Just like your office building, your practice's marketing strategies need a foundation: a strong reputation, both in person and online. In this article, Adam Smith explains how you can build your reputation to support and reinforce your efforts at attracting new patients.
Having worked in marketing for several years and as an owner of part of a dental practice, I have had the fortune of seeing what works and what doesn't. I can't count the number of times that I have met with dentists who are discouraged because they can't find the solution to getting new patients in the practice. Almost every time, they tell me something like, "I have tried everything."
I am going to share with you the key difference that I have found between those who have "tried everything" with little success and those who are massively successful at attracting new patients. Are you ready for it? Foundation!
When dentists sit down with me and tell me about their difficulties attracting new patients, I always ask what they've tried—and usually I hear mailers, Google AdWords, social media, and search engine optimization. Then I ask them to explain how each marketing strategy worked specifically. They typically tell me that they tried something for a few months with very little success and then jumped to the next thing.
But here's an interesting phenomenon: if I ask a dentist bringing in over 100 new patients per month what he or she has done, I'll probably get similar answers to those above. I have been able to observe each of these practices, and the difference has become extremely clear … foundation!
What is a marketing foundation?
I've used the word "foundation" twice now, so let me explain how it works. As humans, we look for affirmation that the choices we have made (or the choices we are about to make) are good ones. When we receive a piece of marketing material, we immediately look for validation as to why we should take advantage of that offer. Many of us turn to one of two places: our social circles or the Internet. This means that if we want people to act on the offers we are providing, we need to back those offers up with our reputations. Your reputation is your marketing foundation.
Build a strong reputation to support your marketing
You might be telling yourself that you already know how to build a reputation or that you already have a great reputation. That might be the case, but please don't tune out just yet.
Hundreds of dentists have told me they have good reputations. But we observe and analyze their practices, and it is clear that many mistake having a good reputation with not having a bad reputation. Believe me when I tell you that these are not the same thing!
Your reputation is twofold: it's in-office and interpersonal, and it's online.
In-office and interpersonal reputation
If you love to read like I do, you may have read some business books or articles about creating raving fans. Dentists have told me that creating raving fans as a dentist is impossible due to the nature of the relationship between dentist and patient. I can assure you that this is not true. You can create raving fans, and if you want your practice to grow, I would submit that you must create raving fans. Now the real trick is how to go about doing that.
I am about to use a four-letter word, but don't stop reading because it is one that you need to hear. You need to sell your ability and value to your patients! I know—you don't want to sell dentistry. I'm telling you to sell your amazing practice, not dentistry.
Do not expect a patient to think that you are great because you do fillings better than another dentist. Do not expect a patient to be a raving fan because you have advanced training. It is simply not going to happen just because of your capabilities. Patients will be able to tell you three things upon leaving your office (unless you sell them on your amazingness). First, if a restoration was done, does it feel normal? Second, was everyone nice, or at least considerate? Third, was the cost as expected?
Let me be clear that none of these things will create raving fans unless there are only two dentists in your town and the other dentist is horrible. If that is the case, you probably aren't reading this article in the first place because you have plenty of patients already.
As a dentist, creating raving fans has less to do with technical skills and more to do with teaching patients why they should be excited about what you are doing and why your office is so great. Of course, if you don't do good dentistry, that might catch up to you no matter how well you can sell your amazingness.
Let's consider a crown as an example. If you are providing same-day crowns, you should teach the patient about how awesome it is that it will take less of their valuable time. Be excited about it! If you are not providing same-day crowns, you should teach the patient about how talented your lab is at making the crowns fit just right. Again, be excited! You and your staff are responsible for making sure that your patients know why they should tell their friends how awesome you are.
As a side note, if patients don't seem to be raving, never be afraid to set up a good feedback channel to help initiate changes.
Your online reputation stems from your interpersonal reputation, but in my experience, it is not always an accurate reflection. You see, no matter how much your patients like you, they might not think about going online to write nice reviews about you unless writing reviews is something they routinely do. They might need some help getting to the sites that matter the most to your online reputation and search engine optimization.
I have worked with a number of clients using different systems to help gather online reviews. Our office has tries a couple of systems as well. Typically a reputation management system costs about $100 per month. While I am of the opinion that your online reputation is worth $100 per month, I'm going to give you an insider tip to save a lot of money on a reputation management tool.
Many reputation management tools have a reseller option that allows you to buy accounts in bulk. Reputation Loop is a company I recently started using with clients that provides all of the familiar options, such as text messaging and e-mailing. You can get 25 accounts for $200 per month. Find a few friends who want to go in on it with you and you can easily get your personal cost down to $20 per month and even as low as $8 per month if you have lots of friends who are dentists. Get the accounts set up to send patients to Google, Yelp, and Facebook. You can also set up a custom review site for Healthgrades.
I recently started working with a dentist in Salt Lake City who had been doing a good job gathering reviews. But his website lacked in quality content, and he ranked on the eleventh page of Google for his primary keyword. Because he had built a good foundation on these review sites, his search engine optimization became much easier. We rebuilt his site with fresh content (not canned like it had been before) that was properly optimized, and the website jumped from the eleventh page of Google to the second page. These review sites pack some power when they link to your website, especially when they are supported by a good number of quality reviews.
The beauty of building a solid marketing foundation is that the foundation alone can bring in a good number of quality new patients. On top of that, when you set up your next marketing strategy, whether it is online or physical marketing, affirmation is readily available to your potential patients which will drastically increase the conversion of your marketing.
If you have any questions about anything I described here, I would love to help. Feel free to reach out with any questions or join our Dental Marketing Facebook group for more tips and answers.
Editor's note: This article first appeared in the Apex360 e-newsletter. Apex360 is a DentistryIQ partner publication for dental practitioners and members of the dental industry. Its goal is to provide timely dental information and present it in meaningful context, empowering those in the dental space to make better business decisions. Subscribe to the Apex360 e-newsletter here.