December 17, 2010
Marketing a dental practice is simply not what it used to be. Years ago you could just take out an advertisement
Image by swanksalot via Flickr
in the Yellow Pages or send direct mailers. In today’s saturated media market, these efforts often just end up in the recycling bin. While many dentists still swear by these methods, I argue that you’re not only missing the huge (and growing) group of patients who are online, but also that there is no way to track the success of your marketing campaign. How do you know if you’re reaching the right people?
The following five tips can help you market your practice through channels that really work:
1. Do your research.
Where do your patients come from? Do they have dental insurance? What neighborhoods do they live in? What services are appealing to them? And what languages do they speak? Based on your practice, target prospective patients with services they’re most interested in, whether it’s family practice promoting back-to-school check-ups, aesthetics such as teeth whitening or veneers, or more specialized services like dental implants.
2. Be active in your community.
Set aside part of your marketing budget to participate in community events or sponsor local sports teams (even better, sponsor your patient’s little league team). Become an active member in your city’s Chamber of Commerce and attend monthly events. If there is a health care cause or awareness campaign you’re passionate about, participate in it. Sponsoring events can be expensive, so if there is no money available for that, just pay the entry fees for your staff, and attend an event together to support your community.
3. Work on your website.
There is no denying that the web has changed the way we do business. Your website doesn’t have to be fancy, but it’s important to have a site that clearly communicates your location, contact information, the services you offer, testimonials of happy and healthy patients, and your practice philosophy. If you’ve already done this, consider building up your website with video, photos or a regular blog. A clear and effective website is an important building block for growing your online marketing strategy.
4. Engage with patients online.
Because many of the 100 million-plus Americans who lack dental insurance use the Internet, I decided to incorporate online transparent health care pricing into my marketing strategy. Designed to recruit new cash-paying patient who are uninsured, underinsured, or seeking elective procedures into my dental practice, transparent health care pricing websites like PriceDoc.com allow me to connect directly with local patients who are paying out of pocket. Marketing to self-pay patients also reduces overhead spent working with insurance companies. This new way of connecting with patients not only helps me reach new patients, it also gives patients who can’t afford a dental visit access to high-quality care at an affordable price. An additional benefit to engaging with patients on sites like PriceDoc is that they offer a new platform to post information about your office and staff, education, licensures, certifications, patient testimonials, hospital affiliation, office hours and contact information. Providing prospective patients with information on the quality of your practice can go a very long way.
5. Track your progress.
If my practice is going to spend money on a marketing tool, it needs to really help us grow. When a new patient comes into my office, our front desk staff always asks the patient how they heard of us and what compelled them to come in. We record this information and at the end of each year we analyze what marketing strategies drove the most leads. Most experts agree that a good average for the value of a new patient is $800 for the first three to nine months. The average monthly cost of my new patient leads via PriceDoc is only $50 per patient, and helps us track the number of patients who are using the site. Using other social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook only cost the time (and effort) my staff puts into online engagement. Finally, don’t under estimate the power of Yelp. More and more, patients are referring to review sites to learn what other patients are saying about your practice. The best strategy here is to provide the best experience and care possible for your patients.
For a small practice with three doctors and five employees, our goal is to provide great dental care to patients and their families. I’ve found that marketing in this strategic way not only brings in new patients, but once they experience quality care, patients spread the word and often bring in family and friends.
About the author
A native Texan, Dr. Becky Coats was born and raised in Lubbock and graduated from Texas Tech University. She earned her dental degree at University of Texas Health Science Center Dental School at San Antonio and has since been committed to continuing education. She also completed a two-year advanced general dentistry residency at The University of Texas Dental Branch in Houston.
Her practice is Grapevine Dental Care.