Do you ever think about why you chose to become a dentist? Do you remember the long, drudging hours that you had to spend in and out of the classroom for 8+ years learning the necessary skills and tricks of the trade? While I’m sure you remember those painstaking years quite well, you likely also remember feeling that dental school did not prepare you with all of the skills you needed to run your own practice.
Over the past few years working with dentists, we have heard time and time again that they wish they would have learned more business principles and marketing skills while in dental school. As we get to better know each of them and their team, we are usually able to see that their biggest challenges in marketing their dental practice can be placed into one of the following 6 categories.
1. Difficulty getting an initial following on social media
Often times dentists get discouraged when marketing their practice on social media because they do not have very many initial followers. When you only have 15 likes on your office’s Facebook page, it may seem like a waste of time creating content and posting regularly. During these early stages in your marketing efforts, it may be extremely tempting to throw in the towel and go back to more expensive and less effective marketing channels (such as Pay Per Click advertising / PPC).
When all is said and done, nobody will follow your social media pages if they do not see a value in doing so. Therefore, not posting regularly is the worst course of action you can take if you ever hope to have your dental marketing plan take off. Instead, think of content that would be useful to share with your patients (eg, a blog post titled “5 steps to whiter teeth” or “3 things to make going to the dentist fun for your child”). Tell everyone that comes into your office about your social media channels and invite them to follow you. You might even find a lot of success if you put up a sign saying “Follow and leave us a review on Facebook for a free pack of gum.”
2. Not being able to get social media followers to come into your office
It’s one thing to get someone to like your page or share a blog post that you wrote… but it is a completely different story to have them actually come into your office and become a patient. Often times dental offices will get discouraged when they do not see a correlation between increased time on social media and an increasing number of office visitors.
Keep in mind that part of the value of being actively involved on social media is being able to remain on the forefront of your patients’ minds at all times. When they see that you are regularly posting content, they are going to have a constant reminder that it is almost time for their next checkup. Also, each time they like or comment on one of your posts, they are exposing their friends to your brand and simultaneously showing that your practice has received their stamp of approval (think of this as a mini “Gephardt Approved” award).
With that said, it is also possible and relatively easy to get your social media followers to visit you in your office. Try promoting your huge client appreciation extravaganza and encouraging people to bring friends! Think about running special discounts or giveaways for new patients. Maybe you could even have a “cutest smile” or “baby’s first tooth” contest and encourage parents to share pictures of their kids. When someone responds to one of these invitations, their defenses have been lowered and you can now invite them to come visit your office.
3. The struggle to come up with new ideas
This problem is definitely not unique to marketing a dental practice but it is a challenge that almost every office faces. It is very difficult to constantly come up with new ideas for blog posts and social media content. We have found that this is one of the main reasons why dental offices give up on their marketing strategy after just a few months.
I want you to remember this one thing when overcoming this obstacle: Always seek to provide value to your customers. When you approach your marketing strategy from an angle of solving problems for your customers, you will rarely run out of ideas and marketing your dental practice will become much easier.
For example, say you are a pediatric dentist in Salt Lake City, Utah. You are going to want to put yourself in the shoes of your target audience (likely 25-40 year old women). What problems are they likely experiencing that you could help them with? Would they be interested in a blog post about “How to make brushing your teeth more fun” or possibly “5 things to know about your baby’s first tooth”? Maybe they would be interested in a list of healthy yet inexpensive lunch ideas their kids could take to school? Do you think sharing an article about teaching children the importance of helping out around the house could be useful?
4. Negative reviews are hurting your reputation as a dentist
This is a situation that we encounter constantly as we help our clients with their marketing. Some time ago, “Client X” had a terrible experience with your dental practice because of “Reason Y” and decided they wanted to hurt your reputation by leaving a negative review. Whether they are describing their experience accurately or not, their negative review causes potential clients to steer clear of your practice and costs you thousands of dollars in lost revenue. Also, since sources like Yelp and Google Reviews rank so highly in search engines, the odds are that the negative review will show up right underneath your website in search results. This is bad… very bad!
The best case scenario is that you are actively monitoring your online presence and you catch the review as soon as it is left. If this happens you can reach out to the client, apologize for the issue and then make things right. While you should never specifically ask a client to take down a negative review, they will often times amend the review if you can resolve the issue.
If you do not catch the review for some time and it would be too late to make amends with the customer, your only other option would be to increase the amount of positive reviews about your dental practice. Since people are much more likely to leave negative reviews than positive reviews, you are going to have to specifically reach out to patients and ask them to write about their experience on the site where the negative review occurred (this will usually be Facebook or Google Reviews).
5. Marketing companies have taken advantage of you in the past
Every business owner has had a negative experience with a marketing company in the past. Trust me, I hear all about it each time I interact with a potential client. These experiences can be very hard to shake off because they often result in broken trust and a lot of lost money and time. The difficult thing is that negative interactions will make you more leery of marketing companies and will make you more hesitant to work with them… however, that will not change the necessity of having an online marketing strategy for your dental practice.
The most important advice I can give in this regard is to make sure you only work with marketing companies that provide value to you. Take a good look at their website, social media channels and blog to see whether they are posting information that can help you. After all, if they cannot connect with their customers, they certainly will not be able to connect with yours.
If you would like to learn about other things to keep in mind when searching for a marketing company, visit our blog post which reveals common tricks marketing companies use to get your business.
6. Not enough time or desire
At the beginning of this post I asked if you ever think about why you chose to become a dentist. I am going to go out on a limb here and assume it wasn’t because you wanted to spend countless hours fretting over ways to market your dental practice and deciding when to update your Facebook page.
Since few dentists actually enjoy the stress that comes with promoting their practice and most are too busy to worry about it, finding new clients is usually one of the first things to fall off of the “to do” list.
There are only a few options when it comes to handling this problem. You can…
1) Do nothing to market your dental practice or bring in new clients.
2) Do all of the marketing yourself.
3) Have someone in your office staff handle it for you.
4) Outsource it to a team that specializes in marketing.
While each of these options may have its advantages and disadvantages, I would recommend that you steer clear of the most expensive options (options 1 and 2). Not marketing your practice at all will prevent it from growing and will lead to an office where you are the only asset. If you were to ever leave (say you want to retire or sell the practice), your practice will be worthless without you and you will be hard pressed to find a buyer.
When you think of the amount of money you bring in each hour, option number 2 does not make a lot of sense either. Let’s say you alone bring in $500 an hour to your practice. If you spend 3 hours a week updating social media and writing a blog post, you are spending at least $6000 a month on your marketing efforts.
Option number 3 can definitely be a great option in some cases! It can be more cost effective for you to have one of your current office staff take care of your marketing needs as long as they can drive results. However, if they cannot bring in new business, the seemingly inexpensive $10 an hour becomes $10 an hour + any lost business they could not generate. If you are interested in trying this approach, our team has created a training program which will help guide your employees in their marketing efforts. Ask us about it!
Option number 4 can and should actually be the most cost effective option. Certainly you will be writing out a larger check each month than with any of the other options, but the increased efficiency will more than make up the difference. Plus, any great marketing company will be able to pay for themselves and then some with the new business they bring in to your dental practice.
Marketing a dental practice can be very challenging and we hope you have found this post to be helpful! If you have any questions that we can answer for you or if you would like help developing a marketing plan today, feel free to contact us!