How to make your practice advertising more effective


Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

how to make your practice advertising more effective

Getting more bang for your buck when it comes to advertising your practice is easy when you know how. By Daniel Warren

In comparison to doing actual dentistry, dental advertising is easy. “All you have to do is send the right message to the right people at the right time,” explains Mark Brown of Engage Content. “Getting your message to an audience has never been easier.” 

Ironically, though, ease of communication is one of the reasons why many practices struggle with their marketing.

“In the past you only had a few ways of getting to people, and those ways were vague and unreliable,” Brown says. “Ads in the phone book or direct mail flyers may or may not hit their targets. You never knew if or when your patients were checking their mailbox, or if they had a phone book handy.”

As a result, practices would blast their ad message out as widely as they could afford—then crossed their fingers and hoped that the right people saw it. Best practice also involved repeating the same message over and over again in case people missed it the first time.

And it worked most of the time. “Well, we think it did,” Brown qualifies, “because we didn’t really have a great way of tracking it. But nowadays we have a lot more media—search engines, social media, digital radio and podcasts, as well as all the traditional means. Audiences are in more places. So to do advertising the same way you always have, your ad has to be in more places too.”

Hitting the target

The great strength of highly targeted, highly measurable media like social media and the web is it’s never been cheaper to get your message to the right person. It’s also never been easier to create your own professional looking ads, and to automatically target particular messages to people based on how likely they are to book an appointment.

One thing that hasn’t changed—the more you spend, the more patients you get. In theory you can spend too much, which leads to more patients than you can service. In practice, we haven’t run into too many dentists with that problem.

Mark Brown, Engage Content

“A part of any marketing and advertising strategy should be to capture contact information of people who are interested in what you’re selling, but aren’t ready to buy right now,” Brown says.

“Once you have that contact information, communicating with those people becomes much easier. In the past, you would have to buy another ad, and keep buying them. Now you can just stay in contact through email.”

But doing all of that comes with a caveat, he says. In the past, an agency would just tell you how much to spend, then they would go off and do all that. When you’re doing it all yourself, you need some rule of thumb to work out what your budget should be.

“One thing that hasn’t changed—the more you spend, the more patients you get,” says Brown. “In theory you can spend too much, which leads to more patients than you can service. In practice, we haven’t run into too many dentists with that problem.”

But when you buy a digital ad, you have a lot of options for how much you should spend—from $5 to thousands of dollars. And it’s hard to know how much to spend until you’ve spent a little more than the right amount.

In her book Fully Booked, Carolyn Dean suggests calculating the Lifetime Value of a patient and using that as the basis for your advertising budget.

You calculate Lifetime Value based on the average number of years your patients spend with your practice, multiplied by the average amount they spend. You then also add the average value of referrals from that patient.

You can compare that number with the cost of your advertising over the same period to work out how much you’re spending to acquire new patients. As a rough guide, if you’re spending less than between five and 10 per cent of your practice’s annual income, you’re getting a bargain.

Where to spend your cash

“You have more options than ever for where to spend your money,” says Brown. “You will get lots of advice from many quarters on this. No matter where else you put your money, you should definitely use two options: Meta and Google.”

Not just because they’re massive operations, he adds. And not just because you can target ads more efficiently than with other media.

“You want to use your advertising to build a relationship with patients and potential patients. So you need to do it in a place where you can drive traffic back to your website. Then you can capture the person’s details, and keep talking to them, but without spending so much money.”

Your Facebook and Google ads don’t need to be fancy to be effective. And use your own unique voice and brand of your practice. “You can stand out on these platforms by either using a boosted post or an ad words campaign built around a piece of content on your site,” Brown says.

It’s not that tricky, he adds. Let’s say you have a blog post on how parents can help kids brush their teeth. That’s something every parent wants to know. Often, it’s information that mothers are interested in because they often make the oral health decisions on behalf of the family.

“Once you have the blog post up, you can write a social media post linking back to the article on your website, and boost it. All platforms will give you suggestions for what kind of reach you’ll get based on how much you spend and who you’re targeting.”

When you’re boosting the post, you’ll be given options to target people by gender, age, postcode, or by many other ways. “So if you’re running a practice targeted at families, you want to talk to mums,” Brown says. “If you’re targeting mums near your practice, then gender, age and postcode should be enough to get you started.”

Google is a different beast—but you can similarly target your ads within the radius of a particular point. If you select a basic radius around the area you are based, the search engine will give you an idea of the number of people who will be reached. You can also add or exclude locations to target your message more effectively.

Google doesn’t offer much in the way of demographics, but does let you target by keywords, which can be just as handy. In our example above, the keywords may be “children’s dentist, dental health children”, or variations on that phrase.

But in the long run, Brown concludes, the best thing about the relative cheapness of this form of advertising is it lets you experiment with different options to see what works. Which is something you could never do with leaflet drops and the Yellow Pages. 

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