Given the digital media boom we’re currently experiencing, dentists that are working to sustain existing and increase new patient volume in their practice or clinic must take a close look at the level of digital presence of the practice and adapt to this rapidly changing environment. Below are 8 very powerful digital marketing adaptations that should be addressed to grow patient volume and revenue.
1) Increase digital presence – focus on inbound vs. outbound marketing
Now more than ever people are using mobile phones and computers to search for local services and businesses. This is also true for those in need of dental services. Dentists that want to see growth in their practice must focus on strengthening their digital presence to increase the visibility of their practice among the many competing practices when people in need of dental services are conducting these searches. Strengthening digital presence means focusing on an ‘inbound marketing’ (or ‘pull’) strategy instead of using ‘outbound marketing’ (or ‘push’) marketing techniques.
Inbound marketing techniques include optimizing the use of internet search engines (SEO) to highlight your practice and the services you offer. Inbound marketing works like a magnet to attract patients when they are searching for dental assistance. The information accessible to the person performing the search can include much more than just basic advertising about the practice. The content can offer detailed and educational material about specific services prospective patients are specifically searching for, patient experiences, entertaining and personal introductions to staff members and more. Inbound marketing is also sometimes referred to as pull or permissive marketing because the people that are accessing, viewing, reading and hearing about all of the value your practice has to offer are accessing this messaging and material by choice or out of need for assistance.
Outbound marketing methods can include more traditional means of advertising such as television & radio, newspapers, magazines, direct mail campaigns and billboards. Only select information about the dental practice is presented or pushed out and it is broadcasted to everyone that these media types have the ability to reach, whether these people have any interest in seeking the information or not. In most cases, most of the people reached through this manner are not in urgent need of dental assistance. And, because the amount and type of information included in outbound or push messaging is limited to what the practice is choosing to highlight and communicate, it will not necessarily include the information that prospective patients are specifically seeking, either. Outbound marketing is also sometimes referred to as interruptive (versus permissive) marketing and can sometimes be perceived in a negative manner by those that receive the material (can be perceived as junk mail or just another commercial interrupting a favorite TV show).
Inbound marketing strategies clearly offer greater value to businesses in general today and are also much less expensive than outbound marketing media which can be very costly.
2) Offer virtual consultations
As many people do not want to make unnecessary trips to a dental office, offering a virtual consultation service is a great idea. If a prospective patient is unsure if they need to actually visit a dental clinic or office to address a dental concern immediately, they may search for and choose a dental clinic that offers a virtual dental consultation over one that does not offer this service. A virtual consultation enables the patient to speak directly with a dentist about concerns such as tooth or gum pain, inflammation, chipped or broken teeth virtually to discuss a treatment plan that can potentially be scheduled at a later date without requiring them to physically visit the clinic.
3) Understand and utilize SEO
People conduct billions of internet searches every day. Many of these searches are made when a person is in need of a locating a provider of a specific type of service provided by a dental clinic (for example, teeth whitening or TMJ). People also conduct searches for things that may only be loosely related to the services offered by a dental clinics (like ‘how to look younger’ which may include reference to processes such as teeth whitening or ‘jaw pain’ which could be related to TMJ). Search engine optimization (SEO) of a dental clinic’s web pages can be used to make it easier for the web page to be discovered or presented as a result of a wide range of searches being made.
As part of the SEO process, it’s important to ensure that information and material contained on the website includes the most commonly searched for key words and phrases but also those that can be loosely related as referenced previously. The more obvious key words, such as ‘dentist’ or ‘dental clinic’ should be present, but research should be performed to also identify words that will increase the opportunity for the dental clinic to be highlighted additional aspects of the practice. Words such as ‘virtual consultation,’ ‘implants,’ ‘teeth straightening’ can be added to highlight the broad range of services offered. Words such as ‘gentle,’ ‘painless,’ ‘personal’ can be added to highlight efforts of the practice to provide a pain free and comfortable patient experience. And, words like ‘cosmetic,’ ‘youthful,’ ‘appearance’ can be used to engage those prospective clients that are searching for a means of improving self-image.
4) Establish individual service pages
Most websites include standard website pages such as the ‘About,’ ‘Location/Hours,’ and ‘Our Staff’ pages. A dental clinic should also consider including a series of service pages that can emphasize the ability of the clinic to meet a broad range of patient needs. These pages also allow the business to include more SEO content in a meaningful way. For each service type offered by the clinic, this page can include a detailed description of the service, who might be a good candidate for the service and what unique benefits this particular clinic can offer that other clinics may not.
5) Increase citation references
Citations are references that include the name of the practice or clinic, address, phone number. This information should already be included on the clinic’s actual website (in the About page, footer and Contact Us sections). However, making an effort to have this information included or cited on as many other external business directories as possible is of great benefit. In addition to the name, address and phone number of the business these external directory citations will also include a direct link to the clinic’s website.
Types of directories include general national and local business directories as well as dental and medical specific directories (i.e., everydentist.com, implantdirector.com). Directory listings are also another way to increase visibility of the practice when people are conducting online searches.
In addition to website links that can be placed in directory citations, consider other locations where a direct link to the website can be added. Other locations might include websites of other medical professionals where there is a mutual referral relationship established, association membership websites or included with any references to the business that may be included with local event sponsorships.
7) Social Media Marketing
Using social media marketing is one of the best ways to build relationships with patients and to promote the quality of pain-free care patients receive at a dental clinic. Conversations that include information about the clinic’s track record and industry experience will help patients feel that they are in safe hands. Social media also gives the practice an opportunity to share fun and light hearted content with patients reminding them that the practice is about people, not just teeth.
There are several social communication platforms available and a dental clinic can use all of them to attract new patients and to continue to build trusting relationships with existing patients:
- On Facebook, a dental practice can share photos of office staff interacting with happy patients, provide links to blog posts and news articles that may be of interest to patients, and dental tips
- YouTube is a great way for dentists to provide prospective patients with an office tour or to introduce a new clinic staff member through a personal interview
- Twitter can be used to draw attention to specific services a practice wants to highlight such as #TeethWhitening or #VirtualConsultations
- A patient’s smile can be shared using Instagram (with the patient’s permission, of course)
Blogging is another way to promote interest in and visibility of a website and is also great for SEO. The content for blog posts should provide current or prospective patients with the information they’re looking for on specific topics. A good way to select blog topics can be to review communications received from patients through the other social media platforms (like Facebook) to determine what subjects seem to be of interest to patients. Posts should not be focused on promoting or advertising the clinic itself because patients are not going to be interested in reading basic advertising material. Focus blog content on how you can help patients find answers to questions they have about dental care.
*1Oral Health; Inbound vs. Outbound Marketing-Which is Better for Your Dental Practice;https://www.oralhealthgroup.com/blogs/inbound-vs-outbound-marketing-which-is-better-for-your-dental-practice/
*Wordstream; SEO Optimization – Learn to Optimize for SEO; https://www.wordstream.com/seo
*Worldstream; SEO Basics: Complete Beginners Guide to Search Engine Optimization by Tom Demers; https://www.wordstream.com/blog/ws/2015/04/30/seo-basics
*Sproutsocial; A Painless Guide to Social Media Marketing for Dentists by Rebekah Carter; https://sproutsocial.com/insights/social-media-marketing-for-dentists/