(This article is a 7 minute read)
THREE THINGS YOU’LL GET FROM THIS ARTICLE:
1. A quick way to spot a marketer who doesn’t know dentistry
2. Why it’s important to know about the AHPRA guidelines
3. Three simple questions you can ask to sort the wheat from the chaff
I get an ad every other week in my Facebook feed. It’s from an agency I don’t know, advertising to dentists. The ad breathlessly promises to ‘increase my patient numbers’ through the simple yet brilliant use of patient testimonials! Every time I see it, I shake my head and wonder, “when is someone going to tell that guy that in Australia, it’s against the law for dentists to use testimonials?”
The guy who has paid for this ad is probably a reasonably savvy marketer. He’s smart enough to target his Facebook ads to people who have ‘liked’ the Bite magazine Facebook page. But he doesn’t know much about dentistry beyond doing that.
I get why dentists would need marketing help. Rarely do dentists have any formal marketing training. But I also think it’s important to choose an adviser who actually knows about marketing dentistry within the confines and challenges that exist for the profession.
I do wish this guy all the best. I hope that he does help some dental practices with their marketing. Although I hope someone explains the national law and AHPRA guidelines to him before he signs up any clients. For his clients’ sake.
There are a lot of marketing firms out there competing for your business. Some of them know the profession, and some are just really slick salespeople. If you’re not trained in marketing, it’s hard to separate the good ones from the others. Often you’ll find firms that are great operations, but just not aware of the regulations governing the profession.
Take the whole issue of testimonials.
At the beginning of this year, I gave a talk on blogging and content marketing at the ADX conference in Sydney. I pointed out the legal problem with offering testimonials as part of that talk. Afterwards, a guy approached me and said, “That the thing you said about testimonials — that’s not really true, is it?”
“Yeah, it is,” I replied.
“So … if a dentist does have a testimonial on his site … he doesn’t go to jail or anything, right?” the guy continued. “Because I build websites for dentists, and a few of them have testimonials on them.”
I pointed out that it was unlikely that they would go to jail. He seemed relieved by that.
“But,” I added, “if the dentist around the corner, who is competing with them for patients, tells the Dental Board about his website, it can start to cause troubles for him.”
I know there are many dentists, not to mention many marketing people, who are baffled, annoyed and frustrated by the ban on testimonials. It seems like it’s banning word-of-mouth marketing. Everyone else is allowed to share it when their customers have a great experience—why not healthcare professionals?
Except … I agree with the Dental Board on this one. Because I’m a patient. And I know how testimonials can be misleading, because I work in marketing and publishing. I know that, as a patient, I have no idea whether or not they are real or accurate, or coerced, or paid for. And my health, and the health of my family, are far too important for me to be led around by a sales trick. There’s no way you can legislate for honesty. All you can do is assume the worst.
I think it’s also important that your marketing and your website comply with the spirit of the law, rather than just the letter of the law. New technology pops up all the time that can help you kinda get around the law. The last example of that led to the Dental Board’s clarification on social media guidelines recently.
I know there is software which now automates the process of asking patients to review you on Google. This software circumvents the letter of the law. I’m not sure it existed when AHPRA wrote the guidelines. And although I think the software is harmless, I do think using contravenes the principles behind the AHPRA guidelines. It involves soliciting positive testimonials for use in a public space. Patients who have had a poor experience are unlikely to respond to the request. And it means potential patients will have a skewed view.
That’s why we tend to recommend the options of blogging and promoting those blog posts through social media. It moves your marketing from a simple desire to flog product, and towards a dentist’s traditional role of educating patients about their own health.
So with all that in mind, here is a checklist for choosing a marketing partner.
1. Can they tell you what the Dental Board guidelines are?
2. Can they display some expertise in at least one field of marketing (strategy, SEO, blogging, advertising, social media) for dental practices?
3. Can they clearly explain to you what they do, why they choose to do it, and how it works?
Now, obviously, the service we offer at yourblogposts.com ticks all those boxes, so you coud argue this is self-interest. But they’re also important, because whatever you choose to do for your marketing reflects on you and your practice—something we’re very aware of.
We know the Dental Board guidelines, because we have been reporting on them in our dental magazine, Bite, since the Dental Board was created. But that’s also why we started offering the yourblogposts.com service—we could see a clear need in the profession, and confusion as to what to do. We know this content-centred approach works because we’ve done it for dental practices and many other businesses for a long time.
Blogging is an important part of your marketing plan. As important as display ads, and social media ads, and all the other parts of strategy involved in growing patient numbers, and encouraging patient loyalty.
It creates the fuel that powers your social media, your website, your newsletters, and the regular communication with your patients. It’s too important to leave to someone who is going to give you generic answers to your marketing problems, and who assumes you’re just like everyone else.