As a female dental entrepreneur, you have many titles. You are a doer, a creator, a builder, and a leader. You’re an artist, an architect, a visionary, and an educator. You’re also a clinician and a CEO of your practice. You rely on your ingenuity to build your business, and sometimes it can feel overwhelming when considering all of the ways you could market your dental practice—especially if your practice is new or if you’re new to marketing. In my experience, the antidote for being overwhelmed is taking action. Here are some ideas to get your creativity flowing and some actionable marketing steps that you can start on today.
I find it helpful to keep a notebook that’s exclusively designated for marketing and business-building ideas. That way you have all of your brilliant thoughts in one place. Some of my best ideas come to me while I’m exercising, so I always keep an open note on my iPhone so I can “jot down” my thoughts whenever and wherever. Then, I transfer everything to my notebook and use that as a guide to outline my goals and strategies for accomplishing them. Make sure you have actionable steps for each goal so you know what needs to be done and when you plan to complete them. It’ll help you stay focused, as well as organized. Get your notebook ready and take notes as you read this article because it will surely generate some bright ideas!
Based on my experience in dental marketing, these are the top four ways to market your dental practice:
Marketing Your Dental Practice
This type of marketing allows you to make big changes with a small budget. In the age of social media, grassroots has expanded to include social channels as well (not paid ads; that’s the next topic). The great thing is that you can 100% do this on your own (maybe with some help from your dedicated team). Grassroots+social takes some creativity and a little planning and time, but it is low-budget so this works well for anyone who wants to market their dental practice.
We live in a digital world, so your business (and your business strategy) needs to reflect that. Digital marketing uses both the online space and resources to market your dental practice. This is an ever-changing outlet, and you need an experienced marketer to guide this part of your overall marketing strategy and to help you own your online space.
Your patients are an excellent source of marketing because they know you and your expertise first hand. Your patients could be an untapped, highly valuable resource to help market your dental practice. Make sure you are educating your patients about all the services you offer, about any promotions you’re doing, and that you want to have more people like them in your practice. Don’t expect them to know everything about your practice or that you are accepting new patients. Kindly inform them, and ask.
This is a subtopic within internal marketing (since the focus is on your patients). Your patients want to hear from you in a meaningful way—not just through appointment reminders or on a billing invoice. Email marketing lets you communicate with your patients in such a way that they want to absorb information, while you educate them about important topics regarding their oral health and your practice updates. There’s a huge opportunity here to educate, which not only helps your patients better understand their health, but also what you do to improve it—ultimately building both trust and case acceptance.
For the purposes of this article, I want to dive deep into one topic and give you even more specific and actionable steps you can follow. Then, add-in your personal, creative touch, and you’ve got a serious strategy for your dental practice that’s ready to take to market!
Let’s look a little closer at grassroots marketing. I chose this one because this is something corporate practices don’t do, which gives you an edge. A small business owner needs to take advantage wherever they can, and this is an area where you can truly stand out. Grassroots marketing is all about connection and about inserting yourself (and your business) into the local scene and conversation. Think of ways you can connect, where your business can have a presence, and how you can contribute to the community.
Here are a few categories and ideas to get you started. Use your notebook to write down your own ideas, and start planning your approach.
Health fairs are the first thing that come to mind. It makes sense for your practice to have a presence at any kind of event that is health related. To find events in your city, a quick Google search should bring up a few lists. You can also check local magazines (particularly the health-focused ones), local news websites, and county health department websites.
Does your community have a big annual event? I’ve worked with practices that were located in cities that had big events every year, and the practice would either participate as a group (and wear logo gear) or have a booth presence of some kind where they could dispense information.
Is there a charitable cause in which you can get involved that’s important to you or to your team? Does your city have Mission of Mercy or something similar?
As a vendor
Anytime you are at an event as a vendor, make sure you have a nice looking booth set up. Bring plenty of business cards and information about your practice. You could even have special offers printed for attendees. Think of something creative to get people to your booth like a drawing or a “pin the tail on the cavity” game. Just think of something funny, interesting, or educational like a demonstration of a cool, new technology you’re now offering. Also, make sure you have a way to gather names and contact information from the conversations you’ll have so you can easily book your new-patient appointments. Get their contact information, and let them know you’ll call them to schedule.
As a participant
Anytime you’re at an event as a participant, be sure to wear something with the practice name and logo on it (unless it’s a formal event), and have a stack of business cards handy.
In Social Media
You should always use social media to talk about your participation in the event before, during, and after. This shows your patients that you’re involved in the community and that you contribute and give back. It helps them to see the person behind the white coat, while also building trust and camaraderie.
A business-to-business (B2B) strategy means that you are marketing your business to other local business owners like yourself, rather than to the general public. This is an opportunity to put your business in front of people who may not have heard about you but who are in proximity to your practice’s location.
The businesses you approach will be based on your area, on the type of practice you own, and on the types of patients you want. If you identify a big corporation or an organization in your area that you want to market to, see if any of your patients work there, and that could be an “in” for you. Otherwise, go through their human resources department. If you select a small business, you can talk with the owner directly.
Start with five
To get started, identify five businesses near you with whom you’d like to build a relationship. Develop an outreach timeline and a plan that includes when you will go, who you are asking to speak with, what your pitch will be, and any materials you will bring. To successfully market your dental practice does take specific planning! Think of ways you can have a mutually-beneficial relationship.
Be aware of each business’s busy times, so you can increase your chance of a face-to-face conversation with the owner. If you identified a coffee shop that you want to approach, avoid going in the morning since they’ll likely be slammed then, and try a lunchtime visit instead. When you’re talking, tell them about yourself and about your practice, and mention that you’re in the area.
Also, make sure you mention if you have any new patient specials, membership clubs, or any other kind of “goodies.” Be sure to leave them with a folder of your branded items like business cards, a welcome letter, information about the offer you mentioned, and other giveaways like logo pens or toothbrushes. Some market their dental practice by creating special offers for that business’s employees. For example, you could offer a 20% discount on whitening for a coffee shop, and ask if they will let you provide to-go coffee sleeves with that offer and your information on it. They save money on coffee sleeves, and you advertise your business. It’s a win-win!
Once you’ve made the initial visit, take note of who you talked to, what you discussed, and anything else you want to remember. Like the business’s Facebook page from your practice page. Then, begin thinking of opportunities for further connection, including ways you can help them and their employees. You could offer to do a quick “lunch and learn” to discuss a topic you’re passionate about, showing them how you incorporate that topic into your practice and what they will experience as your patient. Or, simply invite them to your holiday open house!
Be the dental authority in your area. Can you contribute a weekly or monthly column to the newspaper, to the TV news, or to an online blog? This not only markets your dental practice but is also a contribution to your community. A pediatric practice I’ve worked with contributed to a statewide mom blog on a regular basis. This practice provided all kinds of information on topics, such as how to care for your baby’s gums and what to do about pacifiers, children’s orthodontics, and everything related to pediatric dentistry. They had TV interviews with the dentists, online Q&A’s, and social media cross promotions. This is an excellent way to assert yourself as the local dental authority.
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