Dentists are known for successful practice marketing campaigns that bring in new patients, and keep current patients coming in consistently. They’ve got their patients trained to come in every 6 months. As an expert marketer, dentists are often my example that medical practices can and should have a marketing program.
So what do dentists know about practice marketing that primary care providers don't?
If you think dentists’ marketing success is just a difference in marketing budgets, think again. Most dentists aren’t doing anything super-expensive or revolutionary. But they are capitalizing on the latest trends in marketing, from social media marketing, to email follow-ups, to comprehensive patient referral programs. Dentists run their marketing campaigns like any business, including a primary care practice, should.
The good news? Primary care practices can use the same strategies, and will likely see similar results. Here are the top 7 lessons your primary care practice should take-away from dentists’ killer practice marketing strategy.
Be Seen with Online Review Sites
A recent Software Advice survey found the number of patients using online reviews jumped 68% from 2013 to 2014. What does this mean for you? If you don’t have an online presence and your profile isn’t available online, these patients aren’t finding you. Even if you’re a stellar primary care doctor, you’re not getting found online.
But there’s an easy, quick fix for this. All you need to do is claim your profile on sites such as Healthgrades, ZocDoc, Yelp!, and Vitals.com. Put as much information about yourself as possible, especially as you’re just building your profile and don’t have any patient reviews yet. Remember also to link to your practice website so that patients can look up even more information about you and your office.
Not sure which review sites to focus on? Healthgrades and Yelp should be at the top of your list; a recent survey found Healthgrades was the most popular online review site, while Yelp was the most trusted.
You should also work on building your online reputation through these review sites. Some dentists encourage current patients to review them online by offering an incentive for their feedback (like a small discount on a service). In the process, you’ll also get valuable patient feedback.
Targeted Patient Marketing
Dentists know what services specific patients are most interested in and target their marketing campaigns accordingly—with emails, calls, mailings, and social messages. Primary care can do the same thing. Think about the common problems and requests that come up throughout the year. Consider what types of services and appointments will most interest your different patient populations and target your online, phone, and mail communications accordingly. You might:
- Post a blog article on your website about what's involved in a high school sports physical during the fall season.
- Ask all patients who come into the office in the weeks before and during flu season, whether they’d like to get a flu shot on the spot.
- Tweet about allergy evaluations and remedies leading into the spring season.
- Send an email in the winter season with information on the common symptoms and signs of sinus infections.
- Mail reminders about common screenings or vaccinations patients might need.
Direct Mail Marketing Around Annual Checkups
Almost every dentist office sends a reminder postcard about six-month checkups. Primary care practices can do the same. Mail a targeted reminder postcard or letter to patients that include each patient's name and the reasons a checkup is important. Make sure you build the case – patients who are younger or may not have any obvious health problems are more likely to skip these annual checkups, even though they’re an important part of maintaining personal health.
Integrate Automation and Scheduling
Schedule the next appointment—especially follow-ups—when the patient is leaving the current appointment. Use automated marketing techniques to send information to patients before the next appointment and consider setting up a few follow-up mailings or emails. Someone who visits the practice for a routine checkup might receive a thank you email the next week. Then, a follow-up email six months later saying the practice hopes the patient is well, and another email 9 - 10 months later reminding the patient of an annual appointment.
Create a Patient Referral Program
One marketing technique dentists have really learned to capitalize on is patient referrals. Word of mouth can be one of the best ways to attract new patients. But sometimes your patients need a little push. Why not give your current patients an incentive for recommending your primary care practice to their friends? Try offering a small discount on a next appointment, or a service like a flu shot, if you bring in a new patient from a referral. Promote your referral program on your website, in your emails, mailing, and office posters. Make sure you also have a way to capture this information – add a section to your new patient forms or registration process that asks how they heard about you and who referred them.
Social Media Marketing
Social media is as an easy way to engage current and potential patients. If you’re a social media beginner, focus on Facebook. Creating a Facebook business page for your practice is an easy and effective way to promote your primary care practice, since it's more direct and personal than channels like Twitter. Fill out your profile with relevant information about your practice and make sure to link back to your practice website, if you have one. Share general health tips, links to pertinent articles, news about practice updates, or changes in hours or locations. Readers are more likely to comment on, like, or share these posts.
Also focus on building that personal connection with your followers. Upload photos of the doctors in your practice and allow each doctor to post to the page. You can even post more personal news (Dr. Smith just had her baby!) if everyone in your practice is on board. The goal is to show who you are and allow readers to build a personal connection with your primary care practice.
Remember, for Facebook or any social media channel, never share specific information or discuss individual cases or patients—even if the patient initiates such a discussion. Always take these conversations offline to avoid violating HIPAA.
Optimize Websites for Search Engines
If you want to get found online, you need to have a practice website, even if it's basic. Your site should be clean, easy to navigate, and always contain accurate information—especially when it comes to phone numbers, locations, hours, and the services you provide. At a minimum, your website should have:
- An About page introducing the providers at your primary care practice with information about their experience, education, and awards. Consider adding a few personal details, too.
- A page that provides hours and contact information
- A few pages detailing your most provided services—an obstetrician's site might have pages on general women's care, prenatal care, and labor and delivery, for example
You should also consider optimizing your website for search engines—this will increases the chance that people searching for healthcare services in your area will see your page in the top results.
Search engine optimization, or SEO, can be a little overwhelming for newcomers. However, there are a few simple things you can do to improve your ranking in search results. Make a list of the types of phrases and keywords people might use when looking for your services. Remember to focus on what patients call those services, not how you would search for them. Pay particular attention to services, benefits, or qualities that distinguish your practice (for example, one of your doctors won a “top doctor” award). And don’t forget to include your location in your keyword list to target local patients searching for services in your area.
Take those phrases and keywords and integrate them into the titles, headers, and content on your webpages. You could also even add a blog to your website and post articles regularly (once a month or so) that focus on those topics and keywords. The more you use those keywords on your website, the better your chances of boosting your primary care practice website in the search results.
If you put just a few of these dentist-proven marketing strategies into practice, your primary care practice is likely to grow. Decide which strategies are best for your primary care practice and build your practice marketing plan for the year.
Which practice marketing strategy are you going to try this year?