Dental marketing – “done for you” versus “done by you”

Why 100% outsource of practice marketing generally falls short

bored man asleepWe quite regularly receive enquiries from dentists who are looking for a completely outsourced dental marketing service – so with the intention that there is zero involvement from the practice team. In today’s blog we’ll take a look at why that strategy is now sub-optimal and why the local team have to be involved in some activities if the best results are to be achieved. This will also illustrate why companies who proclaim to do it all for you, should be treated with caution.

To make it as clear as possible, I will illustrate the elements which can (and generally should) be outsourced, followed by those which need at least some local involvement; together with brief explanations. We will also take a quick look at dental marketing activities which can be shared between the practice team and an outsource partner. None of this is “rocket science” and should be fairly easy to differentiate.

“Done for you” dental marketing:

  • website design – this is the foundation of your digital marketing and acts as the hub through which the majority of web enquiries will flow. Whilst DIY website building tools have improved, they are still a long way behind what an experienced design can achieve for you. One of our blogs from a few weeks back looked at why your website isn’t just about aesthetics and why it must be underpinned with numerous technical features and suitably marketing orientated. So whilst you need to get involved with the content and overall direction of your website, the configuration and incorporation of best practice, is best left to those with experience.
  • search engine optimisation – this is another area where DIY can do more harm than good. Frankly it’s difficult enough for full-time SEO guys to stay abreast of all of Google’s updates and changes so trying to do this in-house doesn’t really make sense. Budget for it appropriately and choose an expert with a suitable track record.
  • set up and optimisation of essential web business properties; e.g. Google My Business, Analytics, Search Console etc. These are all tools which underpin your digital marketing activities, including monitoring performance. Some are a little quirky and ideally would be set up (in the practice’s name and accounts) by your marketing partner.
  • Pay-per-click marketing (AdWords, Facebook etc) – this is an area where we see more errors and wasted cash than any other. Setting up and running pay-per-click is not for the inexperienced so get help with this. As a minimum have an experienced PPC guy set up the campaigns for you and then get some basic training if you want to try to maintain the accounts going forward; however, in reality what you save on click-costs will likely be more than the fee you would pay for an expert to do it all for you.
  • traditional advertising – contrary to some advice, although traditional print advertising has declined significantly, it’s certainly not dead. Your marketing agency will be able to assist you with the design of adverts for local papers, leaflets, newsletters etc which can still work very well for raising your profile in the local community.

We can see here that most of these are “digital” activities i.e. creating an excellent web presence and then broadcasting your services expertly via the web. However, the web isn’t the exclusive domain of your external marketing partner as we’ll see later.

“Done by you” dental marketing

  • increase your visibility – here I’m talking about basics such as signage. It still surprises me when I visit a practice and I struggle to find it, simply because the signs are outdated and not prominent. Lots of new patient enquiries come simply from people seeing your business as they pass by, so please make it easy for them. Your local sign guy will be able to help, usually very cost-effectively. I also see lots of waiting rooms which are austere and uninviting, completely missing the opportunity to “market” new treatments to existing patients. These types of simple initiatives should be practice led.
  • promoting word-of-mouth referrals – this is still the biggest source of new patient enquiries and your practice procedures and team should be geared towards this. The methods behind this are beyond the scope of this brief discussion, indeed it’s a huge subject in itself; however suffice to say that you need training and protocols in place to engender this focus throughout the practice. There are several dental coaches and trainers around who will help you to implement this if you don’t feel confident yourself.
  • ethical selling of new treatments – again beyond the scope of this article but are your team suitably trained and motivated to “sell” new services to existing patients? So when a patient tentatively enquires about improving their smile, do the team know how to react to move the process forward constructively and ethically?
  • seeking reviews – most people look for business reviews when seeking out new products and services and dentistry is no exception. So expect people to take a look at your Google and Facebook reviews as well as some of the feedback on dental specific websites. This process needs to be monitored and managed carefully, so detecting and responding to anything adverse and actively encouraging patients to leave positive comments for you. Google reviews in particular are also very important for helping your business to appear in the “local” search results on page one so they are well-worthwhile chasing. Your marketer can guide you through the process and technical aspects, but your team need to engage to ensure that reviews are secured.

Shared responsibilities

There are some activities which can be shared between an external marketer and the dental team, indeed the focus of which, at least for some of it, is much better lead by the team itself.

  • social media – the benefit of social media is less easy to quantify than other some other areas but it is accepted that people expect to see modern businesses have a least some presence on the more popular social channels such as Facebook. To maintain a credible presence, you need to post good quality content reasonably frequently. There are numerous paid services which offer to manage your social media presence for you, but frankly most of them don’t work and in many cases are quite off-putting in that people simply aren’t engaged by the bland content which is constantly regurgitated. So whilst your marketer can help you to manage your social media marketing, in my experience the practices who do best with this are the ones which are actively engaged, posting their own content and responding to feedback.
  • blogging – this is a great way of helping with SEO and your marketer will be having a lot of input there. However, there is also the need for less technical, patient focused content which is best contributed by the practice team.
  • e-newsletters – modern systems such as MailChimp are very easy to use and can be used by the practice and marketer alike. Some of the best results we achieve are where the practice provides the content and we collate it professionally before sending out.

Summary

Whilst it is understandable that dentists may not want to be involved in their practice marketing at all, unfortunately the fully “done for you” approach is much less likely to yield results than where a collaborative system is in place. Whilst a lot of the digital activity such as your website design and promotion in Google can and should be outsourced, other activities such as seeking reviews, and creating engaging content for social media and to some extent the practice blog, need local involvement too. Paying out to have your Facebook fully managed by a third-party may seem convenient but isn’t really going to help you much at all.

When setting up your practice marketing systems it pays to know what you can reasonably outsource fully and where you should expect to have involvement from the practice team. Of course, what you can actually achieve is often constrained by the availability of resources, but it’s still worth knowing what works, what doesn’t and hence where best to place your budget.

If you need more advice on any aspect of dental marketing, from website design through to marketing on Google, please get in touch with the team at Dental Media on 01332 672548.