Marketing may be a universal craft, but the methods of interaction between companies and consumers in the dental industry are different from those of other medical specialties. As a marketing professional deeply rooted in the dental industry, I’ve assisted dentists and other dental professionals with expert advice and specific plans to help practices nationwide implement effective marketing programs.
Marketing for the dental industry is different from other industries, in part due to the saturation of practitioners. To market a service in this highly competitive industry, you must distinguish your practice with a distinctive value proposition. Even though practicing dentistry is a prime motivator for you personally, it is still a business, and that business requires innovative marketing techniques in order to gain new patients and increase your practice’s growth.
1. Implement a referral campaign
What does it take to make a practice successful? The key message is this – dentists, practitioners, and staff members associated with your practice must perform at the highest level at all times, and this includes requesting referrals. I’ve seen the difference between practices that ask patients for referrals or have a referral program in place vs. those who do not, and it can make all the difference.
Gaining these third-party endorsements from satisfied customers can not only grow your patient base, it can significantly reduce marketing expenses. While tactics such as direct mail marketing and print ads can be successful, they’re costly and often not as effective as asking for referrals. If each patient referred just one friend, you could essentially double your customer base. Even if only half referred a friend, your customer base would still increase by 50%.
Offering incentives for referrals often results in better participation than a program that sends nice, but bland, thank you emails. Ask staff what patients in your practice find appealing, and try those incentives for a period of time. Analyze how well the program works and then tweak it to maximize success.
2. Become online and mobile savvy
As with any business, an online presence is a must. A 2015 trend is more socially intensive websites with responsive web designs that can also be effectively viewed on mobile devices. In order to compete, it’s essential to optimize your practice’s webpage for smart device use. Attempting this on your own is not advised. Hiring a professional development team will ensure your story is told in a professional manner while adhering to best practices for easy viewing and small screens.
3. Update your website
One way you can increase your interactions with web users is by posting pictures and bios of your staff, practitioners, and doctors. Website viewers typically spend more time on pages with images than on pages with heavy text. Online patient scheduling is a good way to garner more appointments. If you’re considering refreshing, building, or reviewing your website, install a function that allows patients to make appointments. This is an excellent way to improve the patient experience, not to mention it will save staff time. Another way to boost your website’s marketing ROI is to consider a pay-per-click campaign.
4. Create a social media plan
Marketing online shouldn’t stop at your website, because social media has a very important role in today’s digital world. While many small businesses try to increase their audience through social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, dentists tend to build business based on referrals from one satisfied patient at a time. However, creating signage that asks visitors to “like” your Facebook page is a great way to build a following. But you must ensure your page is relevant and interesting, and that it contains incentives to entice new patients to come back to your page.
Google+ lets patients write a review of your practice that shows up on Google Maps and other services offered by Google. Positive reviews are extremely beneficial to a practice’s credibility and reputation, but you should not rely on social media to produce the kind of results you get from new patient referrals. Social sites in general are not massive lead-generators, but they’re very helpful in spreading awareness and visibility of your practice.
5. A follow-up system is essential to retention
Website, social, and referral programs aside, there is one tactic I firmly believe all dental practices should adopt and implement on a regular basis – the follow-up. This approach is still underused, but simply calling and reminding patients that they’re due for a visit, then scheduling their next appointment before they leave the office are key to patient retention and positive opinion. If you display quality service and a genial personality, your patients will have an enjoyable experience and you’ll be in an excellent position to gain referrals.
6. Make sure you stay top-of-mind
An email drip campaign can increase interest and loyalty. For example, sending free offers, low-cost whitening services, or other discounted services via email can create urgency and potentially grow your patient base. But keep in mind that your patients are more than just income producers; they are human beings who enjoy being recognized! Send them well wishes on holidays and birthdays via email. Patient communication doesn’t always have to be a sales-oriented. This keeps your practice at the top of their minds when they’re asked, “Who should I go to for some dental work?” This tactic is cost-effective, easy to implement, and simple to manage. It can be done in-house or through any marketing company that offers email drip campaigns.