Keeping the right side of the law

shutterstock_324665789With patient marketing being a key priority for growing practices, business success consultant at Software of Excellence, Bill Starkie, introduces some simple steps for dentists to follow as he outlines the 10 laws of patient marketing.

Having conducted some recent research into dentists’ behaviour with regard to patient marketing, we at Software of Excellence were interested to discover that although there was a clear desire to improve marketing amongst dental professionals (89.4%), there was also a lack of knowledge of how to plan and execute campaigns. Our findings revealed that over 77% had no plan for how to improve their marketing and only 12% were regularly communicating with patients.

These statistics led us to conclude that we could help dentists by dispelling some of the myths that surround dental practice marketing and so we developed what we refer to as the ’10 laws of patient marketing’. These laws are designed to help dentists navigate their way through the often complex, but nevertheless critical area of patient marketing, which is vital if practices are to successfully educate their existing patients and attract new ones.

Law #1: know your ‘why’

Understanding the ‘why’ of your practice is fundamental to helping you design communications that will help you achieve your goals. When we talk about identifying the ‘why’ we are referring to those things that differentiate your practice from others in a crowded and competitive marketplace.

Using this perspective helps focus campaigns around patient benefits rather than treatment features. Answering the ‘why’ question is important because it is this that drives the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of marketing.

Law #2: know what you want

Once you have defined the ‘why’ of your practice proposition, the next step is to clearly articulate what you want to achieve, both from a personal and a professional viewpoint.

Ultimately the aim of any marketing and communication plan is to drive the success of a business. But ‘success’ can be very different from one practice to another and understanding what success looks like in your individual circumstances enables you to develop plans and strategies with a clear focus of intent.

Law #3: know your patient numbers

One of the key areas in which dental professionals lack knowledge about their business is in the crucial matter of data collection and analysis.

Practice management systems contain huge amounts of valuable data about all aspects of a dental practice and knowing total patient numbers and importantly the numbers of patients being lost and gained by the practice each month is vital. In the same way knowing how many patients you need to acquire in order to grow is an important metric by which you can measure success.

Law #4: get to the top of Google

The importance of having an online presence can now no longer be ignored, and employing tactics that enhance your web presence and help you get to the top of Google’s rankings should form an important part of your marketing strategy.

Evidence suggests that internet searches work in one of two ways: either by locally searching for a dentist in a specific geographical area, or by directly searching for a practice by name. The former is most likely to be conducted by prospective patients who have no preference for a particular practice, whilst a direct search suggests that the prospect has received some form of practice communication, or possibly a personal recommendation.

Ensuring your website is optimised to take best advantage of both of these opportunities should be an integral part of every practice’s digital strategy.

Law #5: ‘Own’ your Google search

Once your practice has reached the top of Google the work is not over. Getting onto page one can take many months. Once there you must dominate the search results page, and the role played in this by Google reviews is crucial.

Businesses that reach the top of Google without reviews are easily overshadowed by those who may be in fourth or fifth place but have a number of four or five-star reviews.

Law #6: target the right patients at the right time

Sending targeted communications is one of the fundamental principles of marketing. Patients are more susceptible to marketing messages at specific points in their life and ensuring your messages resonate with patients at the time when they are most receptive is key to achieving positive results. For example, marketing dental implants to patients with missing teeth or those with dentures is more likely to be successful in terms of enquiries, consultations and ultimately treatment uptake, than targeting your entire patient base.

Law #7: balance promotional messages with education

It’s important that as dental professionals, you do not lose sight of the educational aspects of a dentist’s role. Tempering special offers and promotional messages with those that educate and inform about oral health is far from counter intuitive.

Achieving this balance is likely to result in better patient engagement and treatment acceptance, and is more likely to give a greater return on investment in the long run.

Law #8: know it’s happening. Automate

One of the biggest problems in a busy dental practice is that the focus is often on dealing with the patients who are in the practice, leaving little time to organise and execute marketing campaigns. Just as with automated recalls, which are now second nature for the majority of practices, the ability to automate marketing campaigns is a really useful tool for practice managers. Automating the sending of often sophisticated campaigns mean that managers can ‘set and forget’ within their practice management system, safe in the knowledge that once created, the software will take care of and run the campaign as required, automatically.

Law #9: know what’s working…and what’s not!

Establishing procedures for understanding those aspects of campaigns that are most successful is a vital aid to improvement. Using a software system that provides data on the success or otherwise of campaigns enables managers to analyse results in a way that has often been perceived as complex and time consuming.

Using software that provides this information allows managers to identify at which stage of the process the communication might have broken down; providing important knowledge that helps support future improvement.

Law #10: know your ROI

Return on Investment (ROI) is a cornerstone of assessing marketing success. Unfortunately, few practitioners have the knowledge required to fully understand their ROI and according to Software of Excellence’s research, over 75% either do not measure success or do so only occasionally, leaving many to rely on ‘gut feeling’ rather than hard evidence to assess the success of a campaign. The reluctance to measure ROI however is not born of apathy, but rather that dentists feel they do not have access to the appropriate tools to enable them to accurately analyse success.

By using the tools now available in Exact V12, Software of Excellence is helping practices become more successful, not only by making their internal processes more efficient, but also by ensuring that their marketing messages are relevant, targeted and tracked. In doing so we are able to make a significant impact on the revenue generation potential of a practice and ensure that the opportunity presented by digital visibility is well and truly exploited.

Bill Starkie is presenting a series of business insight seminars on patient marketing throughout 2016 at various locations around the UK. For more information visit

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