March 2013, Volume 9, Issue 3
Published by AEGIS Communications
Marketing Strategies That Work: What Every Solo Practitioner Needs to Know
Group practices seem to know the secrets to great marketing. But their tricks aren’t so hard to learn after all.
For a solo practitioner, dental practice marketing can be overwhelming. There’s internal marketing, external marketing, online marketing—it can easily begin to feel like there are too many areas to cover, too many new skills to learn, and too many tasks to manage. But the reality is that dental practice owners don’t need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to marketing. Rather, they can leverage some of the best marketing strategies already in use by group practices to maximize marketing results and return on investment.
The first lesson to be learned from group practices is the importance of branding. Individual dental practitioners may mistakenly believe that branding is just for group practices. But in reality, branding distinguishes a practice from its competitors and serves to enhance its local affinity, small business sensibility, and professional feel.
Part of that all-important branding equation is having a compelling and unique name for the practice. This can include the dentist’s name or some other distinctive designation that sets the practice apart. Any dentist within 10 years of retirement needs to consider whether having his or her own name on the shingle makes for the best exit strategy. It’s key to be able to maximize the practice’s value when it’s time to sell, and having all of its brand equity wrapped up in the primary dentist’s name means that one of the practice’s major assets isn’t transferrable.
Another important component of a branding strategy is having an iconic image that is a unique visual representation of the brand. The practice’s name should be incorporated into a professionally designed graphic element, or logo, which appears everywhere—on the practice’s letterhead, business cards, website, and beyond. As group practices already know, a distinctive, contemporary logo distinguishes the practice and visually unifies communications.
Getting Professional Marketing Advice
A group practice typically has a marketing team focused on promoting the practice. Solo practitioners usually don’t have the budget to hire a full-time marketing director, but someone needs to devise a marketing plan, make budget-conscious marketing decisions, determine a timeline, and follow through on implementation. The burden often ends up falling on the dentist, spouse, or office manager, who generally do not have marketing experience or expertise.
If there is not a full-time marketer on the dental team, many dentists benefit from having a dental marketing expert available in a consulting capacity, enabling the practice to get professional, executive-level advice without adding to payroll expenses.
An objective, experienced dental marketing coach can help with strategic planning, decision-making, and vendor recommendations for big-ticket marketing decisions. Results can improve dramatically by having someone who can put an end to disjointed marketing efforts that don’t generate any measurable return on investment. A consultant can formulate a cohesive ongoing marketing plan, create a timeline for implementation, and create a sense of accountability within the practice.
Say Goodbye to DIY
Group practices also know to leverage external resources. Tech-oriented marketing projects such as website development, search engine optimization, or electronic patient communications are typically outsourced to a highly specialized vendor such as an online marketing or software development firm.
Delegation can be difficult, and many small business owners suffer from the “do-it-yourself” mentality. But continually adding to the dental team’s marketing to-do list without crossing anything off can be discouraging, and knowing when to seek outside help is an important skill to cultivate. A marketing consultant, together with qualified vendors, can get the practice’s marketing plan off the ground, ease the learning curve, and ultimately pass the baton back to the dental team to maintain.
Independent dentists have a number of unique advantages in the marketplace: a strong sense of authenticity, quality relationships with their patients, and close ties to their communities. By playing to these strengths and implementing some marketing best practices, even the smallest dental office can see big results.
About the Author
Naomi Cooper | Naomi Cooper is Chief Marketing Consultant for Pride Institute and President of Minoa Marketing. A respected industry opinion leader who co-teaches Pride Institute’s marketing course, “The Complete Dental Marketing Plan,” Cooper also works one-on-one with dentists who are looking to develop a cohesive marketing approach. For information about Minoa Marketing, visit minoamarketing.com or fb.com/minoamarketing. Naomi can be reached at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.