The patient perception shall reign sovereign. Gone are the days when the practice reputation was built solely on the dentist’s reputation. In this era, the patients’ collective perception of the practice is what matters most. If patients believe the practice to be an average family dental practice that fulfills their needs every six months for a cleaning and a check-up, then that is what it will become. If patients believe the practice is a cutting-edge center for dental excellence where they are treated like a celebrity, then that is what it will become. And which practice do you think will attract more referrals and more loyal patients? Of course, your practice is somewhere in between these two extremes, but you get the point: you are what your patients think you are. Survey patients to uncover what they think of the practice, and then tailor marketing communications to shift their thinking in the direction you want your practice to take.
Marketing shall be built on a strong foundation. The foundation shall include, at a bare minimum, goals, a message and a marketing plan. Goals should be quantifiable and articulated in writing. For example, number of new patients seen per month and number of new patients desired per month. The message should be based upon what was learned when the patients were surveyed. What do patients like best about the practice? What do you want the practice to be known for? What do you do better than any other dentist out there? Put it in writing, and train your team to tout your strengths in every patient interaction so the practice story becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The marketing plan should document what marketing tactics the practice will use and the investments the practice intends to make in marketing over the next 12-month period. Only with this foundation in place can marketing begin to be a success.
Marketing shall be a lifetime commitment. Marketing is the oxygen to your practice. You would no more cut off oxygen to a patient under general anesthesia in the midst of a surgery than you would cut off marketing in the midst of running a dental practice. Marketing is a line item on the profit and loss statement every month, every year – just like payroll, supplies and lab costs. It’s part of the cost of doing business.
Marketing shall be an investment not an expense. With a strong foundation in place, marketing produces a return on investment. To be clear, returns are not always immediate nor the same month over month. Like anything in business, there are ramp-up periods and ebbs and flows. Still, you should be able to pull reports and see trends of earning more income in terms of new patient traffic and existing patient retention – all attributed to brand and marketing efforts. Pay close attention to this data. If in any 3- to 6-month period a particular marketing tactic fails to produce a return on investment, consider forgoing it in favor of investing more dollars into areas that are producing healthier returns.
Marketing shall be an evolutionary process. Just as the practice grows and changes throughout the years, so shall your marketing. Once monthly is fine for analyzing marketing and patient traffic reports. Beyond that, complete a marketing performance review once annually. Revisit goals and the marketing plan. Ask what’s working and what’s not. Fine tune it and get it back in motion. Momentum is key.