Marketing is not always something a busy doctor wants to spend their limited time on. Regardless of the relative success of your practice, without adequate marketing, you may see your busy practice become less so. Whether you are just starting out (looking to draw patients and build a reputation), are comfortably ensconced in your practice (looking to maintain or enhance your reputation and continue to draw new patients), or are preparing to put your dental office for sale (looking to bolster your practice before the transition to a new doctor), marketing is an important part of maintaining a successful practice.
Consider this: of the major brands out there—such as McDonald’s, Coke, Nike—how often do you encounter their advertising? Constantly. Is it because they lack customers? No. Its because they understand that by keeping their brand in front of consumers’ eyes, that recognition will translate into customers. People are drawn to the familiar, as it seems reliable. And when it comes time to choose a dentist, you want people in your community to see your practice as familiar and reliable.
What is Marketing?
Marketing is basically anything that you do to make potential patients aware of your practice and promote your expertise, reputation, and quality of care. It includes a wide variety of communication tools: signs on your building or on the street near your parking lot, advertising (increasingly this is online, however, depending on your market, it may also include billboards or other outdoor ads and local tv or radio spots), sponsorship of local events, social media, your website, email, direct mail, and in-office brochures. With a small business like a dental practice, your focus should be on targeting your local community. Advertising outside of the area from which you draw patients will be wasted money. Look around at other successful local business and see where are they putting their resources.
All of these “channels” make both your current patients and potential patients aware of your practice. The most effective way to make use of these channels is, first, be sure to have a strong logo with a consistent use of colors so that its recognizable wherever it’s seen (again, think of the McDonald’s yellow M, Coke’s red and white colors and font, the Nike shwoosh). And, second, consider what you want associated with that logo. What defines your practice? Quality of care? Sensitivity to patients’ needs? These two together are your brand identity.
Having a strong brand identity is particularly important when it comes time to place your dental office for sale. The brand should transcend simply the identity of the individual doctor, but represent something larger than one person: an idea of the practice, a philosophy to which the practice, as an institution, is committed. This way, when you have a change in doctor, or staff, your patient base can feel reassured that they’ll receive the same quality of care to which they are accustomed.
If you don’t already have a strong logo and practice identity, it may be worth hiring a local marketing consultant to help you develop them. This consultant will also have unique insights into your local market to help guide you towards the messaging and channels that will be most effective in your community. This will certainly require some capital, but, remember, this is money invested in boosting your practice.
On that point, be sure you can track the effectiveness of your measures (for instance, ask new patients how they heard about your practice). If your marketing efforts aren’t bringing a return, you’re on the wrong path.
How Marketing Helps
The bottom line of marketing is getting patients into your chairs. This is done by making your community:
- Aware of your practice.
- Aware of your particular services, skills, and other practice attributes.
- Aware of how these services, skills, and attributes will be of benefit to them.
You make people aware of these things by:
- Building brand awareness – As discussed above, whenever a patient or potential patient sees your logo, you are making them aware of your practice and planting a seed in their mind.
- Targeting specific audiences – This can be based on the location of the audience or it can be further targeted to sub-demographics such as more affluent patients, budget-minded patients, families, patients focused on obtaining the best services, etc. What audience you want to reach will largely determine which channels to focus on and where to place your ads.
- Connection with Community – social media is a great way to communicate directly with your community. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other platforms allow a back and forth with patients outside of the clinical setting in which you can express your practice’s “personality.” Don’t be afraid to be informal or funny if that reflects you and your practice.
- Develop Your Practice Identity – As you identify your practice values, you can express these through your marketing efforts. Potential patients get a sense of what your practice represents and how they can connect to those values. You can emphasize these through consistent use of keywords such as “compassionate” or “gentle.” Your website and social media channels can also show what your office looks and feels like, so people know what to expect and can be reassured their making a good choice in choosing your practice.
- Showing What Sets You Apart – Its important that you distinguish yourself from other practices in your community. Do you have technology or tools that are different? Do you have any promotions or pricing programs that might make you more attractive? Do you offer unique services or procedures? Do you have amenities that other providers don’t? Showcase these differences. You don’t have to be negative about it—there is no need to call anyone out. Just show what you have that patients want.
It’s never too early, or too late, to start a strong marketing program. As mentioned above, it will pay off when it comes time to place your dental office for sale, because you’ll have something of value that goes beyond just a patient base. You’ll have an identity that represents ideals that are valuable in your community.
ddsmatch Southwest Can Help Prepare Your Dental Office for Sale
At ddsmatch Southwest, we believe that the right buyer for your dental practice is not just one with financing, but a doctor who is the right fit for your practice. You’ve spent your career building a reputation in your community and the right buyer can help to protect your legacy. If you are considering transitioning your dental practice in the next five years, we offer a free, no-obligation Practice Transition Assessment to help you get ready to place your dental office for sale. Contact us today to find out what we can do for you.