How many ads should I buy? How many brochures will I need? Should I give away refrigerator magnets, what about stress balls, or key chains? How much do I have to spend on advertising? Do I really need those fancy, full-color brochures? A website? Exactly how many new patients will I get if I place an ad in the newspaper? Will people respond if I offer a discount?
The topic of marketing raises numerous questions and, in the minds of many dentists, most have only one answer: money and
lots of it.
Some dentists see marketing as a list of things – trinkets, ads, and promotional materials to be purchased at a hefty price with no real guarantee for success - Fool’s Gold that produces a glittering spectacle of “stuff” rather than any real value to the practice. Instead, they resign themselves to doing nothing.
While others are convinced that if they just get the right jingle on the radio, the perfect prose in their ad, or the most vibrant colors on their brochures they will unleash a flood of new patients that will happily line up for the doctor’s dental services. They eagerly pour thousands into big-bucks marketing campaigns only to have patients leave as quickly as they came, and the doctor is totally baffled as to why this brilliant campaign produced utterly uninspired results.
Too often dentists overlook the very foundation of marketing. The best practice promotion can’t be found in the newspaper, won’t be heard on the radio, and can’t be Googled on the Internet. In fact, it has nothing to do with external advertising or a monster cash outlay.
Rather, your most effective advertising begins at the front desk; ventures into the reception area, winds its way into the treatment rooms, and travels the halls daily. The success or failure of your practice marketing plan rests not on the “what” but on the “who.”
Effective marketing starts with the ability of the team to successfully promote the doctor, the services, and the practice. Yet the profound impact of this most cost efficient and tremendously powerful marketing “tool” is seldom even considered. Typically, there is little or no thought given to how employees are utilizing their roles as practice “marketing reps.”
So, where do you begin? With a clear vision from the doctor. What kind of dentistry do you want to be doing – more restorative, cosmetic, implants? Do you want the hygiene department to grow, be reduced, stay the same? Create the vision and share it with the team. This is the roadmap for the practice, and the team must see their role in helping the practice to reach its destination. When employees see themselves as builders of the practice rather than just workers who collect a paycheck, their roles as “marketing reps” are much more effective
Next provide necessary education for the team, so that they fully understand the benefits of the dentistry you want to provide. If more implant dentistry is a key component of the doctor’s practice vision, every staff member from the scheduling coordinator to the hygienist must be educated on the benefits of specific treatments.
One of the best resources a practice has to promote services is the front desk, but these employees are seldom offered training and typically have very little understanding of the level of dentistry provided. Few things can kill a patient’s confidence quicker than a poorly informed employee. Take the patient who is ready to pursue implants. She asks the scheduling coordinator a question about the procedure and the coordinator wrinkles her nose and says, “Uh, isn’t that’s where doctor puts screws in your gums. I don’t really know much about that, and I wouldn’t want to have that done.” Kiss that procedure and possibly that patient goodbye.
Staff training and education are among the top marketing investments a practice can make. The higher the level of education given the staff the better equipped they are to educate the patients, which elevates the professionalism of the entire practice. At a minimum, carve out time during monthly staff meetings to discuss procedures, treatments, and/or new technologies that will benefit the patients. When the frontline employees understand the advantages that specific treatments provide patients, they can routinely reaffirm the doctor’s diagnosis.
Next week, the single most effective marketing tool every practice must utilize.
If you have any questions or comments, please email Sally McKenzie at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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