9 Misleading Myths About Dental Marketing

November 15, 2017    By Becky Sheetz ()

9 Misleading Myths About Dental Marketing

When it comes to dental marketing best practices, you’ve heard various pearls of conventional wisdom. Maybe you’ve put some of those “proven” ideas into place for your practice, only to find out that they came up short. One reason for this might be that you fell victim to one or more of the misleading myths of dental marketing. Read on to better separate reality from myth, avoid the pitfalls of conventional dental marketing “wisdom” and build your practice with marketing techniques that work.

Myth #1: I can learn what works from other dentists.
On its face, this sounds like pretty sound advice. But we have two follow-up questions about that statement: How do those other dentists know their marketing is working? Are they measuring success? If they are successful, they are probably measuring marketing success and can confidently and practically tell you how a particular marketing approach influenced their patient flow. If that’s the case, you may want to listen up; otherwise, proceed with skepticism.

If another dental practice isn’t doing well, you can learn from them what not to do. Be sure to take practice growth advice only from practices that are, well, growing. Secondly, if a peer dentist isn’t measuring the success of each individual marketing program she uses, then she can’t tell you with confidence how a program is affecting her practice. And if the dentist can’t provide concrete facts about how the marketing program generated a return in new patients, lifetime patient value or other measurable factors, then you may be treading into mythological territory. In these cases, your colleagues may be sharing more about their assumptions and guesses than facts. Again, proceed with caution.

Be sure to take practice growth advice only from practices that are, well, growing.

From talking with dentists, we know that they often don’t know which aspects of their marketing plans are successful. That’s either because they aren’t effectively measuring or they are disconnected from their marketing efforts, which are managed by staff.

There is another very important reason you should not rely solely on other dentists to tell you what works. Let’s be direct: If you were using a proven way to increase your patient flow, a way that had you seeing results day in and day out, would you share it openly with professional colleagues who might use it to reach your patients? Would you tell them all your secrets?

Myth #2: If you’re an excellent dentist, your schedule will be full. Quality matters far more than marketing.
A dentist who has terrific marketing strategies but does not do well with patients on a personal level will not be very busy beyond that first appointment (likewise with a dentist who provides subpar care). Even if he has a bottomless marketing budget, he’s going to be working hard to keep his schedule full. He will need a huge pool of new patients, because he won’t be able to rely on repeat ones.

On the other hand, quality treatment alone is also not enough. We hate to say it—and dentists hate to hear it—but we know that to be true. We provide the top dental marketing newsletters in the industry and have a solid word-of-mouth reputation; but, if we don’t let dentists know about our newsletters, they won’t be able to benefit from them. We believe in the power of marketing because we see it work for WPI Communications, and for the dentists we already serve. The most successful practices have an effective and measurable marketing engine—and they provide exceptional patient or customer care.

The most successful practices have an effective and measurable marketing engine—and they provide exceptional patient or customer care.

Myth #3: Patients don’t want to receive marketing materials from their dentist.
We’ll call this one a “trick myth.” We agree with the statement. Patients don’t want to receive marketing materials from their dentist; but they do value reliable educational materials. They don’t want a brochure or a postcard. But an educational newsletter that provides dental health tips, treatment options for common dental problems, and updates and developments that will help keep their family healthy is altogether different.

Educational resources like these aren’t viewed by patients as marketing materials, but as valuable content they can trust. So, we agree that your patients don’t want to be marketed to by you, but they do value your educating them.

Myth #4: I know what motivates my patients.
If we were to ask you these questions, how would you respond:

These are all very important considerations, but for many dentists, they present a problem. Dentists often respond to these questions on behalf of their patients with assumptions and dated information. Do you actively ask your patients these necessary questions and provide an opportunity for them to answer openly? If not, then you’re probably creating—and believing—your own myths.

To build your practice, it is essential that you ask new patients how they heard about you and why they selected your practice, either on the phone, in person or online when requesting an appointment. We can’t stress enough how informative it is to know these answers when measuring the success of your marketing strategies. Simply put, if you don’t ask, you will never know.

We also recommend that you regularly survey your patients with other questions to help build loyalty. This will provide valuable feedback about any practice areas you want to learn about—what they think of your office’s décor, location and parking; staff efficiency; their experiences when they call your office; the impact of your eNewsletter; and much more.

This data can have a big impact on your patient retention and new patient attraction.

Myth #5: Technical details are a major factor for patients.
Some dentists believe that one of the most important parts of their reputation, if not the most important part of their reputation, is their use of new and sophisticated technology. As you know, keeping up with technology and advancements is critical to providing top-quality patient care. It’s imperative that your patients trust you and know that you keep abreast of relevant developments and advances that benefit them. But the details of that technology are far less important to your patients than how that technology helps them.

Whether it’s shorter recovery time, less pain, lower cost or more natural appearance, be sure to emphasize the benefits.

Whether it’s shorter recovery time, less pain, lower cost or more natural appearance, be sure to emphasize the benefits.

Myth #6: Marketing is an expense.
One way to be certain that your marketing is an expense is to view it as an expense, instead of as an investment. With the “expense” frame of mind, any amount is too much to spend on marketing, but quality marketing is anything but an expense. Instead, it’s an investment for getting new patients, retaining existing ones and developing referrals. This way frames the discussion very differently.

If you’re overcoming myths and putting sound, strategic and measurable marketing plans into place, you’ll soon realize the returns on your investment.

Myth #7: Marketing is a matter of trial and error.
Similar to other aspects of practice building, such as setting office hours, marketing is sometimes a matter of trial and error. You may give something a test run, only to find out that it is unsuccessful or that another approach works better. If you measure and make changes before too much time and money is expended, that is not wasted effort. On the contrary, knowing what doesn’t work, or what can work better, puts you closer to an optimized patient marketing strategy.

In fact, individuals and firms that specialize in marketing will tell you that experimenting is a critical part of what they do. But it’s not only about experimenting and trying new things. Successful, practice-building marketing is about measuring what works against alternate options.

As an example, one of our dental newsletter clients, Dr. Gary Glassman, an endodontist in Toronto, has experimented with the best days to send his newsletters, Endodontics Newsletter and Update on Endodontics. He has found that Tuesdays are the best days for referring dentists in his network to receive his newsletters. He realized this by measuring his patient referrals following the newsletter distribution and comparing them with other days. For Dr. Glassman and other successful dentists and dental specialists, experimentation isn’t enough, it’s experimenting with measurements so you can make informed decisions about your practice’s dental marketing strategies.

Myth #8: There is no way of knowing if my marketing is working.
As you can see from the example above, there are certainly hard and fast ways of knowing which marketing tactics are working and which are underperforming. But coming to this conclusion requires some diligence, discipline and follow-through. But the rewards are well worth the effort!

To gauge the success of each marketing tactic, calculate your dental marketing return-on-investment (ROI). To do this, simply divide the dollars you receive from each individual tactic by the dollars you invest.

For example, let’s say a direct mail campaign yielded 20 new patients and cost you $8,000. Let’s assume you know from experience that, on average, each of those patients will generate first-year collections of about $1,000. Again, this is just an average.

The math in this example is simple:

20 (new patients) × $1,000 (average case size) ─ $8,000 (amount invested) = 2.5:1 ROI

If your average case size is greater than $1,000, use your real numbers when making your calculations.

Not all marketing tactics are as easy to measure. With referral-generating newsletters, for example, dentists may notice an uptick in referrals shortly after the newsletter is mailed or a more sustained growth of patients over time. Whether measuring is easy or more complicated, you can do it; you just need to be strategic, consistent and intentional about the task.

Myth #9: People don’t read anymore.
This is a powerful myth for dentists considering content marketing solutions such as newsletters. But rather than subscribing to marketing mythology and discarding tactics outright, ask yourself if there is a way to make a particular method work for you.

While it is true that attention spans are shorter than ever, e-mail and newsletter marketing continue to be among the most popular marketing methods used by experts across industries. So how can both statements, “people don’t read” and “e-mail marketing is more popular than ever,” be true?

Let’s explore.

While it is true that attention spans are shorter than ever, e-mail and newsletter marketing continue to be among the most popular marketing methods used by experts across industries.

By keeping your message easy to digest—using short words, short sentences and short paragraphs, you can get your message across while maintaining the audience’s interest. This way, readers get the main point simply by skimming, and if they are intrigued, they will read more closely. To craft meaningful eNewsletters and other types of longer-form content, ask a few questions of your practice:

What do I want readers to know? Make the takeaways and essential points crystal clear. By using call-outs and highlighting key ideas, you draw the reader’s eye and make the best of the precious time they have to dedicate to your message.

What do I want them to do? Is there an action you want the reader to take, such as scheduling an appointment or contacting you about a dental problem? Maybe you have a limited-time discount you want them to know about. Make that clear, and provide links for more information.

Am I making it easy? If there is, in fact, an action you want your readers to take, make it easy—from clear directions to a link to ease of contacting your office for more information. Your patients are used to easy online options. If it’s not easy, they won’t do it.

Why will they care? This is probably the most important question you can ask. Why will the patient care? Are you saving them money or time, or somehow improving their quality of life? Make sure you clearly understand why the information matters to them—not just why it matters to your practice.

We hope this article has helped you to better separate dental marketing facts from dental marketing myths. And we hope it has you thinking about how you can maximize the effectiveness of your own marketing strategies. To get started with valuable, educational, profitable newsletter marketing for your current and future patients, contact us today.

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