Are You Driving Patients to Your Door or Down the Street?
SEO. Geolocation. Bidding Algorithm. Organic. Any of those terms sound familiar? I suspect you’ve heard of one or maybe two - they are not exactly household words, at least not for most dentists. Each relates to online advertising, but their definitions are not as important as what they can mean to your practice, specifically the magic three: Patients, Production, and Collections.
Today, 82% of consumers use the Internet to search for local businesses. They look for phone numbers, customer reviews, directions, information, and various details about restaurants, service providers, retailers, dentists, chiropractors, and more. For many practitioners, simply having a website is a significant accomplishment. But as Ben Rubenstein recently shared with me, the website is only the beginning when it comes to establishing your presence on the Internet. He would know. Ben is co-founder of Yodle, an online advertising company with a simple mission: to connect local businesses with consumers simply and cost-effectively.
Started just five years ago by three childhood friends, today Yodle is the fastest growing local online advertising company in the US with a team of 400+ employees nationwide. They literally wrote the book on online advertising in the latest installment of the ever-popular “Dummies” series, Local Online Advertising for Dummies. The company has quickly established itself as a leader in helping small businesses, dental practices in particular, to make the most of local Internet advertising – the operative word being local.
As Ben emphasizes, the point of creating an Internet presence is to drive patients directly to your practice door. But the website is only the first step. The appearance of the website is critical, as this is often the patient’s first impression of the practice, and beyond appearance is functionality. “The idea isn’t to have people spend two hours on your website. The idea is for people to visit your site and pick up the phone to call your practice and make an appointment.”
He notes that demand for dental services is out there. A patient searching for dental services in Philadelphia, PA isn’t accidentally searching online. Rather, the patient has a need and they are looking for a practice that can fulfill that need. “We don’t create the demand. We link the patient with the doctor who can deliver the product.”
Motivating patients to make the call to the practice is step two in achieving the magic three for your practice. But it can all come to a screeching halt at the phones. “You’d be surprised how many dental practices don’t handle their phone calls very well. We have practices in which the dentist is convinced that the person answering the phones is doing an excellent job. In reality, the individual will answer the phone and tell the caller, ‘This is the price, if you want it fine, if you don’t, goodbye.’”
That is where Yodle’s phone monitoring system comes into play. All of the patient calls into the practice are recorded. “This is a very good way to train staff on the best strategies in handling phone calls coming in from prospective patients,” notes Ben. He emphasizes that the calls are not accessible to Yodle, and the recording can be disabled at any time. Additionally, the calls are tracked, which allows Yodle to follow the number of calls generated from the local online advertising efforts. It also enables clients to audit the effectiveness of Yodle’s online marketing campaign. “There’s no debating whether it’s working or not, either the calls are coming in and the patients are making appointments, or they are not.”
Beyond tracking the effectiveness of the Internet advertising, clients can also track other forms of advertising as well to determine which aspects of their marketing campaigns are working and which aren’t. “It’s a way for dentists to feel comfortable about spending marketing dollars in specific areas, because they can see where they are getting the return on that investment,” explains Ben.
While many assume that only younger dentists are likely to pursue Internet advertising opportunities, Ben notes that doctors across multiple age groups and practice demographics seek out Yodle’s services. “We will work with doctors who are right out of dental school and just starting out, as well as those who are in their 70’s and want to generate as many patients as possible, so that they can sell the practice for as much as possible. It’s a matter of: if you need patients, we can help you.”
Next week, what to expect when working with an online local advertising company.
An Encouraging Word
No one reading this needs more bad news about this ongoing economic recession. Dentists, though, might have an unusual perspective on it. I don’t mean just because your businesses have been affected - whose hasn’t? I mean, you see this from an angle most people can’t appreciate. Sadly, economic recession isn’t just economic. This downturn threatens personal well-being, both mentally and physically. The burden of worry is as brutal as the one of debt or the one of looking for work. There’s no isolating the human body from the body politic; the external conditions inevitably affect the internal ones.
The headlines are all right there, written in on the teeth and gums: neglect, bad diet, postponed treatment, stopgap measures and finally, a problem that might have been treated routinely months ago before it turned serious. All signs of the times; people who worry about cash flow put off spending on everything but the necessities, and the worse things get, the more harshly they define “necessity.” Cleanings and checkups that used to be necessities are now “maybes.” Indulgences like alcohol or tobacco become crutches. Some nights it’s too much work to floss or use the fluoride rinse. Some nights even brushing is out for someone who just can’t muster the energy.
You see the Dad who’s out of work and suffering with dental pain so he can pay the mortgage, and the Mom who lets a cavity turn into a root canal case so her kid can go to summer camp. They don’t need to explain it to you. You can read that story the moment your patients open their mouths.
Getting Back to Positive Routines
You might not think of yourself as a counselor, but if you have the opportunity to offer your patients some personal encouragement in your appointments this week, you might be surprised by how well they take it, and moreover, at the practical effect it can have in their lives. It doesn’t have to be too personal, and you don’t need to overstep professional boundaries. Just a few gentle, specific reminders to patients about taking care of themselves can help reorient them to the small things they can do to help themselves.
Sticking to the evening routine of flossing and brushing is crucial. Any positive routine can help beat the blues, and this one, certainly, is a sound investment of ten minutes. Do your patients understand the connection between their gums and their hearts? Do they know that daily flossing is a proven way to promote cardiac and systemic health, not to mention avoiding gingivitis and cavities? Take a moment to remind them, and supply them with a fresh roll of floss. Remind them not only what to do, but why to do it - it’s about staying healthy, staying strong and enduring for themselves and for their families. Those few minutes spent maintaining their mouth is a chance for them to look in the mirror and reinforce their resolve.
They might find it surprising, and particularly gratifying, to hear encouragement like this coming from a dentist. It’s a way for you to express personal concern and caring, and to keep the relationships you have with your patients through the downturn. Your own financial outlays have probably been affected by this economy, so you, like them, have to get the best return on your time and money. Maybe you’re rethinking marketing media or ads. Maybe you cut back on personal spending his year. Talking is inexpensive, but it’s not cheap - which means that a few minutes at each appointment spent strengthening your relationships with patients is time well spent with a reliable return. The patient who knows you care today is going to be there tomorrow when things are better for everyone.
On behalf of McKenzie Management, David Clow consults with dental professionals on practice culture, case acceptance, and patient expectations.
David Clow is a writer/consultant for Fortune 100 companies. His book, A Few Words from the Chair, is the first book written by a patient for dental professionals and students and is available here.
Listen to David’s FREE podcast. Click Here
Personal Brand Value
The name conjures up immediate associations. We know her as the daytime TV queen of talk, the publishing and media maven, a highly admired entrepreneur. From a powerhouse business woman to a woman who’s amassed enduring trust around the globe, Oprah is a brand with longevity. She’s a household name. She has 25 years of staying power.
I am not one of Oprah’s “ultimate fans” as were the women and “man-fans” that comprised her audience last week. The Premiere of the Final Season was widely published. Out of curiosity, I tuned in. John Travolta danced out with Oprah as the show opened and he later “flew” in the Qantas airline shell when Oprah surprised her 300 loyal viewers with the ultimate surprise – a grand excursion “down under.” Consider the fact that her star power has the potential to lift Australia’s profile as a premiere tourism destination. That’s a powerful brand!
Perhaps you’ve never considered yourself as a “brand.” Many people think that personal branding is just for celebrities - like Oprah - but each of us is a brand. Personal branding, by definition, is the process by which we market ourselves to others. A personal brand gives you the ability to stand out from the competition. In essence, you’re marketing yourself as something different than the rest of the pack.
How you show up to work, the persona you present and how you mold your team - these are factors that contribute to your brand. Brand is the identifiable image that is reflected in what you do and how you do it. It is the foundation of your reputation. It’s how others view you, from patients to employees and vendors, and even your community. It’s unique to you and serves as an important asset.
A personal brand is a mix of reputation, trust, attention, and execution. When your passion aligns with your talents your brand will flow effortlessly. As basic as it is, however, it’s not easy to do. You need time to think about this. Here are a set of questions to assist you in refining your brand.
Figure out what matters most to you, and also what you are capable of sustaining. The best brands do what they say they’re going to do and they do it consistently day in and day out, no matter what the circumstances. The only way you can be consistent is to take some time to decide what you want to be known for, and then behave that way with intention. Focusing your brand on being "your best self" also lets you be consistent.
Your personal brand value is the core of who you are and what you stand for. That creates an emotional connection that builds loyalty with patients, employees and all the people in your life. The branding process helps you to take control and influence the image others have about you and the services you offer. In a nutshell, personal brand is bringing your best self to work, and doing your best work. While you may not reach the iconic status of an Oprah, you can have strong brand value.
Dr. Haller welcomes your questions and comments. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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