Internal marketing is one of the most cost-effective promotional mediums a dentist can use. The main focus of internal marketing is to ensure your patients stay loyal to your practice and recommend your services to family and friends. However, this has a single weakness: it only works on people already connected with your practice and your current patients. This form of marketing depends on increased treatment uptake from existing patients and also recommendations, which will only reach a limited group of people.
This is not to say you should neglect internal marketing; in fact, it should probably make up the majority of your marketing strategy. However, to make sure you attract every possible potential patient, you need to make use of external marketing as well.
The main difference between these two marketing styles is that internal marketing focuses on making your current patients more likely to recommend you to others. In this way, it builds up brand loyalty. External marketing, on the other hand, is all about attracting brand new patients and building brand awareness.
This is not necessarily as cost-effective as internal marketing, although it is arguably easier to implement. It is also essential if you want your practice to grow, as after a while your internal marketing will fall flat if all of your patients have already recommended you.
Attracting new patients means creating a brand new audience for your internal marketing communications. Each new patient gained through external marketing could end up recommending you to five more potential patients if your internal marketing is working.
Here are some of the options you have available to you if you want to cultivate an external marketing campaign to attract new patients:
Banners and posters
First and foremost, external marketing is about making people aware of your practice and the services you offer. You should make it abundantly clear to passers-by that you are taking on new patients.
This means external marketing using banners and/or externally facing posters. You need to design these carefully with a clear marketing message. Don’t plaster your building with contrasting posters when you could use a solid, thematic campaign. If you have a visible, ground-floor shop frontage utilise this with eye-catching hanging poster displays.
All your posters and banners should be variations on a theme. This could be a colour scheme or a specific treatment you offer, or it could simply focus on a special offer you have on at the moment. This way, passers-by will know that you are taking on new patients and you offer a range of different treatments.
While posters and banners can be very effective, it can be easy for people to miss them if they are walking past and absorbed in something other than their surroundings. A way to avoid this is to use A-boards, which occupy space on the pavement. This makes them much harder to miss as you walk by.
This means A-boards are great for grabbing attention. As you walk by, your vision will be naturally drawn to them, so this is where you should put your most eye-catching marketing. This could be a special offer or a positive testimonial, or just a good bit of branding.
Social media and promotional videos
If you want to grab the attention of people who aren’t merely walking past your practice, you will need to reach out through other channels. Social media is one of the best ways to attract new people to your practice even if they would never have otherwise crossed your path.
Like any business, you should make sure you have a presence on social media networks like Facebook and Twitter. These need to be updated regularly as well, preferably with content that people are likely to share to their friends, thus increasing your brand awareness.
Promotional videos are great options for this. If you can create a short burst advert that is creative and grabs attention, people might start sharing it to their social media followers. Soon, you will have an online community that is aware of you and your practice, leading to more patients.
Of course, you can always spread awareness of your practice the old-fashioned way: through direct mail. You might be surprised how many potential patients will pick up a flyer or postcard that comes through their letterbox and call or visit your practice as a result.
For this to work well, your marketing materials need to be suitably eye-catching and get straight to the point. As soon as someone looks at them, they should know they are holding a leaflet from a practice that offers a range of services at affordable prices; otherwise, it will go straight in the bin. Make sure there is an attention-grabbing headline and strong calls to action to maximise response rate. A good way of measuring the response rate on direct mail campaigns is to add a tracking phone number to the leaflet.
Often with tracking phone numbers the calls can be recorded so this will also help with staff training. Your campaign may be making the phone ring but if your reception team are not converting the calls into bookings then your marketing spend is lost and you may never get to know about it unless you track and listen to how the calls are handled.
Advertising in complementing businesses
Finally, you can target your marketing by leaving leaflets and postcards in businesses that complement your own. Most businesses will be happy to display your marketing material, although you might have to be prepared to return the favour or come to an agreement by offering the staff a discount on treatment.
People looking to improve their appearance might be the most interested in cosmetic dental treatments, so good businesses to target are hairdressers, salons, gyms or photography studios. For general dentistry, businesses such as chemists, opticians and doctors’ surgeries are good places to pick up patients whose minds will be on general medical care.