(This article is an 8.5 minute read)
THREE THINGS YOU'LL GET FROM THIS ARTICLE
1. How to identify and avoid the most common dental marketing mistakes
2. How to switch from ‘marketing’ to ‘educating’ and still grow your practice
3. How to be more scientific about filling the appointment book
There are jobs to do when you’re running a dental practice that you’d rather not do yourself. It’s good to know about those jobs, and how they work—it’s just not a top priority to get them done. Like doing all the autoclaving. Or answering the phone. Or writing dental marketing plans.
We understand that. You’re trained to identify, understand and correct sometimes complex oral health issues. It’s not really your job to fill the appointment book (here’s a shout-out to all the practice managers reading!). It’s your job to clear it.
But patients have to come from somewhere. It would be nice if they just walked in the door. But life doesn’t work like that. The question is: how do you get them walking in the door in the first place?
Simple—you market your practice. Except, marketing your practice isn’t as simple as you might at first think. And whether it’s your responsibility, or the practice manager’s, or an outside agency, it’s good to know some simple marketing mistakes many businesses make. Avoid them, and you’re on the way to filling that appointment book.
You might offer a full-range of restorative and aesthetic treatments in your practice, along with all the latest whizz-bang machinery like OPGs and CEREC machines and the full box-n-dice… but have you ever, and I mean ever, had a patient say to you; “Please use the OPG results to guide the CEREC for me?”
No. No patient ever said that.
Patients want to know how you can help them feel better, or look better. Sometimes they have problems you can solve and they don’t even know it yet. If you just promote the services you offer, and the patient doesn’t know they need those services, you’re not going to get their attention.
Put yourself in your patient’s shoes. Patients are interested in why their jaw is clicking, or whether their teeth are white enough, or is their breath bad, or anything that has to do with their subjective experience of being themselves. Your marketing should try to answer those concerns.
Your marketing should be about them, from you. Not about you, from you.
Another common mistake is only having the one marketing message, but sending that out to lots of different groups. You may spend a fortune telling people how to get a ‘straight, sexy smile’ in slickly-produced ads—but not every patient in your local area wants a straight, sexy smile. Some just want a good enough smile. Some just want the pain to stop.
Sending out a single marketing message around a product limits you to a single audience. A more targeted approach will always be less wasteful, so more effective.
Instead, develop an idea of your ideal patients—either people from your local area, or maybe people from a particular demographic group—and work out what those people would want from you. Then find ways to channel your marketing directly to them (whether that’s by direct mail, or social media, or some other means).
So in the past you could get away with just putting an ad in the Yellow Pages. That was before the rapid demise of those huge printed directories. I was going to write something about how the printed Yellow Pages is so much slimmer nowadays, when I realised: I haven’t even seen a Yellow Pages for years.
Anyway, my point is, there are more ways of reaching people than ever before. But that doesn’t mean you can pick and choose the most convenient way of reaching them for you. If you want all of your patients in the one spot, you have to take responsibility for gathering them yourself.
That means using social media ads, ads on Google, optimising your website, direct mail, email newsletters, local events, and any other means you can for letting people know you exist.
One of the reasons any practice cares about being on the first page of a Google search is so potential local customers can find you. Google’s algorithm has become quite clever in working out where your business is—but there is a way you can make that process foolproof. You can tell them where you are.
When you register your business with Google, you can improve your local ranking on the search engine’s pages. You can’t buy a better ranking from the search giant, but you can improve where you appear in results if you have a more popular and active web presence, and Google knows that you are who you say you are.
So setting your business up on Google is stage one, if you like, in the step-by-step process of search engine optimisation. It’s the base from which you start. If you don’t do it, you’re giving away your own place in search engine results to competitors.
The one thing that often bothers dentists about marketing their practice is the actual marketing bit. There’s something kind of icky and commercial about it that, while necessary, doesn’t seem befitting of a healthcare practice. Most of you bite the bullet and say, well, I have to market myself … even if I don’t like it. But there is another way.
If you approach your website and marketing collateral as being about education, rather than selling product, you are going to find patients will seek you out, rather than feeling like you’re giving them the hard sell.
If you approach having a blog on your site as an opportunity to educate your patients and potential patients, you will find you naturally have a lot to say. If you’re not confident, look at our list of keywords for dentists that might spur your imagination. But don’t go the hard sell—educate your patients.
You all know the basics of how to use social media. Heck, everyone knows how to use social media. But do you know why you use it?
Your practice’s Facebook page shouldn’t be like your personal page. On your personal page you probably spend a fair amount of your time lurking, followed by posting a couple of funny things and liking a pile of your friends’ posts. But your practice page has one goal, and one goal only.
To attract people to your website.
Not necessarily to attract people to your practice. To get them to your website, where you can get their permission to communicate with them directly. Starting that process will lead to them walking in the door of your practice (as opposed to anyone else’s) when they want a dentist.
So when you start posting to your practice Facebook page, have a plan to achieve that goal.
If you want to learn more about how to use Facebook more effectively, download the eBook in the box at the end of this post. Or just download it by following this link.
The great thing about correcting these common marketing mistakes is you can do it at any time. It’s not like you have to rebuild your website or anything. All you need to do is start planning with an end in mind.
If you want a few more ideas of how to do that, feel free to sign up for our newsletter by filling out the pop-up form in the bottom right hand corner. That’ll get you a regular dose of good advice and inspiration that should help get those new patients coming in the door!