What makes a successful dental practice? Is it the best trained doctors? The friendliest front desk staff? Is it the latest equipment? All of these may help but a practice can live without any of them. The only thing a dental office cannot survive without is a steady stream of patients. Though that may seem like a simple observation, many dental practices find it easier said than done. Here we discuss a few key factors that may help you strengthen your marketing—a major piece in the puzzle of bringing in new patients. If you have struggled with your marketing, these are low cost things you can do to build up your patient base, which is especially important if you are considering selling a dental practice.
How Old is Your Website (You Have One, Right?)
What is the first thing you do when you are looking for any kind of service provider? If you are like most people, you Google it. Sure, word of mouth matters, but if a friend refers you to a lawyer or accountant, you’re still going to Google them. What pops up there is your first impression, so you’d better make it a good one.
The good news is that, in 2020, a good website doesn’t mean an expensive website. Sure, 20 year ago, businesses might have spent tens of thousands of dollars on a custom site. But, in those days, coders were less common than they are now and the programming languages were more difficult. Now, many websites are built off of templates and the learning curve is much faster.
The template model is good for dentists because that means you won’t be paying anyone to re-invent the wheel. Chances are you can find someone with a speciality in medical office websites who already knows what you need and how to organize it. Since the early days of the internet, there has been a lot of work done to understand how consumers find and respond to online information, what they are looking for, and what is most effective for communicating that information. The templates are designed to deliver to consumers what they want in the simplest way.
What if you already have a website? What if you spent $15,000 on it ten years ago? Well, we’re sorry to say that your website is out-of-date and that is the impression you’re giving to new patients—one of being out-of-date. They may wonder what else about your practice is not being kept up to date. Equipment? Techniques? Will a dentist that appears stuck in the past give them the best care? If prospective patients don’t like what they see, they’ll quickly move on to someone else.
If you are considering selling a dental practice in the next five years or so, you also don’t want to be marketing something that may look like a dinosaur to a young doctor. You’ll be well-served to make the online “face” of your practice one that is with the current state of the art.
Your Social Media Presence Should Be Social (You Have One, Right?)
This one is a little tricker because it requires more ongoing work (not a lot, though) from your office. The good news, however, is it doesn’t have to be you. Chances are you already have someone in your office that is active on social media, meaning they already have an innate understanding of how the platforms can be leveraged. Once you identify that person, have them set aside a little time a couple of days a week to take pictures and post to your accounts, and some time each day to respond to any questions or comments.
Why is this important? Do you know how much Facebook, the biggest social media platform, earns from advertising? $17.4 billion in the third quarter of 2019. They made that in three months! And it was a 28% increase from the same quarter of 2018. Why are they making so much money from advertising? Because this is where the eyeballs are.
Note, however, that we’re not telling you to spend on Facebook ads. We’re saying your prospective patients are on Facebook so if you don’t have a Facebook page for your practice, set one up today. And if you have a Facebook page, keep it updated. Have someone actively posting to it and interacting with anyone who follows you or posts questions or comments. You should also do the same with Instagram and Twitter, the other two big platforms.
The next question you may have is what to post about. The answer is anything good that happens related to your practice: new staff members, patient success stories, doctor profiles, doctor or staff achievements (whether related to dentistry or not), holiday costume contents, sponsored contests, community outreach. Literally anything that reflects well on you, your staff, your patients, or your community.
Be sure to link your social media accounts to each other and your website. Make it easy for patients to find you and information about you. Patients might go to your website first to find out about the practice, but many will also look at your social media to get a better sense of the personality of the practice (you can be a lot looser on social media than you may want to be on your website).
Again, if you are looking at selling a dental practice, having an active social media relationship with your community can be a big selling point in why the goodwill of your practice is worth what you are asking for it. It shows you are built in to your community and have fostered a strong relationship with the people you serve.
Many people are drawn to dental offices whose online presence is full of smiling patients and friendly staff. This can be done with only the cost of a few hours each month but can be surprisingly effective.
Don’t Write Off Traditional Media Just Yet
Much ink has been spilled over the death of traditional media (TV, radio, print, outdoor advertising). To paraphrase Mark Twain, the reports of its death have been greatly exaggerated.
The key to effective advertising is maximizing impact. You’ve got to cast your net wide enough to capture your intended market but not so wide as to be wasting dollars on people who will never consider your business. For instance, a poorly placed billboard might not get you any patients while a nationwide television ad would never be justified in terms of cost per new patient.
Local marketing experts in your area will know what kinds of ads the patients you are looking to advertise to will respond to. It may be that you have a newspaper in town that many people still read for local news. Or maybe there is a busy thoroughfare where thousands of commuters see billboards as they creep through daily traffic. If these kinds of means are still effective for small business in your area, don’t write them off.
Also, consider what your competition is doing. If they’re sinking all of their resources into online advertising, you can take advantage of the gap in traditional media, if it’s effective in your area.
Keep it Simple
Marketing doesn’t have to be hard. Marketing doesn’t have to be complicated. And marketing doesn’t have to be expensive. These suggestions are all easy, low cost ways that you can see a significant impact without any major investments of time or money.
Considering Selling a Dental Practice? We Can Help!
Here at DDSmatch Southwest, we are dental practice transition specialists that focus on finding the right doctor for your practice, one who will honor and build on the legacy you have established. If you are considering selling a dental practice in the next five years, we will, with no obligation, provide you with valuable tools and advice to plan and prepare your practice for a smooth transition. Even if you aren’t considering putting your dental practice for sale, we can refer you to marketing experts if you’d like more information or help in that area. Contact us today and find out what we can do for you—it starts with a conversation!