Inside Dentistry
January 2019
Volume 15, Issue 1

Grow Your Practice with Digital Marketing

Online scheduling, chat, and other tools increase engagement

Scott Hansen, MBA

The business of teeth starts with getting enough eyes on your practice, but how do you reach potential customers? The days when you could depend on billboards or the phone book to generate sufficient leads are gone.

These days, the audience that you're looking for is online, so that's where your practice has to be, too. Online marketing is crucial in today's dental economy. If patients can't find you online, most will never know you exist. Having a great digital presence can even make your practice look bigger and more established than it actually is. Generally, the better your online presence, the faster the growth of your dental practice.

Common Misconceptions

What do dentists get wrong about online marketing? Many business owners think about their online presence as something separate from their physical practice. In truth, your digital presence and your physical presence are one and the same. Perception is reality, and patients form their opinions about your practice online.

To succeed, digital marketing has to be a  focus for your practice. For many practices, this may require a shift in workplace culture. Each day, your business should have at least one goal: reaching more people online.

Don't let fears about the cost of online marketing stop you from jumping in full force. Some elements of establishing your digital presence are 100% free. It's free to list your business on many online listings, free to get reviews, and free to create engaging social media. The biggest barrier for most owners is fear of the unknown, and the best way to overcome that fear is to jump right in and don't look back.

Many dental practices do not intentionally target a specific group of people in their marketing. Instead, they do broader marketing to "get themselves out there." If your practice is under $3 million in yearly revenue, like most practices, your online marketing initiatives need to be more like a scalpel than a shotgun blast. When starting an online marketing initiative, you need to specifically define your target buyer/patient, then develop a campaign that addresses their most burning concerns or questions.

Digital Tools

Most potential patients now begin their journey to find a dentist online. They will view your website as a digital office for your practice. To maximize your success, you'll need to invest significant effort into creating the most informative and easy-to-use website possible; however, keep in mind that you have dozens or even hundreds of local competitors who are busy building their websites, too. That's why it's so important to incorporate technologies such as online scheduling, online chat, and other digital tools to engage and serve new and existing patients in a way that differentiates you from your competition. This makes your website more than just a static page. It makes it a useful portal for patients.

The current state of consumerism is pushing patients to expect radical convenience from their service providers, and many are becoming more demanding online. They want answers immediately, even when it's after hours or on the weekend. Engaging these patients online builds goodwill and helps provide the convenience they expect and crave.

When patients come to your website, they are looking for someone to solve their problems. If no one is on your site to greet these patients, they may hit the back button and be gone forever. To acquire their business, your digital office needs a front desk. That's where a live website chat service can help by setting appointments, answering questions, and otherwise engaging potential patients.

Because successful practices think about their online presence as an extension of their physical presence, it changes how they approach their website visitors. To treat website visitors the same as you would treat visitors to the office, you need to start a conversation with them. An online chat service can help you greet visitors on your website and build value for the practice just like you would during a new patient phone call. Online chat can also free up staff time within your physical practice, leaving your team to focus on creating a high-quality, face-to-face customer experience during patient appointments.

Summing it Up

Building a dental practice is about a journey-the customer's journey. And with most customer journeys playing out online now, your dental practice cannot ignore online marketing or the need to provide the radical convenience that these consumers want. Online marketing and communication tools, including live website chat, can give your practice the power to engage consumers on the level that they expect while generating the visibility that you need to succeed.

About the Author

Scott Hansen, MBA, is the founder and CEO of DentistChats, a leading professionally managed website chat service exclusively for dentists.

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