Systems and accountability are the two pillars of success. We have all heard this multiple times and also understand how important it is to have our “ducks in a row.” However, many of us run into the problem of “where do we start?” When I first began my career in dental marketing, I also ran into that problem. It is easy to get blinded and be sold products, services, online platforms and much more. Every sales person has a story of how their specific product will change your life and get you new patients. How many times have you purchased a product or a service and never calculated your ROI? I have certainly been there. So to answer the question on “where to start?” I want you to start with the basics…the fundamentals that have always been there. If you are floundering with your marketing then there are five essential steps you need to have in place and follow in the right order.
These steps are for you if you are struggling because you don’t think your marketing is working and you’re not sure what to fix. Maybe patient numbers are falling or not increasing as you would like. Or, maybe you’re feeling the heat from the competition. After all, it’s becoming increasingly competitive and if you’re not building your patient numbers then it’s not a case of standing still- you’re actually going backwards.
1. Data gathering
Pulling together and analyzing key data is your first essential step. Dental practices often have the data but aren’t reviewing it in the light of their marketing. Many dental practices also make the incorrect assumption that their marketing isn’t working by just focusing on income alone. This gives a blinkered view and doesn’t take into account the amount of treatment carried out or ‘no show’ appointments.
To get a balanced view and to provide a benchmark against which to measure future activity, it’s important to look at the data in a number of ways:
·New patients–by month. You need to compare months and years. If numbers are low, then you need to do a thorough review of your marketing.
·Cross-reference the referrals and the marketing activity that brought in each new patient. This data gives you the information on where and what you should be spending your marketing dollars.
·Feedback from current patients–because you need to know what your patients think, what they like and dislike, how they found you and whether they do, or would, refer you.
·All of that information gives you a big picture and helps to identify where you need to fill the gaps in your marketing. This information also provides a vital benchmark–you can now assess future activity and track the impact it makes.
2. What makes you different?
It’s all too easy to use a ‘me too’ approach when it comes to dental practice marketing by replicating what the competition is doing. The problem is that every dental practice is different and your role is to highlight that difference so that you attract the right patients.
Copying someone else’s marketing won’t get you results–you have to understand how you can set yourself apart and make that a core feature in your marketing. Without that you’ll always scramble around and look for the latest idea to latch onto without having the big picture focus for your marketing.
If you’ve not thought about what makes you different, then it’s useful to work through these three key questions to try and find your WOW factor:
·What is the number one compliment you get from your patients?
·What is the number one complaint you get from your patients?
·How do you react to both?
The number one compliment you receive is your WOW factor. The complaint you receive needs to improve so you can convert more new patients. Your reaction to both matters the most since that will define how you decide to broadcast your WOW factor and correct the complaints. Once you have worked out what makes you different, you can weave it into your marketing. This will give your marketing a distinct look and feel, and help to set it apart from the competition.
3. Sharing practice culture with your team.
Your practice culture is what sets you apart. However, you need to do more than just identify it and ensure you’ve got the right messaging in your marketing. It’s crucial to share it with the team because you need to:
·Get the team involved in creating a plan. The more involved they are, the more interested and committed they will be to making it work.
·Embed the 'Wow' factor in how the team connects and communicates with patients.
·Have the right systems and processes in place to collect the relevant data about the ‘Wow’ factor’s role in, and impact on, marketing.
·Get everyone in the team involved in living those values so that they are reflected in everything they say and do.
4. Designate marketing representative
Let’s face it, you’re busy providing care to your patients, and that should be your number one priority and responsibility. Even if you are serious about your dental practice, marketing you will falter unless there is clear allocation of responsibility to a member of your team. If you haven’t got the time to dedicate to marketing then you need to ensure someone else in your team has.
An external consultant can put together a marketing plan for you, advise you along the way and help you to streamline your marketing. But, it’s essential to have a member of your team with marketing representative responsibility to keep on top of activity and monitor what is going on. They know the practice, they know the practice culture and they are there day in and day out and are able to capture the moments, experiences and stories–all vital fuel for your marketing.
5. Digital identity
How you appear online and through social media is very important. The current trend shows that the majority of the people search for healthcare answers online. It is also common for people to value referrals from friends and family above advertising when it comes to seeking out products and services. It’s no different for dental practices.
I strongly suggest searching for your practice and the competition online as a potential new patient looking for a dental home. Your digital profile and that of your competitors will give you a good idea of how easy you are making it for potential patients to find you and want to seek out your services.
There are many aspects you can look at. A good starting place is to review your online presence, and that of your competitors, regarding the following- whether:
·It shows up on 1st page of google
·There are online reviews
·The website is accessible via mobile devices
·The website has information and contact details that are clear and easily accessible
Looking at social media is also important –how often social media pages/accounts are updated, how they reflect the culture of the practice, what the pages/posts look like and whether that matches the branding/identity on the website.
If your competitors are more active then that may be the reasons why potential patients are flocking to them.
If your marketing isn’t getting you the results you want then start with the data to evaluate what’s not working. Then, follow this five-step process to get your dental practice back on track with a regular flow of new patients.
Don’t change your marketing until you’ve got the right metrics in place for measurement. Otherwise, you’ll be continually dipping your toe in the water to try and find something that works and miss out on doing more of the activity that is working for you but that isn’t obvious.
Minal Sampat, RDH is a dental professional, speaker and marketing consultant. She shows dental practices how to increase their new patient numbers through planned and consistent marketing. To find out more about Minal Sampat, RDH, please visit her website or send her an email.