This article originally appeared in February/2023 on DentistryToday.com.
Do You Know What’s Happening In Your Market?
By: Jackie Ulasewich-Cullen
Once a dental practice becomes established, with a steady flow of patients in and out of the office every day, most dentists begin to focus almost exclusively on the day-to-day operations and what goes on within the walls of the office. They stop thinking in terms of the wider market, how it may be changing, and whether competing practices might be gaining more market share or encroaching on their patient base. This is understandable. Running a practice is a lot of work, and as human beings, we can only pay attention to so many things at once, so we prioritize. And for a dental practice, that mostly means taking care of the immediate needs that keep everything running smoothly. It is easy to lose sight of what else may be happening outside of the practice that is impacting new and existing business. As a dental marketing agency, it is our job to keep our eyes on the market. We understand how much online marketing has evolved over the years, and that even small differences can lead a potential patient to choose one practice over another.
Staying in the know
When was the last time you or your marketing specialist looked online to see what other practices in the area are doing? Staying up to date can be as simple as a Google search in the immediate area. You might be surprised to see new practices in your market or even established ones that have recently stepped up their game. Perhaps a specialist has moved into the area, providing an opportunity for patient referrals back and forth. Is a large corporate dental office opening an office nearby? If so, that’s typically a sign of recent or expected population growth in the area. Whatever the case may be, it is always to your benefit to stay aware of what is happening in the immediate vicinity and nearby communities, especially if you’ve been noticing a change in patient flow or the number of inquiries and phone calls coming your way.
Who is the competition, really?
Practices don’t tend to see other practices in their area as true competition because they offer a different service or experience or treat a different clientele. However, online, all practices look very similar to a new patient. So, while your practice may be quite different from the others around, a potential patient is unlikely to get that impression from a simple online search, which means that every other practice in your area is your direct competition. Sure, once a patient comes through the doors, it’s easy to impress them with a welcoming atmosphere and excellent service, but you have to get them to the door first, and if your practice’s online presence is inferior to others in the area, your chances of attracting new patients will be diminished.
Does your practice stand out?
One of the most important ways you can make your practice jump out at new patients is by demonstrating it on your website and through your other digital marketing channels. Your practice’s online presence should be oriented towards educating new patients on why it is unique. Go online and compare your practice’s website to five others in the area. Evaluate the look and feel of each website, including your own. Count how many online reviews each practice has. Try to find the other practices on social media. Does it look like their Facebook and Instagram pages are actively managed, with new content in the last two weeks? Look at how the other practices are portraying themselves online. Are they taking advantage of tools that your practice is not, such as blog posts or video content? All of these things are important differentiators and can be a deciding factor for a potential patient.
Making an impression
Checking out what is going on in your market periodically is good practice because it gives you a sense of how everything looks from a potential patient’s perspective. Anything your practice is doing that the others are not is a feather in your cap. However, is it enough? If you go online and cannot honestly say that, as a patient looking for a new dentist, you would select your own practice over others, it is a sign that there are shortcomings in your online marketing approach. If you do not already, you need to think about your online presence as a marketing tool and not just a way for patients to see your location, phone number, and the types of services you offer.
Consider how you could optimize the practice’s website to convey the message that you are the best choice. Ask your marketing partner to come up with a plan to update your website to be cleaner and more modern, have more reviews, and better convey your practice’s “personality”. Think critically about your social media presence and whether your practice should be more active online, create more engaging content, or possibly even add another platform. Use the tools at your disposal to “sell” the practice rather than just give required information. Your practice’s online image is critical to its success, whether yours is 1 of 3 in the area or 1 of 25.
There are plenty of patients for every dental practice to be successful, which is why we never want our clients to obsess over what others are doing as far as pricing, promotions, or advertising. However, we do actively encourage them to stay aware of what is going on around them in general. Continuing to stay tuned into community developments and knowing about the other practices in the area is just common-sense marketing. It also makes it harder to become complacent and easier to take advantage of opportunities to outshine the competition online and in person.