This article originally appeared in the October/2019 issue of the Academy of General Dentistry’s AGD Impact magazine.
By: Jackie Ulasewich
As a newly minted dental school graduate, you’re probably eager to get your practice up and running. While you are trained in providing dental care, you may find that getting new patients requires another set of skills. Growing your dental practice isn’t necessarily an “if you build it, they will come” endeavor. Taking marketing shortcuts in the beginning may cost even more money in a few years if you need to fix components like your website or online ads. Marketing can be overwhelming, but there are foundational elements that will help set you on the right track.
Often, startups will choose a company that provides ready-made websites that use the same theme for all their clients but swap out the practice name, address and logo. We suggest instead working with an agency that will help you create a unique website.
Your website should:
- Highlight your strengths and what sets you apart from your competitors.
- Have strong calls to action such as an appointment request button toward the top of the website.
- Include prominent phone number placement in the header.
- Show images of you, your team and the practice.
- Have copy that is customized to your practice.
If done correctly the first time, there should be no need to overhaul your website in a few years. Remember, your website is often potential patients’ first impression. Choosing to put your best foot forward online from the get-go will, provide a solid foundation for all of your marketing and get more patients into your practice.
Online reviews can be a determining factor as to whether or not a new patient will book an appointment with you. New practices can miss opportunities by not having a solid review strategy in place. Unfortunately, there are low-cost third-party review sites that promise to help but yield little or no results. You might end up with hundreds of great reviews on these sites, but what’s the point if no one sees them? Make sure you are using software that pushes your patients to Google or Facebook where they can leave a review, or have a team member send direct links. Again, be mindful that reviews populated and stored on third-party websites and then pushed to your Facebook news feed are a wasted effort. Reviews need to be left directly on places like Google and Facebook for them to have value. Start encouraging reviews early.
Another marketing shortcut that tends to delay the growth of practices is handing off social media management to a team member who is already juggling multiple tasks. The mistake practice owners make is assuming that simply posting on social media once a month is equal to marketing. We suggest posting at least a few times a week. Humanize yourself by sharing facts about you and your practice. You can post before-and-after photos, upload video testimonials, respond to reviews and engage with people commenting on posts. To grow your following, also comment on other local companies’ posts from your practice page. Sharing events or news in your community is a great way to connect and build brand awareness, too.
Online Business Listings
Business listings are a road map to your practice. The clearer the listing, the easier it is to find you. Make sure your listings are set up properly, or the result is lost time and, ultimately, lost patients. Optimize your business listings on Google and other sites such as Yelp, Bing, Yahoo and Whitepages. We can’t list every one because there are hundreds, which is why it’s important to work with an agency or company that can help populate, manage and synchronize all of these listings. At a minimum, new practices should be on the top-10 rated listing sites.
While you can consult different sources for which listing sites are the best, here are our recommendations:
- Google My Business.
- Citysearch.com (business info must be added via InfoUSA’s ExpressUpdate.com).
Listings should include your website URL, landing pages, reviews and other important information to help potential patients find you. Integrate your listings into your overall marketing strategy in order to connect the dots for your patients — don’t leave it up to your audience to figure out how to go from a listing to your website or landing page for more information.
As a new practice, we realize that hiring an agency to manage your online advertising might not be a priority. Instead, we see practice owners use a coupon for $100 worth of free Google ads to try it out for themselves. Due to the time-intensive and technical nature of Google ads, the result is little-to-no new patients, wasted time and a dislike for online advertising. Practice owners will instead invest thousands of dollars in a traditional marketing strategy like postcard mailings. My agency suggests starting with professionally managed online ads because they can be heavily tracked and optimized and, when done properly, will most likely yield results.
New practices can make great gains by laying marketing foundations early. A savvy marketing strategy can jump-start patient acquisition, and investing in branding and marketing at the onset will actually save you money and headaches in the long run.