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Get Modern with Marketing Your Practice – A Guide for Purchasers

The recent explosion in technology has resulted in the Internet influencing how people do most everything in their lives, including how they choose and communicate with a prospective dental office. In turn, there has been a significant corresponding change in what marketing strategies are most effective for today’s modern dental practice. A close evaluation, and update of your marketing strategy, may be more essential now than ever before.

Younger dentists and new purchasers will especially need to earn more from their practice than those of the past. Educational debt has increased at alarmingly high rates. The importance of sustained practice growth via new patients, and the corresponding increase in revenues, cannot be overstated. If you have recently purchased a practice, the traditional marketing that was more than adequate over the years for the seller, is no longer sufficient going forward. Effective internal marketing, including delivering an extraordinary patient experience, are still critical for the success of your practice, but may no longer the primary way of attracting a new patient.

Traditional Marketing: No Longer Enough
Until now, many well established practices had sufficient levels of practice growth and were highly successful utilizing traditional marketing. In traditional marketing, new patients are attracted by word of mouth referrals from existing patients, through the yellow pages, or both. Patients from the best practices would become practice advocates by telling their peers about their dentist and the new patient’s first contact with the office would be by phone.

However, the effectiveness of “traditional marketing” methods to those driven by the power of the web has accelerated at full throttle. The online health audience was over 60% of US adults in 2009 (Manhattan Research, 2009) and 88% of Internet users searched for health information online in 2010 (Harris Polling, 8/4/10). Many practices that continue to rely on traditional marketing methods alone are experiencing decreases in new patient numbers along with overall revenue. Initially, this decline was attributed to the economy. However, the continued assumption that this is still stunting growth, may be preventing some dentists from recognizing other changes that are affecting the health of their practice.

Leveraging the Internet: Beyond a Website
Today’s patients are using the Internet as the primary research tool to decide which dental office they will use, and the first contact with your office is often via your website. A prospective patient is making a decision whether to make an appointment with your practice based not only on the effectiveness of, and access to your website, but on Internet tools that provide reviews of you and your practice. Your website, and the Internet, along with social media, are platforms that both you and your patients are using to communicate about your office to practically the entire world.

For practice growth and to increase revenue in the future, it is imperative for you to not only have a website, but to have a highly effective website. There has been a distinct evolution in what websites can and should communicate to patients, as well as a corresponding evolution in a patient’s expectations of, and ability to navigate a website. If you don’t currently have a website, establishing one would be an essential first step. If you already have a website, it should be continually reviewed and updated.

Going Beyond What Patients See 
There are other factors that should be considered in updating your marketing strategy. In the past, just having a website was adequate. Now, in a recent presentation by The Pride Institute, “The Complete Dental Marketing Plan,” dental marketing expert Naomi Cooper explains that “taking charge of your online presence” is another significant factor in today’s modern marketing approach. She describes an important component of this as “online reputation management”, which involves monitoring and influencing the web based information about you that extends beyond what patients view on your website. People are evaluating you through other media such as online reviews and social media profiles. An additional component of your online presence is described as “search engine optimization” or SEO, which is defined as “the art and science of making a website rank higher in search engine results.” “Google” and “Yelp” have become everyday tools for our prospective new patients, and the position of your website, or your website “rank,” may be the difference between a patient ultimately having access to your site and whether they make an appointment.

Since it is unlikely that most dentists have the time, desire and skills to create and implement a truly effective modern marketing plan, most often it is best to partner with qualified professionals. In choosing a marketing professional, it is essential to find one that has specific dental practice marketing experience. Some of the information presented here can be used as a guideline in making this most important practice decision. You can also contact your local ADS Florida transition specialist for additional guidance.

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