a single marketable attribute, and simply rotate the ads within your ad schedule.

Conclusion

The bottom line is that, when promoting to the dental consumer (people who are not already patients of record), you want to build a wide and all-inclusive picture in their minds. You want their perception to be that no matter what their dental needs are, yours is the practice that can handle those needs.

About the Authors

Howie Horrocks | Mr. Horrocks is the founder and CEO of New Patients, Inc.

Mark Dilatush | Mr. Dilatush is the president of New Patients, Inc.

They can be reached through their website, www.newpatientsinc.com.


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