Of all the available digital marketing options, which one is the most effective, the most pervasive and the most important? It’s a trick question. Here’s the real question: Is it possible to achieve all of your dental practice’s marketing goals with a single digital marketing channel?
Let’s imagine a scenario where a dental practice is relying on a single digital marketing channel and basically ignoring all the others. What would that look like? It’s actually not hard to imagine because most dental practices that do not utilize a professional marketing agency do exactly that. They usually have a website and not much more, which means that website is being asked to do a lot of heavy lifting, and it’s probably not up for the challenge.
A website is a fundamental digital marketing tool, to be clear. However, if it is your practice’s only one, and especially if it’s not being professionally managed and updated with current information and new content on a regular basis, there is no way it will ever meet all your marketing needs. The same holds true for any digital marketing channel. No matter which marketing channel you choose for your practice, you will always be leaving something on the table. Let’s break it down:
Website. A well-designed, modern website is an excellent starting point. It lays the foundation for your practice’s brand and image and often serves as the point of first contact. It’s also a great place for prospective and existing patients to find basic information about your practice. If actively managed, your practice’s website can stay fresh and relevant with updated information, photos and even videos. However, what a website doesn’t do is actively find people who are interested in your practice. Patients have to search to find it, and there is no guarantee that your website will be seen by anyone, let alone the types of people your practice is looking to attract as patients.
Social media. It’s a hot topic, and anyone who’s anyone is on social media. Using social media is an excellent way to actively engage existing patients, their friends and their family members, as well as prospective patients who use the same platform. Social media is extremely flexible. You can use it to convey important information, be a little playful, ask questions and show off your successes. You can post as much or as little as you want and be as creative as you like. Where social media falls short, however, is just that — it’s short. The format of most social media platforms is designed to provide information in short bursts, so you have to be very choosy with what you post, and there is no way to really put it all out there in one easy-to-access place (like a website), so there will always be important pieces missing.
Blog. I love blogs because they are great for building a stronger online presence. If you want to take a deeper dive into a specific topic, a blog post is the perfect platform. You can really get into the details and show your target audience that you know your stuff. Having a blog gives your practice instant authority, and a blog is good for adding fresh content to your website on a regular basis, helping the search engines rank your website organically. You can also link to your blog from every other marketing channel. If your practice were to only have a blog, then your patients would have no way to learn the basics about your practice. Even if an enterprising person decided to read every blog your practice ever published, there would still be huge information gaps. Additionally, much like a website, there is no guarantee that anyone will actually see your blog unless you advertise it somehow.
Online business listing. Having an online presence is essential, and an online business listing is the most basic way to accomplish that. With an online business listing, such as a Google My Business listing, when someone in your market area searches for a dentist online, your listing will be included in the search results. Will it be near the top? Perhaps, but maybe not. An online business listing will have very limited information about your practice, so, of course, it cannot convey the full scope of the services you offer. Nor can it adequately show your practice’s personality. Additionally, if you do not stay on top of your online listing, the information can become outdated rather quickly, such as if you make changes to your practice’s hours of operation, contact information, etc. Obviously, an online business listing is important, but it’s really the minimum you can do to establish your practice’s online presence.
Reviews. I think it’s safe to say that everyone looks at reviews when scoping out a new business. Online reviews for healthcare professionals are becoming increasingly important to their marketing. Good reviews inspire confidence. However, like many of the other digital channels, reviews alone cannot carry your practice. They certainly help to reinforce your other marketing efforts and can even be the deciding factor for some people, but reviews can never include all the information about your practice a person needs to make a truly informed decision.
Emails to existing patients. I am a huge fan of email. It’s one of the best ways to engage your patient base. A lot of practices are so keen to build revenue through new patients that they neglect the ones they already have. Existing patients are a major source of new business and referrals, and emailing them monthly or even quarterly lets them know you haven’t forgotten about them. Like blogs, emails are great for diving deeper into certain topics, but they are also useful if you want to highlight a specific product or treatment, advertise a special event, offer something new or send a reminder about unaccepted treatment. Like blogs, emails cannot be the only digital channel your practice uses, because an email can never contain enough information to market your practice effectively. Plus, it’s nearly impossible to send your emails to enough people that you can rely solely on them as your main marketing strategy.
Google Ads. Advertising online is key, and Google Ads makes that relatively easy. Google Ads is a primary driver of new patients who are interested in your practice. If your practice uses Google Ads, it will be prioritized in relevant search results. Google Ads offers flexibility when it comes to expenditure and complexity. There is a Google Ads option to suit any practice. That said, Google Ads alone will not give you the new patient results you want. It’s just one piece of the puzzle.
It may be obvious already, but there is no single online marketing channel that can do it all for your practice. They are all essential if you really consider what each one offers. Fortunately, all the digital marketing channels work well together and play off each other to create and grow your practice’s online presence.
Ideally, you should take advantage of every digital marketing channel you possibly can. However, if you’re not quite ready to do that, start with two channels and make a concrete plan to add more over time. If you stick to your plan, your practice will have a strong, established, engaging online presence and be a digital marketing machine.