Practice marketing is a science.
It involves a great deal of analysis, strategic thinking, experimentation, testing and tracking to pinpoint which message (or media) will garner the biggest return on your marketing investment.
This doesn’t mean that you have to hire your own “focus groups” or get an MBA in business or communications. The Internet is a great source of information regarding consumer behavior. All you have to do is a little research, and then implement a marketing plan that makes use of that knowledge (so that you’re not advertising in the dark).
A lot of dental marketing programs don’t cut the mustard because they fail to take advantage of target audience research or proven methodologies.
Here are the 12 most common “don’ts” in Dental Marketing done by dentists every day:
1 – Don’t talk to yourself: When you craft your marketing message, it’s so important to remember to think like a patient (NOT A DENTIST). Your campaign needs to speak to patients and prospects, which means talking about issues important to them (not you).
Furthermore, you shouldn’t just target everyone willy nilly. When it comes to choosing a dental office for the family, women make over 90% of the purchasing decisions. I’m not great at math; however this percentage seems significant…
The conclusion that can be drawn here is that your dental marketing campaigns should “speak” to the issues on the minds of female patients and prospects. It should also be visually appealing and relevant to mama. Research has proven that if you get mom, then dad and all the little kiddies will follow.
2 – Don’t leave the patient hanging: Let’s say you put your dental marketing plan into place. Then, patients take the bait and start calling in. That’s great, right?
Well, it should be… but if your receptionist has no clue about the teeth whitening promotion you ran, or the family discount you’re offering, then the prospective patient will get annoyed when they call in specifically to ask about it. If you confuse prospects on the phone, how can they trust you? They’ll probably hang up, and you’ll lose potential business.
This pitfall is easy to avoid. All you have to do is keep your staff well informed of every dental marketing move you make. Send out a memo, or a weekly email so that everyone is on the same page, and your practice can run like a well-oiled machine. You can even create a system of fun internal newsletters! Whatever you do, just make sure that your dental office is operating as a unit, and speaking to potential patients in the “same language.”
3 – Don’t be “cookie cutter”: Your prospective patients are more likely to remember you if you stand out from the crowd. You need to differentiate your practice from all the other dental offices in your community (and surrounding it).
A great way to do this is by creating a niche; whether you position yourself as the family dentist, the pain-free dentist, the cosmetic make-over dentists or the modern dentist, you need a brand so that patients who know you automatically say: “Oh ya! He’s the sedation dentist.”
In other words, if you try to be “every dentist” in your marketing, no one will recognize you for any special qualities that “stand out.”
4 – Don’t ignore your niche: Once you decide on your brand, and what makes you “stand out from the crowd,” market the heck out of it. Push your niche in every communication. Having a niche simply won’t work if you don’t market it properly.
5 – Don’t confuse your targets: If you market yourself as a sedation dentist in one ad, and as a cosmetic dentist in another, your practice will suffer from a “split personality.”
Patients and prospective patients (or any consumers, actually) are most comfortable with things they can categorize.
When you put yourself in a specific category, your target patient groups will easily understand what your practice’s unique benefits are – and this makes them more likely to book appointments.
6 – Don’t clutter your campaigns: Don’t make your marketing piece a jumble of graphics and text. Marketing material works best when there is one focal point: perhaps a compelling image, or a headline that captures attention.
TIP: Your image or headline should tug at heartstrings, or offer a convincing financial incentive. That’s the stuff that gets patients and prospects to read more, and pick up the phone.
7 – Don’t neglect your windows: There are opportunities to communicate with patients everywhere. Windows, empty walls and the desk in the reception area: these are all examples of prime spots for featuring your message.
Of course, there’s a fine line between advertising and clutter. Try not to turn your dental office into Times Square.
8 – Don’t be silent: You need consistency and frequency in order for prospects and patients to remember you, and what you’re saying. This means that you need to maintain your marketing campaign… in other words, keep it going!
Yes, running external and internal campaigns takes a bit of an investment. But an investment is different than an expense, because it will lead to a return in the way of profits for your practice.
9 – Don’t be forgetful: When a patient gives you a referral, THANK THEM. PROPERLY. Send a handwritten note. Give them a gift card for a local coffee shop. They’ll be surprised; but most importantly, they’ll have more incentive to keep those referrals coming after they see how appreciative you are.
10 – Don’t fail to network: Sure, you’ve joined associations and whatnot in order to mingle with fellow dentists, but if you’re not asking your patients for referrals, then you’re not networking for profit.
You don’t have to badger your patients. A sign at the reception desk asking for referrals, or a referral program that offers an incentive is a great way to build your patient base.
You can also train your dental staff to ask for referrals. Sometimes a simple question: “Would you like extra business cards for other family members or friends?” is a great way to get the referral conversation going – and it’s an easy question for shy staff members to ask.
11 – Don’t just whisper from the rooftops: You need a powerful signage program. Your signs need to be visible and clever in order to attract attention. Billboards are a very effective marketing tool when created properly and placed in the optimal spots. TIP à Don’t forget to change your signs frequently! If you keep the same sign up for months, it will just blend into the scenery and people will stop noticing that it’s even there.
12 – Don’t fail to roll out the welcome mat: When new patients come in, it’s a great idea to hand them a branded welcome kit packed with brochures about your dental practice and the services you provide.
Throw in some branded toothbrushes and tote bags, customized lip balms, business cards, or any other promo items you have for your dental office.
The kit will make your new patients feel special and welcome – but most importantly, it will help secure their loyalty.
If you’re smart about your dental office’s marketing, it will decrease the amount of time and money you need to invest – which will leave more time for all those new patients… and a vacation or two.