Running a successful dental practice is harder today than it has ever been before. Increased competition, employers decreasing or eliminating dental plans from their health care plans, and a major shift in how marketing works means it is harder than ever to start and grow a great dental practice.
A study a few years ago from dentalecominics.com found that 22.5% of dentists had high levels of stress and anxiety in their lives. Most cited a downturn in business and the struggles of building a successful dental practice. Taking lessons from older dentists no longer works as print ads and Yellow Pages directories can't and won't build your practice, which is all they had to rely on in the past.
“Our jobs as marketers are to understand how the customer wants to buy and help them do so.” – Bryan Eisenberg
In order to grow a successful dental practice today, you need to embrace the new way of marketing. Online is where your customers are and you need to be there to meet them. Simple ads are also no longer effective, people are looking to businesses to educate and inspire them. They want a business to be there waiting for them when “they” decide to interact with you, not the other way around.
It takes a mix of creative marketing, educational content, and some clever online advertising to create a marketing strategy that generates new patients on a regular basis. In addition, you need to also market to you existing clients in order to keep them as patients. Just last week, my family received 4 postcards in the mail from dentists in the area offering specials for my family. This doesn't include the dozens of ads found the weekly coupons books we get as well.
Below are some dental marketing ideas you can implement for your practice. Most of them you can do yourself and all of the online marketing and email ideas are ones we personally create and run for our dental clients, though you can do yourself with a few hours of work if you're up for learning how to do it.
“Don’t be afraid to get creative and experiment with your marketing.” – Mike Volpe
It's a mix of new patient outreach as well as retention campaigns for existing patients. It's not a complete list but if you decided to implement even a third of these strategies, you'll be ahead of 99% of the dentists in your area. Most still do a poor job at marketing and can barely get an appointment reminder email out the door let alone a real email marketing campaign.
Donate some services to a charity – Donating some of your services to charity not only builds good will in your community but can be a huge PR boost for your dental practice. If you do some outreach to promote it, you can get local media to cover the event and maybe some local bloggers as well. You'll also get coverage from the non-profit group and possibly even a link back to your website which is great for search engine optimization (SEO).
Sponsor local teams or groups that fit your ideal customer profile – Who is your ideal customer? Once you know that, find out what activities they belong to and sponsor that team or organization. A sponsorship is usually only a few hundred dollars, just one new client during the year will pay for it. You can sponsor local youth sports teams, adult sports teams or local groups, like ones you find on Meetup.com, they are always looking for sponsors for their group. In addition to the exposure, they will usually add you as a sponsor on their website, which is a great link for Local SEO.
Target new communities (or under construction) – Keep an eye out for new communities being built in your area and give each new homeowner a welcome gift along with a coupon for their initial visit. People new to the neighborhood are often overlooked by businesses and present a perfect opportunity to reach them before they get their onslaught of direct mail offers as a new home buyer.
Get a booth at local events (bring kid magnets like balloons, etc) – Instead of trying to get people to come to you, go to them instead. Get a table at the next event in your community and introduce yourself to them. Instead of just giving out brochures, have “crowd magnets” at the table like face painting, balloons, promotional products, you'll have every family at the event stopping by your table. Be sure to have some sort of special to offer them or at least get their emails if you can so you can follow up with them later.
Write articles about oral health for local papers (timing is everything, like before Halloween and other holidays) – Become the dental expert in your community. Small local publications are usually starved for content, reach out and offer to write a monthly article on oral health or annual pieces like just before Halloween or Thanksgiving. Once you get in with your local publication, it's much easier to get your foot in the door with larger publications.
Team up with a non-competing business that has a similar audience and cross-promote – What other businesses in your community share a similar customer base as yours? Doesn't have to be in health care, as long as your customers are similar. This could be a local gym, yoga studio, kids businesses,etc. Work out a deal where you can get exposure to each other's customers. This could be an in-office display, sponsored email, or some kind of prize/giveaway promotion.
Create and Optimize Your Google My Business and Bing Places pages – Google My Business and Bing Places are free and give you awesome exposure in the search engines. Even if you currently have these setup, you most likely have not looked at it in awhile. They are always adding new features and options, so log in and update your listings as these listings are seen by your customers on a regular basis.
Start a blog – Starting a blog for your business not only helps people learn more about your dental practice, each page you publish is another opportunity to rank in the search engines. A blog post can be anything, from an information article, a short video shot from your phone, new product/service announcements or behind the scenes info potential customers might like. All of this content can also get double duty on social media as you now have content to share and reasons for people to come back to your website. The easiest and most effective way to create content (great for SEO) for your blog is to write down the top 20 questions you get from prospective customers and create a blog post or video answering that question.
Post customer testimonial videos on your website and Youtube – Have a happy customer? Ask them if you can record a quick testimonial and add it to your website or post to Youtube. Better yet, get a dozen of them and then have a video editor create an engaging testimonial collage video like you see here. To get even more mileage out of them, post the video to Facebook as well.
Create an explainer or showcase video and use it on your website – Explainer videos are hot, people love short animated videos to explain a concept. They are easy to make and are much more fun and engaging than a long page of text. You can either pay someone to create one for you or create one yourself. See a sample of one here.
Create “meet the team videos” and include them in emails to new or potential customers – Potential customers want to see the people who at your office, especially the people who will be touching them. Don't be afraid to highlight your team, even shoot short intro videos for your staff. They can be on your “About Us” page, posted to Facebook or even sent as a link in an email for a new customer.
Create Q&A Videos – People ask you a lot of questions about dental procedures, your practice, costs, insurance, etc. Create a video FAQ page on your site that answers all of them.
Run a Facebook Ad targeting your ideal demographic – The targeting options available on Facebook right now are unmatched and no other platform has offered the types of targeting Facebook can offer. Want to target married females with you children that have a net worth over a million dollars? Easy to do in Facebook. Just one example of the thousands of different targeting options available to you with Facebook Ads. Learn more about targeting options here.
Upload your customer list to Fb and create a Lookalike audience to target – Did you know you have the option of targeting ads to a list of people you upload to Facebook? Facebook will use their email and/or phone numbers to find people on Facebook. If you are not comfortable with that (it's all 100% anonymous by the way, everything is purged as soon as the matching is complete and you never know the actual names of the people that are matched) you can create what's called a “Lookalike Audience”, where Facebook takes your customer list and creates a totally new list of people just like them for your to target with Facebook ads. It works great and is one of the tools we use most often in our advertising program.
Setup remarketing campaigns on FB and Google Adwords – Remarketing is the ablity to advertise to one of your website visitors after they have left your website. So a person comes to your website and elaves, now when they log into Facebook they will see an ad with an offer from your business. You can do the same on thousands of websites through Google Adwords. It is a great tool to stay in front of people deciding between several dental practices or during the research phase of their journey.
Run search campaign on Google Adwords targeting people searching for specific services you offer – Run a simple search campaign on Google Adwords, so you have an ad that shows up anytime someone types in a search term that you are bidding on. So if you are a family dentist, you can target terms like, “family dentists in (your city)”, and have your ad show up anytime someone goes to Google and types in that term or something similar. If your website does not show up high in the Google search results organically (SEO), then this is your next best option. If you are a first time advertiser, we can offer you a $100 free credit to try it out, just contact us here and we'll send it over.
Create an ad with an offer people can't resist – Ever hear of a loss leader? A loss leader is offering a product or service at cost or at a slight loss in order to get people in the door so they will buy additional products at a profit. Supermarkets do this each week because they know once you are there you will also buy a bunch of other stuff. Run an ad with an outrageous offer for teeth cleaning or whitening that expires in a week or two after the ad is published. The idea is to get people in the door, fall in love with you and your team and become a regular customer. Think of it this way, if they chose to come and take you up on your offer, they are either not satisfied with their current dentist or they do not have one. Try it, but don't be afraid to be bold with your offer and have an expiry date or else people won't take action.
Create a laser targeted direct mail campaign – Next time you run a direct mail campaign, instead of sending a one-time mass mailing (which don't work by the way), narrow your targeting a small specific area and send them 3-5 direct mail pieces over the course of 3-5 months. One time mailers rarely work, you need to expose people to your business several times and catch them at the right time in order to convert them into a potential customer. How do you find the best neighborhoods to advertise in? Create a list of your best 20-30 customers and see where they live. You will most likely see they are clustered in specific areas and is the perfect place to run your next direct mail campaign.
Run a contest on Facebook giving away a free service – Run a content on your Facebook fan page offering free teeth cleaning/whitening for a year to a lucky winner. You can run it any way you like, but something simple like having them “Like” your page and leave a comment is easy and will get more people to participate. Spend $100-200 in Facebook ads that target the contest to your ideal customer ( or just target friends of your fans) will ensure you are reaching the right people and getting a load of high-quality prospective customers to join your Facebook page.
Post images of your team and facility on Facebook and Instagram – People like to see the people behind the business. For a prospective customer, if they can see your friendly team, happy customers, and a pleasant environment, it will draw them to your practice.
Post flash sales/events for your fans on Facebook – Offer fun and exclusive stuff just for your Facebook fans, it'll make them feel special and encourage all of your customers to join your fan page. Invite people down for a happy hour event (can it still be called happy hour without alcohol?) after you close for some drinks and healthy snacks. Announce a day where you will be giving a free toothbrush kit to every Facebook fan that stops by that day. It's a great way to stay engaged with existing customers and to court prospective customers.
Send thank you emails – Make it a habit to send thank you emails to customers after their appointment. It reminds them that you appreciate their business and is another nice thing your practice does that others don't.
Send happy birthday emails to your customers – Send a birthday email to your customers, it's a great way to stay top of mind in a non-salesy way. Besides, they can tell people their dentist remembered their birthday when half their family forgot. You can also automate the sending of physical mail using a service like this.
Send reminder emails for routine checkups and cleanings – Ever have your oil changed? Almost all of the time these oil change stations will mail or email you a reminder to change your oil once you approach your scheduled change date. It prompts people that they need to do it again and draws people back to heir business instead of a competitor. People forget when they should have a teeth cleaning or annual checkup. Schedule these emails so they reach your customers as these dates come closer.
Send miss you emails – Haven't seen a customer in a long time? Reach out to them with a miss you email and ask them to come back. Sometimes these prompts can restart them as a customer (we call them reactivation campaigns) or at the very least, you can get feedback as to why they no longer come and you can update your records accordingly.
Marketing Automation – So how to do you schedule and time all of these emails to go out? If you use marketing automation software then you can send all of these emails out automatically without you having to do a thing. Personalized emails will be sent out according to customer behavior, actions they take (visits website, opens email, etc) or just about any criteria you set. It allows you to stay in contact with your customers over a long period of time with personalized and relevant emails from your business. It definitely beats sending out a generic newsletter to your entire email list, which you probably realize by now does very little for your business.
Get better at marketing your dental practice
As you can see, most of the above ideas are pretty easy to do, just difficult to maintain unless you have a system setup. The key to getting new customers and retaining existing ones is to create multiple touch points via different channels that keep them engaged, informed and educated about oral health as well as your dental practice.
Have questions about creating marketing strategies that will generate a steady flow of new patients for your dental practice? Contact us here and get our free dental practice marketing funnel assessment today.