Dental practices suffer from something of an image problem. There is a deeply ingrained terror of dentists that forms an obstacle in attracting new customers. What works in our favour of course, is that everyone will need to visit a dentist eventually: it is up to you to capitalise on that. It is up to you to make sure that when teeth start to ache, it’s your practice that patients choose to visit.
The key to ensuring people pick you is marketing. Putting your practice front and centre and setting yourself apart as the best prospect. In this post, we’re going to explore the importance of marketing plans for dentists and discuss the steps you can take to create one.
Do I really need a dental practice marketing plan?
In short, yes. If you want to attract new patients and stand above your competitors you will need a marketing plan.
The process of putting the plan together will give you valuable insight into your own dental practice and your potential patients. It will give you insight into your target audience and how to reach them. It will also give you insight into your own practice, how it runs and how to maximise its appeal.
So, now you know how much you need a dentist marketing plan, here’s some simple steps you can take to make sure yours is effective enough to return excellent results!
Step 1: Consider your current situation
Start with a quick SWOT analysis. This is a common business practice, where you look at the strengths, weakness, opportunities and threats of a business.
Strengths are the things your practice does well. Weaknesses are the areas in which you can improve. You’ll probably have a good idea of these already. For opportunities, look at ways you could grow or improve your business (this might take deeper analysis). Finally, consider the things that threaten your business or could draw away either existing or potential patients.
Think particularly about your own USP or ‘unique selling point’. This is something you will want to focus your marketing around and really promote. Look at what your competitors are offering and identify what you do better or even uniquely. Make sure people who contemplate visiting your practice know exactly what you’ll give them that no one else will!
Step 2: Set your goals
Starting by thinking in the broadest terms about what you want to gain from your marketing plan. Then narrow it down to specific, measurable targets. Do you want to attract new patients or to promote new procedures? Is there a particular demographic you wish to target?
Different goals will benefit from different marketing approaches, so you need this clarification before you can start designing outreach initiatives. If you have multiple goals, rank them in order of importance and create your plan around just one or two at first.
Trying to do too much at once could prove a massive waste of money, with nothing actually done well. Start small and focused, and in future you can shift direction or grow your ambitions.
Step 3: Determine your budget
Your dentist marketing budget will form a very important part of your plan. It will have big implications on the ways you can reach out to your potential patients.
Estimate your patient acquisition cost – or how much it would cost to attract a new patient using that channel. Then, compare that to the profit this patient would bring in and how many patients will likely be attracted by it.
Try to assign a good portion of money for marketing, especially in the early stages. On average this is around 3-7% of turnover. Just be smart with the ways you invest it, don’t allocate it all to the first channel you think of make sure you follow step 4, to maximise the returns on minimal expenditure.
Step 4: Choose your platforms
There are a range of dentist marketing tactics you can try, ranging from traditional to more modern, digital marketing techniques.
First, identify your target audience. Consider who they are and what will appeal to them. Then ask what is the best way to reach them – what will they see, and what will they respond to?
Don’t be limited to traditional marketing practices such as leaflet drops in your local area or adverts in the local press. These can be financially costly and take an inordinate amount of time. And though you can be sure people will see them, they may not act on them if your outreach isn’t relevant to them when they receive it.
Digital marketing is a growing area that it really pays to explore. It is cheaper than traditional marketing, plus it comes with another bonus. It targets patients when they are actively looking for a dental practice, rather than relying on them remembering your name at a later date.
There is a whole range of things you can do to meet your budget. These are a couple of suggestions you can even do for free:
- Register your practice with Google My Business: this will give you the chance to appear in Google’s local search results, and will give contact and location information and help people find you using GPS. You can register here.
- Running a blog: this allows you to display a trustworthy and warm voice to patients you haven’t even met yet. If you have more money and less time, splash out on someone to write posts for you.
- Establish a social media presence: allow people a platform to review your practice and let them sing your praises. Friends, family and Facebook acquaintances will see it and these trusted, positive opinions will last far longer in their memories than jingles or attractive leaflets.
Bonus Step: Re-evaluate!
Patient retention can be tricky, and you will always need new patients. Your marketing strategy should be fluid, and regularly evaluated. See what channels give you the biggest returns and think about ways to exploit them further. Look at areas which create less growth and ask if they’re worth continuing – or even if you could change tack with them.
If you’re using social media marketing, for example, and it isn’t having the impact you were hoping for, ask yourself why. Is it because the potential patients in your area are among the limited members of the population who don’t use social media? Is it that potential patients in your area are among the very few members of the population who don’t use social media? Or are people viewing your Facebook page but still not choosing you? Does your blog content sound reassuring and authoritative enough to convince patients you’re the best in the area?
Constant checking can lead to overthinking and negativity but do revisit and update your strategy from time-to-time.
It’s difficult to overstate how much a coherent plan will maximise your marketing efforts. It will give you a strong grasp of your needs, audience and what can be achieved within your budgets. Hopefully, after following these steps, you should have compiled an excellent dental office marketing plan, and feel empowered to put it into action!