Dental practices can bypass traditional marketing vehicles like advertising and PR to speak directly to current and potential clients, writes Angela Tufvesson.
Have you noticed how everyone from banks to health insurers, gyms, hotel chains, supermarkets and even your local doctor has a blog, Facebook page or sends out an email newsletter?
Rather than using traditional marketing strategies like paid-for advertisements, a growing number of companies are evolving into publishers, by creating content that’s useful and relevant to customers who have grown tired of intrusive advertising.
And you needn’t be a big corporate to make this approach-called ‘content marketing’-function as an effective promotional tool for your dental practice. In fact, many marketing experts believe it’s the only strategy small businesses should use to create real trust between brands and consumers, which for dentists translates into a larger and more loyal client base. Not to mention, content marketing can help you to get google reviews, which further improves branding! Here’s how to implement a content marketing strategy at your practice.
Content marketing isn’t a passing fad-rather, it represents a seismic shift in the way brands communicate with customers across all kinds of industries all over the world. One recent British study found more than half of participants felt more positive towards brands who produced content for them, whereas only 10 per cent had a positive attitude towards traditional advertising from brands.
“It is a big shift because people nowadays are connected to devices 24 hours a day, seven days a week, whether that’s through their iPad or smartphone or sitting at work,” says David Polglase, head of consulting at contentgroup.
“They’re probably not so much interested in the ads as they are the information that’s going to help them in their everyday life. Whether they jump on Google and search for dentists in their local area or how to fix a potential problem with their teeth, they won’t be getting their information through ads so being able to develop useful and reliable content is really important.”
Stephen Anson, CEO of Smile Marketing, says content marketing is the future of marketing. “Consumers are tired of overt advertising and marketing messages. Content marketing draws people into your brand-compare content marketing to some garish teeth whitening special, and there’s no comparison. Content marketing is going to build a stronger reputation than traditional marketing.” This is why it’s so important to read up on some tips when writing product descriptions.
Making it happen
So how should your dental practice go about implementing a content marketing strategy? According to Carolyn S Dean, director of My Dental Marketing, blogs, email newsletters and social media posts are the critical elements of a practice’s content marketing strategy. She says content should be reused across the three mediums to promote consistent messages-and save time. She also says that it’s probably worthwhile considering using an agency who already knows the field, and won’t need to do as much research when developing a strategy.
“A content marketing strategy means you look at all of the touchpoints of a practice and think about how you want to communicate with your patients,” says Dean. “Instead of thinking you have to do a blog, an email newsletter and social media, think about them as one. A smart practice can create blog posts and reuse them in their email newsletters and aspects of them in social media.”
Practices should aim to blog at least once a month, based on an annual content plan that ties in with what’s happening in the practice and among the client base. For example, you might blog about a new type of treatment available in the practice, or children’s dental health during school holidays.
“People are not so much interested in ads as they are the information that’s going to help them in their everyday life.”-David Polglase, contentgroup
Crucially, blog content should serve two masters-the consuming public and search engines-with high quality-content that incorporates search engine optimisation (SEO) best practice, which will help it bubble to the top of search engines, and entices readers to come back for more.
“Google looks for frequency, relevancy and unique content,” says Dean. “First, a blog needs to be unique to the practice-it can’t use information from somewhere else. Second, practices should be blogging on a regular basis, as every time they blog SEO is increased. Third, you need to write blogs around a keyword or key phrase-there’s no point trying to write about veneers, teeth whitening and crowns in the one post, because it will dilute the content and it won’t be good enough for Google.”
Some things are best left to the experts, and your digital marketing and SEO strategies are no exception.
Services like Google Analytics help to identify common search terms, while Google AdWords can identify the amount of competition for the keywords you’ve chosen. While there is an increasing preference for key phrases over keywords-for example, ‘why doesn’t whitening toothpaste work on my teeth?’ rather than ‘whitening toothpaste’-Mark Brown, director at Engage Media, says SEO is made easier for dentists because most operate in a small geographic area. “If you’ve got a practice in a certain suburb, you only need to win the catchment area for that suburb,” he says.
Collecting email addresses from new patients and allowing prospective clients to sign up for an email newsletter on your website is key to building an audience for content. “Out of all of the options, email newsletters should be number one, because practices already have patient databases that contain email addresses,” says Dean.
If it all seems too complicated or time consuming, there are a heap of companies who will write and promote blog posts for you. “Given what a dentist is worth to their business versus the number of hours it might take them to write a blog post, there’s a strong case for outsourcing it,” says Brown.
He says the blogging arm of Engage Media-YourBlogPosts.com-creates 12 blog posts from a single interview with a dentist. “This means practices have at least one post a month. We recommend they also blog about other interesting stuff that’s going on in the practice.”
Content marketing doesn’t usually yield immediate results, so it’s important to be patient, says Polglase. “Content marketing is a repeatable process so if it doesn’t work within the first month keep giving it a go, because it’s about building trust and enough content so people continue to engage with you,” he says. “It takes a bit of time to be successful.”
Anson says a systematic approach to blogging can increase website traffic by about 10 per cent per month. “It’s a numbers game-the more visitors to your website, the more opportunity you have to convert that visitor to becoming a new patient,” he says. “With systematic blogging you should see an increase in website traffic, an increase in visitor engagement and more new patients.”
Plus, a content marketing strategy will help ensure you’re one step ahead of the competition. “If you’re not doing it and your competitor up the road starts doing it, you might not notice the effects for six months to a year, but as people start to search for a dental practice in your suburb, they’ll be finding your competitor up the road-not you,” says Brown.