Effective dental practice marketing has changed significantly in the past few years. Today, the internet influences how people make decisions – including how they choose a dental office. In turn, dental practice marketing strategies have changed. There has been a transformation in marketing strategies for dentists who want to have a successful, modern dental practice. To ensure you’re getting the most from marketing your practice, it’s essential to evaluate and update your dental marketing strategy.
Why Marketing Your Dental Practice Matters
Younger dentists and new dental practice purchasers will need to earn more from their practice than dentists and practices in the past. Educational debt is increasing at alarmingly high rates. Sustained practice growth via new patients and the corresponding increase in revenues is vital to your practice. If you have recently purchased a practice, it’s important for you to understand that traditional marketing, which was more than adequate over the years for the practice’s seller, is no longer sufficient. You will need a targeted dental practice marketing plan to grow your practice, increase your revenue, and optimize your dental marketing budget. Effective internal marketing, including delivering an extraordinary patient experience, is still critical for the success of your practice, but this may no longer the primary way to attract new patients.
Traditional Dental Marketing: No Longer Enough
Until now, many well established practices had sufficient practice growth and were highly successful utilizing traditional marketing. With traditional dental marketing, new patients are attracted by word of mouth referrals from existing patients, through the yellow pages, print ads, or both. Patients from the best practices would become practice advocates by telling their peers about their dentist, and a new patient’s’ first contact with the office would be by phone.
However, the effectiveness of “traditional” dental marketing methods can seem inconsequential when compared to strategic dental marketing plans that are driven by the power of the web. Internet and social media marketing have accelerated at full throttle. The online health audience included more than 60% of US adults in 2009 (Manhattan Research, 2009), and 88% of internet users searched for health information online in 2010 (Harris Polling, 8/4/10). Many practices that continue to rely on traditional dental marketing methods alone are experiencing decreases in new patient numbers and overall revenue. Initially, this decline was attributed to the economy. However, the continued assumption that the economy alone is responsible for stunted growth may be preventing some dentists from recognizing other factors that are negatively affecting the health of their practice.
Leveraging the Internet in Dental Practice Marketing: Beyond a Website
Today’s patients are using the internet as the primary research tool to decide which dental office they will use. Many times, the first contact patients have with your office is via your website. A prospective patient is deciding whether to make an appointment with your practice based not only on the effectiveness of and access to your website, but on internet tools that provide reviews of you and your practice. Your website and the internet, along with social media, are platforms that both you and your patients are using to communicate about your office to the world. These are some of your new – and essential – dental marketing tools.
To grow your practice and increase revenue in the future, it is imperative for you to have a highly effective website. There has been a distinct evolution in what websites can and should communicate to patients. There has also been a corresponding evolution in a patient’s expectations of your website and their ability to easily navigate it. If you don’t currently have a website, establishing one is an essential first step. If you already have a website, you should continually review and update it and make sure it’s working for you in conjunction with your dental marketing plan.
New Dental Marketing: Going Beyond What Patients See
You must consider additional factors when updating your dental marketing strategy. In the past, just having a website was adequate. Now, you need more. In a recent presentation by The Pride Institute, “The Complete Dental Marketing Plan,” dental marketing expert Naomi Cooper explains that “taking charge of your online presence” is another significant factor in today’s modern marketing approach. She describes an important component of this as “online reputation management,” which involves monitoring and influencing the web-based information about you that extends beyond what patients view on your website. People are evaluating you through other media, such as online reviews and social media profiles.
Search Engine Optimization: Your Unseen Dental Marketing Tool
An additional component of an effective dental marketing strategy is search engine optimization (SEO). SEO is defined as “the art and science of making a website rank higher in search engine results.” Google and other search engines have become everyday tools for prospective new patients, and your website’s position in search engine results (your website “rank”) may be the difference between a patient accessing your site and making an appointment or finding another dentist.
Since it is unlikely that most dentists have the time, desire, and skills to create and implement a truly effective dental marketing plan, it is best to partner with qualified professionals. When choosing a marketing professional, it is essential to find one that has specific dental practice marketing experience. Some of the information presented here can be used as a guideline in making this most important practice decision – and can lead to an increase in new patients and revenue.