Marketing your practice can be a complex business. You’ve a multitude of choices to start with: newspapers, magazines, leaflet-drops and radio adverts represent the more traditional route. Then there are local sponsorship opportunities, events at your practice, referring dentists you can target – and that’s before the online environment is even looked at. Websites, video, social media, SEO and PPC all play an increasingly important role in reaching new patients.
With so much choice available, and only so much budget to allocate, your decisions need to be as informed as possible. And it starts with knowing that every patient who’s ever signed up for treatment has been in your sales funnel.
What’s a sales funnel?
Your sales funnel is a marketing system. It’s the process your patients go through from when they first think about having straight teeth or a perfect smile, to when they start actively looking for an orthodontic solution, to then choosing a practice and becoming a patient, before finally becoming a satisfied customer willing to act as your personal recommender. At this stage they can turn into a member of your own army of sales people, marching under the banner of word-of-mouth recommendation.
Sales funnels have been around much longer than web marketing, but the online digital world has now made it much easier for you to build your own sales funnels. Why would you want to build a sales funnel? Well, they make things easier and more cost-effective for you when it comes to spending your marketing budget. Just as you’d use a funnel to put new oil in your car to avoid spilling oil over the engine so your sales funnel is used to direct all potential new patients to the same end destination.
At any given time you’ll have thousands of patients at the entrance to your sales funnel. That is, people who at one time or other have contemplated correcting their crooked teeth or dreamt about having a Hollywood smile. The start of the funnel is a big place and covers those who may never take the next step down the funnel, to those who definitely will and all those in-between. The cost to reach this mass of potential new business is high and the process tends to be inefficient. In short, you’re gambling with your marketing and advertising budget.
Further down the funnel
Concentrating your efforts on the next group along your sales funnel, ie those actively looking for an orthodontic solution, is where we recommend you start. It’s going to be much easier to find and convert a patient who’s already made up their mind or is a long way down the road to making up their mind on orthodontic treatment, than it is to cast your net wider.
The first thing to do is to invest in your marketing infrastructure, and that means a first class website. It’s not, however, enough to offer basic information on you, the practice and services on offer with a simple contact form and phone number. This may be enough to convert patients who land on the site ‘ready-to-buy’ but you need to think of everyone along the funnel. Offering reports, money-saving offers and advice in return for a visitor’s name and email address will help start a dialogue and allow you to increase the numbers on your email or newsletter database. We recently introduced a form on a client’s website titled ’10 questions to ask on your first appointment’. For a new visitor doing some online information-shopping this is an attention-grabbing offer and available for the price of an email address. This is what’s called a ‘lead magnet’ and has lead to a big increase in patient conversions from this particular website.
Power up your sales funnel
The example above shows the importance of creative content and this is also vital for promoting your website and driving more traffic there in the first place.
Examples of good creative content include video infomercials. These short (two to three minutes) introductory videos give new patients to the chance to ‘meet’ you, key staff and satisfied patients, while getting useful information about the services and practice environment you offer. Videos are a great way to produce rich content for your website but are also pieces of stand-alone marketing collateral. Optimising and syndicating your own personal videos on social media sites and video platforms like YouTube, Vimeo, Flickr and others will drive more traffic to your site and optimise it for Google search results. Blogging is another example of using creative content in the ‘public’ domain to drive more traffic and optimise your website. To convert more prospects into leads you’ll need content in the form of free reports and offers, so you can capture email data and send out newsletters and links to build stronger relationships.
Nurturing new patient prospects
This is a great way to think about how to treat potential new patients. Rather than the heavy-sell or having a quick turnaround, as your goal consider how someone moves through your sales funnel – from web visitor to email lead to list subscriber, full patient and finally lifetime endorser.
Nurturing gives prospective patients the time and space to feel they’ll make the right decision at the right time for them. And while not every prospect turns into a video testimonial it’s important to remember a list of 10,000 weak prospects is much less valuable than a list of 100 nurtured ones.