One of the most frequently asked questions my clients ask me is “how do I get more new patients?”, or “how do I increase my top line, I need more revenue coming in”. As a Dental practice owner or manager, your measurement of financial success will consistently be your practice’s bottom line. Dental clinics will typically experience an average attrition rate of 10-20%, some of which is out of your control. This means you must be consistently driving new patients to your practice year over year, but how are new patients finding you?
Your niche dental service offerings may be the perfect solution for your ideal patient, but how will those patients know what you’re offering if they can’t find you? Perhaps you’ve just invested in a high-converting website with all the bells and whistles; however, your task now is to drive qualified patients to that website so that your practice can land in front of the right audience. The secret to more patients finding out about you is your marketing message and where that message lies within the buyer journey.
The Marketing Funnel
Let’s step back for a moment and go through a bit of Marketing 101. Consider the marketing funnel, a phased approach for how patients move from an awareness state to an action state when making a decision on a new product or service.
This sales theory may seem partial to finding a new pair of shoes or seeking a hair stylist, yet the marketing funnel is also relevant for how patients choose their healthcare practitioners, specifically their dentist. Your dental practice is a choice among many so why would a patient actively choose you?
We also refer to the funnel with a fun acronym, top of the funnel (ToFu), middle of the funnel (MoFu), and bottom of the funnel (BoFu). Let’s discuss all the phases.
The Awareness Phase (ToFu)
At the top of the funnel, potential patients don’t have the need for a service yet. Perhaps they don’t have a dental concern or they don’t typically visit the dentist often enough. Maybe they do have a dentist, but they’re not happy with their current dentist and haven’t taken action to find a new one.
Potential patients become drawn into this phase without intentionally searching for something. They may drive past a billboard or see an Ad while scrolling through social media. At this phase, we can expect patients to know you are a choice in the market though they have not made an active effort to seek you out. Any branding or awareness marketing we do in this phase is to attract patients to solve a future problem. We will discuss how to draw patients into this phase shortly.
The Interest/Consideration Phase (MoFu)
At this phase, the patient has moved from not requiring a service to actively seeking out a solution. They may now have an emergency dental concern, or realize it’s time to see the dentist; perhaps they want to find a cosmetic treatment because they saw an Ad about smile design. At this point, they have flowed through to the middle of the funnel.
During this phase we expect patients to be searching for queries through a search engine, asking a friend, or doing some fact-finding research. While they haven’t made a decision yet, they are actively searching for an answer. You could be that answer!
The Evaluation/Action Phase (BoFu)
Now that the patient has done some research, asked around, and Googled ‘cosmetic dentists near me’, they are ready to make a decision. Perhaps they arrived at this point relatively quickly because they chipped a tooth, made 3 calls, and booked in with the dentist who could see them right away. We can expect that the patient did some level of research to get to this junction where they will now make a decision.
Think about the last time you clicked to make a purchase, booked an appointment, or made a phone call; why did you decide on that respective product or service? (Just for reference, the last purchase I made was a pair of Nike high-tops – the Ads got to me).
Marketers may argue this phase is the critical tipping point in the funnel because this is where a potential patient may convert. We have done all this work to get a patient to this point, we don’t want to lose them!
Bonus Phase: The Loyalty Phase (BoFu)
You will probably agree that returning patients provide you with a greater ROI than a new patient. In fact, it costs 5x more to obtain a new patient than it does to retain an existing one. Once you have successfully brought a new patient to your practice and delivered a fantastic patient experience, your goal is to slam the back door shut and keep that patient (and all their referrals) in your practice for years to come.
To successfully drive new patients to your practice (and keep them coming back), you are ideally marketing all phases of the funnel. Here is the secret to targeting your marketing message within the buyer journey.
Marketing Strategies Within Each Phase of The Funnel
As we progress through the digital era, dentists are able to shift their marketing from traditional methods and bolster their online presence. Your patients (for the most part) are actively online everyday, they shop on Amazon, they order groceries online, and they keep up-to-date with friends and family on social media; in short – be present on the platforms your patients frequent.
Awareness Phase Marketing (ToFu)
Recall that patients in this phase are not actively looking for a service. Consider trying these strategies using ‘digitized billboard techniques’. We want to show our brand to patients while they are going about their lives. Keep the language light and high level to appeal to a majority of potential patients.
Banner Ads (Google Responsive Display Ads, Social Media Ads, Geofence Programmatic Ads)
You can run visually creative campaigns that will deliver not only your brand but a message to your audience on what you have to offer, you can read more about Google Responsive Display Ads here.
These banner ads can be delivered while your potential patients are scrolling on ESPN, using their social media apps, or looking up new recipes online. On average 0.15-0.35% of consumers will click through a banner Ad and land on your website. That sounds like a small number; however, consider that 0.0020 x 50,000 monthly impressions = 100 additional hits to your website in one month.
Imagine giving a quick elevator pitch on a service you can offer to a roomful of ideal patients located in your target area. Now you can, with YouTube Ads. 71% of Canadian internet users, or 17.6 million people, visit YouTube as a resource for informational and evaluation purposes each month. You can run 15-30 second Ads about the benefit of preventative oral care or the importance of visiting your dentist every 6 months.
Delivering your value and expertise as a practitioner will compel some patients to want to learn more about your approach. It might also remind them about that toothache they need to get checked out.
Consideration/Intent Phase Marketing (MoFu)
Patients in this phase are looking for a service because they now have a need to fulfill. Users are actively seeking out an answer to their query. They may search online, ask a friend, or conduct some research. This is also when potential patients are cruising your Google reviews, this could be a make-or-break point for some practices.
Google Ads (Also known as AdWords, Search Engine Marketing, Pay-per-click Ads)
Google continues to own a majority of search engine market share as was demonstrated by an average of 70.38% worldwide net market share in 2020. Google Ads are a major lead generator for businesses hoping to improve their exposure online. By implementing this strategy, dental practices are able to bridge the gap between their organic rankings and other competitors in the market.
The primary goal is for patients to find your practice through your ads, but secondarily to show up as an option among many for your target market. Hiring an agency such as SmileShop Marketing to manage your Google Ads allows you to leave this technique up to the experts; an effective Ad strategy should include hundreds of Ad variations, 1000s of keywords, and consistent optimization.
Website Remarketing Ads
We’ve all experienced website retargeting at some point while browsing online. If a patient has visited a website but has not made a phone call or booked an appointment, it’s possible to remind them that you’re still around and ready to help them using website retargeting. This strategy is accomplished using first-party cookies so that when a user visits your website, you can remind them to take action if they haven’t already.
Evaluation/Action & Loyalty Phase Marketing (BoFu)
You’ve done all this work to get a patient through your door or visit your website. At this point it’s important that patients can easily convert on your website, reach you in-practice, and return in the future.
Conversion Centric Website
When a patient finally finds you and clicks through to your website, the user journey must be easy and seamless. Make it easy for patients to find your hours, location, and make a phone call. Read our previous blog to learn about what your website needs to bring in more patients.
It’s important to nurture your current patients and continue to educate and provide value, even between their visits with you. Email open rates are up year over year in general indicating an audience interest in what businesses have to say. Now more than ever, it’s important to share value with your patients, remind them that you’re available, and nurture their loyalty.
Benefit versus Feature Marketing
Gone are the days of itemized service inventory mailouts and long newsletters (maybe). Your patients have more on the go and less time to read your marketing message. Keep your message focused on the benefit to the patient versus the service you have to offer.
Think about why your patients come to see you and identify their pain points. Keep your message concise and focus on the benefits your patients experience when coming to see you. If you specialize in sleep apnea management, your Ads might discuss the benefits of a full night’s rest.
Is Your Marketing Strategy Working?
Understanding how your marketing strategies are working is just as important as running a marketing program altogether; you can’t optimize what you don’t measure. Take the time to meet with your marketing strategist to understand the reporting so you know where your new patients are coming from.
Lastly – don’t forget, ToFu MoFu Bofu!
If you want to begin utilizing the buyer journey to harness your marketing message, we can help! Book a demo to learn more.