Build an Effective and Efficient Referral Network

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Building an effective and efficient referral network is all about just that: building.

Building takes time and thought, and too often people go at it with a transactional approach, thinking quantity over quality, and not putting any strategy behind it.

Humans are designed to interact and relate with one another, especially when it comes to business. Referrals can be the lifeline of many businesses, especially dental practices, with referred patients often morphing into high-quality, long-lasting relationships.

In order to keep your dental practice growing and evolving, your referral network should mirror that continued growth and evolution. Keep these tips in mind when building your referral network and see new patient numbers rise.

Listen, listen, and listen some more.
When meeting a potential referrer, perhaps the property manager of a new apartment complex next door, the most important thing you can do is listen. Ask them questions about how they got into their career, what their passions are, what they like to do in their free time, etc. Follow the 80/20 rule: let them talk about themselves and their business 80 percent of the time, and you reciprocate and keep the conversation going the other 20 percent. That way, they’ll undoubtedly walk away from the conversation feeling valued, heard, and appreciated.

Remember them.
After having a conversation with a potential referrer, go back to your CMS software and take notes on their contact profile. Jot down anything that stuck out to you, especially their interests, passions, etc. That way, you are engraining what you learned in your memory, and allowing room for them to remain top-of-mind for you. For example, perhaps the potential referrer told you he has a 10-year-old son. Might his son be in need of orthodontic treatment? What about his son’s friends? Or his son’s soccer team? Staying connected to that one referrer you talk to can open even more doors.

Reach out, not about business.
Any time you come across a news article, blog post, video, meme, or anything else that reminds you of that potential referrer and would resonate with them, reach out with a simple, “I came across this and thought of you, I hope you’re doing well!” The 80/20 rule applies here too; 80 percent of the time reach out with genuine, thoughtful and meaningful points of conversation, and then the other 20 percent of the time warmly mention how your practice is always accepting referrals, and how greatly appreciated theirs would be. Additionally, this keeps you top-of-mind so that when a referral opportunity comes along, it’s a no-brainer who they think of.

If you are constantly building relationships and having meaningful interactions, new patient referrals will flood the office.

How Strategic Marketers Connect Communication and Marketing

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Communication plays a significant role in our daily lives, whether as a means of connection between people or places, or for a conveyance of thoughts and emotion. Communication helps us promote the development of relationships with others as well as initiate the sharing of knowledge and information. Every interaction has a common need for the ability to communicate in a clear and effective way.

Communication is the baseline for marketing. In order to drive patients to your practice, increase case acceptance, or build awareness within the community, communication is needed on different levels to accomplish the task at hand. Rather than guessing as to what that type of communication should be, strategic marketers leverage the communication styles of patients to develop a unique message.

An effective way to do this is to survey your current patients to gain insight into their opinions of the practice. Survey participants should share traits that positively influence the practice (they show up for appointments, they refer their friends and family, etc.) and they should be open to providing constructive and honest feedback that will aid in the development of your messaging. Research among this targeted group will help to provide the type of communications that your marketing should include, what they should sound like, look like, read like, and on what media they should appear.

Once research has been conducted, it is important to keep the brand messaging in the forefront of all communications. Your audience has shared what is important to them, why they chose your practice, what differentiates you from others; it is vital that these messages be continuously communicated throughout your marketing materials in order to attract more patients to your practice.

Why Branding is Important

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According to Brandingmag, branding Is defined as, “a marketing practice in which a company creates a name, symbol or design that is easily identifiable as belonging to the company.” Beyond your name, symbol or design, your practice brand is made up of multiple other elements that work together to establish a reputation for your practice. The culture of your office, your reviews on Yelp, the posts you share on Facebook, and so much more impact your practice brand.

Here are five reasons why this is important:

  1. Branding builds recognition.
    With a strong, memorable logo, you are helping to build brand recognition, since a logo typically serves as the “face” of a business. Make sure your logo aligns with your practice’s brand essence, and value proposition so it becomes known for the right reasons.
  1. Branding builds trust.
    When making buying decisions, people typically buy from companies they know and trust. Having a strong brand with which many people in the community associate positively builds trust and can also help bring in new business from referrals.
  1. Branding supports advertising.
    Branding is a key component of advertising. Having a strong brand will ensure any promotional materials speak the same marketing language, use similar types of images and include the key value proposition for your practice. This way, your advertising strategies are delivering a unified, appealing and appropriate message to your audience.
  1. Branding creates financial value.
    When you think of big brands like Nike or Starbucks, you are likely willing to spend more on their products even though you can get a similar version for half the cost. This is one of the benefits of branding. Position your practice as the crème de la crème and you will attract patients who seek that type of service, rather than just price-shoppers.
  1. Branding can bring in new patients.
    With a strong brand, referrals are easier to generate. People can’t refer you if they can’t remember who you are, so by building a strong brand, you are helping to engrave your practice’s name into your patients’ brains, bringing in a steady flow of referrals into your practice.

Branding is important to your practice for many reasons and can help to bring in new patients and more revenue. There are many areas to develop when building your brand, including but not limited to, advertising, customer service, promotional merchandise and your reputation. We have helped hundreds of practices across the nation build strong brands to bring in more new patients. Click here if you need help building your brand.

 

Identifying your Competitive Advantage

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How does my dental practice stack up to the competition?

What’s the competition doing that I’m not?

How can I be sure to stand out from other dental practices?

These are just a few questions that we are regularly asked by the dentists we serve. The key to identifying your competitive advantage is research. Here are 4 exercises you can do now to be sure your practice stands out and stacks up:

 

Exercise Time Needed Instructions Desired Outcome
1. Complete competitor research 2 hours First, make a list of all dental practices in the area that your patients may have considered before coming to you. Next, visit each of their websites and answer these questions: 1) What is the #1 value they claim to provide? 2) Is that similar or different than what your practice claims as its #1 value? You will have a definitive list of attributes for which your competitors are currently best known (or think they are best known). You will have clarity on whether your practice is truly different than others in its value proposition.
2. Ask the people 3 hours Start by emailing 25 of your ideal patients a one-question survey: “What do we do best as a dental practice?” Then read all the responses in one sitting and look for a common theme. Finally, ask yourself whether the #1 attribute your best patients remember about you, as shown in the survey responses, is clear across your website and marketing materials. You will validate and likely strengthen your practice’s value proposition and differentiators.
3. Understand the market 1 hour Call any reputable dental marketing firm and request a demographic report. Several agencies provide this as a complimentary service. In reviewing the provided data, you will be able to see from where in your community patients may come, from where your competitors are drawing patients and what new opportunities there are to reach beyond a 5-mile radius of the practice to attract new patients. From this, you can make hard and fast decisions about how to improve your competitive edge.
4. Understand your practice 1 hour Pull practice reporting to understand from which marketing sources most patients are coming, who the loyal referrers are and how the front office is tracking these metrics. Where needed, work with a consultant to add internal systems and structures for better tracking in the future. Based upon this data, refine marketing spend to only those tactics producing healthy returns and ramp up referral strategies for even more of a competitive advantage.

Dentistry is a highly collaborative industry. At the same time, with more dental students entering the market and more corporate dental practices opening than ever before, it’s a critical time to identify and claim your competitive advantage.

What is a Mood Board and Why is it Important to Your Brand?

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Building a brand doesn’t happen overnight. Target market research, data analysis, internal interviews, and much more go into the brand creation process. Beyond the hard facts and figures, though, is another brand-building tool: the mood board. A mood board is a collection of designs, images, shapes, symbols and colors that represent your brand. A mood board will typically stem from brand messaging or a unique value proposition, and from there, it will likely evolve into a style guide, giving the brand a foundation go off of when creating new marketing materials, products and more. Having a mood board for your practice ensures all marketing and promotional materials are consistent and portray the same message.

Here are four more reasons to invest in a brand mood board:

  1. Collaboration becomes easier.
    A mood board clearly shows a practice’s design principles, making it easy for anyone on the team to build materials consistent with the overall brand.
  1. Time is saved.
    A mood board helps to build a library of approved images, patterns and fonts, saving time on managing opinions and approvals down the line. Instead of spending time deliberating over the type of look of a certain Facebook ad should have, the mood board helps guide the process, getting your message to market faster.
  1. A strong visual framework is built.
    When your brand’s look and feel is clearly communicated across your team, it makes any decision that affects your brand’s image a no-brainer.  You can rely on the mood board for inspiration and guidance.
  1. Your patients and staff members are represented
    When you build your mood board based on the practice’s brand messaging or unique value proposition (which is gathered via survey data), you are building something that represents the thoughts, opinions and values of your patients and staff members. For example, one of our clients ordered a large-scale print of one of the images featured in their mood board and hung it in the office’s reception area. It so perfectly reflected what the practice was all about and resonated deeply with the target audience.

The development of a mood board is an integral part of the brand-building process. Do the work upfront and save time, money and frustration on future marketing projects.

Struggling with your mood board design? Contact Big Buzz at 720-350-4484. We have designed mood boards for hundreds of practices to help them establish a design foundation.

A Guide to Marketing Your Practice

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As the owner of a dental practice, you may be involved with all facets of the business: staffing, scheduling, bookkeeping, accounting, IT support, and so much more. With all that on your plate, marketing may not be a top priority. In order to attract new patients and keep the schedule full, though, marketing is vital. If you are just starting to market your practice, here is a three-step guide on how to do just that.

Step 1: The first step in marketing your practice is to conduct a SWOT analysis. A SWOT analysis identifies the following for your practice:

  1. Strengths – Look at what makes your practice unique. What do you offer that your competitors don’t? List out everything your practice does better than the rest.
  2. Weaknesses – When identifying your practice’s weaknesses, be honest with yourself. What could you be doing better? What’s hindering your success? Think about it from a patient’s perspective (wait times, ease of scheduling, hours, etc.).
  3. Opportunities – Look at the areas where your practice could grow and expand. Perhaps you’re now in a position to hire an associate or expand into a second location. Think of how these areas can help your practice grow.
  4. Threats – When you look at threats, what can you anticipate or prepare for that may impact your practice? Is there a new practice opening next door? Is construction happening, making your office difficult to locate? Are you experiencing heavy turnover? Be sure to look at both internal and external threats.

From this analysis, you will be able to determine where to focus in order to yield the most success long term. You can look at what you’re already doing well in terms of attracting new patients and keep doing that, and you can also look for areas of development to see where you might need to invest more to grow.

Step 2: Once you have finished the SWOT analysis, you will want to build out an ideal patient profile. Having an ideal patient profile will help you identify the types of patients you want to replicate and uncover how they found you, where they look for healthcare resources, what would inspire them to make a referral, etc. Survey this list of ideal patients in your current practice to pinpoint the kinds of marketing they pay attention to so you can invest your marketing dollars there.

Step 3: After you have gone through the SWOT analysis and have created an ideal patient profile, now it’s time to construct your marketing plan. Based on the research conducted in steps one and two, your marketing plan should unveil itself – you’ve answered the questions such as “What’s worked well in the past?” and “How are patients currently finding you?” Identify the handful of tactics with which to proceed and then measure results for three to six months to properly assess if your plan has worked. Do the heavy lifting upfront and you’ll see your efforts pay off!

Still having a tough time building your marketing plan? Contact Big Buzz at 720-350-4484. We have built hundreds of marketing plans for practices nationwide and would love to help ignite your practice’s marketing and fill your appointment list!

Google Announces Latest Core Algorithm Update

By | SEO

Google announced last week on Wednesday, August 1st, that it had begun to launch its latest broad search algorithm update. The news was released via Twitter after the general search community noticed abnormal shifts in rankings and traffic data. According to a recent article by Search Engine Land, the update is still in progress. Google Search Liaison Danny Sullivan said, “Say by middle of next week, should be fully rolled out.”

Google releases several core algorithm updates a year, some of which they confirm and some of which they don’t. One of the most recent tweets stated:

The March update and the April update were also “broad core algorithm updates.” With the ongoing rollout Google has stated:

 

So what does this mean?

According to Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Land, “This algorithm update seems to be a more significant update, based on many of the metrics we are tracking. Google’s aim with these updates is to improve the overall quality of the search results provided to searchers.” However, Google has stated that webmasters do not need to make any technical changes in compensation for the rollout stating that “no fix” is required.  The core update is simply designed to promote websites that were once unvalued.

 

What should you do if you are seeing rankings and traffic changes?

The best thing to do for the time being is to be patient until the core release is complete and then re-analyze your website metrics. Google recommends that you continue to make changes to further improve the user experience and add even better quality content to your website. If by next week you continue to see drops in regards to your keyword rankings and traffic we suggest reaching out to an SEO expert who can run an audit to identify areas that may be putting your website at risk.

Give Patients What They Want Then What They Need

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At the core of every successful (or unsuccessful) relationship is emotion, as it is human nature to make decisions based on one’s “gut feeling.” While not a novel concept, this idea is worth bringing to light, especially when discussing the patient-doctor relationship.

Your patients are human and the decisions they make for themselves and their families impact real people. In their journey to find a dentist or accept treatment, they may often may go with the solution that “feels right.” Aligning their needs, wants, desires and interests with your specific service, in a way that resonates with them, is how a successful relationship is formed.

This is very clearly outlined when looking at how a product becomes successful. Take, for example, children’s vitamins. A child may need to take vitamins daily to boost their immune system and keep them healthy; however what they want is a treat that is sugary and sweet. From this concept, the thousands of variations of children’s vitamins were born.

By focusing on and truly understanding why your prospective patients tick, your practice will be able to cater to exactly what they want. Once in the door, your practice can then deliver exactly what they need. Many times, the patient doesn’t know what they need or understand the condition of their oral health. As they continue to interact with your practice and see how you have helped them to overcome their obstacles, barriers or challenges, there will be no question as to whether or not they stay loyal, accept treatment and refer others.

Getting them in the door requires giving them what they want. Keeping them satisfied requires giving them what they need.

More than a Feeling: How to Know Your Marketing is Working

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Depending on the type of marketing your practice is doing, results can often be a mix between subjective and objective. Open houses and brochures lend themselves to greater brand awareness, which can be hard to measure, whereas tactics like online advertising and SEO are highly data-driven. Regardless of the types of marketing you are implementing, it’s important to examine the data to ensure it is working, rather than just relying on a gut feeling. Here are three ways to do just that:

  1. Make sure your marketing agency provides monthly reporting. This can come in the form of a PDF or an online digital dashboard, and it’s important that metrics such as calls to your practice, forms submitted through your website and conversions from your online advertising campaigns are included. This data will allow you to see month-over-month how your results are progressing. When mixed with office data, such as how many new patients were seen or monthly production figures, your marketing team can see how the tactics impacted the practice and refine the strategy as needed.
  2. Stay in communication. Communication is key in understanding what’s working and what’s not. “Setting and forgetting” is not a strategy often recommended. It’s important to share information with your marketing team about what’s happening in the practice so that they can move with agility to refine the plan as needed. For example, if the marketing team is seeing dozens of calls to the practice, yet not many new patients have been scheduled, perhaps those calls occurred when the office was closed. In that case, you may want to turn your ads off during that time frame or look into an online scheduling too.
  3. Review long-term results. Some marketing tactics can take longer to produce results than others. While direct mail or online advertising can generate new patients almost immediately, something like social media can progress more slowly. When results occur at a slower rate, it can feel as though something’s not working. However, when you look at more long-term data, you may be able to see a better picture of the results. Social media may not feel like it’s making a difference day-to-day, yet over the span of six months, it can contribute greatly to an increase in website traffic. Give most tactics at least six months before changing gears.

If you are struggling to measure results, contact Big Buzz. We can get you set up with a custom dashboard immediately and identify what’s working and what’s not within your current marketing strategy.

Manifest More of What You Want: How to Create Your Ideal Patient Profile

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When we begin working with a new client, clarifying their goals is priority number one. We want to be sure that everyone on our team, and theirs, is clear as to the direction we’re headed. In doing that, we sometimes hear goals about reducing cancellations, eliminating no-shows or avoiding certain insurances.

As the old adage goes, what you focus on grows.

This is the point where we as your marketing team help you to shift gears. We ask questions like, “What kinds of patients do you want more of?” “Who are your best patients?” “What kinds of procedures do you want to do more often?” When we focus here, the story shifts from worrying about cancellations to envisioning your ideal work day. Imagine how much better life will be when you’re spending time with patients you love performing work about which you’re passionate. That’s the goal, right?

One way to manifest more of what you want is to create your ideal patient profile.

To start, gather information about your current patient base, such as age, gender, zip code. Who makes up your current pool of patients?

Next, think more about those patients. What is their average income? Do they work in similar industries? Are they married or single? This will help to get a feel for who they are beyond the basic facts and figures.

Now, out of all your patients, who are those that you’d want to replicate over and over again? It would be hard to do off demographic data alone, so consider factors such as lifestyle, hobbies, health interests, etc. If you’re an avid outdoorsman who values staying healthy in all areas of life, you likely incorporate that philosophy into your treatment and want to attract patients who also value their overall health. If you are a mom with three children and see the impact early preventive care can have on kids’ oral health, you may be looking to attract more young families, so you can make a greater difference in your community.

Once you’re clear on who your ideal patient is, you can begin to craft your marketing in a way that draws in those types of people. For the health-focused folks, this may mean advertising in local gyms or launching an online remarketing campaign to appear on health-centered websites. For moms, this may mean a Facebook advertising campaign with images of young happy patients, your kid-friendly reception area or fun flavored tooth paste.

Storytelling has emerged as a huge trend in marketing, as people want “the feels” as much as they want the deals.  In order to do this effectively so that you are manifesting more of what you want, document your ideal patient profile and work with your marketing team to implement strategies for attracting more of those types of patients to your practice.