NEA Powered by Vyne recently hosted a presentation for its clients featuring Grace Rizza, founder of Identity Dental Marketing, a social media marketing firm dedicated to serving dental practices. Rizza shared how dental practice leaders can grow their practices through the use of social media.
One of the most important takeaways from the session is that a practice’s brand is its reputation. People’s view of your brand translates directly into how potential patients feel when they encounter any element of your business. The good news, according to Rizza, is that practices can shape and influence their reputations through marketing. But as in all successful outcomes, some work is required.
Your brand is everything. It is a business’ biggest asset. A brand carries the most value as long as it stays consistent. Coca-Cola is a prime example. The bright red can of soda with white scrawled writing is known worldwide. While the product can be reproduced and copied with some degree of success, that’s not where the power of the Coke brand lies. Its strength comes from the way people associate their feelings about the coloring, the logo, and the marketing behind the sugary, syrupy soft drink. People associate the Coke brand with how it makes them feel.
Like Coke and dental practices, success often is brought about through successful marketing. Marketing is selling, which is providing something to customers that they actually need. For dental practices, this means getting patients to want the care that they need. According to Rizza, dental practices are in the business of selling the emotional benefit of treatment received. “You are providing a service that is going to benefit and change a patient’s life,” Rizza said.
When selling to patients, dental practices must connect a solution to actual human need. Thus, patients need to feel important and that they belong somewhere. Patients must understand that, based on the treatment offered, the procedure you are providing can lead to longevity, improved personal confidence, and better lives.
In some cases, treatment might help the patient have a more beautiful smile, and that’s an easy “sell.” But what about the cases where, for example, the patient needs a small filling to prevent further tooth decay? If they’re not in immediate pain, seeing the benefit of a procedure that’s needed (and that you’re “selling,” by the way) is a much tougher sell.
You have to use the tools at your disposal such as intraoral camera photos and educational materials to prove to your patients that they need to schedule that next appointment and have the filling done sooner rather than later. After the appointment is scheduled, you need to follow up and make sure they keep that appointment for their oral health—and your bottom line. It may sound harsh, but dentistry is a business, and all businesses must market and sell their products and services to be successful.
Lucky Number 7
In marketing, it takes (on average) a minimum of seven impressions for someone to recall who you are and to recognize your name or brand. When creating an engaging message, practice leaders must themselves understand what their business stands for, and then they must make efforts to ensure that the messages actually support that goal. Building your brand is about building your core business and what it represents. This must be considered when building an audience. That said, creating a message might require re-branding.
Brands should be updated every five to 10 years, Rizza said, because trends can affect how people perceive the brand and what it represents. Dental practices must rebrand when their mission and focus have changed or if their product scope has changed. Also, practices should re-brand when the target market served has changed.
Here’s an illustration of why branding is important in dentistry. There are two schools of thought: old school and new school. If patients perceive your brand as being old school, they think of pain, first and foremost. If patients perceive your practice as new school, they feel assured that their needs will be met with modern services and comfort.
If your practice is not perceived as innovative and modern with updated tools and technology, prospective patients may think your techniques and approaches to treatment are outdated and painful. It’s about perception. What do you want patients to think of when they see your brand?
Reaching People Where They Live
People spend more time on their mobile phones, consuming the internet even more than they sleep. Thus, dental practices must be online and have more than a mediocre presence. Mediocre websites are for mediocre practices, Rizza said, and potential patients will judge your practice in an instant based simply on your website’s appearance.
Your website speaks for your practice and serves as your modern storefront. When building a website, Rizza recommends using real photos of your practice and of your patients. For example, use real before and after photos that show your capabilities, highlight the authenticity of your work, and get patients thinking about what is possible for them. “Show instead of say,” Rizza said, “in every office and on every web page.”
In your marketing efforts, don’t overshare. Dental care can be gruesome for those who do not understand it and aren’t exposed to it on a regular basis. In other words, don’t over-educate in your social sharing. Think like your patients, and don’t terrify them. You want to keep them at ease, but you aren’t only competing with other dentists, you’re competing with other discretionary spending. For most patients, dental care competes with recreational spending or nights out and even food and clothing in some cases, so don’t scare them away with too much information.
Some things to consider posting to social media include:
- Links to blogs
- Downloadable material
- Emotional testimonials
- White papers
Social Media Marketing and Planning
There are many ways to market via social media, such as organic posts, boosted posts, and targeted ads working together with posts. Social media marketing is its own animal and entails entirely too much for us to get into here. Suffice it to say that practices should work with someone who understands the different means of outreach and engagement posed by the various social media channels. Rizza provided some detailed information during the NEA webinar that might be useful.
That said, dental practices going it alone need a distribution plan that should include delegation for who should be releasing information, when will it be scheduled for posting, and who on the team will oversee the overall plan. (Someone has to ensure compliance with grammar, good judgment, and the like.) Assign a responsible party to review all materials prior to posting, as well as a backup in case the lead individual is out of the office for a period of time or leaves the practice.
Be cautious when releasing information. Implement pieces of your plan one at a time. Ensure there are regular posts each week and strongly consider drafting an editorial calendar to make sure your posts are relevant. Assign each member of your team the “task” of providing a weekly tip or insights to share with patients about some of the common challenges they experience when working in oral care.
Other topics might be explaining the details of explanations of benefits, how to get kids to floss, or myriad other things that patients may not know. These exercises should be designed to educate patients in a fun way so they will remember the information provided and, in turn, remember you and your brand.
Necessities for Video
Each video produced and shared by a practice must be bold and authentic, but not rehearsed. The people featured should openly discuss things that they are passionate about. It also helps to develop and follow an editorial calendar and to choose topics that interest your audience. Shoot and post weekly if possible. To help with this effort, consider shooting several video segments at once so the filming doesn’t become a hassle or a dreaded assignment. Place the videos on your website, blogs, and social media according to your plan.
Also, your videos must set the tone for your audience. If you produce videos, think like a patient, but establish yourself as the expert. Produce videos that are educational and provide insight that patients might not find elsewhere. Don’t read video scripts, but speak on the recording as though you’re talking to a patient. Watching people read is awkward and clumsy. Speak like you’re talking to one person.
Don’t Avoid Google
When crafting a social media marketing plan, don’t avoid Google. For example, reviews on Google matter for internet marketing efforts, so you should be encouraging patients to post reviews of your practice. Google reviews matter because people see them, which helps practices with their page rankings.
Google reviews bring business to the top of search results, and businesses that appear on the Google maps searches for their business listing receive an incredible return on investment. And, don’t be afraid of negative reviews. In most cases, you can connect with the patient, ask that the review be removed, and communicate directly with the person to address any outstanding issues.
Also, don’t overlook the power of Google ads because they can be effective if managed correctly. Components of an effective Google ad campaign include ad quality, ongoing keyword optimization, and mobile ad searching capability. In Google ads, you can choose the language and target landing pages and websites where you want to drive traffic. Remember, use appropriate keywords. Don’t use the word “free” dentistry for high-end procedures.
Landing Page Must Haves
What’s a landing page? This is the page on your website that your Google ad or social post will take visitors to for more detailed information. Quality website landing pages must contain:
- An attention-grabbing headline
- A great sub-headline
- Compelling “you” copy
- Testimonial and benefits received
- A call to action button
- Contact info
A powerful video doesn’t hurt, either.
Identify the best marketing methods to help build the brand of your practice and stick with them until your practice’s strategy changes. When it comes to marketing, nobody knows your practice better than you, so design a program that’s going to work the best for you and your team. Be realistic in your goals and expectations for content delivery.
Remember that your practice’s brand is its reputation, directly impacting how potential patients feel when they encounter any element of your business. You can build your reputation through marketing and social media, but you and your entire team must make the effort and put in the time to meet your business’ goals for success. If your team embraces your brand, believes in your vision, and is committed to working your plan, putting patient care and communication at the forefront, you will all reap the rewards.
Ms. Alfano is the senior director of corporate and dental channel marketing at Vyne. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Beef Up Your Practice’s Email Security
Making Room for Traditional Practices Among DSOs
10 Common Mistakes Dental Practices Make and How to Fix Them