For most dental practices, marketing remains an ad hoc, reactionary activity where common mistakes are repeatedly made.
But as the dental environment becomes ever more competitive, effective marketing will impact on your ability to differentiate your practice to attract new patients and increase your treatment uptake. So let’s take a look at what you should avoid.
Not starting with the end in mind
If you are prepared to invest time and money into your marketing, then your practice needs to have a vision of where it is going, with clearly written marketing objectives on how it will be achieved. Not only will they guide you, but they will ensure that you have a benchmark from which you can measure your success.
Put time aside to really think about what you want to achieve. Do you want to increase the number of new patients you attract on a monthly basis from X to Y? Do you want to carry out more cases of a certain treatment?
Whatever your objectives are, make sure they are communicated to the whole team.
Not allocating time and resource to your marketing
This is not uncommon, as few dental practices can justify the employment of a dedicated marketing manager, so the responsibility usually falls to either the principal or the practice manager (or both).
Despite the fact that both of these people have more central roles to fulfil within the practice, marketing must not take a back seat. Each week or month, time should be set aside and a budget should be aligned with your overall marketing objectives.
If you’d like an easy way of working out a budget for a specific marketing activity, ask yourself this question – how much would you pay for a new patient or the take-up of a particular treatment?
For example, if you were to take out an advert at a cost of £500 in your local paper to promote a treatment, let’s say implants – how many new implant patients would you need to consider the advert a success?
You may think that for a treatment that costs £1,500, a cost per patient acquisition of £50 would be good – which means for the advert to be successful it needs to generate 10 new implant cases. If you only get five, they’ve cost you £100 each – is that still a good result for you?
Not capturing, measuring or analysing your data
In marketing, information is king! The more you know and understand about your market, customers and how they respond to your marketing activity, the better placed you are at making informed decisions.
So, for instance, the advert you placed to promote your treatment, how many responses did you get? If you don’t record this, how can you judge whether it is worth carrying on running the advert again? If it’s not worth it, then you don’t do it again.
Overall, you need to ask yourself, ‘what do we know that we don’t know?’ and then put a plan in place to find out, record it and then analyse it.
Not understanding the importance of your website
If you were looking for a new hairdresser, what would you do? Google it, right? Or you might ask a trusted friend for a recommendation…and then what would you do? Probably check out the website.
We live in a day and age where all roads lead to your website. Yet most practices do not even have one or, if they do, then it is doing them more harm than good.
To put it simply, your website is one of your most important marketing tools. Do not underestimate the fundamental importance of it.
Not making it about the customer
Choose any town in the UK and Google the phrase ‘dentist in [chosen town]’. Now take a look at the landing pages of all the first-page results.
How many talk in dental terms such as ‘endodontics’ or ‘periodontics’ and how many have a lovely photograph of the surgery or the outside of the practice? This is all well and good, but what does it mean to a potential patient?
For the customer, dentistry is a means to an end – greater self-esteem, a fresh healthy mouth, the ability to smile or eat with confidence – that’s what is important to them.
So your communication needs to focus on the benefits your services provide, not the features of the delivery.
A simple tip, when thinking about your services always follow it up with ‘which means that’. For instance: ‘We offer Invisalign (feature), which means that you can get the smile you want without the need for braces (benefit).
Much like anything else in your dental practice, marketing is an investment and should give you a return.
If you introduce a few simple principles then allocating financial resource and time to marketing will give you worthwhile insights, allowing you to take control and make it work positively to support you to grow a profitable and sustainable dental practice.