Dental practices engage in online lead generation marketing such as search engine optimization and pay-per-click (PPC) to attract new patients. However, very few practices are able to achieve steadily increasing results. Why is that? One reason for limited success is a failure to make lead validation part of the Internet marketing campaign process.
Don’t feel bad if you don’t know what lead validation is. Few people do. Simply put, lead validation is the process of reviewing website form conversions and phone call recordings generated by marketing campaigns to separate true leads like new patient inquiries and new appointment bookings from non-leads, including misdials, incomplete forms, and sales solicitations.
Why is lead validation so important? Because, on average, about half of your conversions are likely to be something other than true leads. Half!
Most dental practices lump real leads and non-leads together in a reporting bucket called “conversions” or “leads,” giving dental practice professionals the impression their Internet campaigns are doing much better than they really are. If practices want to know exactly how effective their campaigns are, they must separate leads from non-leads. A precise understanding of campaign productivity provides a solid framework for deciding how much to invest in online marketing.
Equally important, lead validation allows practices or their agencies to continuously improve campaigns more quickly and effectively. When campaign tests are based on hazy conversion data rather than precise lead data, campaign managers can be misled into thinking that, for instance, a high-converting PPC keyword is worth more emphasis because they do not see that it is producing a low number of actual leads. Oversights like this occur over and over during months-long or years-long marketing campaigns, resulting in consistently mediocre, if not declining, results.
There are a couple of reasons why dental practice marketers or agencies fail to validate leads.
First, lead validation carries a cost. Someone must take the time to listen to recordings of phone calls and carefully review website form inquiries. Not every practice or agency is staffed for this, and not every practice is prepared to pay for it—unless, of course, it sees the benefit.
Second, as I mentioned earlier, few people think much about lead validation, even at agencies. We’re all so accustomed to thinking about conversions, we tend to forget to distinguish the many types of conversions. Furthermore, even when people understand the distinction, they have no idea how many conversions are something other than leads. We didn’t have a full understanding of the magnitude of this issue until we analyzed more than 300,000 online leads.
Third, dental practices are quite vulnerable to working with unethical agencies that really don’t want their clients to understand the difference between mere conversions and leads. It is very unfortunate this problem exists, because it obscures the fact that there are so many ethical and excellent online marketing agencies that can work wonders for dental industry clients. If dental practices ask the right questions (e.g., do you validate leads?), they will find the right marketing partners and see their practices grow.
Aaron Wittersheim is chief operating officer at Straight North, an Internet marketing agency. He has helped startups, middle-market firms, and Fortune 500 companies improve organizational structure and grow through his expertise in process conception, task automation, and internal project management.
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