Applying Marketing Essentials to Your Website and Social Media to Connect With Customers
Tanya Gold, RDH
Beth Comstock, former chief marketing officer of General Electric, said it perfectly: "Whether B2B or B2C, I believe passionately that good marketing essentials are the same. We all are emotional beings looking for relevance, context, and connection." Being able to connect with the outside world on an emotional or relevant level is a powerful tool. Dental professionals generally recognize the influence of good or great marketing but also acknowledge that this type of business building may not be their strong suit. This, in turn, can work as a catalyst for hiring a marketing expert to help bring in new business.
To maximize working with a specialist, the dentist must participate in the planning and execution of the resulting marketing efforts. By blindly following the lead of a marketer or consultant, you can end up with marketing approaches that don't connect with your audience. Even with their expertise, marketing specialists need the insight that only you, the dental professional, can give.
This is where many dentists and marketing consultants drop the ball. Emotional awareness and personalization are needed to distinguish your practice from the rest of the dental universe (who are all probably using the exact same type of marketing tools). Two basic but essential tools-a website and social media-can be utilized to make that personal connection to bring new customers to your door.
The Website: Opportunity to Stand Out
By now, every dentist who wants to stay in business should have a website. I'm not the first person to point out that the Internet is today's Yellow Pages. Most people search the Internet for all goods and services, and your dental office needs to be there to be found. If you don't have a website, getting one should be your priority.
Fortunately, websites do not have to be built from scratch. While custom-created websites can be quite costly, reputable website companies such as PBHS (pbhs.com) and ProSites® (prosites.com) also can supply a dental practice with a predesigned website, allowing it to be up and running quickly. Dentists typically like this option, because websites generated this way can be cost-effective, look great, read well, and require minimal effort. However, the downside of putting in minimal effort is getting minimal return on your marketing investment. If you want your website to be a successful marketing tool for capturing business, consider the following:
Unique content: Having the same content as every other dental practice that bought the same website package is detrimental to your marketing efforts. You need unique content on your website to improve your visibility and your chances of capturing online traffic. Keep in mind that most potential patients won't be navigating directly to your site; instead they will be searching for a dentist by entering certain criteria or key phrases into a search engine. You want to be one of the first websites to populate for that criterion or phrase. The content on your website determines how the search engine ranks your site. If your content is exactly the same as most other dental practices, rising to the top of the search list will be impossible.
Having your own content gives you individualism, a tone, a persona. You don't have to rewrite your whole templated website to achieve this effect, but adding elements that display some personality, warmth, and relatability will help. The content should especially appeal to the types of patients you envision treating. For example, if you're proud to have served this country in the military and you want to help veterans in need of dental care, let it be known. Also, highlight any awards, honors, or other professional recognition you've received.
Your image: The appearance of the website should reflect the practice. Visitors should be able to get a "sneak peak" into what their patient experience would be like. Many prefabricated websites come with stock images and cool flash animation, but consumers would much rather see the reality of your office than slick impersonal imagery. Having actual images of the dentist(s), patients, staff, and office on the website provides context and a connection. It also allows prospective patients to gain a sense of trust and confidence. The more potential patients can learn about the practice, the safer they will feel and the more likely they will be to take a chance with your services.
Emotional impact: The website conveys information about the practice through both its content and visual appeal. The colors, page layout, and fonts used on a website have an emotional effect on its viewers. This type of influence is powerful and persuasive and should be used to the practice's advantage. For example, for people who tend to be fearful of the dentist, those fears could be offset with a sense of calmness and safety before they even arrive at the front door through the use of the right colors, elements, and fonts. The look of the website should create a positive emotional response. Too much visual clutter might cause the viewer to feel overwhelmed, while intense colors might instill feelings of stress. Thoughtful design can help the practice connect with a new patient on an emotional level without him or her even being aware of it.
The Post: Be Socially Engaging
Social media is seemingly ubiquitous. For a dental practice this amounts to free airtime. Dentists can take advantage of social media by being active on platforms that prospective customers might be using, such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. This can be a great asset, but only if it is done effectively.
What to post: Social media is used to keep a community connected to an establishment or person. Great postings are those that are relevant, engaging, and help people feel informed or included. Examples of ways to do this are sharing something bragworthy about a patient (with their approval), promoting patient contests, or announcing that the dentist or practice has been honored or recognized. Posts can announce when someone has, for example, won an iPad® in an office contest; include photos for extra excitement. It's best when you can get your patients to share your posts on their social media pages. You can encourage this by making your posts relevant and enjoyable for them.
Another great way to have people share your posts is through education or promotions. Keeping patients informed about specials, new products, and/or treatment raises their awareness of what your practice can do for them. This can also drive new business.
How and when to post: While starting accounts on Facebook and other platforms is easy to do, maintaining a regular stream of quality posts makes managing social media challenging. Posts should be made consistently by a designated team member or company to keep followers and onlookers engaged. If need be, companies such as Smile Savvy® (smilesavvy.com) can assist with the task of posting.
"Regular" and "consistent" posting does not mean "constant" posting. Posting too much is like sending too many unsolicited emails; at some point the recipient just stops looking. The frequency of posts should be determined by the content of the posts. For example, if the dental practice is in the midst of a contest countdown, then a daily post is appropriate. Otherwise, posting every 2 weeks, monthly, or bimonthly should suffice.
Whoever is doing the posting, whether a staff member or outside company, should consult the dentist on what he or she wants posted. As with the website, having the dentist interject some personality helps the social media posts connect with their intended audience. The content should be tailored to the people the dentist expects to read it. If, for example, most of the practice's followers are parents of pediatric patients the information should relate to them.
Marketing a dental practice online isn't necessarily difficult, but it is time consuming. While bringing in outside help can be beneficial, the best results will come when the dentist contributes to the marketing plan and conversation. Though marketing tactics may change over time, the need for relevance, context, and connection never will.
About the Author
Tanya Gold, RDH
Owner, Dental Hand for Hire, Calabasas,
California (dentalhand4hire.com), which specializes
in public relations, practice enhancement, and