Increasing patient uptake
Working with many dental practices throughout the UK helping them reach local people has been a great privilege for me. We are finding that we are able to distribute our dental health message far and wide, making a considerable difference to local communities. The payback to this is, of course, a successful dental practice with a good number of the right type of new patients each month. But what seems to be working best? I thought it would be good to write a little summary of some of the things that practices are doing which is helping them reach more of the people that matter.
Dental health checks
When a patient first visits your website they are faced with two dilemmas:
1. How do they know you are trustworthy?
2. How can they lower their risk by coming to you?
Good-quality dental marketing is always about increasing trust and lowering risk. This is how serviced-based marketing should work. Addressing these two factors is one of the most important things you need to address in any marketing of the dental practice.
One of the ways of doing this is to offer a free consultation. However, I’ve noticed, certainly over the past year or so, that this technique of attracting new patients is becoming less effective. There could be many reasons for this. My guess is that patients are just worried that a free consultation will mean a hard sell!
What I am finding however, is that reduced-price dental health checks and working extraordinarily well. I have one practice that offers them for £15, deliberately to compete with the NHS. They get an excellent conversion rate from patients that come in and then join on a payment plan. Other practices offer this dental health check for around £25-£45. Doing this lowers the risk for the patient; but at the same time increases trust that you are only providing them with a dental health check, rather than just giving yourself the opportunity to sell extra treatments.
The way I prefer to work this is to ask the patient to download an online voucher entitling them to this discount, this then becomes an online discount only and encourages patients to visit your website. We hand the voucher out in exchange for an email address. The emails are then automated to follow-up the patient at scheduled intervals, with more follow ups being gentle and educated in their nature. The software I use for this is Aweber  available from around £19 per month. This is a really low cost way to begin managing your email marketing. Using email automation like this means that your marketing works 24 hours a day and enables you to focus on what you’re good at, delivering great quality dental health to local people.
When people sign up to Facebook they tend to tell it where they live, how old they are and what gender they are. Whether we like it or not, this allows advertisers to target those individual people, and we can take advantage of this opportunity if we so wish. [2,3]
I recently ran a targeted Invisalign promotion for a client. We had a budget of £200 and ran the offer over a two-week period targeting people aged between 21 and 55, living within 10 miles of the dental practice. During this time we had 332 people claim the offer and it was viewed by 51,136 local people.…quite a result!
Now, I’m not expecting all 332 people to go ahead with treatment, but even so this is a remarkable number of people we have been able to reach. An interesting phenomenon was that local people were commenting on the advert and tagging their friends, thereby ensuring the ad went even more viral and was seen by more people than we had actually paid for!
Writing blogs is another great way to demonstrate your dental practice is the low risk option that patients can trust. What I’m also finding is that blogs are an excellent way to get found on Google. Many practices I’m working with are seeing more than 100% increase in web traffic after they start writing a useful blog. This is mainly due to the fact that blogs can be highly targeted and focused.
If you wanted to write a page about dental implants you need to keep it fairly generic and answer a range of questions, Google will then read this page and probably rank it for ‘<< dental implants >><< Local area>>’, which often is fine, however, people are tending to search for much longer phrases, for example:
• How much do dental implants cost?
• Do dental implants hurt?
• What are the alternatives to a dental implant?
• How do I go about replacing missing teeth?
• What are my options for missing teeth?
• Is a dental implant better than a dental bridge?
Trying to answer all of these questions on one single webpage can be difficult for the patient to navigate to find the exact answer they are looking for, but writing them in a blog post which focuses specifically on that particular area means that that webpage is highly optimised and relevant for that specific search. This has a double impact.
1.The webpage is more likely to be found when people search for that phrase because it is highly targeted.
2. The webpage is more likely to be relevant to those people when they land on it because it is highly targeted.
We then get a snowball effect occurring. Google sends traffic to the webpage, people like it, Google knows this (by looking at the number of pages people read, the amount of time they spend on the site and whether they bounce back and do another search) and sends more. And so the cycle goes on. All you need to do is make sure that your blog (which should sit on your main website) has good conversion mechanisms such as the low-price dental health check which drops that person into a robust yet gentle email marketing program.
Further web content
We all know that if we want to find something out we Google it. Your patients are doing the same.
Being found in the search engines is absolutely vital for any online marketing strategy. Writing a blog will help enormously as will engaging on social media and creating links back to your website using Facebook and Twitter etc.
You also need to be engaging in good old-fashioned PR, but with an online marketing spin. PR is about getting articles and blogs written about your practice. Conventionally this went into print media, but the modern way of doing it is to use the online world. Google reads these PR releases about your practice, recognises that they are about you which then lets Google know you are important and worth sending visitors to. It’s a minefield as to how you get these news releases out there, but that’s the job of an optimisation specialist and online marketing consultant4 such as myself!
2. Facebook’s offers help centre: www.facebook.com/help/410451192330456/
3. Facebook’s advertising help centre: https://www.facebook.com/help/425284084163299
4. Mark’s blog on setting up your online marketing – www.markoborn.com/blog
Mark Oborn spent 25 years as a dental technician working exclusively within the high-quality sector of the private market, after 15 years of running is own laboratory he now works with a select handful of UK dental practices developing their online marketing, website conversions and social media marketing, helping them to attract patients in to their practice.