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Five Steps to Effective Marketing in a Slow Economy

Dec. 22, 2010
Marketing in a slow economy is vital to the health of a dental practice. Here's five secrets to successful marketing.

by Helmut Flasch

As the economy remains weak, the rising costs of energy and food force consumers to cut back on spending. As a result, practitioners have been witnessing a decrease in patient visits and the postponement of certain treatments.This presents a problem of great magnitude to private practitioners across the country. What follows are five keys to help you counteract any of these changes that your practice may be experiencing.1. Market yourself. Recognize that you are only in the business of marketing your business, and that is it. The number one mistake made by many practices is to believe that giving good service or care is all that is needed to succeed.This concept may have been true 100 ago. But today, if your service is not put in front of potential clientele on a constant basis through marketing, then awareness of your practice will never reach the people who need it. As a result, you will have a hard time, especially in a slow economy. Ultimately, only those who continue to learn and who market their practices consistently survive and prosper.2. Be part of the community.Instead of only relying on traditional advertising, why not do something positive for the community that will create goodwill and ultimately attract more patients to your practice?We're not talking about some PR gimmick here. While most of us try to be good human beings each day, few realize that taking this basic concept into actual interaction in the community — by doing good deeds, such as food drives and anti-drug events, etc. — not only raises your visibility through the free press, but your credibility as well. This is where you will stand head and shoulders above your competition. These social participations do not need to take much time, contrary to common belief. And, if done correctly, they will help create a positive image that will translate into patient trust even before patients select you as their doctor! Doing this will also prompt more referrals from other doctors.We call this the "Un-Advertising" approach. By this we mean you do not "advertise"' your services, but get positive attention that remains in the public's mind through your community humanitarian activities. Doctors who have done "Un-Advertising," especially in a slow economy, have found that the public and referring doctors do remember them for a long time; in most cases, longer than their counterparts who use paid advertising techniques.3. Don't cut marketing efforts. Do everything you can to step up your marketing efforts in a bad economy. Growing and succeeding well above average can often be easier in a slow economy than it can be in a steady and growing economy. Many millionaires and billionaires have been made during recessions, and even in depressions. During a fast -paced economy, many practices achieve their normal growth. However, the typical reaction during a slow economy is to hide your head in the sand. Remember, when the going gets tough, the tough get going and step up their marketing efforts.Most practices that cut back on their marketing activities during slow times do so believing their efforts bring in even less than before. This action will simply shrink their businesses even more, and in one, two, or three years — when the economy picks up again — they will be too paralyzed financially to take advantage of the economic upturn.4. Diversify your marketing. If you keep looking for that one marketing action that will bring you business growth, the end result will probably be financial hardship and being overworked. There is no one marketing action that will increase your patient volume. It is always a combination of several actions done together.Most people engage in a "bee-hopping" approach to marketing. They try one thing and if it doesn't work, they try another. This shotgun approach will not help you, but only will result in a smaller practice. As you speak to dental practice management consultants and marketing companies, asks for "marketing systems" — complete marketing plans that involve both internal and external marketing activities, and that can be done without spending a lot of personal time or money to implement them.Marketing is as scientific as engineering, and important scientific data show that half of your marketing efforts will probably not work, even if you are very good at it. Another scientific fact is the principle of synergy, which, again, supports why a "bee-hopping" approach will not work. As in a war, attack with all the ammunition available and attack from all corners possible.5. You might not like it. Realize that you do not have to like the marketing action for it to work. Most people do not like root canals or having their transmissions fixed. Most do not like to hire lawyers either, but winning a law suit and staying out of jail makes the "liking" part immaterial. What counts is that your practice grows, and that is it.Marketing in a slow economy or a fast economy is not only survival for the health of a practice, but it is also vital for the prosperity of the practitioner.Helmut Flasch is an international consultant and CEO of Doctor Relations Inc. He is the founder of the award-winning marketing strategy, "Un-Advertising" and author of "Double Your Business But Not Your Troubles."