This article originally appeared in the May/2017 issue of the Academy of General Dentistry’s AGD Impact magazine.
You’ve been reading about digital marketing for months now. Maybe you’ve even attempted to implement some of the suggestions you feel comfortable with, such as posting more frequently to Facebook. That’s a great start, but knowing exactly which channels work best for you and understanding how they work in tandem can take your dental practice to the next level. The following information will not only help you focus your marketing efforts on what is best for you, but will also offer tips that you or a team member can do today – without having the tech savvy of a Silicon Valley programmer.
Why Digital is Important
At work or at play, your patients are glued to their devices. At work, they often spend breaks checking personal email, looking at their Facebook feed, and browsing the internet. At home, they have a tablet or smartphone within reach at all times. Your practice and marketing efforts need to be where your patients live – in the digital world.
An Overview of Digital Marketing Channels
You’re probably familiar with the digital channels that you use regularly in your personal time, but do you understand how they function in the marketing world? Below you will find a breakdown of the most effective digital marketing channels and how they can work for you.
- Google Pay-per-click
AdWords is Google’s version of pay-per-click (PPC). With a PPC campaign, you only pay when someone actually engages by clicking on your ad. You have total control: you determine the keywords, you write the ad, and you set the price-per-click. AdWords is the preferred PPC source for several reasons. With an estimated 1.6 billion visitors each month, Google continues to be the most popular search engine in the United States. Additionally, Google makes learning AdWords easy, with brief online tutorials and user-friendly instructions that are accessible even to those who would consider themselves to be technologically-challenged.
Facebook is an all-around invaluable resource. It is not only essential in helping you gain brand awareness, but also in helping you maintain a relationship with your current patients. The beauty of Facebook is in its limitless possibilities: you can use video to show off new equipment, post pictures of new staff members, or live stream a community event. You can create your own events – such as a lunch and learn – and invite patients to attend. Best of all, if you or a team member currently use Facebook for personal networking, then you already possess the know-how required to make it work for your practice. Facebook also provides you with easy-to-read analytics that let you know how many people have viewed your page, how many people you have reached, and how well you’ve engaged your audience – all of which help you optimize your marketing efforts.
Email is the key to personalization. Each message you send is written from your perspective and serves as a reminder to your patients that you are there for them beyond their semi-annual appointments. Emails can educate them about new trends in dentistry, remind them of the importance of regular cleanings, or even offer holiday specials to get them back in your office for cosmetic or restorative treatments. Even more effective are targeted email campaigns, which focus on patients who have inquired about treatments – such as adult orthodontics – but have not followed through. Sometimes, all they need to get on board is more information or a mere reminder of the services you offer.
Blogging is a way to establish yourself as an expert in your field. When you regularly remind patients that you stay aware of the latest research, know about trends in the industry, or have just acquired new equipment that will benefit them, then they know that you take their care and your business seriously. Blogging also allows you to educate your patients. Worried that they’re damaging their enamel with acidic food and drinks or that they need help selecting the least harmful candy at Halloween? Tell them through your blog. Sharing your vast knowledge of dentistry with your patients not only reinforces their faith in you, but also serves as a reminder that you are available for much more than deep cleanings and fillings.
- Review Campaigns
Whether they are referred to you by a friend or simply came across your Facebook page, people are going to look at your online reviews before making an appointment. Review campaigns give you an organized method for soliciting patient reviews: you select the time frame and platform, contact the patients whom you’ve recently seen, and respond promptly to all reviews – both positive and negative – so patients know that you appreciate their feedback. Beware of using specialized review sites, however; while they may focus on one particular market, they are useless if the reviews go unseen. Stick to sites you know your patients visit, such as Google or Facebook.
Time is precious to us all, so when we get that rare moment to browse the web without interruption, we treasure it. Unfortunately, those moments are all too few. When life gets in the way, remarketing helps your potential patients get back on track and click on your ad. Here is an example of how remarketing works: Alex is watching the Final Four with friends and casually mentions that he’s looking for a new dentist. Melanie suggests your practice, so Alex picks up his phone to search your practice. He’s on your homepage when – all of a sudden – someone banks a half-court shot and wins the game, ending Alex’s search. Because you use remarketing, however, when Alex gets back on his phone to watch a replay, your ad will reappear as a reminder that his friend Melanie referred you. Even better? You only pay when Alex actually clicks the ad.
Whether you use some or all of the digital marketing channels above, they are most effective when they work together. For example: your website will invite people to like your Facebook page or read your latest blog post; Facebook, PPC ads, and remarketing direct patients to your website; Emails can contain direct links to your blog, Facebook page, and review platform, which can all redirect viewers to your site. Individually, each channel is accessible and will improve the visibility of your practice; when integrated, however, these channels will both help you grow your practice and allow you to forge stronger relationships with your patients.