To some extent, dentistry is a data-driven profession.
Clinical practice is informed by the data from studies of the durability and functionality of various dental appliances; from cohort studies about specific interventions; and from prevention research results.
But there’s another way in which your dental practice should be data-driven. Your marketing should be driven by data. Here’s why.
Dentistry is a business. Hunches, guesses, and intuition are lousy ways to run your business. But that’s exactly how too many dentists manage their efforts to attract more and better patients. Say you have a new ad campaign and you have more patients showing up at the door and they happen at about the same time – you might well believe that what you’re doing with your marketing is working.
As the saying goes, “it ain’t necessarily so.” You’re inferring a connection between your marketing and your new patient numbers that may not be there. Studies have found that new dental patients are wildly inaccurate when it comes to remembering how they found your practice. Let’s say, giving your practice the benefit of the doubt, that fully half of your new patients are accurate reporters.
❝Dental marketing based on specials and price is a race to the bottom.❞
The question is, which half?
The right answer will inform your marketing efforts and tell you where to invest your hard-earned dollars. The wrong answer will have you throwing money away. If you’re like the vast majority of dentists, you can’t afford to throw money away. You need hard, accurate data about what’s working and how well it’s working.
Dental Marketing Tricks and Traps
There are several ways you can can accurately track how parts of your marketing are working. One of those ways is by putting unique identifiers on direct mail postcards and/or offering a coupon in newspaper ads. That identifier method works best when you’re offering a discounted or free service; think dollars off a cleaning, or maybe a free initial exam. When the new patients show up at your office, postcard or ad coupon in hand, you’ll know exactly how they found you.
It’s a marketing trick that can also be a trap. Why? Because the basic premise is flawed. You’re discounting your services and demeaning your dental prospects’ perception of the value of what you offer. You’re “just another discount dentist.” Dental marketing based on specials and price is a race to the bottom.
To grow your practice, you need patients who will stay, pay, and refer. Getting new dental patients on the basis of price or specials gets you price-shoppers and one-anddones. You can probably convert some of those to regular patients, but when you figure the per-patient cost against your average case value, the numbers frequently don’t add up.
That’s particularly true if you’re up against corporate dentistry or large group dental practices in your market. Both of those types of competitors have deeper pockets and greater economies of scale than the typical solo dental practice can muster. You can drive your practice into the ground trying to compete on price.
There’s another aspect of advertising on price and discounts that can harm your practice. If you’re doing what all the other dentists in your area are doing, you become a commodity. Dental prospects assume that dentists are competent, and if you don’t give them good reasons to choose you to solve their dental problems, your prospects will be siphoned off by your competitors.
Another marketing trick to track your new patients is through your website. You can set up a “new patient” number with a dedicated line in your office. When that phone line rings, it’s because they saw the number on your site. The trap side of this method is that it relies on your phone answerers to accurately record how many new patients were appointed through that line.
Of course, your website should also offer your prospects a way to book an appointment online, and those patients should be easy to tally. In today’s internet world, all of your marketing should point your prospects to your website. It’s the single largest part of your marketing that can do the most thorough job of answering new patients’ questions. And, it’s the best way to give prospects reasons to choose you instead of your competition.
An integrated Approach
Instead of a patchwork approach to gathering data on your marketing’s effectiveness, you can institute a complete solution: phone tracking.
An automated phone tracking system assigns unique phone numbers to every piece of your marketing— newspaper ads, local magazine ads, radio and TV spots, direct mail pieces, blog posts, outdoor boards, your website, online videos, your patients and prospect emails, and your e-newsletter.
Those unique phone numbers automatically forward to your practice phones. The instant the phone begins ringing, the source and the call are recorded in a database. This gives you ironclad proof of which parts of your marketing are attracting the most new patients.
But the benefits don’t stop there. From the database, you can determine which calls during office hours went unanswered or rolled to voicemail. And in case you think that your practice answers every call while the office is open, our data shows that a large number of calls never get answered.
Every unanswered call is a potential new patient you’re unlikely to get. The final benefit of phone tracking is that the call recordings allow you to determine the percentage of new patient callers that are appointed and to discover gaps in your staff’s phone etiquette and appointing skills.
Phone tracking gives you data that you can rely on and use. It’s the exact opposite of hunches, guesses, and intuition. That data will allow you to precisely target your marketing dollars for maximum new patients.
Now, the downside of phone tracking: Hopefully, you’re already busy and so are your staff. Reviewing every phone call, every month, requires a tremendous time commitment. Phone call reviewing isn’t the best use of your time, it may not be the best use of a staff person’s time, and it could cost a considerable amount to contract out, but there are other tracking systems available. If you’d like more information, please contact us. What’s important is that you know what’s working, what’s not, and when there’s a problem converting callers to appointed patients.
Analyze the data and succeed!
Colin Receveur is the creator of the revolutionary Patient Attraction System™ and the CEO and founder of SmartBox Web Marketing. SmartBox, a dental marketing firm, works with over 550 dentists on three continents to help them get more patients, more profits, and more freedom. You may contact him at 888-741-1413 or at www.smartboxwebmarketing.com.