As all dental office managers and small business owners know, right now its end of month, end of quarter and end of year. For me, it’s time to measure the results of the year – time to see how all the projects, new ideas, and meetings turned out. It always feels like report card time when I run my end of year numbers – and like any good schoolgirl, I want all A’s.
That’s why I was particularly happy to see my new patient number for 2012: 1,111 new patients. The last time our practice gained over 1000 new patients – was 5 years ago. Five years! Over the last five years, my marketing approach has changed almost completely. It’s really amazing. Since I track our performance, I know exactly what marketing programs work – and I’ve watched the trends. Here’s what I’ve observed:
Yellow Pages advertising doesn’t work any longer. This is a graph based on my real dollars generated through yellow pages advertising. Honestly, I miss the days when I spent a few weeks in the fall to set up my handful of yellow pages ads for the next year – and I was done with all advertising for the practice for the whole year. Oh, the good old days. They’re gone.
Online advertising is growing. Again, this graph is based on my real results over the past 5 years. The real challenge 4-5 years ago was watching my new patient numbers drop and not knowing what to do. As the administrator, my job is setting up the marketing plan to bring in new patients. I was looking everywhere – we tried direct mail (total failure for us), we tried health fairs (a ton of work for only a 3:1 result) and we got started online. As we watch these numbers increase, we continue to invest our marketing dollars online. For us, this includes a mix of updating our website, running a pay-per-click program, and weekly blogging and sharing on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google +, Google Places. We also record videos and share on YouTube and I submit articles to the local online newspaper. This is a far cry from the ‘set it and forget it’ days of yellow pages advertising.
So, what can you do? Dentists (and all small businesses) seem to have two choices: Do it yourself or Hire it out. Where online marketing is concerned, I believe a blend of the two is best.
Do It Yourself
Let’s start with do it yourself. In this case, yourself doesn’t mean you, the dentist – it means your team. Talk with your office manager – she’s already spending her day at the computer and is your most logical choice to keep up with a blog, practice Facebook page, etc. Even if you write the articles, let her do the posts and set up the links. She can get basic training from your website person so she understands the basics. Since she’s going to do the same thing every week all year long, eventually this will become part of her routine. Here’s a short checklist of items to do if you want to keep online marketing in-house:
- Update your website – you’ll probably pay your website person to do this, but as part of the deal make sure the website is set up in WordPress (this platform works best with Google and is easiest for non-technical people / a.k.a. dental office managers to work in) and work in some training for your office manager to learn how to post in the blog
- Add Google analytics into your website – your office manager should check the results every month to see how many unique visitors are coming to the site
- Create a calendar for the first quarter with a topic you can write about every week – I’ve written an article about this in detail
- Add “internet” or “website” to your referrals in your dental practice management software – and train your team to enter a referral for every new patient – then you can run results of your own similar to my graphs above
Hire it Out
You’re looking for several services, including:
- Website update – graphics, content and layout all need to look professional, plus your site needs to include a blog that your team can contribute to without any effort from the web developer (this helps keep your costs down) – I have BashFoo website design to thank for my existing practice website.
- SEO services / content marketing – Even a great website won’t bring in new patients if you ‘set it and forget it’ so these services create content and promote it throughout the web to keep you on the first page of Google organic searches – My friend, Sean Nagari of SM4Dentists offers a program to handle this.
- Pay per click advertising / Google AdWords – You’ll set a budget (don’t fall for the old “you need to spend $1,000/mo” sales pitch, by the way – you set your budget and dip your toe into this new mode of advertising and measure your results to decide how much you should spend!) and your vendor will bid on keywords like “dental implants” and you only pay when someone clicks on your ad. I’ve worked with Yodle for years for my practice.
So, as you’re looking at your new patient numbers from last year and setting goals for 2013, I hope seeing some real results from an actual dental practice is helpful. You can look through these ideas listed above and decide which ones you want to tackle yourself and which you want to outsource. As always, track your results so you know what’s working for you. Here’s to a new year full of new patients!