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Building a Marketing Plan

I want to encourage each of you to approach marketing with as much focus and energy as you do other parts of your business. Across the nation, dentists are slacking off when it comes to our marketing. It seems we don’t understand that our marketing is an investment in our practices. In order to grow our businesses and grow our practices more quickly and securely, we have to invest in marketing.

The most important thing for dentists when it comes to marketing is to first establish a marketing budget. You have heard us say that we should budget about 3-5% of our collections on marketing. Not just spend the 3-5%. Invest it in attracting the lifeblood of every practice: New Patients. Instead of getting distracted by the latest shiny objects, define what you want to achieve. We need to focus on results. Find out what works in your practice and go down that road. Let me give you five goals for dentists and the marketing tools make the most sense to reach them:

1. Go for the low hanging fruit: Get a lot of leads cheaply by going for SEO, pay-per-click advertising, and offline marketing targeted to your core patient demographics in the form of direct mail for new movers to your area.
2. Build repeat business and referrals by using Care To Share gift cards and even apartment door hangars.
3. Increase the lifetime value of your patients through your website and social media campaigns, reminding your patients about their value to you and asking for referrals.
4. Increase your upsells. Upsells, same day dentistry, and using delegation and technology to deliver dentistry more quickly will allow you to outpace the infringement of managed care and the deep discounts that come with them.
5. Reactivation of lost patients through personal phone calls, targeted mailers, and emails. This is the first and best place to go for increased business and productivity.

Remember that marketing is an investment. The money you spend on it should produce more value in sales. If it doesn’t, you’re doing it wrong or you’re paying the wrong guys to help you. As you grow, try to scale your marketing. In other words, by starting with a budget of 3-5% you are limiting the amount of dollars you spend. As production and collection increases, you have more dollars available to spend. The percentage stays the same, but the dollar amount spent will increase. This allows you to increase the “scale” or amount of marketing you can do. Even if you are a novice at marketing, you need to start somewhere, even if it is small. Just sitting on your hands costs you money. A marketing plan might not bring in all the new patients you need, but no marketing plan will bring in even less.

Before I end, let me address the subject of several phone calls I’ve received over the last couple of weeks: “What do I do about negative feedback from patients on the Internet?” Bottom line: Reply early and reply often. You want to be honest and reply to all your negative reviews to address the issue. Be public about it. Most people know that we all make mistakes. Never have an argument with a negative reviewer. Just go above and beyond to do whatever it takes to make them happy.

The real purpose of this article is to get you thinking about your marketing. Now that you are thinking about it, let’s move to improving it. If you would like to have me review all of your marketing in a free hour long telephone call, just fax or scan your materials and send them to me. I will email you back to find a time that works for both of us to discuss each piece along with giving you real world solutions to improving the return on investment (ROI) for your marketing dollars. I have often made suggestions that tripled the return on investment. You have nothing to lose, and you don’t want to be reading the next article in May only to realize that just like last month and last year, you’re still failing to launch. I look forward to hearing from you.

Michael Abernathy, DDS
[email protected]