Why you need to plan carefully and budget for success

Over the last few weeks the team at Dental Media has collated data from numerous accounts to investigate which dentists are actually winning the marketing wars – so who is doing what and at what cost, to secure new patient enquiries.

The analysis is ongoing and the results will be the subject of future blogs; however there are three general conclusions which are already apparent – 1) In general UK dentists don’t spend enough on marketing, many nothing at all, 2) those who start early and budget appropriately win the marketing wars and 3) those who do it right, quickly extend their lead over their competitors. That probably seems quite predictable, but given the general reluctance to budget and plan marketing appropriately within the UK dental sector, it’s well worth reiterating.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these elements and how the information can be used to inform the business strategy for your own dental practice.

UK dentists are generally significantly under-budgeted when it comes to marketing

This is particularly the case when you compare to other countries such as the US or indeed general businesses in the UK. Very often we see that dentists have a website and then do little else, perhaps some ad hoc social media marketing or some DIY Google Ads. There may also be some website SEO happening, but even this is far from the norm.

This is somewhat peculiar given that it’s very easy to show that websites which are prominent on Google are excellent for attracting new dental patients and payback on SEO is fast. It’s also easy to demonstrate that social media, done well and consistently, can deliver excellent return on investment.

Despite the data and evidence to show just how well professional marketing contributes to a dental business, there still seems to be a disconnect for many dentists in the UK. There is often a focus on the sum of money needed to introduce and maintain marketing, rather than the payback which it can deliver. This failure to invest leads to business growth stagnating unnecessarily.

Start marketing early to build momentum

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Tackling the effects of current economic constraints

With inflation currently at 9% and predicted to hit 11% soon, it’s unsurprising that the effects are starting to bite in the dental industry. Put bluntly, folk who would have stretched to afford Invisalign for straighter teeth or perhaps an implant to fix a gappy smile not so long ago, are now more concerned about how to pay their power bills and feed their family.

Coupled with this, we are seeing dentists increasing prices to compensate for increasing costs, not just to cover increases in things like utilities, but also to offer the types of salaries needed to attract and maintain suitable staff. To be honest, some of the price increases we’ve applied for clients are significantly ahead of inflation and it does make you wonder how sustainable that actually is.

Undoubtedly, the dental cycle has moved again and harder times are ahead. We are seeing this in the marketing data we produce for clients and even where website and landing page visits from interested patients remain buoyant, the general level of actual enquiries is down. So folk are still looking for services but fewer are choosing not to make the final step, particularly for treatments where a significant investment is required.

To help put it into context, we analysed several Facebook and Instagram paid ads accounts and compared the number of landing page views and enquiries from the second half of last year (following the removal of all Covid restrictions) with the same campaigns for the first half of this year. Landing page views were down 26% and actual enquiries from those views were down 47%. There was no change in the way that the campaigns were being managed and it’s reasonable to conclude that the reduction is solely due to external factors.

What are your options when new patient acquisition gets tougher?

This is a tricky question and one where the answer will depend on your financial situation and what you’ve budgeted. There will be some things that all dental teams can do to up their game to face the challenge, whereas other initiatives will depend on how much cash can be reallocated to areas such as enhanced marketing and advertising to ensure that your business is number one choice in a smaller pond of patients who still have the means to proceed.

Let’s take a look at some of the initiatives you can introduce; some of them free, some of them requiring additional investment.

Internal Marketing

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What is account quality and how does it affect how your ad campaigns perform?

It seems that most dentists use Facebook and their sister platform, Instagram for advertising these days; albeit with variable success. Indeed Facebook has made it easier for people with little or no experience to build ads and launch them across both of those platforms.

It’s fair to say that the ‘halcyon’ days of easy Facebook advertising for dentists are over and it tends to be those folk who don’t have a solid grip of the fundamentals who end up wasting a lot of money and disappointed. Quite often this is where we get asked to pick-up the pieces and launch some carefully crafted campaigns after the dentist’s DIY endeavours fell short.

Account Quality Definition

What we often find when we take over the set-up and management of ads for a dentist is that their account has fallen into disrepair and the intrinsic “quality” of the account as Facebook refers to it, has fallen through the floor. This is a serious issue and the implications vary, from under-performing ads through to the whole account being banned.

So what is Facebook account quality and how can you ensure that your own account meets requirements?

Facebook says this in the opening paragraph of their own information about account quality:

Account Quality provides a centralised place to monitor and improve compliance with our Advertising Policies, Commerce Policies and other Facebook policies and terms. You can also use it to monitor your feedback.”

You can see more in the link to their details here:

About Account Quality

They go on to explain how they use a rigorous set of parameters to ensure that advertisements do not contravene standards and policies and to ensure that people are protected from harmful experiences when they are using their platforms.

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Why you don’t need to pay monthly fees for an agency to manage your Google business page

Over the last few months we’ve had a couple of clients approach us to say that they’ve signed up with a third-party agency that approached them and offered to manage their Google Business Profile (formerly Google My Business) for £149 + vat per month. Sadly they signed up to 12 month contracts for this on the back of being promised “wonderful” things in terms of Google rankings and new patient enquiries.

I was instantly suspicious and asked one of the clients to send references describing the service that they signed up to and ‘benefits’ that it offered. Here’s what came back in terms of the supposed benefits:

  • Management and otpimisation of the business’s Google Business Profile page
  • Advice on Google reviews

That was it – no assistance with helping the business to rank better in Google local search, no citation building, no actual assistance with the reviews process. So in reality they’d signed up to a 12 month contract at £149 + vat per where they were receiving effectively nothing on an ongoing basis.

What the agency was actually doing was checking over the existing business profile to make sure simple things like addresses were set up correctly, a few photos added, opening times checked etc and that was it. At best this would represent just an hour or two of work. After this, pretty much nothing else was happening!

Is this a scam?

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Focus on 6 key elements to ensure your practice website delivers what you expect

If you’re just setting out on the journey to build a new practice website it really does pay to do some homework to ensure that the project delivers to your expectations. A great dental practice website is still the main cornerstone for all of your digital marketing and irrespective of how potential new patients hear about you, they will still check out what you are all about via a visit to your website. If this isn’t up-to-scratch, then the chances are that your new patient will simply look elsewhere.

Unfortunately there is a lot of misinformation in the world of dental website design and it’s very easy to go down the wrong track and end up with a mess. This can range from cheap, generic websites built on DIY platforms like WIX and Squarespace, to hugely expensive sites built by so-called “elite” designers that are technically poor and under-perform in Google. You really do need to take appropriate care at the outset to select the correct designer and platform to give you a website you’ll be proud of and which earns its keep (and more) in new patient bookings.

So what are the key 6 things you need to keep firmly in mind when for your new dentist’s website? Let’s take a closer look.

Aesthetics

It goes without saying that your website needs to look good and be engaging for users. There are lots of dentists upping their game with digital marketing generally and like it or not, you’ll need to compete if you want your share of the new patients using the web to seek out new dental services. Remember that a lot of folk are quite fickle and easily “hooked” by something that looks good – many don’t read past what they see after the first glance and so you need your website to make exactly the right impression very quickly.

Personalisation

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Getting the basics right with social media advertising campaigns for dentists

We’ve probably all seen the “same old” ads from dentists on our Facebook timelines and Instagram accounts; the ones where agencies use the same cheesy stock images and text regurgitated to lots of different practices. Unfortunately that format no longer cuts it and if it sounds like the content your ad agency is delivering, then it’s time to think again.

With lots of dentists using social media ads to reach their local audiences, now is the time where your ads really need to be different to help you to rise above the noise and secure those all-important new treatment bookings. You need to be the yellow fish swimming in the school of blue.

What types of ads work best for social media advertising?

For the last 3 or 4 years, many dental agencies have been relying on static ads, just a single image, usually from a stock site, with a few words of text across the top. This used to work quite well in the days where using ads on these networks was not that popular; however these days, something much more effective than a simple static ad is required. Let’s take a look at the two main options:

Image carousel – this is the next step on from a static image where 2, 3 or more images can be linked together in a slide-show effect. It is certainly better in terms of engagement rates than a static image and something to try if you don’t have the facilities to create our preferred ad type – the video clip.

Video clips – ads involving snippets of video are by some way the most engaging for potential new users. Facebook (Meta) makes lots of analytical data available with regard to ad campaign performance and it’s easy to see which ads perform most effectively. Because we do a lot of work with social media advertising, our team receives agency mentoring sessions directly with the Facebook team and it is also their firm recommendation to exploit the power of video ads where you can.

Producing good-quality video clips

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The roles of the practice team and marketing agency

Whilst many agencies still offer “all done for you” social marketing with the promise that no-one at the practice will need to be involved, the truth is that these types of campaigns are nearly always sub-optimal compared to those where the local team is involved.

Today we’ll take a look at why local team involvement always wins out and what you need to consider when preparing your own dental practice for a social media marketing campaign.

Before we begin, here’s a quick example to illustrate why it’s absolutely essential to make sure that preparation is thorough and responsibilities are defined so that new patient enquiries don’t get missed and frustration is avoided.

We are currently running an Invisalign campaign for a large practice where responsibility for monitoring and managing new treatment enquiries had been agreed. In summary, our marketing team looked after the set-up of ads, landing pages and on-line booking systems and the practice was tasked with monitoring the required channels to capture all of the new enquiries. The practice team would then enter all new enquiries into their CRM system for follow-up using their usual procedures.

All was running as expected with enquiries going via the online booking system, but as part of our periodic monitoring, we also checked to see what type of engagement was happening with the ads on Facebook and Instagram. To our surprise (dismay) we found that lots of questions were being asked in the comments but no-one from the practice was responding! This was quickly addressed back to the principal so that staff could be re-aligned accordingly. In the first two weeks alone, we calculated that upwards of eight solid leads may have been lost as a result of this failure to respond. That’s a lot of potential lost revenue and profit and easily enough to cover the running of the campaign for several months.

So what do you need to prepare at the practice to run social media ads successfully?

Assets to make your ads compelling

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Competition increasing, disposable income decreasing, what happens next?

One of the most popular marketing services we offer for UK dentists is advertising for new Invisalign patients using social media i.e. Facebook and Instagram.

We’ve built up a lot of momentum using these techniques and delivered many hundreds of new orthodontics patients, however it’s only reasonable to share some of the slightly less encouraging market dynamics we are seeing currently. We’ll also take a closer look at what you need to do to maintain momentum.

For several years it was relatively straightforward to secure new patients from social media, even for lucrative treatments such as Invisalign. Whilst you need a good eye for developing great ads, high-quality landing pages and a sound knowledge of how Facebook and Instagram work, it isn’t exactly rocket science to do this kind of work – despite what you may hear some suppliers claim. It really isn’t alchemy.

However, over the last year or so, it has become less easy to get new patients like this and more time, effort and budget is needed to deliver on those campaigns. So why is this? Invisalign trade representatives might tell you that all is buoyant and for the aligner business as a whole, that’s easy enough to understand. But what is the impact on the individual provider and what are the underlying factors you now need to consider before embarking on your own Invisalign campaigns?

Competition is increasing

Not only is competition increasing, it’s increasing significantly. To put it in context, we work with one small dental group that recently sent eleven dentists on Invisalign training courses in the space of two months. It seems that virtually every practice we work with now has someone who can carry out Invisalign treatment.

The net effect of this is that lots of dentists can now offer basic Invisalign after attending short courses and it’s quite difficult for a layperson to differentiate between those guys and more experienced practitioners. They are all able to subscribe to a marketing company to publish good looking ads and there is very little a patient would be able to do to be able to make an informed choice regarding who is best qualified to undertake their treatment.

The bottom line is that lots of Invisalign ads from lots of dentists are now appearing on the social media feeds of patient across the UK – in rural settings as well as bigger urban areas. More competition invariably leads to less enquiries, particularly if you don’t up your game to counter it.

Patients have less disposable income

With inflation set to hit 10%, disposable income is being significantly reduced for many. Those who could stretch to more expensive items, including dental treatment, are now more likely to hold off until the future looks a little more certain. This was brought home for me just the other day when, out of curiosity, I was browsing the UK section of the Tesla car forum. To my surprise I saw a couple of posts from owners who were actually ditching “luxuries” such as Netflix and Sky so they could pay for essentials. It’s not a stretch to consider that those folks and many others like them, probably won’t be considering Invisalign in the current climate.

So whether we like it or not and however much your dental coach or trade rep suggests otherwise, times are tougher and the number of enquiries you get for “high-end” treatments will fall away somewhat.

What can you do to mitigate the patient drop off?

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What you need to do to gain search engine prominence after a new website launch

So you’ve had a new dental practice website built and you’re wondering why your Google positions are no better than your old site? Or perhaps this is your first site and it’s somewhere on page 2 of the search results a month or so after launch? If this is the case, unfortunately it’s what you should expect, albeit a situation that maybe your web designer didn’t explain properly when they quoted for your job?

Let’s take a look at why many dental business owners enter into website projects expecting that the new site will instantly improve their search engine rankings and why unfortunately this often doesn’t happen, at least not to the degree they expect.

Why a new website won’t take you straight to the top of Google

Whilst it’s clear that a website which is built professionally and in compliance with the latest publishing standards should form a great platform on which to progressively build better ranking positions, it certainly does not guarantee a huge leap to the top of Google. Unfortunately lots of web designers are less than transparent about this as they simply want to get the job in the first place.

When it comes to ranking in search engines, there are many factors in play, not just the quality of the website. Of course it is very important to make sure that the new site has great content and is optimised correctly for what is known as “on-site” SEO, but there are numerous external factors, typically grouped together as “off-site” SEO, which also play a huge part. The success of a website is ultimately about how those off-site and on-site factors are optimised and developed.

What you need to do after your new website is published

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Your web text needs to be unique – here’s why….

One of the key activities for the web team here at Dental Media is updating dentists’ websites, indeed it’s something we do every day in one way or another. This is a separate activity to actually building the websites in the first place, a process where more often than not, we have full control over supplying the content and checking its validity.

When it comes to updating an existing dental website, for example adding a new treatment page; often the dentist or perhaps their practice manager, supplies us with the text to use, along with some images and maybe some example treatment cases too. This is absolutely fine and something we encourage, however it is also an area where problems can often arise. The main issue we encounter is where the text has simply been copied from another website.

We can easily check for this by taking a few extracts of the text and plugging it into a Google search – this very quickly shows up if the text has been used elsewhere.

Copied text is a big “no no” when it comes to publishing on the web and simply must be avoided for the following reasons.

Copyright

This should be obvious but unfortunately dentists sometimes take the view that if they copy another website’s text, they will get away with it. We’ve seen cases where text has been copied from a competitor website in the same location (not too sensible!) to other examples where text has been copied from websites in the USA or Australia. Irrespective of the source, in all cases it was easy to find the copied text – and if we can do it, the person it was copied from can too!

How far you might be pursued if you use someone else’s website text is debatable, but it probably isn’t worth risking it to find out. Aside of the copyright issues, the next issue is also huge and another big reason why you need to write your own unique website content.

Google doesn’t like duplicated content

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