Conventional wisdom may dictate that increasing your marketing budget will lead to better results, but I recently interviewed marketing expert Minal Sampat, RDH, and she remarked that you can have effective marketing without spending a crazy amount of money, or any at all! All it takes is strategy, understanding who you’re marketing to, and a little creativity.
Know Your Audience
Understanding your audience is the number one thing in marketing, because you can’t use a blanket approach and expect it to return results. You need to be strategic and focus on your specific client base. All marketing works, and all marketing does not work—the deciding factor is who you’re trying to reach. If you say your audience is between age two to 85, that’s five different generations who all react to things differently. You may feel as if you need to go all in on TikTok because you hear people talking about it all the time, but if your patients are largely 65 and above it’s probably not going to reach them as well as it would a younger generation. We all want what’s newest and flashiest, but if your audience isn’t new and flashy, they’re not going to connect with you.
To reduce your spending, utilize marketing strategy. Minal described it like this: marketing is creating a website with an About Us section with a photo and bio, while marketing strategy is having a video bio on your About Us page. According to Forbes, the average user spends 88% more time on a website with video than one without. Both methods reach the consumer, but video is more powerful because the audience gets to see and connect with you on a higher level. Your personality comes through much more strongly in a video, and it grabs their attention. It’s so easy to just keep scrolling when there’s text and a picture, but if there’s a video, they have to press that play button.
Appreciate Your Patients
People don’t always realize it, but your current patients are one of your top sources for new patients. When they appreciate your work, they write Google reviews and refer their friends, family, or coworkers to you, so don’t ignore them as a marketing avenue. This kind of internal marketing is great because it’s free, and anyone can do it. An example that Minal gave was having a patient appreciation event to highlight their businesses on your social media platforms. You ask everyone to send in a photo of themselves smiling next to their business or holding their business card, and then you give them a direct shoutout on social media and on a wall within the practice. It brings recognition to their business and puts you in front of their coworkers, friends, and family. When patients see the appreciation wall in the practice, it motivates them to participate so they can also gain recognition.
Minal also spoke of the value of simply understanding the wants and needs of your patients, and then providing them. In her example, she advised a practice to offer their elderly patients a grocery delivery service during COVID because they weren’t comfortable with getting out to the store. She noted that the response to this strategy was incredible, with patients thanking them and even giving them flowers. This strategy applies to patients of any age—you just have to understand what they need. For your Gen X patients, Minal suggested providing a week of HelloFresh meals to help ease the strain of making dinner, or even a maid service to help with laundry or cleaning. The practices that did this saw incredible results and built strong relationships with their patients. I say it all the time, “People want to do business with their friends,” because they feel good about supporting a friend. When you understand the wants and needs of your patients marketing becomes easy, and you can turn a patient into a friend.
When you’re just starting out, you likely won’t have a large marketing budget, so it’s particularly useful for newer doctors to learn how to utilize cheaper marketing. Minal suggested trying the following:
- Create a Google My Business page
- Hang an “Accepting New Patients” banner outside the practice
- Use Google Post
- Connect with your community and make yourself known
- Make follow-up calls with patients to build better relationships
It will be a lot of hard work and take time, but it will save you money and let you create a marketing presence. From there you can start putting money toward advertisements or a website and expand as you see fit. When you do create a website, it’s easy to overspend on it. Minal says that your website should be as good or better than your competition’s, so look at your area. If you’re the only dentist for 20 miles, you probably don’t need to spend as much money on your website as a dentist in a more competitive market does.
Marketing has changed so much, but one thing remains true—it’s about the consumer, not you. Think about what they want and need, and then provide it. You can throw all the money you want toward marketing, but if you haven’t done any research to figure out the demographics you’re trying to bring in, then it’s not going to be effective. Do the research, and then build a strategy. Minal’s book, Why Your Marketing is Killing Your Business is a great resource for learning to think differently about your marketing approach. To take it even further, connect with the ACT coaches and they will help you strengthen the relationships with the patients you’ve attracted. When you can bring in the right patients and keep them happy, you’ll be on the path to a Better Practice, and a Better Life!
Kirk Behrendt is the CEO and Founder of ACT Dental.