(This article is a 7.5-minute read)
WHAT YOU’LL GET FROM THIS ARTICLE
1. How to set SMART goals for dental practice marketing
2. What SMART goals are
3. How this approach can stop you going broke
Your marketing should result in making money. That’s why you set SMART goals for dental marketing. If that sounds like some buzzword you don’t need to know about, look at it this way. If you don’t set SMART goals, your marketing can send you broke.
A colleague recently told me about a dentist he’d met whose marketing was bankrupting him. He was spending thousands of dollars every week on online advertising, and only making half that much in appointments. And that’s not an unusual scenario.
Whether your practice is growing or established, you are going to lose up to 20 per cent of your patients each year just through churn. When you recognise that, you panic and throw money at someone to do lots of Google and Facebook advertising for you. While you seem to be getting a lot of engagement, it’s not always from the audience you’re targeting.
SMART goals help you recognise where the problem lies, and how to solve it.
What are SMART goals for dental practice marketing?
I’m not just shouting when I put the word SMART in all capital letters. It is an acronym for goals that are Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely.
‘Specific’ refers to an actual number you want to achieve. It’s not specific to say, ‘I want more patients’. Your goal should be to have, say, one more patient every day. Or five more per week. Being specific is the difference between a goal and a wish.
‘Measureable’ means measureable against your goals. It’s not just measuring the number of patients. It’s measuring where they came from, and whether your marketing efforts are working.
‘Attainable’ means a goal you can actually reach. There’s no point in saying you want 10,000 new patients if you live in a town with a population of 5,000.
‘Realistic’ goals are based on your own benchmarks—not some generic number from “all dental practices”. If all your past experience suggests you’re not going to double your number of patients after one campaign, it would not be realistic to set that as a goal.
‘Timely’ means within a specific time frame, keeping all those other elements in mind.
So to set a SMART goal for a dental practice, you should start with your current caseload, and the number of new patients you already get a week. This will be different for every practice.
So just for the sake of illustrating the idea, let’s say you decide you can take on a new patient every two weeks. You are in a suburb of a major city, and the local population is 25,000.
A SMART goal may be you want to get 25 new patients within a year, which you will get from 250 engaged leads, which will come from one percent of that suburb’s population.
You can see, that gives you two benchmarks to measure (the percentage of the population you aim to engage with, and the percentage of them who should become patients). They are realistic numbers, and you’ve given yourself a time frame—a year—to achieve them.
What to do once you’ve set the goals
By setting those goals, you can work out how you want to achieve each one. If you want to engage one percent of the population of 25,000, you can try to attract them using social media or email marketing, or any other tactics you like.
It is never a smooth or immediate process. But if you can see how many people you are reaching versus how many are, say, signing up to hear more info from you, you can know what part of your marketing you need to tweak. I’ve written before about what you should be measuring with your digital marketing, and reading that post will help you work that out. Your Google analytics dashboard is a really helpful tool to use in this process.
The important thing is with goals in place, you can measure at regular intervals. That may be every three months, or every six months. By measuring, you can work out which tactic works for you and which one doesn’t.
The advantages of the SMART goal approach
SMART goals give you something to aim for. They avoid that vague BS that permeates marketing about ‘building your brand’ or ‘creating awareness’ or ‘getting you out there’.
They also allow you to avoid setting yourself up to fail against unrealistic competition. So many dentists are worried about matching the marketing clout of a health-fund-backed practice. But all you are doing by worrying about that is stressing yourself out. The most important marketing results are those that improve on what you’re already achieving.
SMART goals also let you know and react when you are under achieving at some stage of your marketing process. Are you not reaching enough people? Or are you reaching everyone, but they’re ignoring you? Or are they paying attention to your message, but just not booking appointments? SMART goals let you measure all that.
Finally, many dentists are like the chap I mentioned at the start of this article. They know they have to do marketing, but don’t know how, so they hire an agency. Having these goals set up lets you brief a dental marketing agency properly, and lets you figure out if they are ripping you off.
SMART goals are goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely.
By working out smart goals for your dental practice, you can measure your marketing at every stage of a buying process—from when a patient thinks they have a problem, through to when they sit in your chair. SMART goals let you work out an ROI for your dental marketing, which is the Holy Grail all dentists seek.
There are many marketing agencies out there that promise vague and nonspecific outcomes, like ‘building your brand’ or ‘creating awareness’. But if you’re not chasing specific outcomes from your marketing—whether that’s advertising, or digital content, or letterbox drops—then you’re not marketing at all. You’re just polluting. And you’ll slowly send yourself broke.