(This article is a 7 minute read)
THREE THINGS YOU’LL GET FROM THIS ARTICLE:
1. Advice for marketing dentistry that is applicable to the world of mobile phones and social media;
2. An explanation as to why Facebook is more important than word-of-mouth
3. How you can join in conversations your patients are having about their oral health.
Methods of advertising your dental practice have changed rapidly in the last five or so years. If you’re marketing dentistry the same way you did before the Global Financial Crisis, you may be missing many potential patients.
There are two powerful tools you can use to communicate with current and potential patients, and get them into the practice. One is Facebook. The other is your website. Use them right and you will start filling those holes in the appointment book more effectively than ever.
But my practice wasn’t hit that hard by the GFC, you say to yourself. Why would it have changed my marketing?
Up to a few years ago, the most effective way to get new patients into your practice was either advertising locally, or using word-of-mouth. But neither of those methods were as effective as you thought they were.
I admit, it seems logical—be nice to patients, treat them well, solve their problems, they tell their friends. Their friends see an ad in the local paper, they say, “Hey, I remember my friend mentioning this guy”. And you have a new patient on the phone or walking through the door.
Each time this happens, it confirms your bias that this is effective. But it doesn’t tell you how many patients you’re missing out on.
Word-of-mouth can’t help you with the guy who came once, then never returned. Or the woman who thought your front office people were talking about her. Or the family who moved across town to be closer to their kids’ school.
There may have been one tiny, simple reason why they haven’t returned. But you can’t address that if you’re relying on word-of-mouth.
You had one more chance of capturing those wavering patients. If they saw an ad in the local paper, and were reminded of your great service and knowledge.
Local papers—in fact, all media—were slammed by the GFC. The advertising revenue that sustained them dried up, almost overnight. The only thing that is keeping local papers going now is real estate advertising. If it wasn’t for that, your local paper would have disappeared six years ago.
Local papers are sustained by advertising revenue. If they have no other source of revenue (like, say, people buying them in a newsagent), the content in them tends to shift to suit the advertisers.
That’s fine if you’re buying or selling a home, or if you like looking at nice photos of real estate. But not great if you want to inform people about health services.
People don’t need to get good health information from local media now, anyway. They have a much better alternative: The Internet.
If you have kids, it feels like we’ve had smart phones for ever. But they’re a very recent phenomenon. It just feels like longer because your kids have been nagging you to buy one since April 2008.
That’s right—April 2008 was when the iPhone was first made available in Australia. Six months earlier, the banking system had first seized up because of sub-prime home loans. Six months later, Lehman Brothers collapsed.
It took a couple of years for the iPhone to really catch on. But by about 2012-13 (three years ago), it seemed like everyone either had one, or wanted one, or was about to get one.
Let me repeat that number, in case you didn’t catch it the first time. It was really only THREE YEARS AGO that smart phones like the iPhone started becoming ubiquitous.
And it’s only been in the last two years or so that we realised people were using them to surf the web. And that our websites—everyone’s websites—needed to be easy to read on a mobile phone.
While Facebook has been around since 2006 (it started earlier, but only became available to the general public in 2006), they didn’t pay much attention to mobile devices until 2012.
But when the company did pay attention to mobile devices, and in particular to iPhones, their stocks soared. Because suddenly, Facebook wasn’t just for people who had access to their computer all day (like journalists and uni students).
Anyone, in any job, could check their Facebook page. If they were worried their boss would bust them for it, they could check their phone in the bathroom, or when they’re having their lunch, or in the bus on the way home…
And furthermore, Facebook became a community like the local paper used to be. People started local news groups where they could find out what was happening in their community without having to look at real estate ads.
So while the practice of dentistry hasn’t changed a lot in the last five years, the world around your practice has changed enormously. And it’s not changing back. But that’s a good thing.
Because where you used to be subject to the fixed advertising prices of a local paper, you now have a real range of prices for your ads. Digital media lets you target your marketing, and therefore pay less and get more impact for your money, than ever before.
And where word-of-mouth was only really a conversation with your existing patients when they’re in the surgery, these technologies let you start or continue a conversation with patients when they’re not in front of you.
Starting a conversation is different to shouting a message (which is what you did with more traditional advertising). Marketing your practice on social media is more about having that conversation. If you want to find out more, you can download the free e-book you can see in the box below.
When you understand how the way people communicate and connect with each other has changed, you’ll understand how marketing dentistry has changed. And a few simple adjustments from you and your staff can get you in on that conversation.