A News Features Health — 22 June 2014

Special to American News Report

Dental Marketing for New PatientsThere are approximately 190,000 practicing dentists in the US, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. There are approximately 316 million citizens in the US, according to US Census Bureau. So, logic would dictate that each dentist manages 1,663 patients.  Of course, these numbers don’t reflect reality. There are a plethora of reasons why.  And, the reasons are resulting in dentists turning to marketing – digital marketing in particular – to attract new patients and gain a better yield from existing patients in the digital age.

A survey of 1,779 dental professionals by a leading dental association (NADP) revealed the following:

  • Nearly 57% said their practice had a current business profile on a Facebook page. Dental practices see Facebook as a place to engage, but the figures show that most practices do not know what to do – more than having a fanpage presence.
  • The majority spend less than an hour each week on social media activities – almost 27% spend no time at all
  • But, things are changing.  Comparing data from the recent survey to two years ago, 40% are spending more time on social media than before.
  • Many dental practices recognize that they do not spend enough time on social media as they should (38%).
  • Not surprisingly, 50% of the respondents said they are spending too little time on social media.

Social media is often like a sticky note for dental practices: Put it on the wall and leave it until someone takes it off.  The same is true with practices’ websites: Put it up and the bases are covered (for good – ahem).

Content marketing is the driver of online marketing for dental practices and the rest of business.

Content marketing is the driver of online marketing for dental practices and the rest of business.

Content marketing – the biggest explosion in online marketing in years – is way beyond the reach of the majority of dental practices. Content marketing is basically writing and publishing content on websites and social media to engage audiences. The problem is that most (~all) dentists are not prolific bloggers, nor do they have the time to push content through Twitter, Facebook, websites, etc.  They can barely find a person to put a photo of the new building on their website.

Content marketing has gained popularity for one simple reason:  Search engines rank websites differently now than they did in the past.  Today, search engines look for “who’s the ‘authority’ in the space that relates to what a person typed into Google?” So, if a person types, “looking for a good dentist in Baltimore”, the search engines compare and contrast dental practice websites in the Baltimore area, and the ones that have the most content are most likely to be “authorities” (they spent the time and effort to educate the public with good content). Those with static sites (rarely updated) are likely to be put on page 2+. Simple math: More original content = search engines’ praise.

Now, look at the pros.  Look at the firms that have the need to attract dentists – those that help grow dental practices. One such firm is Madow Brothers.  The Madow brothers are dentists, turned practice business pros that know how to grow dental practices.  What are their greatest online assets that help them get found on Google?  Better yet, what are their greatest assets?

Madow Brothers provide quality content that matters to their clients – dentists looking to grow their practices.  They have a strong blog that both educates their target audience (dentists) and simultaneously tells search engines that they are they authority on practice building.  They have video and audio content available to teach dentists how to grow – all the things that Google wants for an authority.

In short, they are doing it right.  They are providing fresh, valuable and engaging content that attracts an audience.  That’s all Google wants.  “Give ‘em what they want.’’’ So, enter “content farms” – the automated (think… “black hat” and “beat the system”) word-generators.

There are software programs, that generate content.  The sellers of said content proclaim that “it’s all about the volume of content”, while not revealing to dental practices (or other businesses) that, quality, is a huge factor, one where humans trump computers. Why? Google owns the rights to most of the critical patents related to auto-generated content, voice recognition software and language translation.  And, that means the search engine can sniff out a computer vs. a human being very reliably.

When Google (or Bing or Yahoo, etc.) sniff out a computer as the generator of content, it punishes that website, blog or social media property with a weak SERP (Search Engine Results Page). Why? Google has one job: Give the person who entered words that matter most to them (keywords) the best information possible.  What is best? Is it computer generated content, or something written by a person who has knowledge of a subject matter? The answer is clear.

Now, circle back to the start of this article.  The focus of most dental marketing practices is social media.  Heck, it’s still sexy from a marketing spend – “you gotta be on _____”.  Social media is a powerhouse, so you “gotta be there!”  But, think about what drives social media. It’s content.  It’s dialogue. It’s fresh original, engaging information. It’s news about your practice.

The digital age of marketing for dental practices is not really about SEO, social media, AdWords, Angie’s List, et.al..  The right answer to digital marketing for any company, or any practice, is content.  Fresh, original and compelling content and newsworthy.

Think about the last time you were making a decision related to anything that would cost you money, let alone anything that would be critical to a healthcare relationship.  What did you do?  1) Search Google. 2) Assess the local website.  3) Decide if the website carried good information that was educational, informational, and dynamic (updated frequently, like a weekly blog). Then, you contrasted. That contrast filtered out so many practices because they were neither on page 1, nor did not have much “to say”, or seemed stale. If those websites spoke to your specific audience and had additional related information, you’d flat out buy.

So, when someone moves to a new town, they need to find a dentist.  And, the dentists in that town are looking for (marketing to) new patients.  Where is the intersection? Being on page one of Google, carrying relevant and frequently updated, newsworthy content, and showing that you care enough to engage that prospect with educational information makes you’re your practice stand above all else.

Congratulations.  You just got new patients. Funny thing is that “digital marketing” seems so “foreign” to dentists because, “I’m a dentist, not a marketer.” Here’s a secret….. Marketing companies want you to keep thinking that it’s all a complex secret (all the way to the bank).

The real answer to great marketing is engaging patients and prospects by being honest with them, while offering them information that helps.

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About Author

Doug Lynch

Doug is a career communications professional and writer. He enjoys writing about technology (he holds 6 US Patents), politics and sports.

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