Making the Horse Drink

By December 4, 2014Blog

Marketing in the 21st Century is far different than in days of old. It used to be that a simple ad in the phone book and a sign out front was enough to attract patients.

Today, independent practices are seeing symptoms of drastic changes in the marketplace. The infiltration of corporate dental practices is leading to flat or declining revenues for some solo practitioners. New technologies are pricier than ever, which means narrowed profit margins and mounting debt for many practices. Confusion about the Affordable Care Act has patients leery to sign on for big treatment plans. In fact, the entire landscape has shifted in terms of power; the advent of digital marketing gives a louder voice than ever to the patient, and the voice of the expert, or dentist, has taken a back seat.

All of these symptoms create a new need for more robust promotional efforts.

The temptation is to delegate the whole thing. Find one agency that offers comprehensive marketing solutions, and you’re guaranteed to get new dental patients. Right?

Not so fast.

A joint effort between you and your agency produces the best outcomes. It’s best if the dental practice contributes 20% of the marketing efforts while the agency delivers 80%. The agency leads the horse to water.

Here are the top 3 things that the practice should do to make it drink:

1. Provide photos and practice updates. Social media is like a practice open house. It would be odd for your marketing firm to hold an open house and not invite you. While your agency can manage your social media by posting on your behalf, it’s critical that you join the party. Appoint someone on the staff to send photos and updates to the agency at least 4-6 times per month. Your updates could feature special events, birthday or holiday celebrations, community or charitable involvement, or – with written consent – a compelling before-and-after story from a recent case. The combination of your marketing agency’s expertise and the practice’s authenticity will attract more patients to the practice’s social media pages and, over time, into your door.

2. Offer timely feedback and approvals. You hired an agency to produce results. They will deliver a myriad of marketing materials to drive new patient traffic. Before those materials hit the streets, they need your careful review. At the end of the day, you and only you are responsible for your communications. Before your new website goes live or that big direct mail campaign goes out, read every word to be sure there are no errors and that it is a good overall representation of you and your values. And remember that delays on your side will hinder your marketing results. Provide clear feedback at regular intervals to keep the process moving forward and to sustain strong marketing momentum.

3. Strengthen internal systems and structures. Marketing drives patient traffic to your door. The practice systems and structures get those patients in chairs. Be sure that a live person answers phones within office hours, and that calls that roll to voicemail after hours are promptly returned. Take a hard look at your patient intake process, and be sure that it’s designed to optimize every opportunity for patient care. Invite your team to get on board with your vision for your practice, and inspire them to deliver that level of care.

This won’t just make the horse drink, it will keep that horse coming back for more.