Dental practices tend to experiment with many different forms of marketing in hopes of finding something that works. At Elevate DDS we have seen it all and done it all. In this blog post, I wanted to explore what type of dental marketing works the best, and offer my advice on where you should focus your efforts.
Direct mail & postcards
I get a lot of questions asking if direct mail and postcards work at all. The answer that I continue to give clients is a resounding yes. But I would NOT recommend hiring a run of the mill direct mail company that either sends out stock post cards or stock letters and envelopes. Most direct mail companies run the same kind of campaign for thousands of different businesses. Messaging tends to be pretty generic, and there is nothing that allows your business to stand out from competitors. While these marketing services might be cheaper up front, the return you see on your investment will most likely be minimal.
Instead of wasting money on low-cost direct mail, I would recommend spending a little more money up front on good creative. Hiring a good creative agency to design a great postcard can make all the difference in the world. The agency or graphic designer can work with you to come up with a tailored message with better design creativity. Delivering a precise message with inventive imagery will pay better dividends in the long run.
*Biggest Tip: Pay for a big idea and good creative design. Don’t hire a run-of-the-mill direct mail provider with recycled messaging unless it’s proven to be effective.
**Bonus Tip: Try using postcards for client retention also. Sending a simple postcard to patients on their birthday can be greatly rewarding for both your patient and your practice. There are low-cost solutions for these types of mailers. Some patient communication software, such as Revenue Well, even has a great low-cost service built right into their system.
Print advertising can be effective on occasion, but it really depends on your practice location and local market. I wouldn’t recommend this strategy for larger cities and more populated areas. There are better opportunities online to spend the same amount of budget and receive a far greater ROI. However, smaller towns and communities tend to have local magazines and publications with good readership numbers. These publications tend to focus on area happenings and local businesses in the communities. I’ve seen some really good, creative ads in these types of magazines for local dentists. For instance, I just saw an advertisement with a dentist holding a guitar jumping over an amplifier with a big headline that read “Not Your Average Dentist.” I liked how the dentist, in this case, was not so subtly alluding to the fact he’s a rock star. I thought this ad separated his practice from all of the other cookie-cutter practices. You know, the practices that run a stock art ad of a smiling girl that reads something like “#1 Preferred Invisalign Provider in X City.”
The bottom line is print ads CAN work if you get creative and buy good placement. I highly recommend only running your print ads on the back cover or inside front/back covers. I would also recommend only full page or ½ page vertical (outer side) ads in these positions if possible. Anything smaller or buried somewhere in the middle isn’t going to show the same return. I know it’s a larger investment up front, but it’s a better option than lesser placements.
*Biggest Tip: Think outside the box with your advertisement’s message and creative work. Stick to full page ads on the back, or inside front/back covers.
Full disclosure: I’m 34 years old so I’m pretty biased when it comes to my personal favorite type of marketing. I’m a millennial (please don’t judge) and we tend to consume our media electronically. When my generation moves to a new area, the first thing we do is start Googling. We Google everything about the area, we research the best places to eat, to shop, the nightlife, and also our healthcare choices. We don’t even have to move cities, it could be a new neighborhood within a big city. We are still going to use Google to find local businesses. We aren’t going to stop at Google either. When we find a reputable looking business, we are going to do our due diligence and see what others have to say. This means reading third party review sites and then possibly visiting the business website to take an action. And this isn’t just millennials. Most tech savvy people tend to use this approach.
We know through large studies and surveying data, the above methodology is how most people find local businesses. So what type of marketing campaigns can help to capture this demand? My personal recommendation for every client is to invest in reputation management, SEO and social media. And don’t forget that your dental website is going to be the most important and effective marketing tool of all! Your online reviews and SEO will need to work in synergy with your website. Capturing demand involves showing up when people are searching for “Chicago dentist” or “dental implants New York.” If your business shows up #1 for these types of searches, you’re more likely to capture the demand.
Converting visitors to patients
The battle isn’t over because you’ve shown up at the #1 spot in Google. A person is more likely to click on your listing if you’ve got multiple 5-star reviews. Once a visitor lands on your website, you absolutely need to showcase your expertise and personalize your image. The next step is making sure that it’s not too cluttered, and that there is a clear call to action. The visitor may also leave to read some third party reviews and then come back to take an action. Make sure your website is ready for it!
*Biggest Tip: Make sure your website is up-to-date, mobile and user friendly. You can run the best internet marketing campaigns in the world, but if your website isn’t converting, what good does it do you?
Other online marketing opportunities
Depending on your area or market, you can also try some Pay Per Click advertising, display ads, retargeting ads, and paid social media. In larger markets with heavy competition, getting in front of potential patients is extremely important. Visual ads referred to as “display” ads, run on third party websites. They can be effective in targeting visitors who might already be reading about dental procedures or similar topics. These ads can generally be targeted geographically. You can also serve ads in this manner to people who have visited your website in the past 30 days. This form of advertising is referred to as “retargeting” or “remarketing.” I think these forms of advertising can be effective if done properly. However, they also rely heavily on your website being able to convert visitors to leads.
Know your market and area
Knowing your market and how people decide to do business in your area is critical for success. In order to better understand how your local market consumes media, you should start actively people watching. Watch the people waiting in line for things like coffee or lunch. If the majority of them are on their phones while waiting, your local market should lean heavier into digital and mobile marketing. If people sit down and grab a magazine or newspaper, then print advertising would probably be a good option. And if people don’t grab their phones or a publication, then perhaps direct mail, postcards or even posters/billboards are the best methods to grab their attention. You could even go old school with some counter-top flyers or business cards.
*Biggest Tip: Actively people watch to figure out the best way to get your advertising in front of them. Read the above paragraph to better understand what to look for when people watching.
Your website is the most important marketing tool
It all starts with your website. Your website is a potential patient’s first glance into your practice. No matter what kind of marketing and advertising campaigns you choose, potential patients will look at it. What image does your website portray? Is it doing a good job of converting visitors to patients?
If you’re unsure, we can help. Please check out our Free Website Evaluation page and take the next step in improving your marketing!