October 22, 2020
by David Darab, DDS, MS, MBA
As the CEO of your practice, you will have a multitude of clinical and business decisions to make daily; one of those is marketing. As your own Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), you need to understand the “nuts and bolts” of marketing and how they interrelate to attract a customer. You will likely outsource the technical details of your marketing, such as website development, search engine optimization (SEO), along with content creation. However, as the one in charge, you must provide clear direction and monitor the results of your efforts. The good news is that there is no one right marketing solution; your marketing must be fluid and capable of changing with your practice goals.
Marketing has everything to do with your customer and nothing to do with you, sorry.
We are inundated with marketing messages constantly. These messages influence the foods you eat, the cars you buy, the clothes you wear, the devices you carry, the computer on your lap, and the schools you attend. In the past, marketing was expensive and done by a few large agencies with a great deal of care, planning, and precision. Today, marketing is cheap and plentiful. It can be done from your phone by anyone anywhere, anytime. Because of this, it can be noisy, loud, disruptive, annoying, and off-target, making it ineffective and frustrating for business owners trying to use it and potential customers consuming it.
Many media platforms that can deliver your marketing messages; newspapers, newsletters, yearbooks, church bulletins, athletic programs, direct mail, billboards, radio, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Google, LinkedIn, and word-of-mouth. Even your Servicescape, the location of your practice, your office design, and layout broadcast your Marketing Message. With so many choices, how can you determine where to direct your limited marketing budget? How do you find a way to market “for” your patients and not “at” them? It all starts with strategy.
Strategy before tactics, always.
There’s confusion between tactics and strategy. Today these words are used interchangeably, but they are not the same. Understanding the distinction between strategy and tactics is critical and will serve you well as your practice grows through the years.
Strategy is a “thought” process; it supports your long-term vision and goals. A strategy gives you a path forward to achieving your mission and helps in your decision-making process. Outlining your strategy is hard work; it takes time and effort to get right. It cannot be delegated to others since so much flows from it that affects your business. The good news is that Strategy is for the long term, not quickly or easily changed.
Tactics, in contrast, are ACTionable (tACTics), short-lived, and TArgeted (TActics). Tactics are TAngible (TActics), the things our customers interACT (tACTics) with, and see. Good tactics have a purpose that supports your strategy. Tactics should be easily measured and tracked and pivoted when adjustments are needed. If a tactic fails, it can be discontinued, but it does not mean your strategy is flawed.
Let’s consider an analogy, sailing. Your strategy is to reach a destination. Sailboats have two directional levers to control, a rudder and sails. The wind is a perfect analogy for market forces that frequently change direction. To reach your destination (strategy) requires you to chart a course and then change your sails and rudder (tactics) to achieve your result. If the wind changes direction, you will need to adjust your rudder and sails to alter course (change tactics) but not change your destination (your strategy). Conversely, one does not set sail and randomly adjust the rudder and sails, or you will never reach the intended destination.
Know the ideal patient you wish to attract to your practice.
With an understanding of strategy and tactics now, let’s get marketing. When you have identified your ideal patient, you can begin to build a marketing strategy to attract them to your practice. The four “Ws” can help guide you. They are; who, what, where, and why.
WHO are they? Are they retired? Are they parents? Are they school age? Teenagers? Who do they identify with? Who are their role models? Are they frequent or infrequent visitors to the dentist? Do they work outside the home?
WHAT do they want? What services do they desire? Do they want dentures or implants? What services are missing in the market? What are they reading online and offline? What are your competitors doing and saying? Do they want to use dental insurance?
WHERE are they? Where do they hang out? Are they on Facebook? YouTube? Online? In the carpool line? The soccer or sports fields? In the band? The PTA? Do they work in or outside the home?
WHY you? Why your practice? Why should somebody use your services or hire you? Why are you their best choice for a dentist?
Be different; it’s the easiest way to stand out in a crowded market.
Now that you have your ideal patient, it’s time to find a way to attract this group of individuals to your practice. It is tempting to copy what others are doing or use generic marketing services and platforms to deliver and broadcast your message. The shortfall with that tactic is that you appear like every other dental practice. The best way to target your ideal client is to develop a Unique Selling Proposition or Unique Value Proposition. Interviewing your best patients for their insight as to why they chose you is a great way to begin. Think of how you treat patients that are unique and special. What are your special skills or training that differentiates you from other dentists in your area? What unique capabilities or technologies do you have to enhance your patient’s care and treatment experience? Do you have special or extended hours that meet the needs of busy executives or moms?
You can’t be all things to all people.
Just as important is knowing who may not be a good fit for your practice. Compatibility, or lack thereof, can relate to your expertise, interests, patient age, insurance and payment options, and even your personality, to name but a few. A mismatch here will only lead to a disappointed patient and a frustrated team.
Now that you have formulated a marketing strategy, you will be less likely to waste time and money. You will know better if you are going off track too. More importantly, you will have a precise direction for the marketing services you will outsource; website, content, social media, along with advertising. A clear path prevents each of these experts from pulling your business in a different direction. Remember, you are your CEO and in charge at all times.
YOUR MARKETING MIX
So, we have talked about a lot, but what does a marketing mix for a practice look like?
LET’S GET STARTED
It’s ok to be uncertain about how to start your marketing. You can begin a small campaign without breaking the bank. Always keep your target audience in mind at every step. There are numerous platforms, channels, and marketing techniques you can try. Remember, there is no “right” way, no “canned” approach that works for everyone. You will never see results if you never start. So, what are you waiting for? Get started, be creative, trust your instincts, seek feedback, and have fun!
About the Author
David Darab, DDS, MS, MBA, speaks business, helping bridge the gap between Clinical Practice and Business Insight. He hangs out at the corner of Information and Action. Strategy, Tactics, Financial Insights, and helping Dentists get UnStuck are his passions. He serves as the Director of Dental Practice Strategies for OmniStar Financial Group headquartered in Wilmington, NC. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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