I often tell clients, “If you see your competition doing something as it relates to marketing, they are probably doing it because they are making money with it.” That alone should prompt every dental practitioner to want to learn more about how to effectively leverage the Internet.
The reason your competitors are marketing online is twofold. First, people have come to trust search engines such as Google as a reliable source of information. Secondly, people are asking their friends for referrals to dental providers through social media sites.
Just recently, a friend mentioned a chipped tooth on Facebook, and within minutes, I had responded recommending my personal dentist (not thinking about where he lived.) Moments later, another mutual friend had recommended a dentist a few miles closer to him, and by the end of the day, he posted “Novocaine just wore off and pain starting to set in. Time to take some Tylenol and go to bed.” The latter is proof that social media works and it begs the question, had a keyword-triggered ad from a local dentist popped before a friend jumped in, would he have taken the offer? Perhaps. What if he did not have any friends in the area? Would that have increased the odds of him clicking on that ad? I would have to say yes.
So, let’s discuss the various ways you can leverage the Internet and social media websites to reach out to new patients.
Get Local. If you have not claimed your local listings on Google and Bing, this is a must. The good news is that they currently do not even charge you to have these listings, and the results can be showing up in local map-based searches as well as in location-based searches on smart phones. Additionally, local sites such as Yelp, Kudzu, and the dozens of Online Yellow Pages type of sites can provide a great source of local business referrals to dentists.
Make Sure Your Website is Optimized. I can’t tell you how many times I look “under the hood” of a website and see that it still says “Welcome” as opposed to “Phoenix Family Dentist” in the main area where Google looks to find out what your website is about. You may need some help with this one, but hey, you went to dental school, not the Web Traffic Academy, so there is no shame in asking for help. There are likely hundreds if not thousands of dental-related searches in your area every month. Are those people finding you or your competition?
Also, make sure you use an email capture system to be able to stay in touch with those prospects that might be searching for future dental needs. It will give you roughly a 250% better response because you will be able to communicate with those who leave you their contact information.
Pay to Play. The quickest way to get people to visit your website is to pay to have your website show up in the search engines. The most important factors here are using the right keywords and targeting the right geographic location. If you are on the East Coast, you don’t want patients from the West Coast finding you because that would be a waste of money. Likewise, if you are an orthodontist, you don’t want to pay for clicks from people looking to get their teeth cleaned.
Get Social.Social media is only a waste of time if you spend all day caring about what everyone else is doing. If you are out sharing information and connecting with people asking questions, it will lead to new patient opportunities. My general advice for engaging in social media is:
1. Have a complete LinkedIn profile with a link that directs people to your website. Professionals need dentists too, and this is where the cool kids hang out. If you are a blogger (and you should be), you can update your status periodically with your latest dental advice.
2. Become a blogger. If you can’t write, hire someone to do it, but I will tell you this much. Information is powerful and that is what people are searching for online. If what they find is connected to your blog or website, then you may get a new patient out of that article.
3. Claim your social media profiles. Even if you are not going to be active on social media sites, claiming your business name on Facebook and Twitter will protect you from losing it to another dental provider in a different state who might have the same business name.
4. Go with Google (Plus). Google has entered the social media arena with its Google Plus site. For local businesses it’s a great way to get social exposure in addition to getting a hand up in Google search results.
One of the key factors in a successful online marketing program is tracking. I recommend using Google Analytics which is a free service and is trusted by major companies and search marketing agencies worldwide. As you implement the above strategies, you should start to see more exposure as tracked by Google Analytics, which should lead to more prospects and business. As a bonus, keep in mind that a business with a consistent flow of leads is a desirable business. Oftentimes, having a strong online presence is a factor that dentists fail to focus on, yet it’s one that investors and dentists seeking to purchase practices may look at. So if your future plans include selling the practice, you have some extra added motivation to get your Internet marketing campaign up and running!