4 Focal Points For The Coming Weeks

As we all come to terms with the harsh realities of our new environment and formulate plans to manage our businesses whilst we wait for better news, I thought it would be useful to take a look at four key aspects of dental practice marketing and how to adapt them to suit the current predicament.

As in all crises, what we are seeing is a range of reactions from our dental clients, from the understandable despair caused by zero financial income, to innovative ways to keep business going. All of these reactions are understandable, but for certain, those who will come out of this ready and able at the other side, are working hard now to ensure that their businesses are as resilient as possible.

There are four key areas where we are helping clients prop up their business and ensuring that they are robust ready for the upturn. I will cover each of these areas in more detail in my next blogs, but for today, here is an overview and guidance to get you moving in the right direction.

E-newsletters for patient communication

If you haven’t been communicating with patients regularly up to now other than via 6 monthly recall texts, then now is the time to begin. In my next blog we’ll take a look at the tools you need, the type of content you need to generate and how to stay compliant with privacy regulations. It is so important to keep in touch with patients, now more than ever. You need to let patients know that you are there for them, if only for advice, and to keep your services “top of mind” for when your practice re-opens.

Search engine optimisation – pause or keep going?

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Recommendations for the present and the future to help keep your business on track

Marketing under Covid-19 lock-downIt’s maybe a cliche already but these certainly are unprecedented times. As Coronavirus builds momentum and we are about to enter a grim period in the UK where hospitals and resources are tested to the extreme, at the same time many businesses are taking stock and working out the best way to survive the crisis and emerge stronger at the other side.

Of course this includes dentists who have arguably been hit as hard if not harder than many small businesses. Many dental business owners are in a situation where none of the government aid and grants apply to them and they really are having to be self-sufficient. This is similar for many thousands of us and we’re all working hard to plan the best way forward. Whilst clearly the health of our families and employees is priority at the moment, we still have to use our time wisely to work on our businesses. This includes what to do about our marketing, both now and in the future, as hopefully some semblance of normality returns.

There is no certain template for how we should be positioning marketing for our dental businesses, but here are some early thoughts regarding key things you should already be considering. I’ll split my thoughts into what needs to be considered at the present time, plus some ideas for ensuring a strong start again in the future.

The Present – Marketing Do’s and Don’ts

PPC and Facebook Ads – although there are a few examples of dentists ploughing their own furrows, the collective wisdom at the moment is to pause any marketing using pay-per-click (Google Ads) and Facebook. The time just isn’t right to be placing happy, smiley Facebook ads for Invisalign etc on people’s social media streams. Indeed I’ve already seen adverse comments from the public on ads such as these. There is an argument that says people are stuck at home spending hours on social media and that you should be actively marketing to them. But I think it goes quite a lot deeper than that.

People are still in “isolation shock” and coming to terms with the thought that it could continue for six months or more – many of them simply don’t want to see your adverts when they’re still working out how to get their groceries safely. Some of the less fortunate ones will also be working out how they are going to pay the bills. It only takes a few people like those mentioned above, to start calling you out on your Facebook comments, and damage is already done. Hold fire and don’t risk it for the time being. The time to start those campaigns again hopefully isn’t too far away, but more of that in a moment.

SEO – when it comes to Google optimisation, many of you will have worked hard and invested quite a lot of money to gain those precious, prominent Google positions. If you are close to SEO, you will know that work goes on regularly to ensure that ranking positions don’t fall. It’s all about maintaining the authority and “freshness” of websites so that Google sees them as most relevant and hence promotes them in the ranking results. When this work stops, then it’s very easy to lose positions quite quickly. However, it’s far harder to regain them because other websites will continue to optimise, overtake you and then increase their lead.

Whilst we recognise that you will be evaluating priorities, it is important to remember that a steady stream of new patients will be extremely important as practices try to get back on their feet in future. Where possible, we strongly advise that SEO is maintained as one of those business priorities.

Patient communication – like SEO, this aspect is also very important. We are all hunkering down to some extent but it’s also critical to make sure that your brand awareness is preserved. Using tools like MailChimp, you can send reasonably frequent updates to your patient base to keep them appraised. There is actually a wealth of new and useful information that you can provide, for example, oral healthcare tips at home, as well as appraising them of the current situation with regard to dental services. At the appropriate time, you can also start to introduce new offers as we start to see the light at the other side of the crisis.

If you haven’t used this type of communication previously, now is a great time to start. If you need help setting up, please give the Dental Media team a call.

Video consultation and triage services – I covered this recently in our blog here, and it’s a technique which is moving from being rather novel, to the mainstream. Whilst such systems are useful for advisory functionality right now, in future they can be re-purposed to provide complete on-line consultation facilities. This will be very important as we start to come out of the lock-down scenario but where some restrictions still apply. Please call our team and we’ll help you get set up.

The Future – When and How To Get Your Dental Marketing Moving Again

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Reaching patients safely and building future business

viewing video on smartphoneIn these difficult times, the priority for the team here at Dental Media over the last week has been to get hundreds of essential COVID-19 updates and announcements in place on dentist’s websites. That and re-organising our team so that they can work safely.

Despite the challenges facing all of us, please be assured that our team members are in place in various locations and continuing to provide a full service for our clients.

We have developed remote working strategies over several years and we are able to work effectively with secure access to all of our systems. Our plan is to be here for you throughout this period of uncertainty and we wish you all the best with your own business challenges in the coming months.

Whilst consolidation and survival will be at the forefront of most people’s minds at the moment, when the dust settles a little, we will likely find time to start considering how to prepare for the future and, hopefully, take advantage of the upsurge in business when the crisis finally passes.

With this in mind and with an eye on providing some form of business continuity, I thought it would be worth recapping on a technique we’ve been using with several of our clients for a number of years, well before coronavirus reared its ugly head. That technique is video consultation for dentists – let’s take a look at how it can be used in the broader marketing context and more specifically during the current isolation crisis.

Video consultation – the tools

Let’s start at the front end of the process and the obvious need to secure potential new dental patients who are interested in your services in the first place. Make no mistake, now is not the time to start broadcasting lots of ads about brace treatments etc on social media – people are still in “lock down” shock and need to get over that. In fact we saw one dental ad recently which had been commented on adversely – the time isn’t right just at the moment. Get it wrong and the adverse effect on your brand could be quite significant.

However, when the dust settles a little and people start thinking about the future and making plans, it makes good sense to start picking up new enquiries and adding them to the pipeline. This is where is does make sense to start considering carefully crafted advertising as people ramp up their web activity, and not just trying to buy groceries! But it’s crucial to get the timing right. Perhaps use this time to plan, prepare your video consultation page and think about how best to offer your services as we come out at the other side of the crisis.

DIY video conferencing

Modern technology gives us the opportunity to video call with ease. There are several well-know tools to facilitate this including Skype, WhatsApp, Google Hangouts, Zoom and more. Several of these are free and what’s more, most people are familiar with one or more of them. You will also need a website page or landing page which details your conferencing service and how to use it. This will typically include a contact form to allow the user to get in touch with you and to express their interest. From there you arrange a time for the call and hopefully secure a substantial new treatment case as a result.

A more professional approach

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Is the dash to Instagram marketing really worth it?

InstagramThere has been an awful lot of commentary recently about Instagram and its use as an (apparently) excellent vehicle for marketing and new patient acquisition.

Dental marketing companies and business coaches have been jumping on the bandwagon and someone has even written a book about it!

There’s certainly a lot of interest around Instagram at the moment, but is it as useful as some are making out or just another channel to investigate and test? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons so you can make an informed choice before investing lots of time and resources.

What is Instagram?

Before we jump in further, let’s have a brief reminder of what Instagram actually is and how it might be of use for dentists.

Instagram is a social network which came into being in 2010 and allows users to upload images and videos and share them with followers or selected friends. It very visual and consequently it is relatively easy to see how a business/brand could utilise the service for promotional purposes. It is also free and easy enough to use – so far so good. Similar to Facebook and Twitter, Instagram users have a profile and also a newsfeed; so if you are familiar with some of those other platforms, using Instagram will be quite straightforward.

However this blog post isn’t intended to illustrate the mechanics of using Instagram, more about the things to consider before you plough lots of time and effort into using it.

Instagram was acquired by Facebook back in 2012 and this is one of the important factors to remember when considering if it is the right platform to use to promote your dental business; but more on that later.

User characteristics

In terms of demographics, Instagram is more popular with females than males, approximately 68% to 32% at the time of writing. Users also tend to be quite young with 90% of the current 150 million users aged under 35 – another important feature to remember. Research also suggests that the number of higher earning users of Instagram tends to fall away quite quickly as salary increases.

In summary, at the moment it’s fair to conclude that Instagram is used primarily by younger people, early on in their earnings progression and with over twice as many females as males. Data like this is very important when considering if Instagram is right for your dental practice promotion and if so, which treatments.

The question of organic reach

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Dentists, beat the DIY ‘braces-by-post’ suppliers and the national providers!

Clear braces Invisalign The rush to attract new Invisalign patients appears to have reached a peak, exacerbated by dental practices trying to hit treatment targets set by Invisalign to secure lower laboratory costs and other perks.

The savings which can be made by hitting these targets are quite substantial and allow dentists to place attractive treatments offers into the market place to help attract new patients. If you are already an “Invisalign dentist” this will likely sound quite familiar!

However, it’s certainly not plain sailing. It seems that many practices now have an Invisalign provider and consequently competition for a finite number of patients is high. Add to this a couple of national providers of Invisalign treatment and competition from the “aligners by post” brigade, and it’s easy to see why there is a bit of a frenzy in the market at the moment.

Given the current landscape then, how do you compete effectively and ensure that you get those Invisalign cases through the door and into the treatment chair?

To help you get moving, here is an outline of the marketing tools and techniques you need to deploy to get ahead in the clear braces race, tested and proven by the digital marketing team here at Dental Media.

Let’s start with the obvious, i.e. an excellent website with exceptional orthodontics content. Then we’ll move on to the techniques you can use to get the traffic and enquiries you need and how to record and follow them up.

Your website

You may well already have a high-quality practice website, but does it have the depth of content needed to make the difference in Google? Many new enquiries will come via what is known as organic search i.e. people looking for your services and clicking on the traditional, free results they find. To be in the mix in Google you really need to be in the top three positions with the ultimate objective of securing the top spot. Couple this with gaining prominence in the local/map results and you are well on your way to securing over 60% of the traffic from people seeking out your service.

To ensure that Google considers your website to be authoritative, a key factor in securing good ranking positions, you should revisit your content and ensure that it is of the highest quality. This means making sure that you strike the right balance between usability for real people and keeping Google happy with a suitable depth of information – minimalist content won’t make the grade unfortunately, so you’ll have to do some work here. The usual rules apply, i.e. deployment of excellent textual content supplemented with videos, testimonials, case studies etc.

The golden rule here is that content which is appealing and works well for users, also tends to work very well for Google ranking too!

Search engine optimisation

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As competition continues to increase, here’s how to stay ahead

clicking on mouseUndeniably, it is now harder than ever before to get new patients into your practice, and with competition continuing to rise, this is only set to become even harder.

The days of new patients simply walking in and keeping dentist’s appointment books full are long gone other than in a few very fortunate circumstances. So now you have to do a fair bit more work to keep the practice busy and growing.

This is the case not just for new dentists starting out and looking to build their businesses, but also for more established practices looking to make up for churn and also to gain new business across a range of treatments.

Whilst there is some suspicion regarding digital marketing within the dental community, borne out of too many “cowboy” services failing to deliver; when done well the benefits can be exceptional.

Today we’ll take a look at four key aspects of digital marketing and why it is a compelling way to help keep new enquiries flowing.

Visibility

Traditionally dental practices relied on advertisement in the local paper and leaflet drops to promote their presence in the community and to some degree, these mechanisms still have a place. However, the reach of Google, Facebook, Instagram and the like is way broader and a prominent presence on all of the main marketing channels is essential to get your brand noticed. Indeed, people expect modern businesses to have an active professional presence across the web and social media. Most of the time, this is where they will be looking for your services, even if it’s simply cross-checking a word-of-mouth recommendation they received.

Targetability

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Or should it be built to match your audience?

confused website userAs a long-standing provider of websites for dentists, it’s perhaps not surprising that we spend quite a lot of time speaking with dental business owners about how their new websites should look and function.

This is clearly important to ensure that what we build truly reflects the objectives, personality and aspirations of the practice.

Like all businesses, not all dentists are the same and the types of treatments they target can differ quite significantly depending on their expertise, facilities, location and more. This all has to be taken into account very carefully before a website is constructed.

However, what is noticeable in the industry at the moment is that some dentists are launching websites which look quite “flashy” but probably don’t best represent what they are actually trying to achieve. In fact their sites could actually be doing them a disservice rather than helping to attract new dental patients.

The mistake of trying to make yourself look like something you’re not was recently reinforced to me by a dentist who was commenting on another dental web agency whose websites he described as “all looking the same and like the websites of Dubai hotels”. This was despite the fact that a number of the websites he referenced were for relatively small practices based in industrial towns or small villages; some even with quite large NHS contracts. This was a bit of a lightbulb moment and I knew exactly what he meant and indeed the design style he was referencing.

Why does it matter?

You might think this is obvious but it is important to reiterate that the focus needs to be on the patient and not the personal ambitions and aspirations of the dentist – often the latter can be over-emphasised on websites, leaving patients confused. There is clearly a place for very ‘flashy’ websites, but perhaps not if you’re based in small village or town and serving a rather different demographic than if you were based in an exclusive borough in central London.

So matching your offer to your market is extremely important and whilst it’s absolutely fine (and indeed important) to have a professional web presence which showcases your skills and treatments, don’t go over the top with it. Remember the “Dubai hotel” comment from above which I think is absolutely bang on.

Don’t get flattered by your designer

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When it comes to paid advertising, where should dentists look first?

Google symbolContinuing the theme of questions we frequently hear from dentists, today’s blog takes a look at which channel to choose when first delving into the world of paid advertising on the web; Google or Facebook.

But before we jump in, it’s worth a recap on why dentists need to consider paid advertising at all – surely a good traditional, free Google position is enough isn’t it? Well unfortunately it’s not quite as simple as that, particularly these days.

What changed? Why the rush to paid advertising?

Historically it was fair to say that a great Google position was all you needed to secure lots of new patient enquiries from the web and in some cases this is still true. Great search engine positions are still the main cornerstones of digital marketing for all dentists and where competition is relatively light, can still be sufficient without complementary paid advertising.

However, with Google starting to publish more and more ads to the home page of its search engine, particularly in mobile view, and with Facebook minimising organic reach to those who liked your business page to lower than 4%, the picture starts to become clearer. Essentially what we are seeing is Google and Facebook forcing “pay-to-play” i.e. they are making it harder for you to use their respective platforms for free. Hence the upsurge in paid ads as dentists vie for position to get their message out to the public.

Unfortunately, the knock on effect is that it becomes increasingly expensive to advertise as more dental businesses jump into the same pool. That said, it is still very possible to make excellent returns from paid advertising, but you need to know what you’re doing. More of that later.

Facebook logoTo put it into context better, in Google, over 30% of all traffic now goes to websites via paid ads. If you then throw the “local/maps” results into the mix, another 30% of traffic, you’ll see that the remainder left for the traditional “organic” rankings is lower than ever before.

Using Facebook as an example, if your business page had 300 likes, at 4% organic reach, only around 12 people would see your posts – even though way more than that liked your page and were actually interested in your services! To reach them and lots of other Facebook users, you now have to pay for the privilege.

OK, so I may need to pay to advertise, but what next?

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Understanding the project scope, costs and commitments

reviewing website contentAre you about to jump into a new project to build a website for your dental practice? Perhaps you’re finding it all a bit of a minefield with lots of different offers and proposals to consider? If so, then you’re not alone and this is something we hear lots about when dentists contact us for guidance.

With this in mind, here are 12 essential questions you should ask your website designer before you sign-up, together with the types of answer you should hopefully hear if they are potentially “good guys” to work with.

1 – Will I own the website when it’s complete?

The answer to this should be an unequivocal “yes”. There are some companies who “rent” out dental websites and consequently you never own them. This is not a great scenario in that should you receive bad service, then it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be able to move your website to another supplier. There may be some assets in use on a website which you, or the designers, don’t actually own, for example licenced images; however those should still usable on your website even if you elected to move on from your designer.

There are also the designers who build on DIY platforms such as Squarespace and the like and once again, you are only renting the service in this scenario. Your website will not be portable and likely also not supportable by mainstream designers who don’t really use those types of platforms.

2 – Is my website subject to ongoing maintenance fees?

This is a big topic and one to be really careful with. Most web design companies push really hard to sign you up to monthly maintenance contracts. In most cases they are not necessary and will cost you potentially thousands of pounds per year, even if you’ve only having very limited work done on the site. There are a few companies, Dental Media included, which do not charge these monthly fees so please check carefully and understand what you are getting before signing up.

3 – How many pages are included?

A lot of design companies will produce a decent home page for your website but then skimp on the internal content. Whilst a great looking home page is essential, it’s also important to make sure that the internal pages are engaging and informative. When it comes to being found in Google, it’s also important to make sure that each of your main treatments have their own individual pages on your website, so please be sure to check what the overall website fee actually covers.

4. Will the website be mobile-friendly?

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Ignoring Conflicts Of Interest

confused dentistIf you take a look through the small print on most dental marketing agencies websites, you will likely find a section which says that the company concerned will not actively promote more than one client in one particular area.

This essentially promises that they will not undertake SEO and pay-per-click marketing for more than one dentist in any one location. If you think about it, this makes absolute sense, as how would a conflict of interest be avoided otherwise?

Let’s consider the situation at the top of the Google search results where over 60% of traffic and hence new patient enquiries goes to the top three positions. What happens when one of your clients is already up at the top but then you take on a new dentist in the same location and start to promote them using search engine optimisation (SEO)? What does the marketer target for the new client? Second position? Third maybe? Actually neither should be the case as it’s not really ethical to set two clients against eachother in such a way.

The problem is that a couple of well known UK dental marketing companies appear to be ignoring their exclusivity claims and are actively promoting more than one client in an area. Indeed it’s easy to see this in the Google search results if you spend a few minutes browsing typical dentistry searches by location. I’m pretty sure this is also becoming more and more evident to the dentists who are subject to these conflicts.

What to do before signing up for marketing services

As this type of practice is now common unfortunately, it makes sense to cover yourself before you sign up to any type of marketing service for dentists. Get it documented so that the company knows you’re serious.

In addition, it really pays to do some quick checks for the type of search results you are targeting in Google. Then check the websites which show up to see who built them. Usually you will see a small link at the base of the home page which points back to the marketing company.

The exception

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