In the past, we had product-centric companies and then they shifted to being customer-centric, now today the most successful companies are moving towards being purpose-centric. This means that all aspects of the business, whether it’s marketing, service, R&D, sales, IT, etc., all reflect the company’s purpose. To me, everything revolves around identifying your purpose and through that, you determine the business’s purpose.
When it comes to marketing challenges, companies of all sizes and types struggle daily. When it comes to dental clinics, similar to other small and medium businesses, you find substantially more challenges. This is mainly caused by the fact that, usually, they do not have Marketing departments to figure it all out. Owner/Operators and small companies specialize in their own craft, trade or product. If it is not marketing, they would be severely lacking in that area.
These are just a few major marketing challenges that are worth mentioning and sharing.
1. Realizing the magnitude of what marketing means for a business/clinic.
It is so difficult to properly define what marketing is. I like Peter Drucker’s definition best. He says that marketing is everything, it is how an individual perceives our brand. This is very powerful and meaningful. Dentists must understand that marketing is more than an ad online, a billboard sign and a flyer. Marketing includes their receptionist’s smile, the smell in their waiting room, cleanliness of their washrooms, the color of the walls in their office and even the social posts of their employees.
Following Drucker’s definition, it is important to look at all aspects of your clinic to attract new patients and retain existing ones. Marketing is not an expense, but an investment. You invest in creating a clear message for what you and your clinic stand for. That is something worth investing in.
2. Finding the right vendor (marketing partner).
It feels like there are more marketing and SEO companies in North America than stars in the sky. When you need a plumber, how important is it that you find a good one? We ask our friends and family for recommendations, read online reviews and go out of our way to not make a mistake. The same approach must be taken when looking for a vendor for your business. The truth about SEO is that it takes about 6 months of service (about $1,500/mo) to start seeing results. A substantial chunk of these companies cannot deliver and you will only find that out 6 months and $9,000 later. SEO is just one area of digital marketing you should outsource to a specialist. Some others include patient reviews on your Google page, building you a professional website, and running your social media. You can do these things yourself or get an amateur to do it for less money. But, at the end of the day, unless you lucked out, you get what you pay for.
3. Staying consistent.
Marketing is a brainstorming craft. It is a trade of trial and error. This is why it is so easy to find yourself running 3 separate campaigns that are not consistent with each other. This creates confusion among patients and prevents them from understanding what your brand stands for. Although marketing campaigns can, and should, be different, it is crucial to keep the message consistent and ensure that all marketing activities are in line with your purpose and branding/marketing strategy.
4. Identifying your niche.
A lot of my MBA graduates perceive that finding your niche refers only to your market. Although finding a niche within a mass market is beneficial, in a highly competitive industry, it is important to find your niche among the competition. In today’s world, the majority of GP dentists deliver the same services. Having said that, each office is unique. That uniqueness is the message and your niche. Leverage and use it in all your marketing activities to create a brand that is in line with your uniqueness and purpose. This approach is not a “quick-fix” but a long journey. It will be a fulfilling journey, as it will result in attracting the right type of patients and employees to your clinic. This, in turn, carries many benefits.
5. Measuring success/failure.
This might be the most difficult challenge of marketing. For a small business owner, time is the most valuable asset and measuring success and, unfortunately, failure of marketing campaigns takes up a lot of time. Having said that, if you do not measure them, there is no way to know whether you should repeat this, continue to invest in it or drop it. It is like walking in the dark, trying to find the exit. Understanding what campaign works for your business is crucial to ensure you spend your marketing money where it counts and maximize the return on the investment. It is better to not invest in marketing rather than to invest and not measure it.
6. Understanding the difference between traditional and digital marketing.
It still astounds me to see how many dentists (and other small businesses) do not have a proper website (or a website at all). Human nature nowadays is to “Google” everything. What we see in the search results (on the first page) is equivalent to a first impression we create when meeting someone new. Although, digital marketing is more than just a website. It includes your social media strategy (both free and paid), online review management, online publications, employee social profiles, and even PR and news articles that can be found online.
While traditional marketing is here to stay and will continue to be a means to expose the public to your brand, it is the combination of the two methods of marketing in a consistent way that yields the best results. Traditional marketing includes radio ads, billboards, flyers, branded giveaways, sponsoring a community event, etc. These activities consume money, time and effort. But, they are crucial to reaching people who consume information in traditional ways.
It is easy to get lost in the abundance of information about marketing. Some provinces even suffer from anti-marketing regulations. The truth remains that there are beneficial ways to expose the general public to the reasons why they should come visit you. It is your responsibility as a business owner to learn these ways and ensure action is being taken to stand out from the competition.
Talking to a client in the Toronto area, she mentioned how many clinics are popping up around her established practice – making a saturated market brutally more competitive. And don’t get me wrong, your colleagues around your clinic are your competition and would be happy to take over treating your patients. The same goes for offices under corporate management. Your only chance for survival is a proper marketing strategy – finding your uniqueness and successfully communicating it to the general public.
About the Author
Alex Zlatin is the CEO of dental practice management software company Maxim Software Systems (MaxiDent). He helps dental professionals take control and reach the next level of success with responsible leadership strategies. He leverages his experience in “Responsible Dental Ownership – Balancing Ethics and Business Through Purpose”, a detailed guide providing practical tools and a unique, proven approach to running a successful dental practice.