Local Marketing Tips From a Dentist That's Tried It All
As a healthcare professional and a small business owner, you've probably realized that one requires a lot more trial and error than the other. No amount of medical training can prepare you for being a small business owner, especially if you're starting from scratch. The good news is there are plenty of other dentists that have been in your shoes. For every problem you may be facing, they've faced something similar and can help you overcome the issue.
Dr. William Sung of Grand Mission Dentistry
So if you're looking for some help with the business side of your practice, SmileMakers is here to help. We've brought in Dr. William Sung, a dentist from Houston, to share his experience and offer some advice. To kick this off, we'll be discussing one of the most pressing concerns for dentists: local marketing.
1. Don't start marketing without knowing your community first
Local marketing can take many forms, and the one that works best for you will be dependent on what type of practice you are and the community around you. Always consider the demographics of your area before putting a plan into motion. Campaigns that would work in the big city will be ineffective in a smaller town, so know your audience. For Dr. Sung, direct mailers were a good starting point, but he also found success in appearing at local community events like senior expos, schools and recreation centers. "When we would present at these functions, we'd always include some Call to Action item like a raffle prize or complimentary fluoride treatment when visiting our practice." Said Dr. Sung.
Ultimately, it comes down to what works best for your demographic. For example, if you know that the population is primarily young parents with kids, advertising at schools, fairs, and sponsoring local sports teams will yield the best results. Make sure to have some promotional giveaways on hand at these events. Customizable toothbrushes, bottles, and fridge magnets with your practice information can help promote your practice without any explanation. As they say, the pen -with all your contact details- is mightier than the sword.
2. Don't get too hung up on the distinction between Digital and Local Marketing
Here's a question that pops up too often: "What should I focus on, digital or local marketing?" With the rise of digital media, many dentists feel the need to make the distinction between the two forms of marketing. In truth, the two aren't mutually exclusive, and actually complement each other when used in tandem. As every industry has gone digital, many local marketing campaigns are tied to some technology or analytics that is only possible due to digital marketing. Online resources can provide detailed reports of the demographics of your area, help you connect with your community via social media, discover local events and outreach opportunities, and promote your practice directly to interested parties. Digital marketing has made local marketing precise. It's no longer a shot in the dark. Now, every decision you make with your marketing campaigns can be backed by meticulous research and data.
When Dr. Sung first started marketing his practice, Grand Mission Dentistry, he knew that it would take a combination of both local and digital marketing to get it running smoothly. With the help of analytics from Wonderist Agency, Dr. Sung was able to identify his ideal patients and reach out to them directly. "For direct mailers, I could target more specific groups & demographics." Said Dr. Sung, "And for ground marketing, we did local events in the area that catered to certain groups that lived close by, marketing to parents near schools and seniors by the community center." This was only possible because he used digital and local marketing in tandem. Instead of viewing them as separate, think of them more like two sides of the same coin - different, but equally valuable.
3. Find what makes you unique, and make sure they know it, too.
Unless you happen to be the only game in town, your number one priority should always be to differentiate yourself from the other practices nearby. A smart local marketing campaign will let you leave a distinct impression on your community. Before patients will visit your practice, they have to know why you're different from the competition. That's also why branding is so important. The stronger your brand, the more likely patients are to remember your practice and book an appointment. As Dr. Sung started a new practice in Houston, he knew the importance of separating himself from the other practices in his area. "I was a start-up practice in a saturated market. It was very important to get my name out to the local community and find a way to differentiate [Grand Mission Dental] from all the other offices nearby." Said Dr. Sung. To accomplish this, Dr. Sung created a diverse marketing campaign. "We advertised locally with flyers in our office and all around the neighborhood. We also had a strong advertising push on social media."
4. Ingrain yourself into the community
The best way to get your name out to the local community is to be an active participant! There are always opportunities to get out in your community and meet your future patients as long as you're looking. Dr. Sung found opportunities to attend events at senior centers, schools, and early education centers in his community. At these functions, Dr. Sung organized raffles, complementary treatment rewards, and charitable opportunities. These all helped with engagement and formed genuine relationships with members of the community. So when considering how to engage with your community, consider the type of events you're interested in attending and how best to approach people when you're there. There are plenty of unique ways to decorate for event marketing and this is your time to get creative! No event will be the same, so be prepared to be flexible.
Around Halloween time, Dr. Sung participated in Operation Candy Buy Back to promote interest in local well-being while supporting the troops. Dr. Sung also helped his local community by donating $4,000 worth of dental treatment to a local charity. It's actions like that that let your patients and neighbors know that you're more than a dental practice, you're a community partner.
5. Don't throw all your eggs in one basket
As a scratch practice, it's easy to be a little overeager when starting a marketing campaign and dedicate all your time and resources into that campaign. While that might be your initial instinct, it's not necessarily the right one. One of the best parts of local marketing is trying out different campaigns and finding which one is right for your practice and your local community. Accept that there may be trial and error involved with finding the right campaign and carefully analyze data. Dr. Sung's advice is to find a campaign that provides a good return on investment. "If it's working, spend more money on it or maybe even leave it as is. If it isn't working, look to make adjustments and try again."
Looking for more ways to stand out in your community?
Marketing doesn't only happen outside the office. Creating a memorable patient experience can be just as powerful as a well-planned event. If you're trying to leave a lasting impression, take home bags filled with toothpaste, dental floss, lip balm, and other dental accessories have proven to be incredibly effective.