Marketing: old vs new?
Tim Caudrelier asks, should your marketing strategy change depending on whether your practice is brand new or well established?
For any business that relies on the custom of the public, it is essential that people know about it and what it offers. Particularly when a new business opens, loud and widespread advertising is necessary to encourage visitors and therefore establish a customer-base.
This is no different in dentistry – while the key focus will ever be on patient care, the fact remains that a practice is a business and it requires sufficient custom from the local community in order to cover costs and be successful. Initially, more advertising will be necessary to ‘get the word out’. Once starting to create a patient-base, a marketing strategy becomes indispensable as it will guide all future communications in a pre-determined and therefore more efficient way.
The nature of the new practice will have an affect on the budget and resources available for initial promotion. For example, if the practice is part of a large dental corporate, it is likely to have a large network of contacts as well as the resources to make a big splash in the local area and reach a huge number of people very quickly. Practices being opened perhaps by a first-time principal, however, would usually have less time and money to spend on promotion, so any activities would need to be more carefully targeted and executed in order to maximise their potential. A marketing strategy from the very beginning could be useful here so as to identify and target the right audience in the right way from the very beginning.
Effective marketing is just as vital for established dental practices. While they may not need to do quite as much advertising as a newly opened provider, it is more important for them to maintain consistent messages and remain in the community’s mind. A long-term marketing plan is therefore crucial to enable the practice to promote specific treatments or services at particular times of the year, thereby properly utilising special occasions or seasonal events. Existing practices will also need to focus more on nurturing patient relationships and building on the rapport already initiated. This involves regular (but not too regular!) contact, providing useful information or oral health advice – the key is to establish the practice as a place of expertise so that patients think of it whenever they need help or support.
Similar principles can be followed to upsell to existing patients. By demonstrating the full range of services and treatments available with in-house posters, TV loops and leaflets, it ensures those visiting the practice are aware of everything the team can do and gives them the opportunity to find out more. Referral cards can also be a huge advantage, as any recommendation by a happy patient to family and friends is a highly efficient and cost-effective form of practice promotion.
The marketing material itself should not differ all that much between a new and old practice. When promoting the key services and treatments on offer, all messages should be consistent and reflect the branding of the practice. It is also beneficial to communicate the personal and emotional benefits of the services available, rather than simply describing procedures. For example, someone is far more likely to show interest in dental implants if they believe treatment would allow them to eat and speak properly again and give them back their confidence. Simply telling them that implants would replace their dentures and explaining the clinical process, is not usually enough to cause them to act.
The marketing channels used may also be similar between new and old practices and may range from adverts on local radio stations to newspaper ads and posters in local schools or clubs. The practice may also have an opportunity to get involved with the community and sponsor or support an event – all of these avenues will ensure the practice’s name is seen or heard. Just be sure to concentrate on those channels that best reach the target audience for the best return on marketing investment.
At the end of the day, whether promoting a new practice or a well established one, it’s important to plan ahead and then monitor progress. There are tools available to help guide practice owners and managers to success, such as AIM from 7connections, so utilisation of such solutions should be considered too.
Tim Caudrelier is an experienced and versatile business consultant, coach and mentor with a proven track record. He has extensive experience in driving growth, cost management, and service improvement in the hospitality, health and leisure market. A partner in 7connections business coaching, Tim was instrumental in developing its results-driven services to optimise the effectiveness and profitability of dental practices across the UK.
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