March 1, 2017
How to Create an Awesome Dental Marketing Plan
Every small business owner tends to struggle with creating their first marketing plan. I think the main reason for this is that most business owners tend to focus on the outcome and end campaigns, while often overlooking the strategy, planning and execution phases. Unless you’ve gone to school for marketing or business, you probably haven’t been trained to create a strong marketing plan. Doctor’s that we work with here at Elevate DDS have many years of school under their belts, but not many of them studied any sort of marketing during their time in college. This is why we thought it would be a good idea to outline what a dental marketing plan should look like, from inception to campaign completion.
Getting Started on Your Marketing Plan
Each dental office or dental practitioner should have many marketing plans for different campaigns. For an overall “general office marketing plan” we recommend taking a look at the resources from the American Dental Association here. This will help you establish appointment setting systems and things like a CRM or Client Relationship Management program. These are basic general office needs for creating appointments and managing client relationships.
For this article, we are going to assume you have these systems in place and are ready to move on to more advanced marketing plans. So without further ado, we’ll jump right into creating your first (more advanced) dental marketing plan and campaign(s).
Define Your Goal –
The first step in creating a marketing plan or campaign is to define what the end goal will be. Are you seeking general new patient acquisition or are you looking to sell a specific service such as invisalign? How much revenue are you looking to generate from starting a new campaign? Are you looking to educate existing patients for an “up-sell” or are you looking to acquire all new patients with a specific service? These are some of the questions that should be answered when determining your goal.
Decide Which Services to Market –
When creating a marketing plan or individual marketing campaigns, it’s definitely a good idea to start by picking a service on which to focus. Campaigns can definitely be more general if the overall goal is say, new patient acquisition for general dentistry. However, if you can narrow a campaign down to focus on something more specific, the outcomes will generally be more successful. The strategies and demographics will vary drastically by service, so you will want to create a separate plan, strategy and campaigns for each service or end goal.
Establish a Unique Value Proposition –
After you’ve mapped out your goals and which services you want to market, you should identify your Unique Value (or Selling) Proposition. You need to understand what separates your dental practice from your competitors. Is it friendly service or location options? Years of unique experience? Maybe it’s a combination of a knowledgeable and friendly staff, pricing and payment options? If you’re having trouble identifying what your unique value proposition is, try asking your patients why they prefer coming to your practice over others in your area. Once identified, this should be the focal point of your marketing efforts moving forward.
Identify Demographics & Target Market –
Demographics is the term that generally describes things like age group, gender, income level, geographic location and education level to name a few. Obviously the demographics and target market of your campaign will vary by which services you are choosing to market. Marketing dentures to a younger audience would not have quite the same impact as they would on a much older demographic. The same could possibly be said for dental implants, where this procedure might appeal more to an older male audience. Identifying a target market for each campaign will be critical for online marketing success, and targeting potential patients in social media marketing campaigns or pay per click advertising.
Set a Budget –
Once you have everything in place, you can set a monthly or yearly budget that your practice can afford. It’s good to have a monthly budget in mind, then read through the following strategies. After you’ve read through all the marketing strategies, revisit your budget to make sure that all goals, budget and strategies align.
Determine Your Marketing Campaign Strategy
The next step in fulfilling your marketing plan is to determine the strategies or types of marketing you will use to complete your goals. There are a large number of marketing strategies you can use in each campaign. Learning more about each strategy and determining which methods are best to use for hitting your goals is critical to success.
In-Office Flyers –
Internal or in-office marketing is one of the oldest, easiest and probably cheapest way to market your practice and services. The only problem with this method, is you first have to have the existing patients to market to. If you have a large patient base that comes in for regular check-ups and cleanings, you can always create handouts that focus on cosmetic dental services. Most patients might not know how easy it is to straighten their teeth with Invisalign® or brighten their smile with in-office whitening. The best part about flyers and handouts, is companies like Invisalign®, Lumineers®, Zoom®, etc. usually have these flyers available for you to use for free! Getting these in front of existing patients is a great way to up-sell cosmetic dentistry services.
Direct Mail –
Direct mail campaigns can be hit or miss depending on execution. But when direct mail works well, it can really change your practice. One thing to consider with direct mail however, is that it can be extremely hard to measure results. This varies drastically from online marketing, in which you can track nearly every action.
There are a few different approaches that practices can take with direct mail. Postcards should have a very specific message to them that addresses your practices value proposition. It is extremely rare that anyone would actually call a practice solely from a piece of direct mail in today’s internet savvy world. Most people who take any action will usually check out your reviews and online reputation. So rather than focusing your call to action (CTA) on a telephone number or email address, focus your CTA on a custom website landing page that is tailored to your campaign. Not only can you focus this page around your value proposition, you can also measure the results by the number of web hits received. Also consider buying a short domain (URL) to act as a “vanity URL” that is very easy to type into a mobile phone or tablet. This vanity URL would then redirect to the landing page on your dental website.
Print Advertising –
Much like direct mail pieces, print advertisements should be well thought out and executed. Print ads can be extremely hit or miss and can be pretty expensive depending on the publication. In my opinion, if you have the money to invest in print advertising, then make it big. Don’t settle for a small square somewhere in the middle of the publication.
In my experience, advertisements that have run on the front page of newspapers and publications are the only ads worth running. Occasionally I have found a full back page ad to be semi successful, but the content of that ad has to be really spectacular. Focusing your ads content on an emotional reaction from your audience will generally grab a bigger response rate.
Overall however, I would shy away from print advertising as a dental practitioner unless your creative is extremely good. For the amount of money you could spend here, other online marketing tactics will usually produce 3x the results.
Email Marketing –
Email marketing is a tactic that has been completely over used and executed poorly by most industries. Think about how many newsletters you actually read and why you actually read them. For me, I might read 1-2 a week about the marketing & dental industries because that is how I make my living. Rarely would I ever read email newsletters from publications outside of my interests.
Patients are not going to waste the time reading stock or canned email newsletters anymore. If you want your email newsletter’s to be effective, then they will have to include valuable content that was given serious thought. Personalization is key to email marketing, just as it is key to your website presence as a whole. Including promotions and specials will also help make your newsletters more effective. This is one tactic that is tough to take shortcuts with. If you want it to be effective, you will probably have to roll up your sleeves and invest the time in creating them personally.
Radio Advertising –
In my opinion, radio advertising in the dental field is a huge waste of money. It’s rare that anyone who hears a 30 second spot on the radio will retain the information long enough to take any action. It may help to improve awareness of a certain dental product or service in your area, but will prove extremely tough to brand your practice without boat loads of money to throw at it. The problem with radio is that most listening occurs in the car. People can’t visit a website while driving so the only good call to action is a phone number. It can be tough to get people to make a phone call without some really good creative advertising.
Much like TV, typical radio advertising comes with bigger price tag and longer time commitments that don’t prove effective.
Television Advertising –
If there is one positive aspect about both radio and television ads, it is that you can create awareness in areas outside of your local reach. Meaning that if your practice is based in a rural area, but close to an urban population, you can extend your potential patient reach with TV and radio. By running ads on the urban or city networks, you can create some brand awareness for your practice in a nearby town. This may be one of the only positives however, as TV ads are also very expensive. And the longer your TV spot (90–120 seconds) the more the cost goes up.
Using TV advertising to get your message across is generally not effective. But if you can invest the money in longer ads that invoke an emotional response from the viewer, it may work better than shorter 15-30 second spots.