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Get Modern with Marketing Your Practice – A Guide for Sellers

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.

If you are a “seasoned” practitioner, especially with a timeline for transition in sight, you may be concerned with the potential amount of practices that will be transitioning over the coming decade. Whether or not this will ultimately be offset by the recent and planned opening of new schools still remains to be seen. However, one thing is certain. New purchasers will need to earn more from their practice than those of the past, and those practices that have maintained steady levels of practice growth and net income will be best positioned to transition in a timely manner and for a higher value.

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 was by phone.

However, the effectiveness from “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 have searched online for health information 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 a practice’s failure to return to one of growth is still solely a result of the economy, 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 way to research which dental office they will go to, 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 revenue to increase 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”, 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 making an appointment, or not.

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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