Should You Join A “Braces” Marketing Network?

Does paying the middle-man make sense or better to go it alone?

invisible brace networkOne of our clients recently asked our advice about joining an ‘invisible’ braces marketing network and whether we thought it represented a good investment versus doing it stand-alone with marketing assistance from ourselves. Whilst it’s not really possible to give a definite “yes” or “no” answer to this, it is possible to study the data and scenarios to help with an informed decision.

Firstly, lets look at how this type of network operates and the services they offer.

The model

Essentially the operation revolves around a hub which uses paid advertising, primarily Google AdWords, to place ads for a particular braces product prominently for most location searches across the UK. So anyone who searches for the product on Google is likely to see the ad and may well click through to the main website owned by the network. Dentists from around the country subscribe to the network and pay a substantial joining fee along with a significant monthly subscription. In return, the potential patients are filtered through to the regional providers to deliver the service.

This model has obviously worked well for the network and for some of the dentists who subscribe too. The network website shows some testimonials from dentists who claim several new braces cases per month delivered via this mechanism. Knowing the margin for typical ‘invisible’ braces cases, then the return on investment looks fairly solid. However, what we don’t know is how many dentists subscribe but don’t actually see the return they expect or indeed what the membership churn is.

The network also provides other marketing collateral and some training to help their subscribers sell the product, however, whether this is actually worthwhile over and above what the brace suppliers offer as a matter of course, is uncertain and would need to be established on a case-by-case basis.

What is also quite surprising is that there also seem to be locations in the country where more than one dentist is allowed to join the network which would seem to go against exclusivity and potentially introduce conflict? However, there may be mechanisms in place designed to manage this.

How does the network utilise Google for seeking enquiries?

As mentioned previously, this seems to be primarily through the use of paid adverts i.e. AdWords. This system avoids the “localisation” which governs how the organic (free) results work and allows an advertiser to place an ad in any area of the country and in a prominent position (as long as Google is paid enough for clicks). The marketing network will use some of the subscribers money to pay for the Google advert clicks – but how much is uncertain. There also appears to be some promotional activity via Facebook as well as other “perks” for members of these networks; albeit what they actually are and their overall worth appears to vary. So please check this if you are considering joining.

What is certain is that the network doesn’t really feature very well in the organic (free) Google results which are typically dominated by local dentists. This is also the case for the local (map) results on page one of Google. What is important to consider here is that less than 30% of all traffic from Google searches goes via AdWords – the large majority still goes via the organic results. We will discuss the importance of this next.

So should you subscribe to the braces marketing networks or not?

I can’t make that decision for you – you may deem it appropriate or not depending on how far you research and how much you are willing to get involved in alternatives. The obvious alternative is to let your dental marketing team run your own localised AdWords (and Facebook) campaigns for you. Here we do have some data for comparison purposes. A recent campaign spending a modest £500 per month delivered 14 new cases for the client over a period of 3 months. At this stage it was paused simply because the practitioner couldn’t take on any more. This is actually better than the results claimed by some of the dentists who are network members – and for less money. These results are fairly typical for well-constructed ad. campaigns.

In this ‘DIY’ example, the dentist only pays to show ads on Google in areas he thought were most appropriate and a distance which he considered was sensible for patients to actually travel to the practice.

So here are some considerations which may inform your decision:

  • the network provides a “done for you” approach together with some additional material which you may or may not find useful
  • depending on where you are based, the network may inadvertently pitch you directly against another supplier in your region albeit mechanisms may be in place to avoid this
  • running your own, independent campaign, with the assistance of an expert paid advert practitioner, can potentially deliver more business at lower cost
  • doing it yourself does involve a bit more effort – but not really much; particularly if you partner with an experienced dental marketer
  • if you already have prominent organic search results, then this will likely be your best route to new business any way. Top this out with a modest locally targeted ad. campaign and you should be very handily placed without further assistance.

Summary

Marketing networks for dental treatments can deliver decent results with acceptable return-on-investment. If you prefer a hands-off approach, this may be ideal for you. However, if you understand the core mechanisms, for example how Google ads work and how to use them to your advantage, you can potentially do it yourself and at lower cost. Which route you choose is down to you, but it is certainly worthwhile understanding your options.

Are you interested in knowing more and perhaps running your own paid advertising campaigns? Please call the digital marketing team at Dental Media on 01332 672548.

Posted in Advice