Staying the Course: Four Dental Marketing Mistakes to Avoid in a Recession

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Mistake #1: Waiting too long to speak up

“Your first instinct might be to bootstrap communications until the economy begins to recover. Except, once your audience is gone, there’s no guarantee of getting them back. While consumer spending will slow in a recession, it won’t stop completely. It’s important to continue telling your story in a credible and genuine way. So, don’t go dark in a downturn. Your customers and [stakeholders] need to hear what you’re doing to strengthen and streamline your business to last. While national roadshows and big ad campaigns might not be a reality, there are marketing strategies to keep you connected without breaking the bank.”[1]
-Amanda Hill, Forbes

We could not have put it better ourselves. An economic downturn is no time for radio silence – in fact, quite the opposite. There’s some level of hubris associated with the assumption that your patients will resume business with you once things become more stable, so instead try realigning this confidence with the notion that your practice is strong enough to help and stay connected with patients when it counts the most. While it may not be a banner year for revenue, and your patients may not have the insurance coverage or cash on hand to help you meet your pre-recession goals, maintaining and even deepening the patient connection is integral to your survival and longevity. Now is a time to be transparent, foster trust and provide value to the people who have helped you thrive.

A critical part of effective communications is conducting survey research first. Consider taking the temperature of your audience with targeted surveys designed to assess their fears and concerns amid the new economic reality. Use this valuable knowledge to rework your messaging. This will help you pierce the veil of well-intentioned but ultimately meaningless “we’re all in this together”-caliber platitudes to truly engage concerned patients. Ask questions about how soon they plan to visit the dentist again, how comfortable they feel being in a dental office, if they are interested in virtual visits, what kind of budgetary restrictions they’re facing and which treatments or procedures they view as essential vs. dispensable. Then, create messaging that addresses their uncertainty and quells their fears.

Not only can this help deepen relationships with existing patients, it can help bring new ones aboard – especially those who feel abandoned by their previous practice when it went dark.

Surveys

Mistake #2: Focusing on the problem rather than the solution

“All too often, the first thing we do when adversity appears is focus on the negatives and all of the problems in our lives. Failure and adversity are only present in our lives to help us, not hurt us. It’s extremely important to never lose sight of this truth … Taking the time to fully analyze your situation in solitude, while focusing on solutions instead of problems, can revitalize your mind and help you focus on where you are headed, how you feel, and more important, how you view failure from that moment on.”[2]
-Matt Mayberry, Entrepreneur

Adversity can send us into a spiral of anxiety. Analyzing external threats is part of human nature, allowing us to assess danger in order to devise the best defense. It’s even part of business, being one of the four key parts of a SWOT analysis. Unfortunately, it’s easy to become consumed by those external fears, preventing us from focusing on solutions. When creating your marketing strategy, ask “What does our audience need from us right now?” “How can we use our strengths to overcome these threats?” “What opportunities are we seeing that we didn’t before?” As a practice owner, it’s important to act swiftly and with purpose, and to understand what you cannot change (an economic downturn) and shift your focus to what you can change (internal response and operations).

Don’t let the chaos of the outside world paralyze you; instead, allow it to light a fire under your team so it can catalyze right action. Make time to address the situation by putting a pin in non-mission-critical tasks and scheduling focused time to overhaul operations in a way that ensures longevity. Make the difficult choices now, especially as they pertain to staffing, because they’ll only become more difficult for you and the team member as the economy shrinks and unemployment lines grow. Reassess everything from revenue goals to budgets and spending, and operate as leanly as possible to preserve the safety and security of the team you do have. Investigate loan programs and safety nets, even if it means decoding bureaucratic jargon. Remember, anxiety is a natural and invaluable facet of the human psyche, but it’s only worthwhile if you let it drive your actions towards solutions instead of hindering them.

Mistake #3: Over-investing in marketing solutions that are not earning ROI

When you handle your practice’s marketing internally, it can be difficult to know where exactly to put your budget. This can lead to practice allocating equal budget over as many marketing channels as possible, which is generally an ineffective approach. Dania Williams of MGE Management Experts writes, “Any percent for marketing can appear like a complete waste if it’s not driving in any new patients or the ROI is low. In this case (low results or ROI), the problem is not the amount you budgeted, it’s that you’re doing the wrong type of marketing or executing whatever you are doing poorly.” This is why it’s so important to have a skilled analytics expert on staff, or an outsourced one. Such an expert will be able to track the effectiveness of each campaign using the correct metrics and KPIs to determine which tactics are valuable in the short- and long-term and which are not worth the investment.

Now is the time to look under the hood of your tactics, consolidate your approach and implement an effective marketing plan that will allow your practice to stand above the rest, as other practices cut budgets and retreat. Here are a few marketing channels and the metrics to keep an eye on to determine their success:

  • Email Marketing: Email marketing campaigns can be a great way to reap impressive ROI, often netting $2 or more for every dollar spent. Generally, it’s wise to check the metrics of an email blast or newsletter at least a full day or two after it is sent:
    Open rate: The number of recipients that opened the message
    Click-through rate: The number of recipients that clicked on a link or CTA within the message
    Conversion rate: The number of recipients that took action after clicking through
    Bounce rate: The number of emails that did not reach the intended recipients
    Unsubscribes/opt-outs: The number of recipients who chose to no longer receive your messages
  • Google Ads: Google Ads is a powerful digital advertising platform that allows users to display ads on Google, YouTube and more while customizing budgets and targeting. It’s best to check these metrics weekly.
    Impressions: The number of times your ad is shown on a result page on Google or its network
    Cost: The total amount of money you’ve spent on an ad campaign so far
    Clicks: the number of times a user clicked through to the destination page of an ad
    Average cost per click (CPC): The amount of spend used for each click (divide total cost thus far by total clicks)
    Conversions: The number of times a user took the desired action after clicking an ad
  • Content Marketing: Creating content is a great way to educate readers, answer their questions, showcase the expertise of your practice and boost SEO. It’s best to check these metrics monthly.
    Traffic: The number of users who visited the page
    Click-through rate: The number of page visitors who clicked on a call to action or similar link, for example a button that says “Click here to schedule an appointment”
    Post engagement: The number of page visitors that left a comment in the comments section beneath the blog (remember to turn on the comment section when posting the content)
    Time on page: The length of time a visitor spent on the page, the longer the better
    Bounce rate: The number of page visitors who immediately navigated away from the page

Mistake #4: Not addressing marketing team breakdown head-on

If your practice has amended the mistakes above or wasn’t making them in the first place, but there is still a breakdown between the implementation of your marketing plan and the results you desire: don’t worry, there is still a way to right the ship. Manuela Gadancheva of DentistryIQ writes “If you follow wrong guidance, you won’t attain the desired results and you’ll end up wasting valuable resources.” As dental marketing experts, we’ve seen the errors that drive these marketing breakdowns firsthand, and they oftentimes originate within the marketing team itself. Here are a few examples:

  • Unclear strategy: If you’re dedicating sufficient spend to widely used marketing tactics, you may have a strategy issue. Be sure to walk through every step of the patient journey as it pertains to marketing interactions and see if the actions you’re taking suit this journey. Are they receiving touchpoints at every step of the journey, both before and after an appointment? If not, sit down with your team and take a look at how you can restructure your outreach to keep patients engaged and coming through the door. Or, are your marketing channels missing your target audience? You may have been investing heavily in radio ads, but with fewer people commuting, that strategy may need to shift to reach people where they are now.
  • Lacking leadership: Sometimes, well-intentioned but misinformed leadership can stunt the success of a marketing strategy. This can occur for many reasons, including refusal to adapt to new technologies and approaches, or a fear of taking direct action. Fortunately, many marketing agencies, including Big Buzz, provide consulting services that can help overcome these issues. This may look like team-wide training to focus everyone towards a common goal, or more specific sessions centered on increasing case acceptance or referrals.
  • Lack of streamlined systems: Clunky systems can come at a great detriment to marketing. This can happen when a team does not take advantage of easy-to-use tools that simplify marketing and bolster success. Take social media, for example. It’s important to post social media content regularly to keep followers engaged, but it can be easy to forget to post. Services like Hootsuite allow you to schedule posts in advance, meaning you or a team member need only sit down once a week or monthly to input upcoming social posts. Those will then be broadcast from your social media channels automatically whenever you desire.

Did you connect with one of the four mistakes discussed above? We’d like to offer you a 15-minute call to help you solve a marketing mistake you are facing. Text Big Buzz CEO Wendy O’Donovan Phillips at 303-284-4414 to sign up.

 

 

[1] https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesdallascouncil/2019/09/25/dont-go-dark-in-a-downturn-how-to-communicate-with-customers-in-a-recession/#dfdcab667221
[2] https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/249129

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