Be honest with yourself for a moment—do you truly know what you are doing when it comes to marketing your dental practice in order to get quality, lasting patients? The simple fact is, most dentists received stellar training in their field, but almost no training in actual marketing.
Many practices choose to partner with a marketing agency for this reason, but there are some fundamental steps you can take to begin marketing your practice yourself. These “Foundations of Marketing” are designed to get you set up to make the best out of your marketing efforts and ensure you aren’t wasting your time or money.
Why You Need A Foundation For Marketing
While there are a lot of different marketing venues and strategies you can take in order to get more patients—and keep them—if you don’t have these foundations in place, your results won’t reach your expectations. Each of these foundational steps connects with each other to create an effective cycle that ensures you are targeting the right people who are interested in your message, thus booking appointments and sticking around to be a loyal patient for years. Without your foundation, you may get a lot of inquiries, but no commitment or patients come in once and never return. So if you want to grow your practice, check out the five essential steps you should follow below.
The Foundations Of Marketing
1. Identify Your Avatar
Your Avatar is essentially your ideal patient or patient. We call them an avatar because they represent WHO your practice serves. And while it is understandable that you want to attract any and all new patients, if you cast such a wide net you aren’t really resonating with anyone in particular. The idea of the Avatar is to create a dental practice that these specific people WANT to go to and keep going to.
To help you identify this Avatar, answer the following questions:
- What service do you love to do that brings you the most income?
- What qualities do patients who come in for this service have in common?
- What are these specific patients seeking when making a decision?
The answers you have written in front of you should help you form your Avatar. That is the person who you want to cater almost all of your marketing towards. Why waste your money and time trying to bring in patients for treatments that aren’t profitable to you? You can have more than one Avatar, but keep it limited because there is a lot more work that goes behind marketing toward each Avatar. We detail them in the following points.
2. Build Your Brand
While it can be easy to get sucked into the idea of making your dental practice branded all around you, the dentist, the truth is you need to sit back and think about what your Avatar would respect. Your branding adds value and vision that unifies your marketing efforts, so it needs to be spot on. When evaluating your brand or thinking of a new one, consider these factors:
- Practice name
- Colors and typography
- Location of practice
- Your top three uniques
- Vision and values
While most of these ideas are self-explanatory, one of the branding factors that most practices skip or skimp on is the top three uniques. These are three (it can be more) factors that set you and your practice/brand apart from every other competitor in your market. You need to highlight these all over your website and marketing materials. But, you also need to make sure they are UNIQUE. The biggest mistake is too many practices use “uniques that are expected.” For example, every practice “treats patients like family,” or “is clean,” or “provides thorough care.” Come up with factors that truly make you stand out.
3. Your Practice Website
With the internet at everyone’s fingertips and in their pockets, not having a practice website means you will never grow the way you want to. This is equally true if your website doesn’t meet current standards. In fact, the majority of your patients will visit your website first before they ever call to book an appointment. And when they do visit, if the load times are slow, or the website isn’t responsive to their mobile device, laptop, or desktop, then you’ve instantly lost a prospective patient without them even seeing what you’re all about.
Some key ingredients that need to be a part of your website include:
- Landing pages for services you want to grow in
- Putting your three uniques front and center
- Keeping your website responsive
- Creating call to actions that encourage patients to come in
You need to ensure that your website reflects the brand you created and caters towards your Avatar. For instance, if you want to grow in implants and your Avatar is a senior with high income, you would want to have pictures and videos that reflect that Avatar and make your practice seem relatable—seniors with beautiful, big smiles who are loving life and not hiding their teeth.
Additionally, there are three ways that most patients come into the practice, and you need your website to cater towards these motives, often in the form of a call to action.
- Hygiene – These patients are looking for a cleaning, exam and x-ray for routine maintenance every six months.
- Doctor Schedule – These patients have an immediate need, like an emergency, and are likely looking to be seen that same day.
- Consultation – These patients are in a long buying cycle and looking to get major work done, like orthodontics or dental implants.
4. Messaging, Video and Social Media
The most difficult patients to get, but often the most rewarding, are the long buying cycle patients. These are the people who need major work or need treatments that will take months to years to complete, often spending thousands of dollars. To get these patients, you need to ensure your marketing messaging is on point—be consistent, frequent, and everywhere.
In the marketing world, we call this form of messaging “touches.” You want to get in front of your target Avatar and “touch” them in some way, whether that be via a phone call reminder, an email, a video, or a social media post. In order for these long buying cycle patients to make a decision, they need to see your message many, many times to be constantly reminded of you, what you offer, and what they need.
Video and social media are great tools for these long buying cycle patients and for the many touches they require. Having videos on your website or that you can post on social media gives these patients the extra information they need to make a decision while also positioning your practice as the authority and best in the industry. Meanwhile, social media posts work to constantly influence them by being ever-present and always in their news feed. This means they are never forgetting about you and will reach out once they are ready.
5. Employer Branding
This is a crucial step that most practices forget to implement because they are too focused on getting new patients. Your employer branding is who YOU are as a practice and what you represent to your team. This is essentially how you market yourself toward future new hires and new doctors. This page does double duty on your website, as it caters to people interested in working with you and it also shows your patients that you are a credible, trustworthy practice.
Why this is so important is because as you gain more and more new patients from all the marketing efforts you’ve put in through steps one through four, you’re going to need a bigger team. Having a team/employer page that shows off your culture, speaks to your target Avatar and demonstrates why someone should work with you will help your practice grow beyond just new patient numbers.
Some aspects that you should consider showcasing on your employer branding pages include:
- Volunteer or charity events your practice participates in
- Photo gallery of events and team members
- An “In The Community” section
- A “What We Offer You” section
- A list of open positions with links to applications
Once you have implemented these five steps into your practice you’ll truly be able to start seeing growth, both in new patients and in your own team. While this is the best way to get started in your marketing efforts, you still need to put effort into other marketing approaches like social media, video, SEO, and digital or print advertising. If you ever need help with setting up your marketing or tracking leads, new patients, and more, consider speaking with a marketing agency. Companies like SMC specialize in this, and while it is possible to do it yourself, it can often be a full-time job! Finding a marketing partner can really help you achieve your goals in a quicker, more effective manner.