To build a successful practice you need to attract and retain a steady stream of patients. While this was a relatively straightforward task thirty or forty years ago, the options for dental practice marketing have grown exponentially. Marketing your business on the internet is one of the best and most effective ways of growing your business, but trying to figure out where and how to get started is a problem in its own right. Without some guidance, it’s easy to make poor decisions or to give up before you have a chance to succeed.
This blog is designed as a high-level primer to help you understand the various options and approaches a dental practice can take to promote itself via the web, with some advice on when and why to use certain tactics. But first, we need to lay some groundwork.
What are you trying to achieve?
This question might seem too obvious, but it needs to be asked before you get started to make sure you don’t spin your wheels on tactics that won’t work or spend money on services you don’t need. So, before you start looking to hire a company or tackle your internet marketing on your own, you better have a clear set of goals so you can measure success.
Here are some common goals of dental internet marketing
- Increase traffic to your website
- Increase new patient inquiries
- Get more online patient reviews
- Increase patient retention
- Grow specific services
Of course, there can be other goals to your marketing campaign, but these are common ones that we hear when talking to dentists. Make a list of specific goals that you have and as you move toward rolling out your tactics you can review your tactics compared to your goals to make sure they are aligned. If your tactics don’t have a clear connection to any of your goals, you can throw it onto the scrap heap.
So let’s break down these five goals and talk about some dental internet marketing approaches you can take to achieve each one.
Increase traffic to your website
There are many ways to build a larger audience. From a digital marketing perspective, the quickest method is probably to use paid advertising like AdWords or social media advertising on Facebook to drive people to your Facebook page. Each ad platform provides you different ways to target your ads which include options like geography, demographics, and keywords. While this can be a quick way to acquire traffic, you’ll also be paying for each potential visitor. Another way to build up your audience is by working with a company that provides SEO for dentists or doing your own SEO. This is an approach to improve your rankings in Google outside of advertisements and can lead to consistent, high-quality website visitors if you can begin to rank out at or near the top when people search for dentists in your area.
Increase new patient inquiries
The step above, increasing traffic, is one way to build new patient inquiries. Secondly, you can convert more potential patients into patients by optimizing your conversion paths.
The second piece of this puzzle is increasing conversions. Many websites already have traffic but haven’t set themselves up well to turn that traffic into new patients. Sometimes this takes little more than a qualitative assessment. Ask yourself, “If I were a new patient and I was interested in setting up my first appointment, how would I go about it?” If there’s no clear path for new patients from your home page and other key entry points, you’ll want to make some changes to your site to give these people clear paths to help them do what they need to do.
Get more online reviews
Few things are more important for people searching for products and services than social proof. Not familiar with the term? Social proof is evidence that other people have used your product or service and can verify how good it is. In the world of dentistry, this is done via online reviews. Consciously or subconsciously, when people see two dental practices listed in a directory or in a search result, they’re going to gravitate to those with review quantity and quality. There are online services you can pay to help you get reviews, or you can implement simple strategies like giving handouts to your patients as they leave, follow up with emails asking for reviews, or even have a kiosk for patients to leave a review in your office.
The tactics you employ here, and how much time or money you’re willing to spend should depend on how competitive your market is. If the top-rated dentists have less than 20 reviews, that’s likely something you can beat by employing a few simple tactics on your own. If the top dentists are in the hundreds, you may want to employ a professional for help.
Increase patient retention
The long term health of your practice will largely hinge upon your ability to establish loyalty with your patients. Digital marketing provides an avenue for dentists to continually engage with their patients, and the best examples of this are through email marketing, newsletters, and social media. There are a number of systems available now that will help automate and manage patient reminders for check ups and cleanings, and the bells and whistles available are enough to make your head spin. As you evaluate these systems, remember to refer back to your initial list of goals to make sure you’re not paying for a bunch of tools that you don’t need to achieve your objectives. An offshoot of direct patient emails is newsletters. A quarterly newsletter with a mix of fun information about the practice and serious information about oral health and your services can help keep you top of mind with your patients.
Social media, when done well, can also be a great way to stay in front of your patients. Coming up with strategies for Facebook and your other social media properties can also help maintain visibility and help you build a long term relationship that will really help your bottom line in the long haul.
Grow specific services
When your practice adds a new service or seems to be low on demand for certain dental health services, digital marketing for dentists can help move the needle for these services. Nearly every tactic mentioned to this point can be used to help grow a specific service.
- Paid search. This is a quick and easy way to start gaining visibility for a service. Do you want to make more people aware of your teeth whitening options? You can quickly start up a campaign in Google AdWords that shows your practice in the search results any time someone in your area searches on the topic of teeth whitening.
- Organic search is a longer-term approach to paid search. With time, effort, and likely some professional help, you can begin ranking organically in search results and pull in traffic for these services.
- Email marketing can also be a great way to cross-sell patients on your additional services by pitching them the benefits of other dental services that may benefit them ore their family. This can be in the form of single, targeted emails, or your email newsletter can also push specific services that would be of interest to large numbers of your patients.
- Social media can also help amplify certain services. Offer Invisalign? Share the benefits on your social media page, you can even run Boosted posts for as little as $10 to help get your post in front of an extra thousand or so people in your area.
I realize that’s a lot to take in, but there are so many ways to attract new patients, via dental SEO, paid search, email marketing, and social media, it’s hard to make a short post on this topic. For more information on online marketing or to get an SEO audit, contact Netvantage today and we’ll be happy to talk through your options.