Small Biz Insights: Internet Marketing for Your Dental Practice
:: By Dr. ChauLong DDs, MAGD at Menlo Park Dental Excellence ::
Any dentist will tell you how difficult it is to distinguish oneself from the pack. Here in Menlo Park alone, I have dozens of competitors just within three major city blocks. In the beginning, I never gave much thought to Internet marking, but thankfully, some tech-savvy colleagues showed me the error of my ways. My dental practice, MP Dental Excellence, has been in business for more than eight years, and I learned very early on that the old-fashioned methods of marketing are simply no longer sufficient. After all, when's the last time you actually opened a physical copy of the Yellow Pages or picked up a phone to obtain dental, medical or even car repair recommendations? Chances are, when you're looking to compare professionals in your neighborhood, you turn to Cyberspace. If you're a dentist, you must stop and consider how this newfound fact of life may be hurting your practice.
Public relations is just one of the many ways that you can use the Internet to your advantage. Press releases are extremely helpful, and there a wide variety of PR services—such as PR Web—which will distribute your articles to a wide audience. You might also consider writing guest blog posts and news articles in your city. People love to read topics such as “How to Whiten Your Teeth at Home,” or “What to Look For in a Dentist.” Just remember to include information about your practice and ample contact information.
I admit that I was late to the social media game. I always assumed that it was for teenagers and entertainment websites. But I see now that social media isn't just a good idea. It's absolutely essential. By engaging on sites like Twitter and Google+, you can reach out to new potential customers, build customer loyalty, and even improve your search engine rankings. As a dentist, you can lure back existing customers by posting deals or promotions, and you can gain new customers by posting helpful oral care tips along with relevant hashtags like #miamidentist (this will enable people to find you).
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Okay, this one is by far the most difficult for a lot of people. Let's say you have your own dental practice in Los Angeles. When somebody performs a Google search for “Los Angeles dentist” or “LA California dentist,” you want your website to appear at the top of the search results. But how do you make that happen? In my case, I employ the services of a knowledgeable SEO team that handles all of the details, and I have found the investment to be hugely beneficial. If you aren't personally acquainted with the best practices for things like link building and SEO content creation, I would encourage you to find a good SEO team.
Pay Per Click
I don't use this method personally, but I have heard very good things from other experts in my field who have had great success with it. Pay-per-click just allows you to post advertisements for your business on contributing websites all across the Internet. You pay a flat rate whenever someone clicks on your ad. So, for instance, you might create a banner that reads “Dental Care in Santa Fe – Professional Care at an Affordable Price.” The banner would be posted on various websites, specifically targeted at people searching for dental care in Santa Fe. Whenever someone clicks your ad, you pay a small fee. If you can drum up enough business to justify the ad-click fees, you can really open a lot of doors for yourself.
Deals and Discounts
By now, I'm sure you have heard of sites like Groupon and Living Social. Discount websites allow you to post your coupons and promotions to people in your neighborhood who seek the precise service that you're offering. For instance, you might offer a discount teeth cleaning as a way of reaching a wider audience and luring more eager patients to your door. I have found these sites to be immensely beneficial.
Once you have patients, how do you keep them coming back? We've already talked about social media, and that's definitely one great method, but there are others as well. How about a monthly electronic newsletter or email updates? By encouraging your patients and website visitors to sign up, you can build a real ongoing relationship with people and ensure that you maintain the business that walks through your door. You can offer oral care tips, updates about your practice, coupons, promotions, and of course, include calls to action so patients know what you want them to do or where you want them to go from within your emails or newsletters. Always remember to remind your patients that they should see you at least once every six months.
Reaching Out for Help
Maybe you feel a bit overwhelmed by all of this. Maybe you're thinking, “Look, I'm just a dentist from Lake Mary, Florida. I don't have time to build an Internet marketing empire.” I completely understand that sentiment. Thankfully, you don't have to do it all on your own. You can employ the part-time services of an SEO team, a marketing team, or even an in-house intern who helps you to manage the technical aspects of your business while you stick with what you do best. And even if you can only do a little bit, like the occasional Web promotion or social media post, it really can make a huge difference.
The Downside of Internet Marketing
When you take your marketing to the digital sphere, there are few things to be mindful of, some of which I was warned about early on, and some of which I had to learn the hard way. First, it's more important than ever to truly deliver on your promises and go the extra mile to be courteous and professional. Today, unhappy patients will turn to review sites like Yelp, and too many bad reviews can seriously harm your business. Work hard to listen to your customers, provide the best in care, and address any and all concerns before they become grudges.
Second, remember that the Internet is a fickle place where even the most well-intended sentiments can be misconstrued and blown out of proportion. When publishing newsletters, articles and social media posts, be mindful of your entire audience, avoid unnecessary controversies, and remember: if you think that a particular statement might be viewed as offensive by someone, it will. Trust me.
Best of luck to you in your Internet marketing endeavors. If you're not already marking online, it will forever revolutionize your practice.
Dr. ChauLong DDs, MAGD has practiced dentistry out of her Menlo Park Office, Menlo Park Dental Excellence, since 2002. She is committed to providing the highest quality care for all of her patients.