Turn on the tap
How do you convert the fruits of your marketing labours into a steady trickle of income? Tracy Stuart of NBS Training presents the second in a series of no-fluff articles on how to take your dental practice to the next level
Marketing. Love it or hate it, you cannot ignore it. It is a necessary fact of life for all successful businesses, and it can be both expensive and time consuming to get things right. Effective marketing should raise your company’s profile and generate interest in your products and services, but how you and your team turn this interest into cold hard cash is the crux of getting things right, and we will look at this in more detail in this article.
Be under no illusion: You need to be prepared to get your hands dirty when it comes to marketing your practice, and not simply rely on outsourcing your marketing to an all you can eat’ marketing firm and expecting all of the hard work to miraculously come to fruition without your input. While there is a lot of merit to calling in the big guns to help you with your marketing, yourself and your practice team need to take ownership of the process too, and roll up your sleeves and get stuck in.
When your practice receives a call or enquiry as a result of your marketing endeavours, the pressure is on to convert this passive interest into a new client and eventual purchase. A short phone call or email exchange is often all it takes to get the body on the end of the phone through the door- if it is handled correctly. If your team gets things wrong, all of the money and effort you spent getting them that far will be washed down the drain like so much rinse solution.
The practice that can create a rapport with a potential client from the get-go, offer informed advice, and maintain the engagement throughout the patient’s journey is the one that will win the client, and every member of your practice team has a part to play in the acquisition and retention of your would-be clients. The ultimate return on your marketing investment relies on this directly, and yet a common mistake that many practices make is to write off their marketing endeavours as unsuccessful, when actually it is a case of the human interaction and enquiry handling as a result of your marketing that is letting you down.
Before you bin your current marketing campaign and try something else, ask yourself the hard questions:
• Is your message on-target and relevant to the type of enquiries you wish to generate?
• Do you proactively monitor and evaluate the source of your enquiries?
• Do you have a complete and objective view of your team’s approach to handling enquiries?
• Would you buy from your practice if the shoe was on the other foot, and you were the client?
If the answer to any of these questions is no, then the chances are that you are blaming your marketing campaign for your dissatisfaction, when the problem actually lies a little closer to home!
If you are confident that your team is on the ball and yet you are still not satisfied with your progress, then it may be time to try something different. There is no one winning formula to marketing; it is more a case of ‘throwing the pasta at the ceiling and seeing if it sticks.’ You may find that you have to try a few different approaches, and spend time fine tuning them, to find out what really works for you.
It is also unwise to place all of your eggs in one basket when it comes to launching your campaigns, and the best and most effective marketing approaches involve using a range of channels to get the attention of your potential clients and convert them into patients. Your total marketing package should involve a combination of both online and offline marketing, personal recommendations, and good PR.
The big picture
When reviewing or planning your marketing approach, it can be useful to refer back to a basic list of channels and activities that you should be working with, in order to garner success. These can be broken down into three basic elements:
• Online marketing.
• Word of mouth and personal referrals.
• Offline marketing.
Some of these three elements will overlap, and this is fine, as the greater your practice’s profile and the more methods by which clients can learn and become aware of what you do and why you’re good at it, the better. That being said, here are the basic elements required for each of the three segments of your successful future marketing campaign.
• First and foremost, your website should rank well on Google, be easy to navigate, and be fast to load and pleasing to look at, offering a good reflection of your physical practice when clients walk through the door. You should also provide a strong call to action, easy contact options, and a method of capturing data from clients who are willing to receive future marketing offers and incentives.
• You should also be making the best of social media to reach your clients, and have a good idea of which channels work for you and how best to use them.
• Finally, your online reputation is something that you should consider as well, encompassing factors like Google reviews, a practice blog, and info and good feedback on sites such as NHS Direct and TripAdvisor. You should visit all of these sites regularly to check your customer satisfaction levels, and have a plan to deal with any negative comments or reviews without losing your cool.
Word of mouth and referral marketing
This aspect of marketing is one of the strongest ways to build a good client relationship and put your happy clients to work in passively recruiting their friends too!
• Make sure that your patients feel listened to and valued by your practice, and consider launching a campaign to invite your clients to introduce their friends and family to your practice.
• Consider sending out a patient newsletter on a regular basis, both via physical mail and by email to clients who are willing to sign up for your latest news and information too.
Don’t neglect the more traditional marketing channels in your efforts to fine tune your online and word of mouth endeavours!
• Try to get your practice mentioned and highlighted positively in both local and national press, perhaps because of the services that you offer, how you offer them, or because you are doing something new, different or innovative. Getting an editorial review is not an easy task, but if you can achieve it, it will soon pay dividends!
• Physical marketing is still a thing too, despite the rise and rise of online marketing, so consider all of the various means of reaching your customer offline, such as radio and local media adverts, fliers and leafleting, and running special practice events and competitions.
• If your practice or one of your team wins an award or other accolade, shout it from the rooftops! Whether this is directly related to dental services or is more of a personal achievement by one of your team outside of work, let everyone know about it, as this can add value to your practice’s perception, and demonstrate a well-rounded view of your team as a whole.
Hopefully you now have plenty of food for thought to get started with… In my final article, I will talk about how to convert enquiries to customers.
Tracy Stuart is a well-known, well respected and seasoned team trainer and practice development specialist across the UK and Ireland and wants to help dental practices get the most out of any training that they undertake. Tracy has been successfully delivering training programmes for the last seven years, with over 20 years’ experience in developing and managing dental practices.