Devise a strategy. We’ve talked about the need for a strategy, but developing a marketing plan doesn’t mean you can cross marketing off your list. The marketing plan should be fluid yet sustainable over time, and needs to have the ability to change depending on the season, the economy and the needs of the practice. Remember, marketing is a marathon, not a sprint!
Brand the practice. Branding needs to be determined up front, well executed by a professional logo designer, and incorporated in to all new marketing activities. A branding audit should be conducted regularly to ensure consistency across all online platforms (the website, social media profiles, business listings, email signatures, blogs and e-newsletters).
Build a great website. The practice website should be viewed as perhaps its most powerful marketing tool. Modern dental patients are turning to the Internet before ever picking up the phone to appoint. Make sure they get an accurate impression of the practice by hiring a professional web design firm with extensive experience working with dental professionals to create a website that attracts prospective patients while also serving as a resource for existing patients.
Track patient calls at the front desk. The front desk team needs to be asking every new patient that contacts the office how they heard about the practice. And the dentist needs to set aside time to review the data collected. This is a proven way of finding existing holes in the bucket, and helps determine which marketing tactics are and are not producing an acceptable ROI. By tracking new patient calls, dentists can finally start to understand what marketing efforts are making the phone ring. Then, and only then, can you start to make smart marketing decisions based on real data.
Ask for referrals and online reviews. Prospective patients are increasingly turning to the Internet when searching for a dentist, and patient testimonials play a huge part in their decision making process. Whenever existing patients give compliments or share their genuine appreciation for the practice, dentists and their team members should encourage them to post their sentiments about their experience online on sites such as Yelp, Google+ Local and Healthgrades, to name a few. With positive online reviews, dentists don’t have to figure out how to communicate to prospective patients why their practice is best — the practice’s existing patients are doing it for them!
Just say no — until you have a strategy in place. It is not uncommon for a dental practice to receive 20 to 30 calls a week from people selling a wide variety of practice marketing solutions. In fact, it’s easy to spend the practice’s marketing budget ten times over without ever proactively seeking out a marketing vendor. Regardless of what these callers may claim, they all have a sales agenda. And what they are selling is most likely not going to magically grow your dental practice overnight. Stopping this cycle is the most important way to take the practice’s marketing from tactical, reactive and unfocused to purposeful, results-oriented and strategic. So until you have a marketing budget and a set of priorities in place, put a moratorium on any new marketing opportunities.