Dental Marketing Strategies to Grow Your Practice by Looking through the Eyes of Your Patient
At some point in your practice’s history, you’ve sought out how to attract new dental patients to your practice. From attending webinars to continuing education courses, you have filled your brain with excellent tactics on how to drive more patients to your practice.
Often, when you walk out of the course, you have a million ideas to grow your patient base at your practice, but you do not know where to start. Not to fear! Here are some ways to implement strategic marketing initiatives for your dental practice.
Why Patients Look for a New Dentist
At some point, a patient is going to be looking for a new dentist. Some of the most common reasons a patient searches for a new dentist include:
- A negative experience with a previous office: Patients often will look for a new dentist if they have had a negative experience with a previous dentist. They may have had to wait too long, or felt like they were treated as a number instead of as a person. These people are motivated to get the dental care they need and will keep looking until they find a dentist with whom they feel comfortable.
- New to the area: Patients that have just moved to the area are more than likely going to be searching for a dentist.
- Seeking a specialist or specific service: Some patients may be seeking out a specialist or an expert in a specific dental procedure. For example, if their child needs braces, they may call an orthodontist without referrals. Or they may be interested in dental implants, teeth whitening, or another service that will improve their smile.
No matter what is causing that patient to search for a new dentist, the patient is actively seeking a solution to a problem or need. The operative word here is “search.” While social media marketing, ads and other methodologies have their place, a patient looking for a new dentist is going to be searching for you. Where do they search? Online!
When setting yourself up for online success, there are a number of terms that we are going to discuss, but they can be broken into two categories: (1) Rankings and (2) Ratings.
Rankings - The Importance of Search Engines in Dental Marketing
Your ranking is simply the spot in which you appear on a search engine results page (SERP). That’s just a fancy way of describing all the results that are displayed after you click “search.” So, when you go to Google and you type in “Dentist Near Me,” what spot do you appear in? Are you at the very top of your page? If so, congratulations, you’re number one!
Your ranking indicates how likely a dental patient will be to click through to your website. In fact, if you are in the top spot, you are likely to receive a click-through rate (CTR) of 25-30%. That will decline exponentially as you move to spot two, three and four. So the question is: how do you get to that coveted, top spot? Here are some tips on your dental practice can rank number one in a Google search.
Search Engine Optimization for Dental Practices
Search engine optimization for dental practices is an effective way to get more people to find your website. SEO is simply the process of implementing keywords into your website and content to rank higher on the SERP. The keywords are the terms that people type into the search bar in Google, Yahoo or Bing to find information about a specific topic. There are certain keywords for your dental practice that will drive more traffic to your website which in turn allows you to attract more dental patients. Here are a few dental SEO tips that can help:
- Use Google’s Page Speed Analyzer: This is one of SEO’s best kept secrets. Search engines send out web crawlers called “spiders” to scan your website. These bots look for many things including usability, speed and, of course, content. If your website is out-of-date, your website’s rank will take a hit.
- Content: Creating content for your website is important. Make sure you have relevant information about your practice including up-to-date bios and pictures of your team, information on various technologies you have and services you offer, etc. The more content you create that is relevant and easy-to-understand, the higher the likelihood you will rank better with search engines.
- Technology and Website: So many people are satisfied with their website from years ago. You may have invested several thousand dollars in a great site, but times change! Just as you probably do some home renovations every few years or buy a better, more fuel-efficient car, you should take advantage of new trends in technology and invest in updating your website. You want to project an image of being current and up-to-date to potential patients, and your website is often the first impression that a patient will have of you and your team. Not only does this create a better user experience and is attractive to new dental patients, it also helps with your SEO.
All of these tips will help as a part of your dental marketing plan to increase new dental patient traffic to your website. However, SEO is not the only thing that impacts your search engine ranking.
Pay-Per-Click Ads to Attract New Dental Patients
One of the best ways to get new dental patients when they search online is via pay-per-click (PPC) search engine ads. Remember, new dental patients are most likely to click the top one or two results. Paid search ads are one of the best ways to appear at the top and capture those early clicks.
Here is a bit more information on how to know what your dental marketing budget should be acquiring new patients:
Do not neglect to spend money where it matters. It is important to set the right dental marketing budget for online marketing. Remember, the lifetime value of a dental patient is literally thousands of dollars.
Is Google My Business Important For Dental Offices?
With the rise in hyper-local search, dental practices must be vigilant to increase their visibility when a potential patient searches for a dentist nearby. In addition to using SEO best practices on your website, it is important that you also make sure all of your social profiles are updated as well. Your hours, URLs and address should be consistent across Yelp, Facebook, Google, etc. All of this can impact your ranking. But for now, we will focus on the importance of Google My Business.
By claiming the Google My Business profile for your dental office, you are able to control how your practice is displayed on the search results page. Google’s algorithm is so smart, it knows that when a patient searches for a dentist, it should show local results instead of pulling up a Wikipedia page defining what a dentist is. The same is true if you were to search “coffee shop” or “Italian restaurant.” It will pull up places near you. The number one way for your dental practice to appear at the top of Google searches it to activate your Google My Business profile and manage that. With the right call tracking software, as we will discuss in a bit, you will be on your way to confirming that new patient appointment.
The Importance of Click-to-Call
In all of your ads, promotions and marketing for your dental practice, you absolutely must have clear call-to-actions (CTAs). A call-to-action is what makes someone move from a “researcher” to a patient. Having great SEO, local listings and a beautiful website is important, but if a prospective patient does not have a clear path to set an appointment, you’ve wasted every dollar you spend on all those marketing efforts. This is the biggest dental marketing fail. It is important to have your phone number clearly listed on every advertisement, on your Google My Business listing, and in multiple places on your website. In fact, on your dental mobile website, your phone number should have a big “Click-to-Call” button right at the top. Google will already add this feature if you include your number on your Google ads. It’s also an important part of your dental practice promotion strategy to include call-tracking software. You need to know where every caller comes from and whether or not they converted to an appointment. This will help you better measure return on investment (ROI) of your dental patients.
Ratings - Why Your Dental Practice’s Online Reputation Matters
Online reputation management for dental practices is a hot topic. Getting patient ratings should be a critical part of your dental marketing plan. These ratings show up on platforms like Google, Yelp and Facebook to help solidify that your practice creates an outstanding experience for all patients.
For the first time in history, personal referrals to dentists offices are not as powerful as online reviews. In fact, an online review of your practice can solidify whether or not a patient will pick up the phone and call to schedule that appointment. A recent study shows that 93% of your patients will decide whether or not to go to your practice based on online reviews.
Your ratings can directly influence your ranking. If you have no reviews or poor reviews, the search engine algorithms will show other practices with better reviews first. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Quality over quantity: If you have a bunch of reviews that say “Great Practice,” that’s okay, but quantity does not equal quality. Without getting too in-depth, search engines are smart enough to detect if your online reviews are sincere and what the underlying sentiment of the posts are. Encourage your patients to share a bit more about their experience - what did they like most? Was it your team, the ease of scheduling, how their smile looked after their visit- these are the things that a potential patient who is researching your practice wants to know.
- Keep it consistent: The search engine algorithms tend to show dental practices that regularly get new reviews higher than ones that don’t. That means it’s better to have a few patients review you each week rather than a bunch review you all on one day.
- How to overcome a bad review on your dental practice: The best way to overcome a bad review is to have more good ones that outweigh it. There are always bah-humbugs that will publish some nasty remark. People ask, “Can you delete negative reviews from Google?” and the answer is no. Instead, you can post a polite reply such as, “We strive to provide excellent patient care and customer service every time. Please call our practice directly so we can address your concern.” In this case, one sour review will not spoil your dental practice’s online reputation as long as you have happy patients regularly posting happy reviews - and pushing down those few negative reviews.
Ratings and rankings go hand-in-hand and should be a critical part of your dental marketing strategy. Realize that there are both paid and free dental marketing practices you can put into place to help you increase your new patient volume.
Promotion Ideas to Attract New Dental Patients
Capturing a patient looking for a new dentist is relatively easy. Someone has a clear intent to take action and you can leverage the search aspects of your dental marketing plan to attract those patients that are searching for a new dentist. However, there are still thousands of potential patients in your area that may not be actively looking for a new dentist. The question is: how can you promote your dental practice so these patients switch to your practice? In marketing, we refer to this as an evergreen campaign. It’s the idea of running ongoing marketing tactics to maintain your brand and potentially capture new patients that were not necessarily looking to make a switch. There are both online and digital dental marketing techniques we will look at as well as traditional offline methods.
Ideas on How Dentists Can be Found Online
There are countless ways to make sure your dental practice can be found online both before and after a patient conducts a search on Google or one of the other search engines. Let’s explore some of the top ways you can attract new dental patients through online marketing and answer several common questions dentists have about the best way to get new patients.
Can Dentists Use Online Retargeting Ads?
Have you ever visited a website and then after you leave that site, you see an advertisement from that company? They are retargeting you. Without getting into too much technical detail, companies can place a tracking pixel on their website or leverage other customer data they have to target consumers throughout their online journey. We’ve all had the experience where we are scrolling through Instagram and that new pair of shoes we were looking at last week pops up. We wonder, how did they know? The shoe company is using retargeting strategies.
Dental practices can utilize retargeting ads online to maximize their reach in attracting new patients to their practices. These ads can be displayed on news sites, blogs, forums, social media and more. The best part is these ads are relatively inexpensive. But don’t forget, it is critical to display clear call-to-actions to get that patient to pick up the phone and call your practice.
What Should Dental Practices Post on Social Media?
Social media is a great platform to post updates on your dental practice. Remember that people buy from people that they like and trust. Just as you may use social media in your personal life to stay connected with people, your dental practice can, too. Here are some tips on what dental offices should post on their social media accounts:
- Keep it personal: People like to be able to relate to you. Did you have a fun holiday part or are you celebrating a birthday? Post pictures showing off the fact that your office is human and you like to have fun. It gives the sense of community.
- Provide Dental Insights: If it is National Dental Assistants week, post something about what a day in the life of an assistant looks like or post fun pictures of your dental assistants. Educate people, but again, keep it personal.
- Show happy patients: First things first, make sure your HIPAA docs are in order and you have the proper photo releases--but after doing that, share your patient stories and testimonials, as appropriate, on your social media channels. A fun picture of a patient who just finished Invisalign or just had a bridge seated or just had their teeth whitened - these are all great examples!
- Expose what non-patients are missing: By highlighting the fun in your office and special perks you offer like mints when you walk in or soothing oils and scents for the operatory, you can invoke FOMO (fear of missing out). This is a great social media tactic that can especially capture the attention of Millennials. If your practice has cooler amenities and nicer perks than their current dental practice, they may make the switch.
- Call-to-actions in your office: This is an easy one: make sure your phone number or a tracking phone number is clearly displayed on each of your social media channels. Also, if you have a custom hashtag or just want people to tag your profiles during their visit, make sure your social media information is clearly displayed in the operatories and check-out area.
- Ask patients to post pictures on their own social media sites: While it’s great when a patient signs the consent form and gives you permission to share their picture on your practice’s social media sites, it’s even more impactful when they share their picture on their own social media sites. That’s the best type of word-of-mouth advertising and the quickest way to let their friends, family and colleagues know how great your team is at customer service and patient care.
Dental practice’s social media posts should be ones that are about connecting with their patient population, not trying to sell them. This keeps your practice front of mind and is a great source of marketing to existing patients.
Does Social Media Advertising Work for Dental Practices?
Posting on your social media channels is free and your growth is organic. However, you can also do paid social media ads. Paid ads allow you to market to prospective patients. Unless you provide very elective procedures like exclusive teeth whitening, TMJ specialization or implants, paying for social media advertising is not always as effective as search might be. If you’re looking to build your dental practice to focus on some of these things, then social media advertising (paid) can be effective. For example, if you offer multiple services, adding these each in a carousel ad on Facebook or Instagram could be very effective. It shows your practice is the one-stop dental office for multiple needs. In cases like these, paid social ads could encourage patients to switch to your office. If you’re looking for the new family that moved in down the road that is searching for a new dentist, search engine marketing may be a better route. All-in-all, it is important to understand what your goal is for your dental marketing campaigns and target tactics that help you reach your maximum ROI.
Do Traditional Advertising Methods Work for Dentists?
Online advertising as well as free and organic online promotion is quickly becoming the primary way in which dentists are advertising. However, there are still some offline traditional mediums that dentists use. So does traditional advertising work for dental practices? The answer is a clear and resounding...it depends.
Very much like maintaining social media accounts, most traditional mediums such as radio, print ads, television and team sponsorships help a dental office market to its new and existing customers and reinstill brand loyalty. If you look at the marketing funnel, the top of the funnel (meaning where new patients first find out about you) is the Awareness section. Moving down the marketing funnel, you have Consideration. This is where a prospective patient makes the decision to come to your practice. Most offline marketing techniques do in fact generate awareness, which is very important. This could include items like banners on the soccer field or sponsoring an ad in the local high school playbill.
Many people already have a dentist and seeing an advertisement is not something that is going to prompt them to schedule a new-patient exam and cleaning. Your ad has to appear at the right place and at the right time.
That said, in the case of high-end cosmetic procedures or specialty elective cases, advertisements in print or on the radio may still make sense. Regardless of your medium, it is critical you have a clear call to action. You need to get patients to call your practice and in turn, make sure your team answering the phones knows how to convert that caller into a lifetime patient.
Most Important Marketing Investment for Attracting New Dental Patients
If you take everything we’ve talked about and implement it, you are headed down the path to growing your dental practice with new patients. However, once your phone starts ringing, you need to make sure your team is turning those callers into booked appointments. It’s important to ensure everyone in the practice views your phone as a profit center.
As soon as that new prospective patient finds you online or clicks on one of your ads, you want them to call your practice. Congratulations! They’ve done what you wanted them to do; your marketing strategies were effective. Now your team needs to convince the caller they’ve made the right choice by calling you and that you’re ready to help them. The only way you can know if you succeed with your marketing efforts is to implement in-depth call tracking practices to measure the return on investment (ROI).
What is Calling Tracking?
Call tracking simply uses custom numbers that instantly forward to your dental practice or call center. There’s no delay for the caller, and no change in how your team member answers the phone. Sophisticated call tracking services record and phone call and analyze it so the dental practice owner knows what the caller wanted and if the call ended in a booked appointment. Patient Prism takes that one step further: it identifies the potential new patients who did not book an appointment and emails an alert to the dental practice within an hour with specific coaching tips so a team member can call back that potential patient, address his/her concerns, and win them back. It’s a second chance to identify and recapture missed opportunities and provide quick training to your team so they know how to handle a similar situation the next time it comes up.
For more on how call tracking works, click here.
About the Industry Leaders:
Ryan Vet is an entrepreneur, author and national speaker in dentistry. From his first start-up when he was 14 to executive leadership roles including at an Inc 500 company, Ryan shares how to turn ordinary opportunities into extraordinary experiences for everyone you meet. Ryan's experiences have allowed him to work with national brands including Warner Brothers and Samsung. He fell in love with the dental industry while his wife, Jessica, was attending the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill pursuing her DDS.
Ryan is as an official member of the Forbes Communications Council where his insights are shared in both Forbes.com articles and on expert panels. You can also find his writings in Dental Economics and other dental publications. Ryan is the host of The Dental Experience Podcast, on which Patient Prism calls and coaching can be heard. He's presented at local and national dental conferences including Hinman Dental Meeting, Yankee Dental Congress, Florida Dental Convention, and the American Association of Dental Office Managers. In addition to his entrepreneurial ventures in dental, Ryan owns two craft beverage lounges that serve coffee, craft beer, fine wine and whiskey called The Oak House!
Dr. Len Tau is well-known in the dental industry as "the Reputation Doctor." After working in a group practice for several years, Dr. Tau established his own private practice in Philadelphia, where he was named one of Philadelphia's Top Dentists. He now has more than two decades of experience as a practicing dentist and as a leading authority on digital marketing, online reputation marketing, and practice management consulting. "Dentistry Today" has named him one of the top leaders in dental consulting.
Dr. Tau speaks around the country on internet marketing, reputation marketing, social media, case presentation, team dynamics, and improving profits. He hosts "The Raving Patients Podcast" and is also a general manager at BirdEye, an online review management and customer experience software.