There is a great deal of confusion regarding dental marketing, social media and branding. The fact is advertising, branding and networking are integral parts of a comprehensive business marketing strategy. In this letter, I hope to bring clarity to these terms and motivate my clients to assess their marketing initiatives now. As with all business efforts, time and resources are needed to deliver an effective marketing program.
The first thing a business must do is determine their objective. What do you want to accomplish with your marketing activities?
- Attract new patients
- Increase elective procedure activity
- Manage your reputation
- Grow your Perio. dept.
- Introduce new services
- Improve re-call/reactivation
- Market a new employee or associate
- Announce the acquisition of new equipment or technology
- Communicate with patients to grow the patient /practice relationship
- Stimulate business
Most businesses want to be seen in a positive light to their existing and prospective customers, so they adopt a style that attracts and maintains this specific population. For many businesses, these activities come about as a matter of necessity and eventually became policy. Some offices have maintained the policies and practices of the previous owner or when they were a start up practice. These offices need to evaluate their policies and systems now! Given the opportunity, most businesses would build their priorities into the current company policies and systems. This would support the mission of the practice while improving production and efficiency. In addition, proper planning and a multi-faceted marketing plan will expand the relevance of your practice in the surrounding community.
Here are some basic marketing activities that exist in all dental offices. Much like your P&L statement, there are fixed and variable (*) aspects to consider.
- Location of the office [Fixed] except for start –ups and moves
- Parking availability [Fixed] “ ”
- Effective phone/Customer service
- Facility appearance
- Technology [Do patients/staff think your practice is state of the art?]
- Staff professionalism – do you provide customer service training?Services provided (restorative, cosmetic, multi-specialty)
- Insurance participation [various options – at your discretion]
- Patient communication [recall cards, on hold answering, web site/blog, newsletter, social networking?]
- Community/professional reputation management
- Referral/ Thank You program
What are your priorities?
The branding component of your marketing plan is about your reputation – What is the perception of your office by patients and perspective patients? The social marketing/media component addresses your relevance, popularity and participation in your communities (both real and in cyber space). And the advertising component of your marketing plan should have a purpose. It must elicit a response from the target audience: such as; buy now, schedule your appointment or visit our website @ BestDentalPractices.com.
Amongst my clients, I see a mixed bag of marketing engagement. I have some accounts that are all over it (they use media, direct mail, social networking, school programs and actively participate in philanthropic endeavors) and I have other clients that have no marketing effort at all. Unfortunately most dental practices are single dimensional in their marketing efforts so they get disillusioned when the results and their expectations are miles apart! Their campaigns usually lack either – strategy or the resources needed to make it thoroughly successful. Additionally, many dental offices opt out of marketing entirely and rely on insurance participation as their way to attract new patients. They see the reduced fees as their marketing budget or the cost of doing business. Of course there are many offices that do advertise and also participate in insurance.
Here are five strategy basics to guide you in developing a marketing plan.
- Understand your target market (geographically and demographically)
- Determine your campaign objectives
- Integrate offline and online tactics (web, social media, direct mail, Demand Force)
- Build /develop your web presence to inspire people. Relate the contents to your target audience. Add relevant content periodically so people re-visit your site.
- Use your other marketing efforts to get people to your web site!
Focus your efforts and content on the patient not on your practice.
As Kerry Straine (President and CEO of Straine Consulting) says:
“Nothing measured – nothing gained!” Be sure to evaluate your marketing initiatives!