Essential marketing strategies, part 2

June 22, 2010

By Christine Uhen, GDA, BS

Editor's Note: To read part 1 of this article, please click here.

The Internet has become one of the most powerful marketing tools that any industry can use, dentistry included. Having a Web site for your office is the first step, but the enhancement of your Web site is more important than simply having one.

The goal of a Web site is threefold. First, it should get consumers to your site. Second, it should KEEP them on your site, and finally, it should be a call to action, for example, they can be invited to contact you and schedule an appointment.

Most consumers use a search engine to find a dental provider. The most popular search engines are Google, YouTube, and Yahoo. Typically, they will search for a dentist in their community, using for example “dentist in my town” as their search term. Your domain name should be simple and easy to remember, such as “” Ideally, avoid using the doctor’s name, abbreviations, punctuation, or degrees (Dr., DDS, DMD). Buy as many URLs as you can that are closely related to your Web site: Yourcityfamilydentist, yourcitysmile, yourcitysmiledentistry, etc.

When developing your Web site, keep in mind that consumers are visual. Pictures of your facility, team, and procedures you provide are key to piquing patients’ interest. Every page should enable patients to move easily to each bit of information. Tell your Web designer to make your contact information easily accessible on every page of your site.

The most common way the search engines will find a match to the search criteria is through searching for key words throughout the text of your Web site. The content on your Web site is critical. Content is king. A beautiful Web site that doesn’t effectively answer patients’ questions and have a strong call to action will not drive people to contact your office. Any topic or procedure that you list on your Web site should be thoroughly explained, and the benefits of these treatments must be clear and easy to understand. Be sure to explain WHY this treatment is the best care for them and why consumers should come to YOU for this care.

Blogs and videos are effective ways of helping patients “get to know you” before their first appointment. Blogs can be updated with office outings, continuing education updates, and team updates. YouTube videos can reach an enormous audience, and are easily embedded onto your Web site. YouTube has allowed many offices with smaller budgets to effectively market their services by showing tours of the offices or examples of common procedures on the site.

Facebook and Twitter are growing in popularity and lend themselves easily to the smart phone generation. If you don’t currently have a presence on either network, plan to include them in your budget. A fan page on Facebook is an easy way for patients to keep up with you and refer friends to you. Over 500 million people are on Facebook —imagine if you could connect with just a fraction of them without leaving your office.

By far the most effective external marketing campaign is direct mail. A good direct mail campaign will bring in not just more patients, but also ideally a patient base that is more likely to accept your treatment recommendations. A moderate campaign can run $25,000 annually, so it can be expensive, but it is still proven to have the highest return on investment. But direct mail takes time and the results are not usually immediate, so the expectations need to be managed and kept realistic.

Direct mail campaigns should be based on a comprehensive demographic analysis of your community. In what zip code areas do most of your patients live? Are you looking to draw new patients from a different area? Are you marketing a high-end, high-fee service that would make a certain level of household income a factor in your case presentation? All of this information needs to be measured in your demographic analysis. Frequency of your mailer is as important as the consistency of your message. Contrary to normal thought, sending the same mailer to a group of consumers several times is more effective than sending several different marketing pieces. Just like your Web site, content is king. Provide information on all of the services you’re trying to market on the one mailer, and be sure to have a call to action.

Local cable TV or radio marketing, which has a more educational than promotional focus, is a great way to give your dental office a strong presence in the community. Research which area stations might be interested in airing a show that highlights different dental procedures. Perhaps there is a weekly radio show that would welcome your talking about the latest dental procedures and how your patients benefit from this care. This type of TV and radio can be relatively inexpensive.

If your marketing budget allows it, local network radio and TV advertising can be very powerful. There are costs involved with the development and creation of these marketing pieces, as well as the cost of purchasing airtime. Radio advertising works well for marketing a specific procedure, rather than as a general advertisement for your office. The best time to run a radio ad is during a regularly scheduled show. These shows have a strong following and are less likely to change the station while the show is airing. Also, have the moderator of the show read your advertisement. This gives your services an implied endorsement.

For TV, hire a media buyer as well as a professional scriptwriter and video production crew to develop and place these advertisements. TV commercials are appropriate for both procedure specific or general practice promotion.
So how do you know if your marketing campaign is successful? As with anything in a dental practice, it needs to be tracked and monitored. There is no one factor, such as the number of new patients generated, that determines success. It is a combination of many factors. Did those patients accept your recommendations? Have they enrolled in your practice long term? Are they returning for regular hygiene maintenance?

Measuring your return on investment needs to be evaluated not only when they first come to your office for treatment, but also long term. Did these patients STAY in your practice? What percentage of your treatment recommendations did they accept initially, and did they accept further treatment over time? Long-term ROI needs to be measured over a minimum of 12 months, and ideally longer. There are numerous software programs that can be set up to track this. A simple Excel spreadsheet can be created to keep track of how much money was spent on each marketing piece, and how much dentistry was initially produced on patients who came in because of that marketing piece. In addition, track how much dentistry was generated from these marketing pieces over time, ideally annually.

There are numerous ways to market your practice. While there are no guarantees with marketing, one thing is certain: you have to take the leap and DO IT. While it can be frustrating at times, don’t give up! Be creative, but more importantly, be consistent. Your office IS the right place for potential clients to come for dental care. With a strong marketing campaign, those consumers are sure to become your patients.

Christine Uhen, GDH, BA, is a head coach with the Productive Dentist Academy, an officer with the ADIA, and frequent lecturer on all aspects of business management to clients across North America. She can be reached at [email protected].