Six Keys to Marketing Success for Dentists
By Keith Gilleard
Below is a reprint of an article we recently did for The McGill Advisory, a newsletter of the McGill & Hill Group, a top financial services company for dentists.
Many dentists have had unsatisfactory results from their marketing efforts. Despite optimistic projections from marketing firms with whom they worked, and sometimes extensive marketing budgets, results usually haven’t matched expectations. That’s because one or more of the following critical points of marketing have been omitted.
1. If you are not marketing, you are invisible.
Some doctors still refrain from marketing because it “doesn’t work” or because they feel it “costs too much.” In the end, doctors who feel this way will certainly lose — there’s no way around the fact that most dentists need to market.
The days when they could rely solely on patient referrals to maintain their practice are long gone for most doctors. In order to achieve acceptable levels of profitability, most doctors must market their practice in order to generate a greater number of new patients, which brings us to this critical point: potential patients won’t find out about your practice unless you are letting them know about it.
This might seem obvious, but this point is often violated in subtle ways. For example, a practice commissions a website and waits for new patients to flow from it, but nothing happens. The second step after creating the website wasn’t taken: getting the website visible on search engines such as Google and Bing. Or, the practice commissions search engine optimization and six months later the website still hasn’t climbed to the first page of results.
2. Getting to the first page of Google is only part of the Internet marketing process
Ranking high on Google results can result in prospective patients clicking on your website, but what happens when they get there? Many dental websites are filled with extensive generic descriptions about the dental procedures offered along with stock photography. They forget that the primary purpose of the website should be to provide personalized information necessary to differentiate their practice and give the visitor a reason to choose their practice and make an appointment. Providing general information about procedures is secondary.
Moreover, the practice website must also offer marketing messages that will resonate with potential patients. Along with personalized text, there should be special offers and call-to-actions that will incite visitors to make an appointment. These proven marketing devices must be included in your website for it to be successful.
3. Does your message resonate with the target market?
Large company brands pay tens of thousands of dollars for a good slogan that they think will resonate with their target market. For Example, consider BMW’s “Ultimate Driving Machine,” Nike’s “Just Do it,” and Wal-Mart’s “Save money. Live Better.”
Behind these slogans is usually a wealth of market research. Advertising agencies survey consumers to find out what’s important to them, and what benefits they are looking for from the brand. The data they discover are called “hot buttons.”
These hot buttons are used throughout their marketing efforts, such as in headlines, subheadings, photo captions, radio and TV scripts, and more.
Effective dental marketing must also use messaging containing these hot buttons, which will resonate with the desired target audiences (e.g. affluent people ages 35-55, women with children under age 10, young adults for Invisalign, etc.)
4. You can’t ignore your competition
Dentistry is increasingly competitive in most areas. How do you make your practice stand out from the crowd? You can do some simple market research by reviewing your competitor’s website to determine their strengths and weaknesses, what sorts of offers they are giving and then doing something different.
But that brings us back to using good marketing. You have to know what to write and what to offer that will resonate with your target audience. Then you can make a website that will both differentiate you from your competition, and be an effective marketing vehicle.
5. A picture paints a thousand words
We’re not talking about stock photos here, folks. While stock photos definitely have their use, a website that consists solely of stock photos gives a generic and commercial message to the reader that says your practice is a “commodity” — no different than any other. The photo of the broadly smiling woman/couple/family that you see on almost every website home page has become a cliché.
Good, personalized photos should be used in a website and other marketing items to communicate the practice attributes–its friendliness, high-tech, beautiful spaces, etc. The prospective patient needs to get a glimpse of what it will be like to be in your practice, making it easier for him or her to call and make an appointment to come in.
6. The right kind of offers are key to successful marketing
Before there was an Internet, there was direct mail. Unlike many ad agencies, which operate on the idea of general brand exposure, direct mail marketing had to increase business, or the marketer would make no money. One of direct mail marketing maxims for success still has value in the Internet world: you have to have a good offer.
Offers are the things that mobilize the consumer into action. They give them the impetus to act now, and a reason to take advantage of a particular product or service. Successful offers are usually found through testing what works. But beware, an offer that appears to work can sometimes actually be bad for the practice. For example, we don’t encourage cheap cleaning offers. Our clients find that many patients just take advantage of the cheap cleaning, and refuse to purchase other necessary dental services.
All the best