Marketing can be a huge waste of money unless you know who your market is and are able to gauge whether your marketing efforts are actually working. By Daniel Warren
Measuring a return on investment for marketing is a tricky business for many dental practices. It’s tricky because when they do get new patients, they don’t know how or why they got them. But also because they are measuring marketing by the wrong metric.
Mark Brown, co-founder of Engage Content tells two stories about two dentists. “Both were concerned about their dental marketing working,” he says. “They took opposite approaches. Both were wrong.”
The first dentist, he says, ran a campaign on Facebook. It was very successful. He landed two high-value patients who spent thousands of dollars with his surgery. Thrilled that he’d cracked the marketing code, he went on to spend even more money trying to replicate that success.
“He’s still trying,” says Brown. “And he’s never managed to replicate it.” The second dentist believed that no digital media worked at all. “This dentist had spent a lot of time and effort optimising his website. He bought Google AdWords through an agency. Yet he had no evidence that any patients had come into his clinic as a result of it.
“So he changed tack, and spent thousands of dollars on radio ads as an alternative. Those ads were broadcast out across the whole of the city that he was in. And he didn’t get a single extra patient from them.”
Measuring marketing success
“It was an interesting experiment, watching both these dentists choose two different avenues, and conclude from the failure that marketing doesn’t work,” says Brown. Both were troubled by the escalating costs of their marketing, which didn’t seem to result in an escalating number of clients.
But the problem really lay in how they were measuring their marketing activity. In both cases, each dentist only measured new bookings as the return they wanted on their investment. “Sales isn’t the only way you measure marketing,” says Brown. “In fact, you could argue that sales isn’t a measure of marketing success at all.
“If you only measure marketing according to sales, you’re misdiagnosing any problems you might have with your marketing. So you end up treating the wrong thing when you try to either fix it, or replicate it.
Marketing does sometimes feel like you’re shouting into a void. You put lots of messages out there into the community, and hope that the people who want to actually come into your practice hear those messages. More often that not, you’re greeted with silence.
“But in reality, you’re not shouting into a void when that happens,” says Brown. “You’re just listening for the wrong response.”
What is marketing for?
“Marketing is about building a market. A market is a group of people who are willing to buy your products or services,” says Brown. “Your market for your dental practice is a group of your ideal patients. You know what your ideal patients look like. They probably look pretty much like your existing group of patients.” The reason you send out newsletters to existing patients is because those people already meet your criteria of a market. That’s a good thing and you shouldn’t stop doing that.
“But to continue to grow your practice you need to find other people who look like that ideal market. And you need to start talking to them.”
The difference between sales and marketing
Sales and marketing are two different processes, and just because you do one it doesn’t mean the other will follow. Sales is about selling stuff. Marketing is about finding and creating a market to sell stuff to.
“Many dentists rush in and try and sell stuff before properly identifying their market, and so they don’t get good sustainable results,” says Brown. “They might have a one-off success, such as a social marketing campaign which has led to a couple of patients. But the reason why those patients came in and spent the money they did wasn’t solely due to the marketing campaign.”
There are always other factors, he explains. People aren’t influenced in a linear fashion—an ad doesn’t always lead to an action. The patient may have been researching those services for a long time before being ready to commit.
Similarly, if digital ads aren’t working, maybe it’s because they are screaming ‘Buy this now!’ The hard-sell approach repels most people most of the time. Big retailers take that approach on TV ads because they’re gambling that a small percentage of the audience will be ready to buy right when they see the ad.
“Either way, it’s very difficult to replicate that result until you know in great detail what those other factors are and how you can communicate to other people who are in exactly the same situation,” says Brown.
“To tie the two processes of sales and marketing together, you need a marketing strategy. Once you have a strategy, you can actually figure out whether it’s your marketing that’s not working, or whether it’s your sales that aren’t working.”