I’ll be honest with you. Web marketing and budgeting, for dentists, is not one of the most inherently exciting topics I’ve written about. As a content specialist at Rhino, I know that not every article I write is going to have a theme that really gets my juices flowing. But most of the time, I know that there’s a target audience who is going to be really interested in the subject matter. But in this case --- that may not be true. I mean, most dentists, I’ve known, even the really talented, passionate ones, are interested in serving their patients, and learning about the latest advances in dental technology. As far as the business side of things, like web marketing, and the budgeting therein, maybe not so much. And for the rest of us, who aren’t dentists, well, let’s just say that most us don’t really get all that excited about our visits to the dentist.
Healthcare practices are businesses too.
Nonetheless, if you’re a dentist with a private practice, you’re also a business person, whether or not that was your intention when you went to school to study dentistry. From the moment you opened your doors and took patients in, you’ve been in business. That means that every principle that applies to any type of business also applies to your dental practice. Apart from everything you do for your patients, you’ve got to be concerned with a ton of business matters, from office rent, to insurance policies, to employee management. And ultimately it all boils down to the bottom line, doesn’t it? If you’re not turning a profit, your practice, as a business, won’t survive. Like any business, you need to constantly find ways to increase revenue while minimizing expenses as much as possible.
For the most part, I’m going to concern myself here with the task of increasing revenue. Though there are a number of factors to consider, generally speaking, this means getting more business, and that usually means getting more customers to come through your doors. It’s a little awkward to talk about this when we’re addressing dentists or other healthcare professionals. After all, your “clients” are really patients, and I know you don’t want to wish more dental problems on more people, just so you can increase your income. On the other hand, though, people do get cavities and need other work, and it’s your objective to get more of those people to come to you instead of going to another dentist.
Marketing for Dentists.
As it is with any business, getting new patients to your practice is going to require some sort of a marketing effort. I know this is not what you went to school for, but if nothing else, think of it as a “necessary evil”. And, really, I bet you’ve been doing some sort of marketing all along, whether or not you want to think of it in those terms. Those mailings you sent out, the pens and key chains or other goodies with your name on them, maybe even an ad in the local paper or cable tv station were all forms of marketing. But those are old school forms of marketing, and they’re not really equipped for the consumer world of the 21st century.
Modern marketing: It’s all about the web.
If print and television ads are no longer the most effective way to reach your potential client base, what is the optimal method? Let’s take a look at a statistic which I think will make the answer obvious. Google recently reported that 77% of patients did research online before booking an appointment with a healthcare professional. So for starters, if you’re putting your marketing efforts and budget into print ads, you’ll be missing the boat. Your client base is searching for you on the web, so it behooves you to make sure that you have a presence, where they’re looking. In some ways, you could say that modern web marketing involves positioning yourself in your clients’ line of vision, using sound SEO (Search Engine Optimization) techniques to ensure that they find you easily.
Creating a Marketing Budget.
There aren’t really any hard and fast rules when it comes to creating a web marketing budget. Even in the realm of marketing strictly for dental practices, it’s not really possible to take a “cookie-cutter” approach to this project. Numerous factors come into play, including the age of your practice, your location, your “target audience”, and the speed with which you hope to grow the practice.
For example, if you’re setting up a new practice, you should be prepared for some of what might be considered to be part of your “startup costs”, as you establish yourself in the community, and make the first efforts to get your name out there. Marketing experts tend to discuss budgets in terms of a percentage of your revenue, or in the case of a new practice, your anticipated revenue. For a brand new operation, this number could be as high as 20% to 30% of your projected gross revenue. If you’re facing stiff competition in your area, expect to spend toward the high end of that range. More established practice may get away with spending a fraction of this amount, especially if revenues are already high.
As a general rule, when it comes to marketing efforts, it’s best to err on the side of spending too much, rather than too little. Well-spent web marketing dollars are a valuable investment that won’t go to waste. On the other hand, spending too little may not be successful, and that could turn everything you’ve spent into a waste.
What’s included in that budget?
Again, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer here. But there are some elements in common for all web marketing campaigns. At the center of it all will be a well-structured website, designed to attract visitors, and convert them into clients of your practice. Much of your effort will be to get people to the site, and that involves using inbound marketing best practices, like creating valuable content offers, on topics relevant to your clientele, including blogs, eBooks, and whitepapers. Rather than sending out paper mailings, which tend to get discarded and forgotten, we recommend a carefully planned email marketing campaign, designed to attract traffic to the website.
We at Rhino would love to have the opportunity to discuss your goals, and help you craft a web marketing plan that will enable you to grow your practice into the enterprise you’ve always dreamed of. Why not give us a call to set up a consultation to get the conversation started?