Marketing without a strategy is like building a house without a plan. But developing a marketing strategy is easy. By Daniel Warren
Imagine starting a race with no idea where the finish line was. Or building a house with no plan. They’re foolish ideas—yet dentists regularly spend thousands of dollars on advertising with no strategy or notion of what they want to achieve, beyond ‘more bums on seats’. Their entire strategy seems to be what they’re doing—for example, buying Google ads, or doing a letterbox drop.
“A dental marketing strategy shouldn’t start with what you’re doing,” says Mark Brown, director of Engage Content. “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.”
Brown says that before you give any thoughts to the tactics you’re going to use—whether that’s social media advertising, Google ads, flyers, content, or anything else—you need to have an idea of who you are talking to. That involves developing personas.
“Many dentists know the market that they’re operating in,” he says. “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 your clients are a sub-set of that group. “The difference between your market and the demographic group is your market is a group of people in a place with a problem you can fix,” says Brown. “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.”
What is a persona?
This idea of a marketing persona is very different to a demographic. A demographic really just describes a broad group of people in a particular area or with a particular shared interest. With 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?
Developing a persona or a series of personas is a straightforward exercise, says Brown. “Just ask yourself: Who do you want to treat? Which individuals or groups in your market do you want as patients? Do you want to treat families? Do you want to treat women between the ages of 35 and 45? Or do you want to treat men, or older folk?”
These are targets, he adds. They don’t represent all of your patients. They are simply a fictional persona of the type of patient who you want to talk to.
“So choose an ideal patient,” says Brown. “Then think about what a day in that individual person’s life would be like and why they would particularly want your services.”
For example, 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. But they may be the ideal patient for your 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?” says Brown.
Creating a strategy with a goal in mind
Once you’ve developed your personas—in other words, once you’ve figured out who you’re talking to—the next step in developing your content strategy is to think about what you want to achieve from your marketing. 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,” says Brown. “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, Brown explains. 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. 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,” he says. “You need to test and refine those numbers and find out what’s true for your surgery.”
The aim of your content strategy
The first task of your content strategy is to connect with those thousand people—all of whom look a bit like your personas. “The question is: how will you do that?” says Brown.
“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,” he adds. “But other options available to you are social media advertising, Google AdWords, outdoor advertising, sponsorships, letterbox drops … and anything else you can think of to connect with that particular group.”
Once you have a plan to get in touch with those people, then your next step in your strategy is to develop a plan to gauge their interest in your surgery and in your services. Then you can start to look at promoting particular offers to them in order to get them in and turn them into loyal patients.