Most successful dental practices have been able to thrive for years with referral-based new patients. Unfortunately, this “word of mouth” marketing approach is no long the most effective way to generate new patients.
Search engines are the new yellow pages for dentists, the first place people go when they’re looking for a local dentist. A quick Google search for a dentist in a given city will yield thousands of results, all claiming to be the best and offer the best services.
With such fierce online competition, dentists often come to us asking “What can I do to break through the noise?”
In no way a comprehensive list, here are 10 ways you can market your practice to new patients:
1. Have a Game Plan
In the industry, we call this a strategy. More specifically, a content strategy. This means taking the time to spell out your business objectives and target audience.
When Ads Next meets with a new client, the first step we take is to ask a series of questions so that we can formulate a content strategy.
Where are you located? How far are your patients willing to drive to come to your office? Tell us about your current patient base? Is there a certain type of patient that you’d like to increase?
The goal in this exercise is to come away with messaging that will connect with your target audience and content that will get you found in the search engines.
2. Build a High Converting Website
Not all websites are created equal. There are dental websites that look great but aren’t user friendly or rank well in search engines. On the flip side, you have dental sites that dominate search results but look like something from the early days of the internet. Just because a website ranks well doesn’t mean it’s converting vistiors into leads or attracting the type of patients you want for your practice.
The goal is to shoot for something in between – a modern dental website design that matches the look and feel of your office, built to maximize user experience.
When you place emphasis on creating a good user experience, you’re making it easy for visitors to get the information they want and take action. For a dental practice, this action is usually to schedule an appointment. A prominent phone number, easy to use forms and accessible contact information are critical to converting dental website visitors into new patients.
3. Search Engine Optimization
SEO is a mysterious acronym for most businesses outside of the marketing industry. It is important that your marketing agency takes time to research your market, your geographic area and business objectives to identify which searches are going to generate the most value for your practice.
The information Ads Next collects during our initial kick off call helps us shape and define an SEO strategy that will position a website prominently and engage with the end user.
4. Google+ Optimization
There are many search engines out there, but Google is still the most popular. Google continuously adjustments its algorithms to deliver searchers with more relevant, local results. Your Google listing is very important to these results.
Optimize your Google listing by making sure it is accurate and complete. Encourage patients to post reviews of your practice on Google+. Businesses with current reviews (within the last two weeks) have the strongest advantage in search results.
5. Pay-Per-Click Advertising
Known as PPC, paid search engine advertising puts you front and center before people who are actively searching for your services.
PPC is especially useful for dental practices who are new to internet marketing or trying to boost their online performance, as well as dentists who are trying increase leads for a specific service or treatment, like dental implants or teeth whitening.
6. Blog Marketing
It seems like everyone has a blog these days. But blog marketing isn’t just a trend. It is a valuable way to market your practice and supply your website with fresh content.
Use your dental practice blog to answer questions potential patients have about your services. A blog is also a platform where you can update current patients about practice events, news or awards. Publishing interesting, useful content on your blog can increase user engagement with your website and translate to new business for your practice.
7. Social Media
Social media marketing is intimidating for many dentists. How to get started, what to share…but avoiding social media isn’t the answer either.
Facebook, Twitter and YouTube can help you broadcast your message outside your website. Forming social connections with friends, patients and colleagues widens your audience and puts you in front of hundreds or thousands of new opportunities.
Additionally, social media profiles are ranked highly in search engine results pages (SERPs). Make sure you leverage this potential by signing up for social media accounts, fully completing your profile and keeping your accounts updated with regular posts and activity.
8. Reputation Management
One bad review can have a devastating impact on a dental practice. It is important to monitor online reviews of your practice and take immediate action when negative reviews appear.
An easy way to do this is to do a Google search for the dentist’s name or practice name and see what comes up. If you find a negative review, it’s a good idea to respond.
Remember to be polite and non-defensive in your response. Leave your response open ended, asking for the opportunity to “make things right” – you might not be able to change the reviewers mind, but you can show potential patients that you’re willing to do what you can.
9. Analytics and Results
Part of an effective marketing strategy includes taking a look at your performance and comparing it to your goals. Chart fluctuations in your performance and identify trends by comparing recent data to previous months or years. Simple adjustments to your strategy can often increase performance and help you surpass your goals.
10. Customer Service Analysis
One of the most important steps you can take in marketing your practice is to take a look at your customer service performance.
The last link in the online marketing chain is usually the person in the office who handles the incoming leads, whether they are by phone or email. You can analyze your performance by comparing the number of leads that come in to the number of new patients in a given month. This “conversion ratio” can help you determine if you need to make adjustments to your customer service strategy.
If you give your staff the tools they need to handle incoming calls effectively, you will see an increase in the number of new patients. This means having a consistent script that your staff follows and rehearsed answers to common questions like dental insurance and requests for prices over the phone.
By Kelly McGee, Director of Internet Marketing
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