Promoting a new dental business to hit the ground running

Perhaps the largest part of setting up a new dental business is to ensure that new patients will come through the doors as soon as they open. To achieve this, a well-considered marketing plan needs to be developed and implemented well in advance.

Over the years the team at Dental Media has helped hundreds of dentists across the UK build their businesses successfully; indeed we are currently developing new websites and marketing campaigns for several dentists who are currently setting up new squats as well as those who are already well-established.

I thought it would be useful to share the main components of a typical marketing programme for a squat practice, albeit each circumstance will have its own specific requirements depending on the business objectives, location, demographic target and so on.

Let’s take a look at the marketing channels you need to consider and how to make them work best for you. I’ll start with the digital techniques and then also touch on more traditional mechanisms which still have value.

Launch an excellent website

Done well, a new practice website will probably be the best marketing investment you make. Properly maintained and updated, it will continue to bring a steady flow of new patients to your practice and also provide a very useful source of information for existing patients.

When setting up a new business, you need to start work on your website at least three to four months in advance to ensure that it’s ready to launch on time. You may also wish to use a holding page on your website domain to notify new patients that the practice is opening and to encourage them to register their interest in advance.

One thing which is very important to understand is that a website alone will not simply work without ongoing optimisation in the search engines. In the UK this is primarily Google and ideally you need your site to be up there amongst the top three positions. So please seek advice on how best to achieve this and also how much you need to budget for your own location.

To give a rough idea for budgeting purposes, a new website will likely cost anything between £3 – £5k and search engine optimisation anything from £300/month upwards. Expert assistance in these areas is not cheap but is well worthwhile.

Claim and optimise your Google My Business Page

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Arty, minimalist websites might look great but….

We’ve recently received several requests from dentists to build websites which are “minimalist”, “artistic” and “don’t look like a dental website”. This seems to be a recurring theme in the last year or so and one which is not really well-informed or very useful in my experience. So why is that?

Historically we’ve built a couple of dental websites which have been “off theme” at the specific request of the dentist and to be frank, they’ve not performed as well as “mainstream” sites either in Google or in terms of user-experience. One of them was briefed to be “like Apple, not like a dentist” and the others were based on high-end art dealers through to fashion-designers and watch makers. I stress that these projects were completed to very prescriptive client briefs.

We employ a range of data collection techniques to evaluate the performance of all of our client’s websites and it became clear that for the examples mentioned above, that the performance wasn’t what we would normally expect. We could see that in numerous cases, visitors would land on the sites and then leave quite quickly.

Further investigation, including a survey of the dentist’s existing patients, showed that numerous users didn’t think that they’d landed on a dentist’s website whereas others understood that the site was dental, but didn’t like how it tried to be too “posh”. What they actually wanted was a high-quality website which was instantly “dental” and gave clear, useful information in an easy-to-use format. Not an esoteric art installation.

This is just one lesson we’ve learned in over 20 years of web design and it’s valuable “real life” experience we can bring to bear when advising new clients; including what works well and what is likely to fail when it comes to meeting the expectations of users (and Google) with your practice website. Incidentally, we’ve since rebuilt those websites mentioned above and they now perform extremely well.

Keep it ‘dental’

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Avoid big monthly fees for simple dental website compliance checks

When marketing companies hook dentists into paying monthly fees for services they don’t really need, it’s somewhat questionable in my opinion. One such example is where dental web companies make a big deal over website compliance issues and then sell monthly checks as part of an expensive compliance package.

The truth is that ensuring this type of compliance is really quite straightforward and you don’t need to pay big fees to have it checked monthly for you. Neither do you need a little symbol on your website to say that you comply.

What’s happening here is that those marketing companies have tried to differentiate themselves as a compliance ‘experts’ by creating the illusion that achieving such compliance is difficult and needs constant attention and maintenance. The reality is that whilst compliance is clearly very important, achieving and maintaining it is not – and you certainly don’t need self-styled experts to do it for you.

Practice website compliance – the reality

The level of compliance you need depends on the type of website you operate and any good web designer should ensure the correct level of compliance in the initial development of the site. For example, ecommerce websites have some fairly onerous compliance requirements around taking payments online; whereas the compliance issues for a simple business site are less strict.

Dental websites fall somewhere between these levels; they need to comply with the same standards as other business websites but also have some additional requirements coming from compliance bodies such as the GDC. However, those standards are straightforward and easy enough to implement and maintain.

Compliance issues to know about

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Why agency managed Facebook and Instagram likely won’t bring in new patients

A dental practice is typically a busy place and like most businesses, team members are expected to multi-task to ensure things get done to move the business forward. Effective management usually means that resources are quite stretched and when something new crops up, e.g. pushing forward with practice marketing, it can be tempting to outsource it, simply because everyone in the local team is occupied. But is this a valid strategy?

Whilst outsourcing would be perfectly sensible for some marketing initiatives, e.g. SEO for Google ranking which has a strong technical element; when it comes to growing the practice’s presence on social media, it certainly isn’t.

In today’s blog we’ll take a closer look at why the day-to-day business of building your dental brand using social media is by far best handled by your own team and not handled by a third-party agency working on your behalf. This is very important to understand if you want to make the best of social media for promoting your business.

Why use social media anyway?

I know a lot of dentists who openly state their dislike of social media and understandably so. Some “old school” practice owners don’t really “get it” but take it on board reluctantly as a necessary business tool. Others avoid it completely simply because they are so worried about picking up bad reviews and other adverse comments.

However, these days it is very important to realise that most people seeking out new products or services will frequently cross-reference a business’s social media channels as well as their website. They do this to look for comments about the business, reviews and also to gain a real-time sense of who they will be dealing with. This is often known as seeking “social proof” and it’s proven to be a key part of a person’s buying cycle. It makes sense that if there is no social proof available, then that buying cycle could easily be interrupted.

Given then that these days there is a clear need for an active social media presence, why not just outsource it?

The huge problem with agency led social media

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Local SEO – Key Features Dentists Should Know

As you are very likely aware, getting your dental website prominent on to the first page of Google search results is very important. New patient acquisition from the web is second only to word-of-mouth referrals and so any business wishing to avoid or at least minimise paying significant sums of money for paid ads, will have a solid ‘organic’ SEO strategy in place.

The first page of Google is split into different sections and I’ve covered this in depth elsewhere in this blog. One of the key areas where you need to seek prominence for your dental business is in the local or ‘map’ listings – this is the area near the top of the page where typically three results appear along with a map detailing their actual location. In addition to the map, each of the results is displayed with a link to the business website, another link for directions to it and, very importantly, the number of reviews the business has gained.

These ‘local’ results are very prominent and catch the eye of users very quickly. Data suggests that over a third of all traffic from Google now originates from people clicking on one of the results and so it’s very clear why getting your website into this local pack as it’s known, should be a key objective. But how do you go about achieving that?

In today’s SEO blog we will take a look at 10 of the key ranking signals Google uses when determining which websites to include in the local results on page one. Generating these signals comes with differing degrees of difficulty; some you will be able to achieve yourself, other elements will very likely need the assistance of a dental SEO professional.

Let’s make a start with the fundamentals of local SEO ranking for dentists:

Set up your ‘Google My Business’ Page

Google provides a little corner of the web for all business where basic information for that business can be added. Setting up this page is fundamental as it lets customers and Google know what the business is about and key information about location, opening times, types of services offered etc. You can (and should) upload photographs to show people different aspects of your facilities and services. For a dentist, this could range from pictures of the outside of the dental surgery, through to indoor shots showcasing your surgeries and equipment.

You must not skimp on this set-up and the consistency of the data you enter there is very important too. There are plenty of guides on-line and as part of our SEO auditing service, Dental Media can also assist to make sure you get this key information absolutely spot on.

Name, Address, Phone Number Consistency (NAP)

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Understanding the limitations of dental website CMS

We are regularly asked by new dental clients if they will be able to edit their new website; the answer to which is, “it depends”. This is an important question and one which is often misunderstood by dentists when they sign up to a new site development project. So today’s blog will try to clear up any misconceptions about website content management systems (CMS), including the main advantages and disadvantages.

Let’s start by taking a look at what a content management system (CMS) actually is and how it works.

Website CMS explained

A CMS is a system which allows some or all of the layout and content of a website to be changed online via a management portal and theoretically without the need for your web designer to get involved (I’ll come back to that last point in a moment). A CMS works using a scripting language (“code”) typically PHP, used in conjunction with a database, typically MySQL. All of the website content is stored within the database and the html which makes the website appear in a web browser is rendered in real-time when a user looks at the site.

Before the invention of CMS, dynamic code and databases; websites were typically built using “static” html code i.e. not generated on-the-fly by a scripting language and without a database. These “traditional” types of websites appear exactly the same as websites using PHP/MYSQL and a CMS but what goes on behind the scenes, often called the “back-end”, is quite different. I should say at this point that there are still a lot of advantages of static html websites e.g. speed and security, over CMS driven sites, but these come along with the disadvantage of needing a web designer to makes changes to the website periodically, even relatively simple ones.

How easy is a CMS website to use and maintain?

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Seeking transparency with digital marketing

The world of dental SEO can be quite murky as some of the dentists reading this blog will be only too aware. There are more stories of bad work and banned websites than good unfortunately and over the years I’ve tried to highlight some of the many pitfalls and ‘gotchas’ in this blog.

Last week we took on two new dental SEO clients who came to us explaining how they’d fallen foul of unscrupulous SEO practices which left them high and dry with effectively zero Google presence. It’s prompted me to revisit the subject in today’s blog where we’ll look at the top five things your SEO agency don’t want you to know. The more dentists know about these potential pitfalls when choosing an optimisation partner, the less likely that they’ll get caught out by poor work down the track.

There isn’t any SEO happening

This may sound odd but lots of dentists are actually paying for SEO when there is no, or extremely limited, work happening on their behalf. That’s right, in many cases they’re paying for nothing. This is usually the case when a marketing company insists that a client takes a monthly maintenance contract and then sweetens it by claiming that SEO is also included. But SEO in the real sense of the word i.e. a proactive campaign to significantly improve rankings, isn’t being done at all. At best, the dentist gets an automatically generated report each month and maybe the odd quick adjustment of web page titles. This certainly isn’t sufficient to move the Google dial.

If you need SEO, this isn’t for you, so please don’t waste your money on those misleading offers.

The work is being outsourced

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As “normality” and competition returns, marketing activities should ramp up too

The last 16 months or so have certainly been highly unusual times with the pandemic impacting numerous businesses, dentists included. We’ve seen a range of different effects; successes, failures and more.

Some dental practices have fared quite well as they seized the initiative to introduce new ways of working, for example virtual consultations helping to book new cases even when face-to-face treatments were not possible. Unfortunately we’ve also seen some practices go-under, where already stretched finances were pushed to breaking point as treatment revenues dried up.

Despite continuing uncertainties, we’ve seen dentistry gradually haul itself back on to its feet and come back strong; indeed the last 5 or 6 months have seen a lot of our private dental marketing clients doing extremely well as pent-up demand was progressively released. We saw this reflected quite plainly in website performance statistics and bookings where average activity across the board increased 30 – 40% above pre-pandemic levels in many instances.

However, over the last 4 – 6 weeks, we’re actually starting to see a downturn to pre-pandemic levels as pent-up demand from patients is satisfied and people get more options, not just smile makeovers, to spend their accumulated cash on. Holiday season is also upon us and whilst quarantine uncertainty will certainly deter some folk, others remain keen to spend their cash on that long-awaited holiday.

The effect of this is now starting to be felt by dentists UK-wide and the scope to “make hay” is progressively reducing.

Many of our clients maintained core aspects of their digital marketing e.g. SEO for Google ranking, even through the darkest days of lockdown and they are now being served well; albeit overall patient activity is not quite what it was compared to a few months ago.

However, some of our clients decided to pare costs way back (understandably) and quit some or all of their digital marketing initiatives. As patients were able to return for treatments and the “glut” arrived, several clients also decided to hold off from recommencing any marketing work simply because they felt they didn’t need to – after all, patient numbers and treatments were buoyant.

But how is the landscape changing again and how should you react?

Revitalising your practice marketing

Whilst thing are far from the “normal” we remember, most dental businesses are running well again, backlogs have been trimmed and consequently the demand and supply is starting to balance again. Of course this then knock through into competition and there is a renewed need to ensure your practice is still the most prominent in your area.

As I mentioned, those businesses which continued to invest in Google ranking work are still in good shape, with many of them also running paid ad and social media marketing campaigns to ensure visibility in all of the key channels. In comparison, those businesses which elected to cease their marketing work and hence progressively slipped back in Google, are not in such great shape. Ideally they would have re-started and prioritised those campaigns as soon as revenues became buoyant again, but in some cases, unfortunately they did not and as new patients numbers start to dip again, they are left with a significant amount of catch up work to do.

What next?

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Succeed without huge monthly fees!

Here at Dental Media we’ve really ramped up our Invisalign marketing services, not just for existing clients but also for new clients who have shipped across from their existing providers. These transfers have almost all resulted from dentists being charged what appear to be excessive fees for services which don’t necessarily offer good value for money. Let’s take a closer look.

Why some dentists pay £2k per month for Invisalign marketing (and is it justified?)

It’s quite clear that marketing companies are charging for their services based not on the input they provide based on time and expertise, but on the large profits which Invisalign bookings can yield. They’ve worked out that dentists are still happy to pay £2k + per month on fees where the bookings made actually yield several fold more than that. To some, that may seem fair, but do you really need to pay those fees to get success? The answer is a clear “no” and why dilute your margins if you don’t have to?

Golden handcuffs?

What I mean by that is that even where dentists suspect they are paying excessively, some are still reluctant to move when they are getting relative success. It all comes down to uncertainty and being unwilling to move, even where lower costs and better margins can be demonstrated elsewhere. The marketing companies know this of course and play on the dentist’s uncertainties to hang on to business. But it all gets a little bit out of hand when you realise the limited amount of work which goes on in the background after the marketing campaigns have been set up initially.

Of course not all marketers do this, but sadly a number of them in the dental field do. So you need to be wise and able to make an informed decision to avoid paying way over the odds, to get value for money and to ensure that your marketing remains effective.

Generic marketing templates

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Managing Your Domain Name, Website & Email Services

Managing the technical structure of dentists’ websites, hosting services, domain names and email is something that we specialise in here at Dental Media. It relieves all of the burden from the dentists themselves and allows them to get on with their business of dentistry.

However, it’s not all clients who wish to take a hands-off approach like that and many dentists prefer to have at least a working knowledge of how all of those technical elements are integrated and work together. So without going into lots of technical detail, here is a quick overview of how all of that works.

Your domain name

This is essentially your dental practice website address and in the UK typically takes the form of xyzdental.co.uk. The domain name is registered at a domain registrar of which there are number to choose from in the UK. You can also choose from lots of different domain versions e.g. .com .net etc, but for UK commercial purposes, the .co.uk version is recommended.

A misapprehension we often see if where a dentist thinks that you buy a domain name outright. You actually can’t do this and you effectively rent it on a defined term basis, typically 2 years, although you can register for much longer. As long as renew in good time, the domain remains yours to use. It goes without saying that you never want to lose “your” domain so it pays to make sure that things like renewals are scheduled and that you don’t miss doing it. Many is the time when a dentist has called to say his/her website has gone offline only for us to find that they’d failed to renew their domain registration.

Most dentists prefer that we look after their domain name and indeed we have many hundreds of domains registered and managed on our client’s behalf. Our systems ensure that a domain name can never be lost or expire unexpectedly.

DNS – Domain Name System

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