Whether you call it marketing or advertising there are a lot of ways for companies to reach potential customers and promote their products and services. Your practice is unique, and your marketing efforts should reflect that. Especially in 2019, there are no effective one-size-fits-all marketing solutions, but there are a few different approaches, tools, and strategies that you can employ to boost your marketing efforts. In this guide, we will discuss these tools and strategies so that you can help decide which align with your dental practice’s goals.
Marketing efforts can be grouped into two main categories: Traditional and offline advertising, and digital or online advertising. These two groups require different strategies to succeed.
Traditional and Offline Advertising
Even in an increasingly digital world advertising using traditional mediums is still common, particularly amongst more established practices. Traditional advertising can be a highly effective way to attract new patients and boost current patient engagement if used effectively and can help your practice stand out in an increasingly saturated market. Traditional advertising is a great way to boost your community presence, helping you stand out in the crowd and putting you top of mind for new and returning patients.
Some examples of traditional mediums include a variety of lower and higher priced mediums including:
- Sandwich boards
- Roadside signs
- Community newsletters
- Bus benches
- Bus shelter signs
- Television ads
Though these mediums expose patients to your practice in different ways they all share the same goal: To put your brand and logo in front of current and potential patients and help you stand out amongst the competition.
No matter what mediums you choose you should ensure that your ad has a clear call to action. Without a clear call to action, many new and even current patients may not be compelled to follow through. Even if your goal is simply to let people know that your practice is now accepting new patients or announce a new service or product your ad should feature a clear call to action such as “book your next appointment today” or “call now”.
Traditional mediums can be incredibly effective, but it isn’t always easy to quantify whether your ROI (return on investment) is worth the money you’ve spent. One way you can help decide whether advertising using a particular medium is worth the investment is to use a call tracking phone number. Companies such as ActiveDEMAND or CallRail can help you set up the phone number featured on your ad and track how many people use it to contact your practice. This, in turn, can help you determine how many people were prompted to respond to your bus ad, bench ad, or community newsletter ad.
Digital or Online Advertising
If you look next to your keyboard, in your bag, or in your pant’s pocket, you will likely find a piece of technology that is both widespread and revolutionary: a smartphone. Online advertising has experienced outstanding growth, in part to mobile devices making potential and returning patients more accessible. Digital advertising also has one clear advantage over traditional or offline advertising, and that is the ability to clearly track customer engagement and narrow your advertising pool down to individuals that are most likely to respond.
When you log in to your laptop or open an internet browser on your phone, you are shown ads that have been selected for you based on a variety of factors. A stay at home parent is going to see very different ads than a business professional working downtown. Good ads are tailored based on your geographic location, interests, demographic information, and other factors.
Specific targeting allows companies to spend their advertising budget better. Instead of spending a significant amount of money to cast a wide net and reach everyone in a particular city specific targeting allows you to focus on people who are more likely to convert into patients at your practice based on where they live and work and whether or not they belong to the demographics you are targeting.
There are a wide variety of digital mediums that you can use to reach potential patients including:
- Image-based ads on the Google Display Network. This includes sites such as theweathernetwork.com and globeandmail.com.
- Image or video-based ads on paid social media such as Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube.
- Text-based ads on search networks such as Google or Bing.
When it comes to digital advertising, there are two main tiers you should focus on: Lead generation and brand awareness. You should be targeting both tiers, but depending on your short and long term practice goals you will want to focus more of your energy on one that the other.
For lead generation, you should focus your efforts on search engine networks such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo. These platforms are highly effective for lead generation because they capture potential patient’s attention at the point of purchase. When a potential patient is searching for dental practices nearby, they are already looking to book their next appointment.
Here is an example:
If someone is actively searching for a mechanic, it is probably because their vehicle needs a repair or tuneup. However, if the same person is looking at the weather network to determine if they should wear a hat tomorrow and are shown an ad for a mechanic they will probably notice the ad (either consciously or subconsciously) but are much less likely to take action because they aren’t looking for a mechanic at this time.
Both lead generation and brand awareness ads, also known as search ads and display ads, employ solid tactics to help steer potential patients towards your practice. However, if we know that potential patients are searching for information on toothaches or dental exams are significantly more likely to take action if they are shown an ad for a dental practice we want to make the best of that opportunity. To do that we want to make sure that your practice, and not someone else’s, is shown to potential patients when these opportunities arise.
Brand awareness is fairly similar both online and offline: to show potential patients beautifully branded imagery that prominently displays your logo and contact information. Utilizing platforms like the Google Display Network (which is made up of over 3 million different websites), paid social media (which includes Facebook and Instagram) and video ads on YouTube present a lot of opportunities to draw the attention of potential patients to your practice.
One of the benefits of online brand awareness tactics over traditional brand awareness tactics is that you can target potential clients more efficiently. Instead of paying for a bus bench ad and hoping that enough people looking for a new dental practice drive by and decide to contact you, online platforms allow you to show your ad only to users who are likely to be potential patients based on their geography, demographics, search history, and other factors. Online advertising effectively lets you show your ad only to the drivers who will actually find it relevant and oppose to showing it to every car that happens to be passing by.
Now that you know more about the different advertising mediums available to you, how do you decide which you should focus on when it comes to promoting your practice? Here are three things you should keep in mind if you want to grow your new patient intake:
- Where do your new patients live, work, and spend time? No matter what advertising medium you choose you should focus your efforts geographically so that you can better target individuals that are more likely to convert into patients. For example, if you are looking to target stay at home parents, you might want to advertise near schools. If you are looking to target professionals working downtown, you might want to target bus benches or trains that serve downtown routes during rush hour.
- What are your goals? If you want to gain more patients quickly, you should focus your efforts on mediums that support this goal effectively. This could include search ads, sandwich boards, or roadside signs. Someone driving by may not be actively searching for a new dentist today, but if they live or work near your practice and are presented with your logo and contact information day after day they are more likely to remember your practice. For search ads, you should remember that someone who is actively searching for a dentist or dental services is ready to make a call or book an appointment. By taking steps to ensure that it is your ads that are shown to these potential patients when they are at the buying phase can help drive more traffic to your website and convert that traffic into more bookings. However, even if you are booked solid and aren’t looking to acquire new patients at this time, you will still want to make sure that your brand remains consistent and is prominently visible in your community. This will help set you up to acquire new patients to replace any that you lose because of turnover. Branding advertising can be executed using image-based ads on the Google Display Network, paid social media, bus benches, community newsletters, tv, and billboards. Choose mediums that offer the best ROI and stay within your marketing budget.
How will you determine if your marketing efforts are working? Tools such as call tracking can provide you with the data you need to determine if your current advertising strategy is providing a good ROI. You should plan to review your books and advertising reports on a monthly or quarterly basis. This will help you keep you focused on your advertising goals, keep your efforts accountable, and allow you to review or adjust your strategy based on results and concrete data.