Gone are the days of “spray and pray” marketing for new patients

JoAn Majors explains that marketing strategies need to include community-wide involvement to make your practice a “household name.”

JoAn Majors, RDA, CSP, CVP, advises practices to get actively involved in their communities

Since my career in dentistry has spanned nearly 4 decades, I’ve seen many things change in the realm of marketing for new patients. Gone are those days when we could honestly “spray something out and hope it stuck” regarding how we thought marketing for new patients worked. Early in my career, I worked with a unique and talented orthodontist who was very involved and President of the Houston District Dental Society and the Southwest Orthodontic Society. He was an incredibly creative mind who loved coming up with ideas for us to grow his two locations. He semi-created the concept, and I executed it! This was a time when the referring GPs were loyal, and we focused on them for our growth. It worked well at that time. We could literally spray some new events, food, and swag out there, and something would stick for just about all our referrals. I mean no disrespect; just making a point of how drastic the times have changed marketing strategies for orthodontics.

Fast forward, and now we are in a time when that strategy no longer works. Nowadays, more GPs and pedodontists are training and doing much more than interceptive orthodontics. With the emergence of the clear aligner market and their powerful marketing to practices other than orthodontics, you need an excellent, purposeful marketing plan now more than ever — a plan that can be measured and expectations set for clear understanding. (We want to do XYZ and expect ABC results by this date.) Expectations have changed as much as the actual marketing, partly due to the publicity around social media and reviews.

In one of our practices, an orthodontist rented our office located in a “bedroom community” about 35 minutes from the city. He always reminded me of the gentleman I had worked for with his creative ideas. This practice’s involvement in the community made his group a household name, literally. I’m positive some of his patients were third-generation in a family. He did the general things like sports and cheerleader calendars for the schools, but he had a fantastic team of happy individuals who were a big part of the culture created in the practice. They sponsored a newsworthy clip called “A Reason to Smile.” People from the area could submit their pictures online, and their story and photo, if picked a winner, would be featured on the morning and evening news, accompanied by a fantastic gift. They received pictures of everything you can imagine from babies, anniversaries, birthdays, and trips that would bring a smile! It was “a thing” that everyone remembered or knew about. It was also great for featuring a broad community of people on social media and driving traffic to their website from others.

Community-wide involvement can be incredible, and it’s magical with a great team to help. I worked with a client who rented an entire theater for two dates at the matinee and encouraged his patients to invite a friend. The group shared the upcoming event with patients and parents and promoted the “bring a friend” part. It was an expensive endeavor, but it became “a thing,” and the group became known for the “Summer Movie Party.” Whatever the big new summer movie was, it worked. Patients had to register for the tickets by calling the practice, and of course, they collected the invitee’s names and a parent email for safety and perhaps a little follow-up marketing with the parents. The team was at the curb of the theater, opening doors and greeting those attending. You would have thought celebrities were in town with the red carpet (literally) and smiles. The Jurassic World series and films like this functioned well for so many age groups; it was perfect. However, it is more than hosting significant events or sending Donut Dolly around with treats today. It combines many action items and how you use them to drive the results you expect.

We are in a connection economy. Today people want connection, and they trust based on that connection. If you listen to patients or potential patients and connect with them, they will trust you.”

Recently, I reached out to Ian McNickle, MBA, Co-Founder and Partner at WEO Media (Voted 4 times Best in Class Award) to get his input on what they know to be true about community involvement and sharing this type of news as a marketing tool. Here is what he had to say.

“Based on our experience of having marketed for hundreds of dental and specialty practices, we generally find practices with a continuous dose of new online reviews each month in combination with a great website and active social media engagement perform well above average for new patient growth. Orthodontic practices who are actively engaged in the community would do well to highlight this activity on their social media and websites in order to increase Google rankings and local awareness.”

To sum up — today, you’ll need a combination of specific solutions for a successful marketing plan. The first orthodontist I worked with wasn’t concerned about social media or Google reviews. That was then; this is now! Many who read this will now call your providers for these services and rethink your plan, investment, and expectations. If you are one of the lucky ones who are geographically desirable and don’t need as much structure in your marketing, consider yourself blessed. When I speak, I often write and share with my audiences; we are in a connection economy. Today people want connection, and they trust based on that connection. There was a time when degrees and specialties drove the trust factor. It’s just not so these days. Now, if you listen to patients or potential patients and connect with them, they will trust you.

Remember, it’s an individual preference, and you and your team (if you choose) should meet and discuss what might work best in your community. What could you do differently? Your team likely has family and perhaps teens in their household who have specific places they congregate or hang out. How can you meet them where they are? Be creative, or let those creative team members weigh in. Lastly, who is the professional in your circle of solutions you can turn to for insight on these critical issues today?

Sometimes, marketing strategies involve technology and outsourcing. Read another article by JoAn Majors, “Practice management efficiencies to ease your team’s workload” at https://orthopracticeus.com/ce-articles/practice-management-efficiencies-to-ease-your-teams-workload/

JoAn Majors, RDA, CSP, CVP, has spent the last two decades focused on the soft skills that create greater connections and impact with every relationship individuals have within dentistry. She is the author of four books and published in over 25 magazines and newsletters. Her platform voice and writing voice are authentic to her storytelling style, and she has a passion and expertise for inspiring team members to their greatest potential. She has earned the highest designation of a Professional Speaker (CSP) Certified Speaking Professional from the National Speakers Association and is a member of multiple organizations in and out of dentistry. She is on the advisory board for Dental Entrepreneurial Women Magazine (DeW Life). JoAn and her dentist husband co-founded The Soft Skills Institute, LLC., a nationally recognized AGD PACE provider. A content creation specialist, her speaking and training are augmented by her online curriculum (available to lease) for greater adoption, scalability, and ease of implementation. To see her in action or learn more, visit www.joanmajors.com.

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