February 2013, Volume 9, Issue 2
Published by AEGIS Communications
Practice Marketing Essentials
Combine the least risky with the most reliable mediums for a balanced solution.
Marketing is an inherently risky adventure. There’s no getting around that fact. Even though it’s not possible to bring the risk to zero, a practice can certainly mitigate and reduce risk by focusing their marketing dollars on mediums that provide the best statistical track record of success. The first four of these are, in order, signage, internal marketing, website development, and direct mail. What follows is a “Cliff Notes” explanation of these mediums.
Signs serve at least two purposes. One is obvious—to tell people who are looking for you where you are and how to contact you. The second purpose is less obvious but nevertheless important—to remind people they need to see the dentist. Treat signage as a potential new patient’s first impression of the practice. Make it clear who you are, what you do, and how to get in touch with you. Your practice name, website address, and phone number are the essentials. Logos, taglines, and images are less important because you won’t have room for much more than the basics above.
Internal marketing is less risky and more remunerative because of these reasons: patients have already been seen by the dentist so they have less distrust, the practice can contact them directly, and they’ve already given the practice money. It’s far more costly to attract a new patient into the practice than it is to reactivate an existing patient (by a factor of 5).
Internal marketing would include communications to the patient base in the form of an e-newsletter or a traditional paper letter. Patients only know what treatment was done on them; they very often don’t know the true scope of the practice’s offerings. A newsletter lets them know. Internal marketing also includes electronic appointment reminders and offerings to patients should a last-minute cancellation open up a more convenient time slot.
Other types of internal marketing mediums are: in-office signage, before and after photographs, and patient education videos and pamphlets about various treatments and procedures.
Entire books have been written about this medium but here are the essentials. Patients who search online are typically looking for key topics such as “clear braces,” “sedation,” “veneers,” “emergency dentist,” “family dentist,” etc. Each of these terms should take the viewer directly to a page that corresponds to their search request. These topics should not be buried under an all-inclusive “services” tab but instead be prominent on the home page.
In order for the searcher to find a practice’s website, it’s essential the site be optimized for search engines (called SEO). This has become a very specialized field requiring extensive knowledge of programming and the latest optimization techniques. While there are steps a practice can take on their own, the best advice is to hire a professional.
Web video has become more important for practice websites. Search engines are now giving priority ranking to sites with video content. Video also lets the viewer “meet” the dentist and thus is key to building the bond of trust a potential patient requires to pick up the phone and make an appointment.
Relevant and interesting content is also required. If the practice doesn’t provide that, then all SEO efforts will be wasted.
Another key element in website development is mobile sites. People searching for dentists (or anything) are increasingly using their phones. Having a “dot mobi” site is, therefore, becoming more important. It’s essential to have a genuine mobile site rather than a “shrunk down” version of the “dot com” site.
Knowing that 99% of the people who get a practice’s direct-mail piece will likely throw it away, one could reasonably ask why anyone would invest in this medium. Here’s why: there is an excellent return on investment in the 1% who do not throw it away.
Provided that the piece is properly written, provides relevant information, is sufficiently attractive and attentive to the needs of the dental consumer, and is targeted correctly (sent to the right people), direct mail has a very large success rate. A practice only needs a few good patients to recover its costs. Everything after that is the proverbial gravy.
A balanced combination of these four mediums offers dentists the best recipe for successful practice marketing. To find out how New Patients, Inc. can help you develop a complete plan, visit www.newpatientsinc.com or call 866-336-8237.
About the Authors
Howie Horrocks | Mr. Horrocks is the CEO of New Patients, Inc.
Mark Dilatush | Mr. Dilatush is the President of New Patients, Inc.