People-talking-searchingImagine a patient seeking quality dental care. Most want a nearby dentist with a solid reputation and many patients with positive experiences. How do they find a good dentist? Fewer people today open a telephone book or ask friends because it’s much easier to consult a cell phone or computer that immediately makes suggestions.

Whether your dental office is in a big or small city, your online marketing efforts should use similar techniques. Target your local audience and be aware of the strategies your competitors employ. Practices in large or competitive cities need a wider variety of marketing techniques and must publish more content, as compared to small or less competitive markets.

Potential patients often start with a search engine like Google or find reviews on Yelp or Angie’s List. They might check Facebook to consult with friends, or search on Twitter using #dentist. Some even respond to ads on their phones. Their searches occur at their convenience, whether it be on the lightrail, the couch or in bed. What does this say about where and how your practice needs to be visible? Are you prepared?

Where do you start?
image-marketing-toolbox
When you advertise, do you ask the prospect to do something such as call your office? Do you prompt them to do what you want on your website, blog, ad, social media page or local profile? This is your “call to action” – a clear request to take the desired action. There are many types of requests that will initiate relationships such as offering a “how to” or newsletter in exchange for their e-mail address or encouraging a response to your social media post. Make it unbelievably easy and attractive for a patient to contact you.

SmartPhoneCommon Website mistakes

Is your phone number prominently displayed on your website, without the need to scroll, squint or read? If a quick skim of more than three seconds is required then the call is often forever lost.

Your home page should state your business name, city and state. Your full contact information should be available on your home and contact pages, including full address, phone number and an embedded Google map. When visiting your website by phone, there should be easy access to a map and directions to your office.

The most undervalued online marketing
How can your dental practice begin ranking in Google’s search results? Claim your online listings and profiles. Many dentists neglect this effort either because it’s undervalued or unknown. It’s similar to being absent from printed directories a decade ago.

This isn’t necessarily fun or easily done, but it’s important. Check your listing score on GetListed.org. Creating an account may take up to 48 hours. Next, boost your score by claiming and correcting the suggested listings.

If your office is located in a big city or competitive area, you’ll likely need to claim even more listings (citations). How many you need depends on the competition. You usually need to add citations for your locale (newspapers and associations), industry and general directories such as review, social media and mobile websites.

Building authority, relevance and familiarity
Publishing a blog shows that you care about communicating with patients and keeping current with the healthcare industry. Answer your patients’ common questions and offer tips that are interesting and useful. Use a conversational tone in words understood by those outside the industry.

Publishing fresh, useful and unique blog posts builds authority. Google visits these blogs, increasing rankings and visitors. The value of a quality blog has increased recently due to changes Google made in its search ranking algorithm. Weekly or biweekly blog posts often suffice for practices in smaller cities or less competitive markets, while dentists in more competitive markets should post at least weekly.

Pandering to Google, e-mail newsletters and social media
You can improve your search rankings by using relevant dental search terms. Some people believe that pandering to Google is passé. Keywords and descriptions, however, contribute to rankings and search results, and help Google categorize your website correctly.

Dentists are often surprised that e-mail newsletters are a profitable marketing medium. To remind patients about your services, distribute an E-newsletter regularly with helpful tips, promotions, coupons or seasonal reminders.

Facebook, Twitter and other social media are valuable for customer service, prospecting and public relations. Facebook is a direct line to patients and their friends. Ads on Facebook can economically boost your visibility and connections. Twitter connects you with patients, dentists and other professionals. You can add followers and lift search rankings by sharing interesting articles, images and advice.

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Mary W. Brophy is a principal consultant at Web Ranking Sherpa, an online marketing company located in Fort Collins, Colo. Contact her at 970-372-2230, or visit WebRankingSherpa or her blog at EffectiveMarketingStrategies.

Reprinted/Posted with permission by the Journal of the Colorado Dental Association (originally published in January, 2014).

What have you found most effective for online marketing you practice? Please comment below!

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Thumbs-up-by-peopleIf dentistry is your profession and passion, that’s wonderful. But if you’re  looking to entice new patients or keep existing patients engaged, don’t assume that your audience is as fascinated as you about the latest in curing light technology, mouth mirrors and ultrasonic cleaners.

Shop talk filled with jargon will be interesting to only a small portion of people. The same is true for your online outreach. Facebook and Twitter can be powerful tools to engage with existing and prospective patients — if you wield them the right way.

Here are a few tips about how to leverage the social media, for dentists.

[Continue reading…]

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piggy-bank-full-of-dollarsCould worries about rising health-care costs be unfounded? According to a recent report by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Altarum Institute, there’s been a dramatic slowdown in healthcare costs due to the economic downtown.

The study found that between 2008 and 2012, spending only increased by 4.2 percent annually. Compare that to a few years before the recession hit, when healthcare spending in America was increasing at an annual rate of 8.8 percent between 2001 and 2002.  [Continue reading…]

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Business DiscussionThe medical blogosphere has evolved to a point where doctors or dentists who ignore their personas in healthcare social media are doing themselves a disservice, according to a new book co-authored by the popular physician and blogger Dr. Kevin Pho.

According to Pho, a medical professional’s failure to manage his or her presence on the web could mean losing prospective patients or even existing ones. That’s because patients are able to log online and gauge their doctor’s level of responsiveness by reading blogs, or even decide whether the physician is right for them based on internet reviews from others. [Continue reading…]

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doctor conversing with patientWhen it comes to figuring out how to stretch a marketing budget to perform well at both attracting new patients and holding onto existing loyal ones, it’s important to know how to employ the most effective marketing techniques for your practice.

According to a 2012 survey of more than 1,300 small business and nonprofits by the online marketing service Constant Contact, three key factors — blogs, websites and social media engagement — are viewed as critical for enticing new customers while also retaining existing ones.

Here are tips for healthcare businesses to help you make best use of these social media marketing tools:  [Continue reading…]

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Should patient communications by email be considered part of normal care or a time-waster fraught with potholes? A recent survey covers a gamut of doctor and patient experiences, laying out its pros and cons related to patient care, marketing, costs and legal implications.

Less than 1/3 of U.S. doctors report that they exchange emails with patients, up 27% from five years ago. Those using text messages have risen from 12% to 18% between 2010 and 2012, according to CDC’s National Health Interview Survey.

  • Some doctors find it saves them time and money since it prevents annoying phone tag or helps direct patients to better Google search results and information. [Continue reading…]

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Companies have long been preoccupied with efficiency; that is, the ratio of outputs to inputs, for example, how many wine bottles were sold relative to the cost of producing them. While it is easier to count sales dollars to costs, the ratio fails at measuring its resulting benefit or value. We know what it costs to produce the wine, but how does one describe the wine? Did it deliver the desired taste or experience to the consumer?

Effectiveness doesn’t readily lend itself to a balance sheet. Instead, it must be assessed by leaders who are adept at judging whether the desired effect was produced. Without that, measurements of efficiency have little meaning. Remember, innovation is inherently inefficient. Effectiveness should be evaluated based on the business’s purpose, preferences and desires relative to what management is willing to spend.

Source: Linked in: Stop Worrying About Efficiency

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Tapping into social norms is a low-cost, and effective means of getting your business’ message across to customers. Consider some principles of social norms and situations where using them might help others to understand your point of view:

  • People naturally tend towards what they view as the norm; for example, when hotel managers left information cards in their rooms informing guests that “75% of customers reuse towels,” the reuse rate went up over 30%.
  • Another strategy to leverage is the reciprocity principle: a client’s instinct to return a small gift or favor often yields better cooperation.
  • Finally, finding common ground—even superficial things like the kind of car you drive—promotes favorable outcomes in business negotiations.

Source: Wall Street Journal: The Science Behind Persuading People

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If you just started a blog or have a collection of published posts, check these top 5 mistakes to gauge whether your small business marketing blog is an effective marketing strategy, or an obstacle to success. Is your company making any of these mistakes? If so, what can you do to improve  it, so it brings more qualified leads through the front door?

The daily attraction of the news

1. Your business has a blog, but does not publish fresh weekly content.

Small business blog’s usually fail due to a lack of commitment, meaning not allotting the resources needed to succeed. Many business owners are not aware of a blog’s potential for bringing qualified prospects to their business.

A quality blog offers important benefits: [Continue reading…]

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Local business ads managed by Yellow Pages apparently offer a lower cost-per-call than Google AdWords campaigns, based on a recent report. However, do not close your Google advertising account yet. Let’s look further, and dip into the details.

Meeting Local Businesses Goals
There are multiple ways to generate online leads, including placing ads in search results, and on directory or local or theme websites. The dilemma for most business owners is deciding which types of online advertising deliver leads that are effective and in sufficient volume.

Yellow Pages ads for local businesses

YP: Ads appear at top of the page (in blue)

Besides local business owners wanting to control spending on advertising, a common goal is also generating more leads via phone calls because serious prospects tend to call for information and quotes before making purchases. It is this angle that the study evaluated in January, 2012. [Continue reading…]

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