It is time to embrace marketing
As a dental professional, you are facing unfamiliar challenges running and marketing your practice. You are confronting increased competition (both locally and abroad), an oversupply of dentists, ever-rising practice operating costs, and more marketing-savvy patients. On top of this, your potential patients are becoming more discerning about where they go to get dental services, with many heading overseas. Focusing on your patient communication strategy needs to be a priority for your dental practice.
To achieve practice success, it is essential to build long-term relationships with patients and prospects. Long-term patients are more likely to feel satisfied. It is they who welcome the opportunity to refer others to you and who will continue to use your services in the future.
It is now more critical than ever for you and your staff to focus on your patient communication skills.
Marketing is everything… everything is marketing
When I talk to dentists, I notice there is still a common belief that practice marketing and patient communication is all about advertising and selling.
Marketing is everything a practice does to educate existing and prospective patients about your services. It’s everything from an advertisement in the local newspaper, practice brochures, website and online presence, through to patient communication and patient satisfaction.
The objectives of effective marketing and communication include:
- Educate patients about a practice’s services
- Attract new patients
- Retain existing patients
- Extend the lifetime of each patient in the practice
- Extend the lifetime value of each patient
The key to great marketing and communication is about finding out who your ideal patients are, working out how to reach them, and letting them know about your services.
If you wish to grow a sustainable practice, now is the time for you to embrace marketing and communication at the core of your business.
Why interpersonal relations are critical
Successful marketing and patient communication begins with interpersonal relations. I have seen many practices attempt to implement marketing strategies, only to be thwarted at every turn because the dental team lacked suf?cient interpersonal skills. One of the first areas that should be addressed before implementing any marketing campaigns is training the team in interpersonal relations.
If the team lacks suf?cient verbal and interpersonal skills, they will provide average patient service and will probably not build strong relationships with patients. If this is the case then any attempts at carrying out internal marketing will likely fail.
Developing your practice brand
Branding and the communication of your brand message is an extremely important aspect of your practice. An effective brand strategy helps you to differentiate yourself from your competition, to stand out from the crowd, and to articulate your values. Your practice brand is what you communicate visually and verbally to your patients and community.
To build and maintain a strong brand, you will need to be consistent in your branding in every point of contact patients have with you.
Creating your practice brand message
Your marketing should be directed to both existing and prospective patients who do not know you. You need, therefore, to create a consistent branding or marketing message for use in your communications that takes this into account.
It starts with knowing the wants, fears, problems, and needs of your target market and ends with crafting a message that speaks to those issues in a compelling and believable way. The result is an irresistible hook that makes your prospect want to know more.
The biggest marketing message mistake that practices make is talking about themselves and not about their patients. Your brand message is what grabs your prospect’s attention, tells them how you can solve their problem, why they should trust you, and why they should choose to come to your practice over and above any and all other choices they might have.
Your brand message should ‘speak’ to your potential patients. You need to appeal to your ideal patient’s and talk about the areas that will trigger an emotional reaction.
How is your brand consistency?
Your branding elements should be consistent and repeated throughout all of your communication with your patients.
If all these are consistently in line with your brand values, your brand will be strengthened. But if they are not in line, your brand and your business could be seriously damaged. A brand makes promises to customers and if they aren’t fulfilled, your customers will be far less likely to see you again.
Key elements of your patient communication
Every possible contact and piece of communication with a patient or potential patient should reinforce your brand and marketing messages.
I believe that the following are the critical elements that should be part of every practice’s marketing and communication strategy:
- Dental logo design – Professionally designed
- Practice stationery (business cards, brochures, etc.)- High quality and professionally designed
- Premises – Modern premises and smart employee uniforms
- Dental website design – Professionally designed, mobile-friendly, with unique content that is frequently updated
- Search engine marketing strategy – Blog, SEO and pay per click advertising
- Existing patient communication (email newsletters) – Regular patient communication
- Photography – The use of professional photography in marketing
- Reputation management – Monitoring and learning from what patients are writing in online reviews
- Social Media strategy – Strategy on if social media is right for your practice
Great practice marketing and communication takes focus and commitment. It takes time to pass your messaging on from you to your staff, from your staff to your patients, and from your patients to other potential patients and into the community. Stay disciplined and consistent. Branding success happens slowly, not all at once. But believe me, persistence pays off.
I would love to hear from you if you have questions about your dental marketing or would like to know more about my book. If you are at ADX16, please visit the My Dental Marketing booth (#142) and say ‘hello’, it would be great to meet you.