Dental Marketing – When A Little Knowledge Is A Dangerous Thing

Dental Marketing – When A Little Knowledge Is A Dangerous Thing

When poor information leads to mistakes….

I think it’s fair to say that the world of dentistry is quite cliquey and, like many businesses, relatively few “personalities” can hold quite a lot of influence. Unfortunately this can lead to the rapid spread of misinformation and poor recommendations, to the detriment of the end-users, the dentists themselves.

We’ve seen classic cases of this again quite recently where new clients have advised us that they’d received recommendations for a couple of design companies only to find that the service they received was actually very poor. That might sound counter-intuitive in that recommendations usually result from good service; however what became clear in these examples is that the recommended companies had become significantly over-stretched and simply couldn’t fulfil the promises they’d been making.

This seems to be a recurring theme with dental design companies – it’s happened before when the market leader of several years ago fell from grace on the back of multiple failed SEO contracts along with unsustainably high fees. Then again more recently when another company made a big splash at trade shows, grew very quickly and then went out-of-business leaving hundreds of their clients in the lurch. Some of you reading this article will likely know exactly which companies I’m referring to and may even have fallen foul of their demise.

Whilst these types of suppliers eventually get found out, the real issue is the large number of their dentist clients who get caught up in the collateral damage, with broken and unsupported websites, trashed Google rankings and thousands of pounds wasted. It is a genuine concern and not a superficial case of simply trying to trash competitors – it’s really disturbing when we see dentists taken for a ride like this and in over 21 years of operation, sadly we’ve seen it happen far too often.

To help you avoid the pitfalls, here are some of the classic mess-ups we’ve seen over the years which have resulted in dentists paying the price for the failure of their suppliers; paying way over the odds for services, tying in to the wrong type of technology or suffering as a result of poor marketing.

The coach’s recommendation

Dental coaches are quite common these days and some of them do excellent work in helping their clients develop their businesses. However a few of them have arguably stepped well outside of their core expertise and make recommendations about topics where they really don’t have the skills to do that. For example, recommending a web designer and/or SEO specialist without really knowing the best practice in those disciplines. We’ve seen numerous examples of this where, ultimately, a significant number of the coaches’ clients end up disappointed. The more savvy coaches are catching on to this and are distancing themselves, but others are still doing it without exercising due diligence. A couple of coaches also appear to be offering design services so you may wish to research whether that’s a sensible solution before signing up. It could work well in some scenarios but almost certainly won’t in others.

The peer group recommendation

Word-of-mouth recommendation is usually an excellent reference, but not always. There are nuances that need to be understood if you are to avoid pitfalls in the design world. A particular example is where a designer builds a website for a “high end” dentist tailored to attract a specific patient demographic. Aspiring young dentists might feel they need to spend £10k or more to get a similar looking website but that type of website might be completely unsuitable for their own business and the type of patient they are able to attract. There is particular skill in designing websites which are bespoke and appropriate and simply getting a fancy website which looks like that from a Dubai hotel might be completely inappropriate and detrimental. So please don’t try to copy the website of your mentor if it isn’t suitable. Look closely at what you need and what best fits your business!

Backing the wrong technology

This comes in a couple of main forms as follows:

  • Building a website using Squarespace, Wix or some other form of remotely hosted system. A couple of UK based designers encourage their clients to use systems like Squarespace and Wix for their websites, but frankly there are numerous pitfalls associated with this as I’ve discussed elsewhere in this blog. You’ll be tied to the supplier’s platform and so you never really own the site as such – you effectively end up renting it and then can’t easily move on to an alternative supplier if you need to. These types of websites are also lacking technically, so key elements such as SEO are always compromised from the get-go.
  • Opting for a content management system (CMS) without understanding the pros and cons. Many dentists get pushed into websites based on CMS such as WordPress but don’t realise the investment needed to maintain such as system or indeed the skill required to use it effectively. Many dental websites based on platforms like this fall into disrepair and end up becoming obsolete more quickly than the client ever expected.

So it is important to understand the technology being used for your website to avoid any unexpected shocks and expense.

Paying excessively for branding

Whilst a £65 logo off the internet is never sensible, neither is paying £4000 for it. Your dental brand design is very important but rest assured that those who suggest that you need to pay rather inflated sums to get a good result are well wide of the mark. Look carefully and you can get a great logo and full stationery pack designed for less than half of the fee some charge for just a logo.

Relying on stock photography for your website

Whilst not everyone has sufficient budget for bespoke photography, it really can make a huge difference to the performance of your website. Too many sites rely on glitzy stock images which are fine if you have no alternative, but they really do make websites look rather “samey” and rather artificial. Given that some design agencies will try to charge you £8k or over for a site which only uses stock photographs, we’d strongly advise looking for something far more cost-effective and using what you save for bespoke visuals, including photography and video. Website users really do prefer to see who they are actually dealing with and your treatment bookings will certainly benefit if your site is personalised with your own suite of images.

Tying in to to extended marketing contracts

Many of you will likely know that the world of dental marketing can be quite a murky place and one strewn with pitfalls. Some of our clients tried to find reputable suppliers, often several times, before coming to us and some of the experiences they recount are quite startling. This is particularly so where they were tied into long-term contracts with the promise of excellent results. However those promises went unfulfilled and when the client tried to sever the ties and move on, they found that they had to either hang on to the end of the contract or pay the full value of it. Their website assets and domain names were withheld until full payment was made.

The lesson here is to avoid contractual tie-ins if at all possible. Where you can’t and you still want to proceed, you must have some form of performance clause included.

Paying too much for website maintenance

Virtually all UK web and marketing companies insist on regular monthly fees for maintaining their client’s websites. These contracts are usually quite expensive but if you look closely at the work delivered, you soon realise just what poor value they represent. More often than not, no work is actually being done on the website, albeit the client still pays every month. I liken it to selling dental plans with very little intention of actually delivering any treatments – ethical business folk simply wouldn’t entertain it but unfortunately this type of contract is rife when it comes to website maintenance.

Fortunately there are alternatives to this and far more cost-effective too. Please speak to our team for more advice.

Summarising

Dental design and marketing disappointment seems to be more of a feature than you might expect these days and too many dentists end up disenchanted with their suppliers and more generally, with the industry itself.

This has unfortunately been exacerbated by inappropriate recommendation from some quarters, for example dental coaches, peer groups and others where those making the recommendation aren’t really close enough to the subject matter to advise. Your website and subsequent marketing are critical to the success of your dental business and it really pays to perform your own research and due diligence before you jump in. Failure to do so can easily lead to significant disappointment, wasted time and wasted cash.

If you’d like more information on any of the topics discussed above to help you make an informed decision, please call Dental Media on 01332 672548 for transparent, no-obligation guidance.