Even in normal circumstances, today’s subject is one that many entrepreneurial doctors struggle with. The truth is that many business owners — not just doctors and dentists — aren’t fans of marketing. It’s difficult to really know how much time or money to commit to it and oftentimes, it’s even more difficult to measure the results. Since that’s the case when everything is moving along like normal, surely you should abandon your marketing initiatives altogether in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic… Right? Not so fast! I’d like to spend a little time talking about how and why you should be marketing your practice in turbulent times.
Most of us realize that marketing in some form or fashion is necessary. We have a product or service to sell and marketing is our primary means of telling the consumer that we exist. And yet, many approach marketing as though they’d rather give themselves a root canal. I recently had the opportunity to sit down with a dear friend of mine who happens to be the Vice President of Dental Revolution – a company that specializes in marketing strategies for dentists. During our conversation, he revealed many truths about marketing and how to make it work for you.
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Many entrepreneurial doctors and business owners alike, have been disappointed by their marketing results. The reason for that is that the vast majority of marketing firms are not following a strategy. Imagine if you allowed your patients to come in and just order the treatments that they wanted without following any kind of treatment plan or guidance from you or your staff. They would never get healthy! This is what happens with many practice owners when they go to a marketing firm. They walk in and say, “I want 3,000 mailers!” and the firm just sells it to them with no regard to whether that approach is beneficial to the dentist or not. But how do you make an effective and strategic marketing plan?
When we talk about an effective marketing plan, there are two pillars that form the foundation: External and Internal tactics. External refers to new customers or patients while the internal is about client retention. My friend explained to me that when he has a dentist come to him for marketing, he asks them what their goal is. If a dentist wants to reach new patients, he asks them what type of patient they are looking for. The details are important and they should inform your marketing strategy.
With the specific details in place, you can measure how effective the current strategy is. Examine the external and internal tactics that are being used, remove the elements that aren’t working, and adjust them. Don’t simply buy into a particular strategy without understanding how it fits into the overall plan.
When developing your plan, you want all of your efforts to work together. With the understanding that you have external tactics and internal tactics, there are efforts that impact each of those pillars and funnel into the next. Your external tactics should lead to phone conversions while your internal tactics should yield internal referrals. The referrals feed into conversions which leads to greater internal retention. If one or two of these marketing quadrants is broken or ineffectual, you could be wasting a lot of money.
There are many different methods to choose from when marketing. Targeted direct mailers can be effective but do they serve your needs better than social media blasts? Is it a good idea to offer patient retention programs? These are questions that you’ve probably asked yourself when trying to determine how to get the biggest return on your marketing investment. The truth is, once again, that it really depends on your individual goals.
If you’re simply trying to draw in families in need of basic dentistry services, then a direct mailer may be highly effective, yielding the best results. However, if you’re looking for patients in need of a specific dental service like implant patients, then mailings are probably not going to generate the leads you are looking for. Just like all other aspects of your practice, marketing should be well thought out and planned for.
Related Reading: Marketing – Is it A Waste of Money?
To begin with, the percentage that you allocate for your marketing budget should come from your gross collections. However, the amount that spent on marketing is entirely up to your specific goals and needs. For example, a brand new practice would likely spend more money because they are trying to get their share of the market. Since they have no patients to start with, it benefits them more to put a higher percentage — even as much as 20% — toward their marketing efforts.
On the other hand, a well-established practice that is focused more on patient retention might spend between 3-10% of their gross annual collections. There are reasons to spend more, even for a limited time, and there are reasons to spend less. Whatever you spend, it needs to be in line with your practice’s unique goals and needs. Likewise, the money you spend should be very deliberate and focused on the strategy that best fits your overall plan.
Related Reading: 4 Techniques for Restarting Your Business
Things are crazy right now and many people don’t know what to do but I was watching Frozen II with my kids this weekend when I heard one of the characters say something that really hit home with me. He said, “Whenever you don’t know what to do, the only thing to do is the next right thing.”
Our current situation is unfamiliar to many of us. The coronavirus has changed everything in our world, at least for the time being. Many dentists aren’t even able to practice right now as we impose greater and greater preventative measures. In times of struggle, it is important to remember that this, too, shall pass. In the meantime, do whatever you can to give back and to be a source of hope in your community. Donate to a shelter or gather supplies for those who can’t get out on their own because they are at greater risk of being infected. Doing the next right thing is a great way for you to be a source of hope to your community in these turbulent times.
While you’re making a difference in your community, people will take notice and they’ll remember it. I’m certainly not suggesting that you do anything for show or recognition. However, if you simply try to be of service to your neighbors, they’re probably going to remember how you and your team were there for them in a time of need. When you’re not working on the betterment of the community, work to better your business.
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