(This article is a 15-minute read)
THREE THINGS YOU’LL GET FROM THIS ARTICLE
1. How content marketing for dentists works by getting better patients
2. Whether you should combine a business and personal blog
3. How often you should blog to remain relevant and interesting
Content marketing is the process of using content such as articles, images or videos, to build an audience which will ultimately buy your products and services. Content marketing for dentists involves creating content that educates people how to look after their oral health. While many dentists understand how creating content helps to market their practice, others are still asking questions about the content itself. What sort of content should they produce? Will it attract the right sort of clients? How is this different to advertising? And how does it work with my website and social media?
Creating content for your blog, and promoting it on social media and elsewhere, helps you build an audience of potential clients. Owning your own audience is cheaper and more effective than paying someone to put your message, in the form of an advertisement, in front of their audience.
If you educate your own audience about good oral health practices, those people are far more likely to come into your surgery because they know, like and trust you.
There are a few other questions that seem to pop up regularly. This article will attempt to answer them.
Q: How do I market to patients who want quality dentistry, but avoid the nut jobs who think decay is someone else's fault and fluoride is a government conspiracy?
A: Sometimes patients hold beliefs that are not consistent with either science or reality, and it's not very rewarding treating those people. Even though you still do your best to fix their problems, they will question the value of your services, and will probably only turn up when it’s almost too late to help.
One way that you can screen out those patients is to create content about the efficacy of fluoride, and evidence-based dentistry. If you're making those views and your own values very clear on the blog posts on your site, then you're less likely to appeal to the anti-fluoride nut jobs.
Some dentists, however, relish the challenge of helping anti-fluoride believers. They can also use content that addresses the questions and problems such people may have.
Simply producing the content on its own is not enough. But it’s the starting point. If you don’t flag your own knowledge and values to your patients, how can you expect those patients to share them?
Q: How do I reduce the number of patients who want to come to the practice?
A: It’s a good problem to have. But it can still be a problem. The demand for your services in your area might be so high that you just can't fit new patients in and it might not be enormously satisfying to treat some of the patients that you are treating.
To reduce the number of patients who want to come to the practice, you have to think about the type of patients you do want to see and the services you want to offer them. You can narrowly target those patients through using relevant content on your website. Relevant content addresses the specific needs and problems of that specific group. You then promote that content specifically to them through targeted social media posts. Once you have a defined audience, you can feel a lot more confident about not having to take on every case that walks through the door.
Q: What information or features are potential patients wanting to find on my website, so I can design it to appeal to them?
A: It depends on who those potential patients are. Information pitched at everyone will appeal to no-one. A bit of basic research and empathy will go a long way towards working out who you’re speaking to.
Once you’ve worked out who your audience is, take an educated guess as to what they would search for online. Parents may be Googling information out oral health for children. Sportspeople may be Googling information about mouthguards, fixing broken teeth or whether sports drinks are good for their oral health.
Then go to Google and do the same search that you suspect they're doing. When you do that, you'll see predictive text pop up in the text box. Those other phrases are all search terms that people have used when looking for similar words, so it's worth taking a note of them.
Often, down at the bottom of the page you'll see a list of related searches. Those related searches similarly are searches performed by people. Those predictive text suggestions and related searches are showing you phrases that you can use as keywords or subjects for your articles.
Once you've written blog posts on those subjects, promote them to your target audience through boosted posts on social media. Try and capture a bit of information about people when they come back on your site by asking them to sign up for a newsletter that you can send them on a semi-regular basis.
Q: Is it worth having a combined dental and personal blog, or a blog combining dentistry and other hobbies and interests?
A: No, it's not worth it. Your practice website, and everything on it, is a business tool. Your website exists to bring people into your practice, to educate them about their oral health, and to let them know you and who you are and what you stand for.
It’s not going to mean anything to potential patients if you spend time writing a blog about your sailing hobby, or how much you like cricket.
The only exception to this rule is if you’ve decided to target your services to patients who share your hobbies. But even then, you wouldn’t blog about the hobbies per se. It would be more effective (and make more sense to readers) if you wrote about how those hobbies impacted their oral health.
I was pondering this recently when talking to a dentist who has become the default dental provider for many Sydney-based musicians. He treats musicians because he likes them, and is an amateur musician himself. But if he was going to blog to attract more of them to his surgery, he would write about particular dental problems musicians will face. His hobby informs his knowledge, which he can then pass on to a specialised group of patients.
Q: How often should we be blogging to remain relevant and interesting? How do we get the word out there that we have a blog and get patients interested enough to log in and read?
A: Why do you want them to log in? You don't necessarily have to gather information about everyone who is coming to your site. You only really want to gather information that people are willing giving you.
As to how often you should blog—you can publish once a day, or once a week, or once a month. It's not quite so important how frequently you blog. The important thing is who you're talking to and how useful the information is that you're sending to them.
Once you have new content available, the three best ways to promote it are through email marketing, boosted social media posts and search engines (both paid and organic). Those three methods should all be employed to draw people back to your website.
Once you start building your own audience, you can control who you send messages to, when, and how frequently. The frequency with which you publish is less important than the audience that you're speaking to and the content that you're sending to them.
Q: Why can't so-called experts in web design get it right and give you what you ask for?
A: Maybe you're asking for the wrong thing. Or perhaps you've got an idea in your head about what you want, but you're not communicating it effectively to the so-called experts in web design.
A website is not a brochure. It’s a media outlet for you to communicate with people.
If you ask a web design expert to make a site that reflects a brochure that you put out in the mail, they might try to steer you away towards producing something useful. Because they know that a brochure site won't get you any Google results and it won't be very appealing to people who are browsing the web. The art and science of creating a website isn't really that tricky, and most people who do it will try and do the very best job for you, rather than just meeting a brief that may be wrong.
Q: What is the most efficient way to set up, monitor, and update a practice website, and how frequently does new information need to be uploaded to keep it relevant? Is it a good idea to use a website as a tool to introduce staff?
A: The most efficient to set up, monitor, and update your practice website is to start by building it in a very simple platform. There is a number of simple platforms out there that are either cheap or free. Many of these sites offer a wide range of templates and a simple, standardised dashboard.
The second step is setting up some free tools from Google, which will help you do get an idea of who is visiting the site, where they're coming from, and whether or not your site can be understood by Google.
One of those tools is a Google My Business account. The next is your Google Analytics account, and the last one is your Google Search Console.
The Google My Business listing just tells Google who are, and where you are, and when you’re open. Sometimes when people do a search for a particular business you'll see on the right hand side of the search results a black box come up with the name of that business and some photos and some details, its opening hours. All that information is from your Google My Business listing. That's information that you supply to Google that they verify with you, and that they then associate with your website.
Google Analytics (also known as Google Webmaster Tools) is an online dashboard that shows you how many visitors are coming to your site, where they're coming from and some basic demographic information about them.
Google Search Console tells you how Google sees your site. That’s important because if Google finds it easy to search and understand your site, then you'll be more likely to appear higher up in search rankings.
These tools cost nothing and can help you work out what works on your website and what doesn’t. If you want to get more sophisticated, or want to see all that information on one easy-to-use dashboard, there are marketing automation software packages that help you do that. The marketing automation software draws on that Google data, but presents it in an easy way.
Q: I would like to know how, from a marketing perspective, a website would benefit us when we're currently doing direct mail, and to all our eligible patients we're doing a magazine every two months, we're doing TV ads, and radio ads. We don't use our website for marketing purposes because we don't need to.
A: If you don't need to, don't do it. If you're having great success with your current marketing tactics and they're getting you results, keep doing them.
The reason why we suggest the content marketing model for dentist is just because it over a longer period of time appears to be more efficient than just relying on other mass media techniques, and the cost comes down as you build and maintain an audience of loyal followers.
Q: How can we market our dental practise using our website when it lacks class and sophistication? When I look at other practise websites I'm in absolute awe, and when I look at ours I'm disappointed. I've tried talking to my boss about it, but he won't listen. Is there another way?
A: While looks are important, they're not everything. The way your website looks should be neat. If it's basic, that's fine. It's not the design of your website that's going to keep people on it, it's the content that you're offering them.
When someone visits your website it's very similar to you going to a job interview. You don't turn up to a job interview in dirty clothes, but you don't get the job just because you're well-dressed.
There are easy ways to set up basic and good looking websites, but it's not enough to just finish with a basic and good looking website. The thing that's really going to draw people to your practice and make your website work for you is the content that you put on it.