Dental Marketing – Basic Principles Lay a Foundation For Results

Marketing is vital to building a successful dental practice. By clearly defining its services and reaching out to the community in targeted ways, a dental practice can create and keep a stable customer base and ensure long-term profitability.

Like all business marketing, dental marketing requires a coherent strategy that will communicate the practice’s mission and services to potential clients. A strategy provides the framework within which the practice can carry out its marketing plan. A goal-oriented plan provides the specific action steps that connect customers and services.

For example: A dental practice sets the goal of increasing its customer base by 20 percent in one year. The marketing strategy is to contact potential clients through referrals, the Internet and direct-mailing. The plan involves establishing incentives for referrals, building a website and creating an effective postcard for mailings. Having goals and a plan to reach them allows the practice to measure its results and respond effectively to a changing marketplace.

The overall marketing mission can be divided into five stages:

Define your goals.
Do your research.
Develop your strategy.
Implement your plan.
Measure your results.
This process allows a dental practice to use its time and money in the most effective ways possible.
SMART principles are useful tools for building a marketing plan. This easy-to-remember acronym refers to goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-based. Applying these principles throughout the five-stage process can keep a plan on track and increase its probability for success.

o Be specific in all aspects of your planning and execution. For example: Your goal is to increase the total customer base by 20 percent in one year. Your overall marketing budget is $50,000 and will be spent in three distinct ways: improving referrals, a website upgrade and direct mail.

o Establish measurable goals and measure your results. Vague goals and loose plans can sink your marketing efforts. Being specific when goal-setting allows you to measure your progress. The goal to build the customer base means little without knowing how much you want to build it. A starting point and a goal allow you to assess the effectiveness of your marketing plan and make meaningful adjustments along the way.

o Your goals should be achievable. Market research will assist you in establishing objectives you can reasonably hope to meet. By understanding the competitive landscape and the best methods for reaching out to your community you can establish reasonable expectations for growth. Shooting for goals that cannot be met – doubling your client base in two months, for example – can waste your money and your time.

o Be realistic. An effective dental marketing plan begins with the honest assessment of your services, skills, budget and competition. A dental practice must fit with the needs and demographics of its community; a marketing plan must operate within a budget; and the marketing methods you choose must have the potential to succeed.

o A time-based plan keeps you on track. Specific, achievable and realistic marketing goals should be laid out in a time frame that allows you to measure their effectiveness. Some marketing methods may produce results faster than others. You want to give an approach enough time to produce results, but not so much time that you waste resources on a dead end. For example, a direct-mailing may yield a surge of business, while building a website may build business slowly over a period of time.

These basic principles can set the foundation for a profitable dental marketing strategy and allow the practice to respond quickly and effectively to changing market conditions.