Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
There is a straightforward three-step process to identifying and addressing new patients. By Daniel Warren
Finding out how to quickly attract new patients to your dental practice is stressful and a bit scary. Building up word-of-mouth referrals is great, but slow. Many people believe the logical solution lies in getting an advertising message out as widely as possible. Their thinking goes that if they advertise to a large population, a small percentage of those people will book an appointment. But that often doesn’t work.
“The response rate for advertising anywhere—including on social media or in traditional media—can be lower than one or two per cent,” explains Mark Brown, director of Engage Content. “If you live in a big city with a large population, that might be okay. If you’re in a regional centre, no matter how much you advertise, you may only be reaching a limited group.”
According to Brown, there is a straightforward, three-step solution to that problem. That solution lies in targeting your marketing messages to speak to very specific groups. “You don’t have to worry about changing your practice or not treating other groups,” he says. “You just have to target your marketing. It also doesn’t matter whether you’re a new practice or an established one. You have to think about who isn’t being addressed with marketing right now, and what you can offer them.”
Take a drive
Brown says the first step in targeting your marketing involves taking a drive around your patient catchment area. “Take a drive to all the other dental practices in your area,” he says. “You don’t have to go inside. Just have a look at how they’re promoting themselves, and who is sitting in the waiting room. Just swing by a couple of times at different times of the day. I bet a fair few of them are called ‘family dental centre’. Or they have Invisalign or Zoom Whitening ads out the front. If you can see into the waiting room, who is sitting there? Are there mums with young kids? Old folk? Business people?”
Brown says this initial stage is just a process of elimination. None of the practices will be servicing everyone. There will always be groups around who aren’t represented there. Those groups are a prime target market.
“Were the patients in the other clinics young families? Fine, let’s talk about what you offer older patients. Plan to produce some messages on dentures, crowns and bridges, short-term orthodontics specifically for older patients, and so on.
“Or were the patients in the waiting rooms retirees? Great, plan some content around services for young women.
“Your actual services can be the same as anyone else’s. It’s the way you’re targeting a group that’s important. I know and you know that whitening is for everyone. But for the purposes of your marketing, talk about whitening for a specific group.”
Using your blog
To attract and build a loyal patient base, you need people to know, like and trust you. You need to answer their questions before they come to you. The easiest and quickest way to do that is with a blog on your website.
If you can’t get a blog put onto your website because you don’t know how, google ‘How to set up a free WordPress blog’,” Brown explains. It’s not an ideal solution from an SEO point of view, but at least you will have something.
“Fill the blog with content targeted at those people who aren’t being serviced by the other practices around town,” he adds.
“So not just on dental implants, but articles on dental implants for older patients. By the way, don’t write about your CEREC machine. No-one cares.”
Getting your message out there
Once you have some content, he says, the next step is getting the word out. An email newsletter to existing patients is easy for growing practices. New practices might want to put a link to new blog posts on their Facebook page.
“If you’re sending out an email newsletter, keep your email list separate from your patient database,” Brown warns. “That way, patients can still unsubscribe from the newsletter if they want to. But they’ll remain contactable by you.
“If you’re putting a link to your new posts onto your Facebook page, it’s a good idea to pay a few dollars to boost the post. Just because someone has liked your page doesn’t mean they will see the post in their news feeds. Making you pay to reach people is Facebook’s business model. And it’s not a lot to pay to get results.”
By following these steps, you’ll get to the starting line with your marketing. In summary, that means identifying who isn’t being addressed by your competitors. Then think about what you can say to those people. Then start talking to them.