With all that goes into running a busy practice, marketing may not be something you want to spend time and money on. But the reality is, you might see a steady stream of new patients slow to a trickle if you don't make targeted and consistent efforts to build and market your brand.
What is marketing?
Richard Barry, DDS.
Marketing can mean any number of things: advertising, direct mailings, social media, signage, events or sponsorships, email, website, and even in-office brochures. Your colors, logo, office, and employees also are a form of marketing because they help build your brand.
The key is to figure out how your target audience -- the people you want to attract -- want to get their information about you and your practice. Is it online? Social media? In the mail? An ad in the newspaper?
You can always hire a marketing person to help with developing and implementing your marketing strategies. If you don't want to add staff, outsource the marketing to a local marketing agency, which can often be very affordable.
However you do it, you must be committed to your marketing efforts and have an adequate budget to support them to be successful.
How marketing can help your business
Marketing accomplishes a number of goals related to making people aware of your business, who you are as a dentist and a practice, and what you can do for them:
Build brand awareness. Brand awareness is how aware a consumer is of your practice. Building brand awareness means you are helping a potential patient better recognize your brand image, such as logo, color, or slogan, and your brand offerings: what you do, where and how you do it. All of your marketing efforts that touch potential patients in some way are building your brand in the background.
Reach target specific audiences. Not everyone is a good fit for your practice and vice versa. Social media is a great way to distribute information about your practice that can be shared, tagged, and commented on. You can create online ads and target the demographics important to you: age, location, income, and more. Direct mail and events or sponsorships also can put you in front of the specific audiences you want to attract.
Connect with patients. Social media platforms provide the opportunity to communicate directly with your audience. They allow your patients to ask questions, comment, provide feedback, and offer opinions. Social media is a great way to communicate with patients outside of their usual office visits. It's also a way to show who you are as a practice by what you post and how you respond.
Show your practice's personality. Whether a practice is fun and light-hearted or educational and strictly professional, social media platforms and other mediums can showcase your personality! Words, colors, font choices, and content are all ways to do this. For example, a more educational personality or practice would share articles or write blogs about procedures and dental tips. A more light-hearted practice might post fun short videos or office photos.
Build your business' voice. Build your brand's voice through consistency in the message you put out and the tone of writing. Potential patients are curious about what your practice's values are, so let your words tell your story. For example, in social media, people often search for certain terms to find what they're looking for. These are called keywords. If there are keywords that you want to be associated with your practice, such as compassion or gentle, use those words in your social media content and on your website.
Showcase the look and feel of your office. Many patients dislike going to the dentist. Many dental offices make an effort to create a warm, inviting atmosphere to make the trip that much more pleasant. If this sounds like your dental practice, show that off on your online platforms and in your advertising or other marketing. It's worth hiring a professional photographer to capture these images.
Highlight what makes you different. Use direct marketing, advertising, and online or social media platforms to showcase your brand differentiators. Do you use technology, tools, or procedures that are different from other practices? Do you have any specials that might attract customers, such as free whitening for their first visit? Showcase that! Do you offer free drinks and a warm, cozy atmosphere? Make sure your marketing efforts showcase what sets you apart from the competition.
Marketing your practice takes focus, commitment, and dollars. But it's priceless in terms of bringing your practice to the next level in awareness, patients, and profit.
Richard Barry, DDS, owns Lifetime Dental Health in Columbus, OH. He is a graduate of the Ohio State University College of Dentistry and has been practicing dentistry for nearly 40 years.
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