(This article is a 15 minute read)
THREE THINGS YOU’LL GET FROM THIS ARTICLE:
1. A twelve-month dental marketing campaign that can be easily tracked and measured
2. Five steps that you can implement easily to give you good data
3. An indicator of what targets to set and how much to spend
Advertising doesn't work like dentistry.
In dentistry, you use solid evidence to get both an immediate and long-term result for your patient. In advertising, you throw buckets of money into a big black hole and hope that patients pop out the other end.
The two big problems with that are the ‘buckets of money’ bit, and the inability to prove it directly results in more patients. That’s why we’re publishing this simple marketing campaign that will show you (a) how much you’re spending to get a new patient, and (b) where you should spend less.
This is not a comprehensive plan. If you want that, you should ask your peers about marketing agencies they’ve used, whether they specialise in marketing for dental practices, and whether they have delivered good results.
But we have found that many dental practices have done little or no marketing, because they just don’t know where to start. So this gives you a one-year, straightforward, low-effort plan that you can use to give yourself a starting point.
The primary objective of this plan is to find a group of potential patients, and get them into your practice.
The second objective is to get referrals from those patients—the traditional ‘word-of-mouth’ strategy that every dental practice in the world uses.
The third objective is to find potential patients who might be considering coming in at some stage in the future, and help you establish a relationship with them. So when they’re ready to come in, it’s your practice they come to.
You will need four ingredients for this recipe.
The first is a marketing budget. You can’t know if your marketing is effective if you don’t know how much you’re spending. You can read a detailed explanation of how to set your own marketing budget in Carolyn Dean’s book, Fully Booked. If you don’t want to do that, you can read a summary on the ideas in this article on making dental advertising more effective.
The next is a regular patient newsletter. Your practice management solution should be able to send emails to patients, although it’s a good idea to set up a completely separate list. That way, if a patient opts out of receiving your newsletter, at least they don’t opt out of receiving anything from you at all (like appointment reminders).
You can make one yourself using software like Campaign Monitor, Mail Chimp or Constant Contact. Any one of them will work just fine. It’s very easy, and each of those software packages come with pre-existing templates that you can adjust to suit your practice.
The third is a coupon. It does not have to be fancy. You decide what the coupon offer will be. It may be a one-off 10 per cent discount or a consultation. It just has to be strong and attractive enough to entice people in.
The coupon is just designed to be a final piece in the puzzle—the last thing that gets someone to pick up the phone and book. You can design it yourself with Microsoft word and turn it into a PDF so people can download it easily. You will be making three nearly identical versions of it—more on that in a bit.
Finally, you need to ask your front-office staff to ask every NEW patient, “Where did you find out about us?”, and give them somewhere they can store that information in the patient’s record. They don’t have to ask existing patients. Just the ones that are coming in for the first time.
Divide your marketing budget into four.
You will spend one quarter on Facebook ads and boosted posts. One quarter will go on Google AdWords. One quarter will go on the cost of blog posts. And one quarter is for ANY OTHER marketing you do anywhere during the year. If that’s traditional media ads, great. If it’s something else, like patient referrals, that’s great too.
Then put your three versions of the coupon ON THREE SEPARATE PAGES on your website. Each version should be identical except for a code—on one use your practice name followed by the word BLOG; on the next, your practice name followed by FACEBOOK; and on the third, your practice name followed by the word SEARCH.
They don’t have to be a work of art. You can just put each one up as a PDF that people can find and print out. It doesn’t need to link back to your website—in fact, the fewer outbound links on it, the better. You don’t want patients to do anything else other than print out this coupon and use it.
If you can’t do it yourself, your digital agency should be able to do it in ten minutes. If they refuse to, find one of those free web-services like Weebly and have a go on a weekend. It really just requires you to type.
Then each month, this is what you’ll do:
In the first week, put one blog post up on your website. We strongly recommend you decide on the topic for your post based on the keywords we’ve researched because we know there is interest in those topics.
Now here’s the important part. At the END of the post, put a call-to-action, which is a box that looks like the one at the end of this page. The call-to-action box should link to ONE VERSION of your coupon. On this coupon, with whatever you’re offering as an incentive, add the line: “To redeem this coupon, call our practice and quote code [whatever your practice name is/BLOG].”
That way, when patients redeem the code, you’ll know where they got it from. Keep a record of that in their patient records.
In the second week, buy an ad on Facebook. Make sure the ad is targeted, at the very least by geography, age and maybe gender. Facebook makes this very easy, but you can also find some solid advice on how to target Facebook ads in this article we published earlier.
Find a photo either of yourself, your practice, or use one of the photos from your website to illustrate it. This is because Facebook won’t accept the ad if it looks like a coupon, or even if it looks like an ad. Their rules say it must look like a normal post.
The text on the ad should be very simple. Something like, “Want to get a free consultation?” or “XYZ discount?” or whatever you’re offering. Then add a link back to the SECOND version of your coupon—the one with the code [whatever your practice name is/FACEBOOK]. Don’t link to one of the others, because it will give you inaccurate results when tracking.
Plan to spend roughly 10 per cent of the money you have set aside for Facebook. The ad may cost you about US$50—that’s a very rough estimate, because Facebook charges on a number of different criteria. You have to do this again every month for the rest of the year.
The reason I suggest only 10 per cent is because after ten months you’ll have a really good idea of whether it’s working for you—and if it is, you can top it up with money set aside in the “whatever else” pile. You may need to adjust your demographic information, or the amount of time the ad runs, to fit it in your budget.
When the ad has finished running, Facebook will send you a report on how many people saw it, and how many clicked on the link. Keep that report on file somewhere.
In the third week, buy some Google ads.
With Google ads, you can cap the amount of money you spend. Plan to spend roughly ten per cent of the money you have set aside. It’s the same logic as the Facebook ads—you want to be able to repeat this every month, and as you get close to a year of doing it, you will have a very good idea of whether these are working for you.
Make the Google ad link to the third version of your landing page. This will be the version with the code the code [whatever your practice name is/SEARCH].
By doing it this way, you don’t need to think about tricky cookies or clever tracking tricks. While those tracking tricks are very smart, they can sometimes go wrong and start sending your ad to people who are already customers, or who don’t want to talk to you. Much easier to just have a coupon that is downloaded directly by the people who have asked for it.
The results that Google gives you for your ad will tell you how many people have clicked on the link to your coupon.
This week, do whatever marketing you want with whatever you have left for the month. That might be printing up some flyers, or buying an ad in the local paper, or anything else. Because that more traditional marketing is a little harder to track on a computer, you’ll be relying on the reports from your front office staff to figure out how well it’s working.
If you don’t already have a patient list or you don’t have much traffic on your website, the traditional marketing methods may seem to be getting more traction first. But bear with the campaign—you’re not just trying to get patients in the door. You’re also trying to build a relationship with them.
This is the key. When you start, mark the ten-month mark in your diary and make sure you actually do the review.
This doesn’t mean you change it—you will review it again after a year. But by ten months you will start to get a fair idea of which one of these platforms—blogging, social media, search engine marketing and traditional media—is working for you.
If one seems to be working less than the others, and you’re worried by that, divert money from it to the other three. If it’s still too hard to tell, wait until the twelve month mark when you do the proper analysis.
On a piece of paper, down the left hand side of the page in a column, write four lines that look like this.
Then in another column to the right of each of those, record the total number of people who looked at the page that the relevant coupon was on. You should be able to get the Facebook and Google ones from your receipts. The blog numbers you can get from your free Google Analytics account. Just click on the ‘pages’ link on the left hand side, and look at how many people have seen it. For the ‘elsewhere’ column, you’ll have to rely on a report from wherever else you advertised the offer.
Then in a third column, write in the number of people who have actually downloaded and used the coupon associated with each source.
Finally, and this is the most important part—work out the percentage of people who actually used the coupon from each source. So divide column three by column two.
The reason this is important is, you might run a radio ad that gets you ten patients. You might think that’s a great success. But it may have been broadcast to 50,000 people. So in percentage terms, it may not be worth pursuing it.
Your most effective marketing will be the platform offering the greatest percentage of new patients IN RELATION TO the lowest number of people who have seen it. Because that platform is wasting the least amount of your money.
All of them will work to some degree. The important thing is finding out which ones DON’T work as well.
After you have done your analysis and worked out which of those platforms work best for you, ditch the two that were the worst performers, and split your marketing budget between the two that work the best.
In your second year, you don’t necessarily want to offer discounts or coupons. But there are many other smart things you can do to attract patients once you know where to initially FIND the patients.
This plan also gives you a starting point for having a sensible, intelligent discussion with a marketing agency who can help you grow your patient numbers in a way that is appropriate to the stage your business is at. You don’t spend money like a new practice if you’re well established. And if you are starting out, trying to rely on repeat business and word-of-mouth from a very small patient base is a recipe for burnout.
Further down the track, you can also trace the amount of referrals and repeat business you get from patients who come in from your most successful platforms. But in the meantime, this plan will put some real numbers and solid research behind the airy-fairyness of marketing, and help you make good decisions that will grow your patient base.