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You're an excellent dentist with fantastic credentials. After years of working in a multi-dentist practice with several locations, you decide to make the break and branch out on your own. Your patients loved you, and you assumed enough of them would follow you to your new office. But, not many did. Now what do you do?
If you want your dental practice to thrive, you need at least 24 new patients per month. Plus, you've got the problem of attrition—the average dental office loses 15% to 20% of its patient base every year. You need new marketing strategies that work to attract new patients.
Here are five valuable ideas that worked for us to attract those important new patients.
When people see you involved in community events, they'll feel connected and more likely to choose your practice over other dentists. So what can you do?
You can help a sports team. Your community has a variety of sports teams in recreational and school leagues. You can buy advertising on banners and other signs displayed at games, or sponsor a team and get your name on a jersey. Parents will want to use a dentist who helps their kids, and kids will be more comfortable with a dentist whose name they know.
You can join athletic competitions. There are probably races, cycling events, and athletic contests in your area. You can buy ad space in the handouts, sponsor part of an event and get your name on jerseys or banners, donate items for swag bags or prizes, or even have a team participate. Being part of a race is an excellent way to get your name in front of people who care about their overall health, including their teeth.
You can participate in celebrations. From founder's days to holiday celebrations, every city hosts at least one festival a year and there are many opportunities for you to get involved. You could advertise in parade guides, set up a booth to hand out toothbrushes, sponsor an activity such as an Easter egg hunt, or have a float or walk in a parade.
You can volunteer at free clinics. Nonprofits and local governments around the country host free dental clinics for people without insurance and they're always looking for volunteer dentists.
Maybe you don't love Facebook, and you may have no idea what Instagram is. But your patients are using social media channels and so should you. When you make regular posts, you'll keep friends and fans engaged and interested in your content and your practice.
You can post about what's going on in your practice, news about teeth, facts about dental health, and interesting trivia. It's smart to post links back to your website to build your traffic there as well. Facebook is also a good place to target ads to current and potential patients. Another idea is to join groups where people ask for recommendations or opinions that often go by the name of “Ask (city name).” Nextdoor is another popular platform where people receive information about their areas. In this digital age, you simply cannot ignore social media if you want to build your practice.
3. Maintain a blog
Having a blog on your website is an easy way to connect with patients. It's where you showcase your dental expertise and keep people updated about what's going on in your practice. It's a perfect place to write about your community involvement. But it's also essential for driving traffic to your website. Search engines give higher rankings to websites with original content, aka a blog. Higher search engine rankings mean more website visits, which translate to more patients. So start a blog if you haven't already, and update it regularly.
Are you encouraging patients to leave reviews on Google, Facebook, Yelp, or elsewhere? If not, you need to start today. Reviews will drive more business to your dental practice. My practice is in Springfield, Oregon, and online reviews definitely help drive new patients to the practice. People are more likely to choose me over other dentists after reading how satisfied my patients are with their results.
According to BrightLocal, 97% of consumers read online reviews about local companies in 2017, with 85% of consumers saying they trust online reviews as much as they do personal recommendations. Seventy-three percent of consumers trust local businesses more when they receive positive online reviews. The more online reviews you have the better because they help you stand out from your competitors.
5. Start a referral program
Effective marketing strategies are a vital part of a thriving dental practice. If you want to gain the new patients you need to grow, use marketing strategies that work: start a referral program, encourage online reviews, maintain a blog, don't ignore social media, and be active in the community.
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Sara Davis is anentrepreneur, writer, and marketer who has contributed columns in Forbes, MoneyInc, and ThriveGlobal. When she’s not working, you stays busy chasing around her five-year-old boy.