Building a successful dental practice requires passion, quality service and most importantly, successful marketing. Skilled medical professionals can no longer open a business and expect potential patients to find them. They need to differentiate themselves from competitors and strive to reach people in creative and convenient ways. Effective marketing can help dental practices build and expand their patient base.
Most dental practices are small businesses with small budgets. This typically means the marketing portion of their budget is minimal compared to other operating costs. The good news, however, is that dental professionals do not need to spend thousands of dollars to start reaching potential patients. Sometimes, the best marketing techniques require creativity and effort.
Whether you are a new business owner or a recent graduate entering the dental field at an established practice, there are several inexpensive and effective marketing techniques you can use to promote your dental business. Some of the techniques you could do include:
1. Utilize Search Engine Optimization Techniques
A business’ online presence begins with its website, and utilizing search engine optimization, or SEO, techniques can help potential patients find your dental practice online. These techniques help your website appear more often in search results and appear higher when people search for keywords relevant to your business. Basic SEO strategies can help your business go further.
When creating website content, you should place appropriate keywords throughout every portion of your site. This includes your titles, the body content on each page, URLs and even image names. Determine these keywords based on how someone looking for your services would search for it. For example, if your dental practice is located in New Orleans, be sure to use the phrase “New Orleans dentist” in your text, as well as local neighborhood locations. There are dozens of keywords you can use, but too many could be considered keyword stuffing.
Additionally, you should make sure your website has internal links that link back to your site. For instance, if you have a Web page explaining the services you offer, you should have links to the individual services, such as teeth whitening or tooth extraction. These internal links make it easier for users to navigate your site and it is an easy way to boost traffic to individual pages.
2. Implement a Facebook Marketing Campaign
Many businesses these days have a Facebook page, but to successfully market to potential patients and customers, businesses need to be creating and sharing valuable content. Your business should be consistent in what it shares and should give followers an inside look at what you do. You could share valuable news related to the dental industry, behind-the-scenes photos of your practice (of course, excluding items with protected health information such as study models and computer screens), links to blog posts and information about your business and services.
Dental practices also could utilize Facebook Insights, the social media site’s free data tracking system that allows the business page moderators to see how users respond to the content posted and to the page itself. This tool can help your dental practice improve your appeal among potential patients and the way you reach and interact with current followers.
Facebook Insights lets users see how many Facebook users have “liked” or “followed” the business page, the change in “likes” over a period of time and how those users interact with the content. This can help dental practices determine what type of content works best and what gets people most involved.
If your dental practice is able to spend a little money, you could use Facebook advertisements, which can be relatively inexpensive depending on the campaign you choose. These ads can be customized and can help you target people geographically close to your business. Ads can start at $5, and the budget can be adjusted any time. You are always in control of your spending.
3. Request Patient Reviews
Asking patients to leave reviews about your dental practice can be a risky way to market your business, but if done correctly it can be incredibly rewarding. Experience-based reviews can have a significant impact on other users. According to a Zendesk survey, 90 percent of participants claimed positive online reviews influenced their buying decision, and 86 percent said their decision was influenced by negative reviews.
The best way to encourage patients to leave reviews is to make the process incredibly simple. The average patient will not go out of his or her way to leave a review, unless the experience was negative. So, to combat this with positive reviews, your business could send email reminders, text reminders or offer incentives, such as a drawing for a small prize (to avoid anti-kickback statutes violations). Just be sure to explain the incentive is for a review, not necessarily a positive one.
If your dental practice receives glowing reviews, but they are scattered across the Internet on sites like Facebook, Google and Yelp, you could compile the information into a single testimonials page on your website. This allows visitors to read the positive things that have been written about your business without the hassle of searching. Links to the original posts could help to show authenticity.
4. Create Accurate Online Map Listings
Online map listings and directories are an important part of getting people to your business, but business owners sometimes forget how they can affect their company. Creating and claiming listings on sites like Yelp, Yellow Pages and Angie’s List can help your business build a stronger online presence and it can make it easier for customers to find important contact information, like your address and phone number.
One of the most important map listings is your Google Maps location. This is the address that will be connected to the business through the search engine and will appear when people search for your business online. To create this, dental practices must create a Google business page and list the address on the profile. The address then must be “claimed” to ensure it is accurate. Google will send a postcard with a code to the business owner, then he or she must input the code online. Once this is complete, the address will be accurate and will appear in search results.
5. Shoot Google Indoor Street View Photos
Another unique marketing tool dental practices can use is Google’s indoor Street View feature. This allows online users to see the interior of a business without ever having to walk inside. The photos, which are shot by a Google trusted photographer, and a 360 degree tour of the business appear on the company’s Google Plus profile and alongside search results and the address. This shows users exactly what they can expect when entering a business, which can be comforting to potential patients.
Potential patients could use the tour to determine if your office provides the environment they want, if your office is clean and organized and if your equipment is new and updated. This visibility could have a positive impact on the way people perceive your office and could indirectly affect the way search engines present your business to potential patients. Additionally, the photos can be shared on your website and social media.
This option, unlike the others above, may cost a little more. One benefit is that you can select the certified photographer and choose which rooms and areas you want to include, giving you some leeway on the price. Depending on the photographer you choose and the square footage photographers, the cost could be hundreds of dollars. This option, despite its upfront costs, could be something for dental businesses to consider long term.
Dr. Precious Thompson is a New Dentist Now guest blogger and a 2010 graduate from the University of Texas School of Dentistry at Houston. She is a board-certified dentist who provides comprehensive general and cosmetic dentistry and the founder of Thousand Oaks Dental, a San Antonio-based dental practice. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.
The views expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author and are not intended to reflect the views, positions or policies of the ADA or the New Dentist Committee. This article is not intended to provide either legal or professional advice. Dentists are urged to consult directly with a properly qualified professional or with an attorney admitted to practice in their jurisdiction for appropriate legal or professional advice.