(This article is a 9 minute read)
THREE THINGS YOU’LL LEARN FROM THIS ARTICLE
1.An explanation as to why that billboard ad by the shops is never going to work for you.
2.Five marketing ideas you can take away and implement today.
3.Links to two eBooks that can help you with SEO and social media marketing.
You can tell when practices are stuck for dental marketing ideas. For instance, I was walking home from the train station the other night when I noticed a billboard-sized ad for a dentist, stuck on the railway bridge directly opposite the entrance to the train station. Offering Invisalign. I wondered how many people had walked out of that train station and thought, ‘Geez, I need straighter teeth – I might pop up the road to that dentist!’
I’m willing to bet that number is zero.
Yet that dentist is paying to have that billboard sitting there, doing nothing, day-after-day.
And I suspect he or she does that because they’re stuck for choice. I mean, where do you advertise? There’s only a few options, and they are generally expensive.
Using billboards for advertising is more effective if you can buy ten of them in various spots around town, and reinforce a message that you’re also putting on prime-time TV, drive-time radio, and in relevant print and digital publications. Doing that gives you both reach and reinforces your message, which is necessary to make an ad work.
That’s what you’re buying with advertising. You’re not really buying the nice looking creative work. You’re buying reach and engagement.
But what if you can’t afford reach and engagement?
Well, there are options nowadays. Here are five ideas for marketing your practice that can help you achieve reach and engagement at a fraction of the cost of putting that billboard ad up at the train station.
Advertise your content, not your services
If you only advertise your products or services, your ad will not work on anyone who doesn’t want those products or services straight away.
If the potential patient isn’t thinking about getting Invisalign, they have no reason to pay any attention to your ad after the first time they see it. That patient may want Invisalign in a year’s time—but will they remember your ad then?
But if you have a lot of content available for free on your website about oral health, general health, family dentistry and so on, you give them a reason to keep paying attention to you.
Building a well of content GIVES patients something, rather than SELLING them something. Which is a much better basis for a relationship.
And if you advertise that content—making it clear it is for free, and can help them—they will willingly enter into that relationship with you.
Plan to send an email every month, not every quarter
No-one likes to spam people. And you are right to be concerned about sending too many emails to your patients if all of your emails just flog products. We all get emails like that. And we all delete them.
Many practices have sent out emails like that. They get zero engagement, and think, “Well, that didn’t work, I won’t do that again.”
But just seeing an email is there from you is enough to indicate to patients that you are communicating with them, and thinking about them. They don’t have to read every word of it. And while I agree you could spam patients, you would need to be sending out several emails a day to give that impression.
One email a month, which draws a couple of articles from your blog and maybe has some link to interesting things you’ve seen elsewhere online, sends a message to patients that you are thinking of them, of their oral health and general health, and that you care about being in touch with them.
An email newsletter once a month filled with useful, free content, sends a message that you’re thinking of them. And everyone likes that.
Write about your patient’s health, not your products
There is one fundamental truth about patients that most advertising doesn’t acknowledge. Patients come to you because they are concerned with their own teeth. They do not come to you because of the equipment you have, or the brands associated with the products you are offering. They come to you because they are thinking about themselves.
You, as a dentist, know exactly why you chose to offer Invisalign as opposed to, say, QST. Or Zoom Whitening as opposed to a different whitening system. But patients don’t know the difference. They are coming to you because they want their teeth straightened. Or because they want their teeth whitened.
Your suppliers already promote their products. It’s your job to explain why that product can help that patient’s problem. When a patient (or potential patient) understands why you, as a professional, have chosen a particular product, they are more likely to trust your judgement when you recommend it.
You are the bridge between the ad for tooth whitening they say in the magazine, and the fact that your practice offers that product or service. You are the one they are going to trust and have a relationship with. Not the brand. You.
Ask to join in the conversation
When you know a lot of stuff, your default position in a conversation can often be ‘lecturing’. This is natural—you know about this stuff. And there’s nothing wrong with a good lecture. Except that a lecture assumes that you’re coming from the position and knowledge, and everyone else from the position of ignorance.
And no-one likes being called ignorant. Even if you don’t mean to call them that.
A great alternative—which also works as a marketing tactic—is to ask questions rather than supplying answers. If you run across someone on social media talking rubbish, don’t say, “You’re talking rubbish!” Engage them in a dialogue. Ask them why they believe things. If they ask you a question back, answer them.
Others will read your exchanges. Many of them will be swayed by you (after all, you know what you’re talking about, and that will become clear in your interactions).
Social media is great for this (and for advertising too, but that’s another story). Use it to be social. Watch how much traffic you get to your blog as a result of that.
Don’t sell stuff
Many health professionals hate the idea of selling stuff. You are, after all, providing a health service. You’re not there as a shill for some multinational toothpaste manufacturer.
So don’t sell stuff, then. Inform and educate and communicate and care. That’s what you’re good at, and it’s what you like to do.
You just have to find a way to inform and educate and communicate and care when patients aren’t in the chair. The easiest way to do that is write content which informs and educates and communicates about oral health and the issues people face, and what you can manage.
And when people read that content, see if you can capture their name and email address so you can keep talking to them.
Don’t sell them your services. Just give them great information. If you do that, and do it well, they will buy your services without you doing any selling at all.
What to do next
As you can see, at the centre of these five ideas is having great content on your website. You can get that content by doing it yourself, or by hiring an outside agency. If you do it yourself, we’ve got a great resource that can help you—it’s a short eBook called 100 Keywords for Dentists, which gives you lots of options for keywords that might start you thinking about what you can write.
If you’re already across all that, but don’t know where or how to advertise your content, maybe you should read our eBook on How to Attract Patients With Facebook. It’s full of hints and tips, and also explains the right and wrong ways to use social media for your marketing.