If your goals include increasing patient volume, a thoughtful marketing strategy can help.
Editor’s note: This article has been adapted from The Path To Owning It podcast episode six with Mike Shoun, president and CEO of Affordable Image Marketing Agency.
The new year is a great time for established and aspiring healthcare practice owners to reflect on where they’ve been, where they’re going, and how they’re going to get there. If you’re a dentist or veterinarian looking to grow your practice by increasing your patient base, marketing is an essential step in the process.
Use these marketing best practices to bring your vision to life and help grow into the practice you’ve always imagined.
View your patients as customers and your practice as a business.
Thriving healthcare practices operate with a business lens. Their owners understand that patients make decisions as consumers — they choose where, when, and how they receive care. As a healthcare provider, you focus on the clinical side; as a practice owner, you have the opportunity to embrace the business side, with marketing being an important element of your practice operations.
For a startup dental practice or veterinary hospital, you’ll need to begin with the marketing basics: logo, website, and written key messaging. If you’ve acquired an established practice, you can make it your own with a rebrand (a logo, website, and key messages that you create). Your website is a foundational piece of your brand, and you’ll want to design it with future patients in mind (this is where many prospects will convert to patients). Think about the websites you like, trust, and find credible. How does the tone of their messaging impact you? Is the interface intuitive and easy to navigate? Does the content provide enough key information?
Pay attention to the patient experience.
One key strategy for both attracting and retaining patients is focusing on what they experience at your practice.
How do you want your patients to feel at every touchpoint along their journey — from the first time they call your office, to the feeling they get when arriving at their appointment? A friendly greeting, welcoming staff, and warm and inviting waiting room can go a long way. According to Forbes, customers tell an average of nine people about a positive experience with a brand, and they tell 16 people about a negative experience.
As part of your marketing strategy, you’ll want your team to be trained in customer service, sales, and the services you offer. The team member answering the phone is the lifeblood of your practice — they provide the first impression and must quickly build rapport with new and existing patients.
Don’t worry: You’re not asking your team to become your “sales force,” but you do want to ensure they can properly answer patient questions, understand the services offered, and can maintain a compassionate and friendly demeanor. When you have qualified people who are trained and passionate, every patient can turn into a referral. This is where you can see the impact on marketing ROI.
Marketing efforts to consider for 2023
A well-built marketing plan can bring your practice vision to life, but what tactics are best for you and your practice? The following four approaches can help dental and veterinary practices increase patient volume and brand visibility within their communities.
- Search engine optimization (SEO) — SEO expands a practice’s visibility in organic search results on Google, which drives more visitors to your website — (hopefully) increasing patient conversions, leading to more revenue
- Pay-per-click (PPC) marketing — PPC allows healthcare practices to pay to have their website appear at the top of the search engine result page (SERP) when someone searches for specific keywords or phrases. You only pay when someone clicks your ad. PPC ads are the results you see before and to the right of the organic search results.
- Social media — Having an active presence on social media helps grow your practice’s brand by allowing you to nurture connections with your patients with the free tools provided by each social network. Through organic social media, healthcare practice teams can interact with their communities by sharing posts and responding to patient comments. Once you’ve mastered organic, consider dabbling in paid: Paid social can help you reach hyper-specific audiences like a targeted demographic or geographic area.
- Direct mail — In many areas, direct mail is still an effective tactic. Promotional postcards printed with unique tracking phone numbers allow you to measure how many new patients you’ve gained through a mailer campaign. Direct mail can have a quick impact on your practice and be used at any phase of the customer/patient journey.
A mix of these approaches can help strengthen your existing connections and even help you build new ones — each has its own advantages, so consider partnering with an agency or working with a marketing consultant to discuss which combination would be best for you and your practice.
Along with your monthly operating expenses, be sure to factor marketing costs into your budget. Mike Shoun, president and CEO of Affordable Image Marketing Agency, suggests investing 4% of your revenue on marketing efforts. If your practice generates $300,000 annually in revenue and you want to maintain that, consider investing $12,000 in marketing each year. If you want to increase your revenue to $1 million, then you’ll want to invest at least $40,000 in marketing to become a million-dollar practice.
As we enter the new year, Provide wishes you the best of luck in achieving your practice ownership dreams. If you would like to dig deeper and learn more specific marketing strategies for your startup or practice acquisition, listen to the conversation with Mike Shoun, president and CEO of Affordable Image Marketing Agency, on Provide’s podcast, The Path to Owning It. To begin your practice ownership journey, visit our practice marketplace to browse available dental practice and veterinary hospital listings by city, specialty, and annual collections.
All opinions expressed by the guest on The Path to Owning It podcast are solely their current opinions and do not reflect the opinions of Provide, its affiliates, or Fifth Third Bank. The Path to Owning It guest’s opinions are based on information they consider reliable, but neither Provide, its affiliates nor Fifth Third Bank warrant its completeness or accuracy and should not be relied upon as such.
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