Small business, big ideas

Focusing on marketing, Harry Singh offers five top tips on how to promote your dental practice effectively

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of potential marketing ideas that may be useful in the promotion of a dental practice, but only a handful will deliver great results for you. This is because every practice is different, which means your marketing strategy needs to suit your practice (not any old practice!) Recognising that marketing can be a daunting prospect for many principals and their teams, this article offers an easy introduction.

1. Create SMART goals

There’s no point going into a marketing campaign blindly. You need a road map or you will never know if you have achieved anything of value – for your practice, your team or you patients!

A SMART plan is a great way forward; that is, one that is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely. So, by way of an example:

•    Specific: I want my non-surgical facial aesthetics gross income to increase by 20% over a 12-month period

•    Measurable: I want the practice’s website to bring in 10 new facial aesthetics patients per month

•    Achievable: every new visitor to the website must be asked to leave contact details and those who do must receive a follow-up phone call/email to help make the goal achievable

•    Relevant: look at the key aims of the business plan, so that your marketing can genuinely support the desired outcome. There’s no point, for example, in focusing on your dental branding if your aim is to increase facial aesthetics

•    Timely: as part of the ‘specifics’ of your plan you ought already to have a period of time in mind. It is a good idea to divide this into smaller increments, perhaps checking figures every month to ensure you are on track. That way, if you aren’t, you can take action early on to help achieve the overall goal.

2. The three Ms

I use the three Ms for any marketing campaign.

1.    Market. Who is your target market (consider age, gender, income, location and lifestyle)? As part of this, you need to ask yourself why they should buy from you and not your ‘competitor’ down the road. Differentiating yourself in the market is key to success

2. Message. This needs to convey what you do, why they should they choose you (this should have been ascertained in considering the market in point 1), and your unique selling proposition; again, what is it about you that distinguishes you from the general marketplace?

3. Medium. How are you going to deliver your message? Will it be online, via leaflets, or advertising, perhaps? You need to use those that are going to appeal to your chosen markets.

4. And here you can find out the rules and standards for color marking of wires and cables.

3. Social networking

Many a dentist inwardly groans at the idea of social networking, but the truth is you ignore it at your peril. The latest figures from ‘We are Social’ suggest that there are 38 million active social media users in the UK. Out of a total population of 64.9 million; that’s a penetration rate of 59%.

Having established the stats to support a foray into social media, let’s look at how easy it can actually be to dispel any fears you may harbour. Facebook itself offers a guide on how to use it for marketing purposes here

In a nutshell, it teaches you how to:
1.    Set up your page
2.    Identify your audience
3.    Create compelling content
4.    Advertise
5.    Measure and adjust.

In addition, it’s a great idea when you set up your page to request a web address – I have, among others, – which makes it easy to find. Then, to maximise the impact, include this address on your business cards, on your website and other marketing materials you are producing.

4. Network in reality

Talk to other practice principals who have been there and done that! One of the great things about dentistry is that it tends to be a friendly profession, with most happy to share their experiences. That means you can find out first-hand what has and hasn’t worked for others. That said, it doesn’t have to be just dentists from whom you seek advice.

Never be too scared to ask someone who is successful how they got there. A good businessperson is a good businessperson, irrespective of their field of expertise; the initial criterion is whether you respect them.

Why not join a breakfast club or look up when your next local postgraduate deanery event is taking place? You don’t need to be alone in this endeavour, so don’t make yourself a loner.

It can also be useful to have discussions with colleagues within the business, as they know the practice best, so team meetings are also an essential element of achieving successful business outcomes.

5. Patient referrals

Happy patients are, in fact, the greatest of all the marketing tools. People love to talk about the experiences – both good and bad. So when you have delivered the best possible clinical care that either meets or exceeds your patients’ expectations, do encourage them to share their story with others.

You can, of course, hope that they will take it upon themselves to capitalise on word of mouth for you but I don’t recommend it. Be proactive! There is no shame in asking for referrals from a happy patient. In addition, you can ask them to give out your card to anyone they come across who seems interested in your services – just make sure you have up to date and comprehensive information on there, and your reception staff are trained to deal with their calls effectively, such that they translate into consultation appointments.

You may also be able to offer incentives, but just one caveat here – if you do, make sure you aren’t contravening any GDC or other governing body’s regulations.

Stand out from the crowd

Someone once said: ‘You have to learn the rules of the game. And then, you have to play better than anyone else.’
You know the rules of the clinical dentistry game and, no doubt, excel in practice. Now learn the rules of marketing, to make you and your business stand out from the crowd, and there is no better time than now!

Key points

1. Smart goals
Specific – Measurable – Achievable – Relevant – Timely

2. Market – message – medium
Target your campaigns effectively

3. Social networking
Take advantage of online guides

4. Network in reality
Learn from other successful people

5. Referrals
Make use of happy patients

Dr Harry Singh BChD MFGDP
Harry has been carrying out facial aesthetics since 2002 and has treated over 3,000 cases. In his last dental practice (focused on aesthetics) he ended up performing more facial aesthetic treatments than dental treatments. Due to the very high profit margins associated with facial aesthetics, he decided to concentrate on facial aesthetics and currently has over 850 facial aesthetic patients. Harry is not only a skillful facial aesthetician but also a keen marketer, which he feels is vital to attract and retain patients requesting facial aesthetic services. He has published numerous articles on the clinical and non-clinical aspects of facial aesthetics, and spoken at dental and facial aesthetics conferences on these topics.
Email: [email protected]

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