Digital change: Effective practice marketing relies on a sound strategy
Digitization, Industry 4.0, Internet of Things, Big Data, disruptive technologies - the business world is changing rapidly. Digital change does not stop at the doorstep of your practice. It is likely to affect the way you do dentistry, organize your practice and communicate with your patients – and that’s good. Digitization not only presents challenges, but also offers enormous opportunities - for example opportunities for effective practice marketing.
Guest post by Oliver Frommenwiler, Storylead, Zug/Switzerland
Gaining and retaining new patients
While in the past telephone book entries, business clubs and advertisements in the local newspaper were enough to attract attention and gain new patients, today an almost unmanageable variety of digital alternatives are available for businesses to promote themselves: website, Facebook, Twitter, apps, Google ads, newsletter, to mention but a few. Properly used, these tools can also help you, as a dentist, to address, gain and retain new patients effectively. Clearly, the good news is that practice marketing will be easier in the age of digitization than it was before.
3 points you should clarify before you launch your practice marketing strategy
However, before you rush into frantic practice marketing mode, you should first consider some fundamental questions. Later on, you will be able to come back to the answers you give to these questions and use them as a reference and guide in your marketing activities. They will help you to use your time and resources purposefully:
1. Make sure you know your patients:
- Create and determine a clear picture of the patients you ideally want to address.
- What problems, challenges and fears concern them?
- What gives your patient a feeling of success, a sense of satisfaction?
- In what environment does your patient live and work?
- Which (digital) media/communication channels do they use for obtaining information?
- In what form and manner do they prefer to gain information about your services?
- What are the most important questions they have with regard to your services and offering?
My tip: Concisely summarize your answers on a DIN A4 sheet of paper. Give your patient persona a name and a picture. This helps you as a visual and mental support so that you will find it easier to remember and picture your ideal patient when implementing your practice marketing activities.
2. Have a clear idea of the ‘story’ of your practice:
- What do you and your practice do differently and better than others? (Analyze critically!)
- What are you particularly good at? Why do patients choose to come to you?
- What added values or benefits can you offer your patients that they cannot find anywhere else?
- Put it down on paper - be concise and crisp. This is your ‘story’.
- Is your ‘story’ appreciated by the market, or by the patients? Is there a demand for it?
- What promises are you making to your patients?
- What ‘evidence’, references and advocates do you have to back your ‘story’?
My tip: Summarize your story in a few clear-cut, easy-to-understand and succinct sentences; 5 to 7 sentences should be enough for this. Then, read through them from the perspective of your patient persona described in section 1. Does your story sound convincing? It should be convincing by all means because it will form the basis of your future content in your practice marketing and advertising measures.
3. Develop a systematic approach to implement your practice marketing strategies:
Marketing - and therefore also practice marketing - is not an end in itself. Every activity that you initiate requires an investment. It should therefore also have a clear purpose and a tangible benefit as well as a measurable result. Digital marketing activities are especially predestined for this because you can measure and analyze many aspects of them online. The activities do not have to be complicated, but they should always be aimed at contributing to achieving at least one of the following four goals:
- increase presence / visibility,
- generate more contacts,
- gain new patients, or
- strengthen relations with existing patients.
Think of these four points as a funnel: wide at the top and then narrowing. Your practice marketing strategy should comprise measures at all four levels of the funnel.
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Here is an example from the digital world:
- Level 1 of the marketing funnel – more presence: You publish a Facebook post with specific informative benefits for your imaginary patient, or patient persona. This post contains a link to lead interested readers to your website or blog.
- Level 2 of the marketing funnel – more contacts: On your website or blog, you offer your visitors further useful content and expert knowledge on topics that concern them. In addition, you offer them the opportunity to get to get to know you (practice newsletter, appointment booking form, invitation to an event, etc.).
- Level 3 of the marketing funnel – gaining new patients: You stay in touch with prospective customers (e-mail) and encourage them to come for an initial visit to your practice. How can you achieve this? It’s easily done: Highlight the points that are credit to your practice. For instance, you could say something along the lines of: “Did you know that more than 150 patients from your city/region trust us?“ Or point out awards and certifications that you have earned and make you and your practice stand out.
- Level 4 of the marketing funnel – Retaining existing customers: Automated activities (another great advantage of digital marketing!), such as e-mails, newsletters, online appointment bookings, etc. help you to provide your patients with useful information and tools on an ongoing basis and strengthen your relations with them.
Conclusion: Professional marketing as a dentist
You are well placed to attract new patients efficiently and effectively if you know your patient persona well, if you have formulated a consistent story for your practice and if you systematically select and deploy your practice marketing activities along the marketing ‘funnel’ template. Digital marketing activities in particular offer great potential as they allow accurate metrics and offer the possibility of automation. Even small practices can implement professional and effective marketing strategies at reasonable efforts.