Marketing can be a highly individualized endeavor, because there are myriad variables involved. Nonetheless, there are five things you must do when creating a (successful) marketing plan for your dental practice.
1. List your business goals.
Remember the Cheshire Cat? He warned Alice that if she didn’t know where she was going, any road would do. And he was right. If you don’t know where you want your business to go, you cannot expect to get there. Your dental practice is, indeed, a business, and you have to market it like one in order to grow and make a profit.
So what do you want to accomplish this year? You can have more than one goal. As a dentist, you may want to:
- Get a brand new practice off to a solid start.
- Increase your patient base.
- Expand the range of services you offer, or add new professionals to your practice.
- Boost revenue at certain times of the year to fill in seasonal gaps.
If you’ve been in business for quite a while, you may even set your sights on winning back lapsed patients.
2. Identify how your goals affect your target audience.
Who do you need to reach in order to attain your goals? Those are your prospects – your marketing targets. If you’re a general family practice looking to increase your patient base, your audience may be everyone in the surrounding area. If you’re a pediatric dentist or orthodontist, you’ll want to focus on parents of children. If you’re adding an associate who specializes in implants, you may want to targets adults of a certain age.
3. Establish SMART marketing goals.
Smart dentists use the SMART acronym to keep themselves on track when creating their marketing plan, because it is a tried-and-true guide:
- Specific – vague goals don’t give you any direction and they’re impossible to measure. How many new patients do you want to acquire? How much new revenue do you want to bring in?
- Measurable – when you’re specific, you have metrics to assess your progress.
- Attainable – being realistic keeps you from feeling overwhelmed by outlandish goals.
- Relevant – you may secretly desire a vacation in Greece this summer, but that’s not a business goal. Relevance is how well your marketing goals support your business goals.
- Timely – along with being specific, you have to set a time frame. If you’re creating a marketing plan for this year, then where do you want to be by December 31st? Set some interim benchmarks, too, so you can track and evaluate your marketing results as the year progresses. Do the same for short-term campaigns.
4. Contemplate your personas.
Unless your practice is limited to a very narrow group of patients, you have more than one marketing persona – stereotypical patients that represent each sub-set of your audience. Be clear in your own mind what each of these personas is like as a person and as a patient, because the better you understand their motivations, desires and fears surrounding their dental health, the better you can target your marketing messaging and delivery channels.
5. Review last year’s marketing.
What worked best? Do more of that and jettison anything that didn’t bring enough new patients or revenue. Calculate overall return on your investment, not just raw dollars earned, so you have a true picture of marketing performance.
Using your personas, select the best ways to reach the audience segments you’ve identified as critical to meet this year’s goals. To be most truly effective, develop multi-channel marketing campaigns that incorporate several “best” channels. Social media, email, your blog and direct mail work together nicely to promote your website as well as encourage people to call your office and schedule an appointment.
When your marketing plan matches your goals and targets your personas, you’ll get far better results, more cost-effectively. What a great plan!