Creating a successful marketing plan

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creating a successful marketing plan
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Successful marketing starts with a plan. But where do you start with creating that plan? By Daniel Warren

One of the most common questions dental professionals have about marketing is, ‘How do we know if it works?’ “To know how effective your marketing is, you have to have some point of comparison,” explains Mark Brown, director of Engage Content. “You don’t just ‘do’ marketing—you need to figure out where you’re going to market, and who you’re going to market to.” 

A dental marketing strategy shouldn’t start with what you’re doing. It should start with who you’re talking to. Once you know who you’re talking to, you can figure out what you want to achieve from your marketing campaign. Then you come up with a strategy to achieve that.

“Any marketing activity that doesn’t start with a strategy is setting itself up for failure,” says Brown. “And nowadays, marketing involves creating content for your website and newsletters, posts on social media, as well as traditional Google ads. Having a plan and some goals lets you know whether your marketing is working or whether you need to change tack.”

The first step of a marketing strategy

The first step in working out who you’re talking to is developing personas. Many dentists know the market that they’re operating in. Your market is where you’re doing business. It might be a particular location. Or it might be based around a particular area or specialisation. But whether you’re a GP or a specialist, your market is broadly a group of people in a place. In other words, a demographic group.

“But it isn’t just that, is it?” says Brown. “A market is a group of people in a place with a problem you can fix. To identify those people—to weed them out from the general demographic—you need a process to set them aside. You have to develop specific personas that are based on some of the broad demographic information that you already know about your market.”

Brown points out that, even though your patients will come from all demographic groups, the idea of marketing is to target a particular group within that. Even products and services that are ‘for everyone’ only target particular groups in their advertisements. That group you choose will determine the persona you create, Brown says.

“For example, do you think you have a lot of young families in your area, and they are the people you should be talking to? In that case, you address your marketing to the decision-maker in the family, usually women between the ages of 35 and 45. She’s your target. She doesn’t represent all of your patients. You’re just developing a fictional persona of the type of patient who you want to talk to.”

Choosing the ideal patient

Once you choose an ideal patient, Brown says, the next step is to think about what a day in that individual person’s life would be like and why they would particularly want your services.

“For example, you might offer teeth whitening services. When you’re looking at a particular group that you want to talk to, when would they be available to actually undergo teeth whitening services? If you’re talking to mums and young families, they often live a very busy life. They may not have the time to come in and sit down in the chair because they’re too busy driving kids to school and working a part-time job and taking care of their family.”

Instead, he suggests, think about the products and services you offer that will appeal to a young mum, and market those products. When creating a persona, you want to be thinking about what does this individual care about? Where do they go during the day? When do they have time for an appointment? What are their values?

Creating a strategy with a goal in mind

Then the next step in developing your content strategy is to think about what you want to achieve from your marketing, Brown explains. Do you want to get one new patient every week or do you want to get 10 new patients every week?

“What you want to achieve out of your marketing should be reflected by what you have time to manage in your surgery and the number of people you can afford to see. Other factors to consider include: do you want to expand? How many patients are you losing that you need to replace?”

Because every surgery is different and because people are unique, you can’t know exactly what kind of numbers you’ll get from your marketing campaign until you have a point of comparison. 

“In the broadest possible sense, start with the expectation of getting 10 per cent of prospects turning into leads, and 10 per cent of leads turning into customers,” says Brown. “So if you want 10 new patients, then you need to have 100 people expressing enough of an interest in your services to actually give you some kind of contact information. In order to get 100 people expressing those interests, you’ll need at least a thousand people who are connected with you who are prepared to listen to you in the first place.”

They’re very broad generalisations, and the real numbers will be different for every practice. You need to test and refine those numbers and find out what’s true for your surgery.

The first task of your content strategy is to connect with those thousand people. The question is how will you do that? The easiest way is to give them some kind of meaningful content that solves their problems and then ask for permission to keep talking to them.

Once you actually have a plan to get get in touch with those people, then your next steps in your strategy is to develop a plan to gauge their interest in your surgery and in your services and then you can start to look at promoting particular offers to them to get them in and turn them into loyal patients.   

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