The past few years have seen a fundamental shift in how marketing dollars are best spent in a general or specialty dental practice. Traditional promotional channels including direct marketing, yellow page listings, and local community centered media are losing relevance as prospective patients increasingly rely on the internet for research and purchasing decisions. In the world of 24-7 web presence, online marketing presents a huge opportunity for a dental practice – the ability to reach a captive audience of users actively searching for content related to your services. Let’s face it, these aren’t just average users browsing the internet- these are prospective new patients.
There are, of course, many ways to use online media to effectively market your practice. Let’s consider some of the top online marketing strategies today. The foundation of any online presence and strategy is an effective, patient optimized website. A website with optimized content will ensure prospective patients quickly find the information they need on the website and chose to contact the practice for information or an appointment. A website, effective as it is, will not help a practice grow if it cannot be found by prospective patients in the search engines.
Optimizing an Online Search Strategy
There are multiple ways to impact the placement of a website in search engines. Organic Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising both impact placement and practice visibility online. Additionally social media has grown to become a big part of a successful search strategy.
A key issue to be addressed and resolved by the practice is which mix of online strategies will optimize practice growth. Interestingly there is no “one size fits all” approach. It is imperative that the search service provider you work with provide you with a complete online marketing solution specifically customized to be effective for dental practices. Though each online tactic is based on a different strategy and thereby drives different results, it is the combined effect and synergy among the components of an integrated strategy that has potentially the biggest payoff and return on investment for the practice.
The benefit of multiple online marketing campaigns
In October 2011, Sesame Communications conducted a study to determine if multiple online marketing campaigns will drive an incremental increase in new patient leads to practices. The sample study consisted of 306 dental and orthodontic practices with active Sesame Search Services and assessing five months of performance statistics, from May 2011 to September 2011.
The research study utilized the state of the art Sesame First Call™ system to track and record all phone calls generated from online presence into the practices. Furthermore the recordings required all callers to self identify themselves as existing or new patients to the practice. In all researchers analyzed 88,025 phone calls in evaluating effectiveness. The campaigns studied included organic SEO, Pay Per Click advertising, and social media.
Does an integrated strategy produce stronger results?
Sesame Members utilizing one online marketing campaign generated, on average, 37 calls per month with an average of 9 calls identified as new patients. Members utilizing two online marketing campaigns saw an average of 48 calls per month, with 11 being new patients. By expanding their strategy to encompass two different campaigns, these practices experienced a 30% increase in overall calls, but more importantly, a 27% increase in new patient calls.
Practices with three active campaigns, however, saw the greatest increase in leads as compared to a single online campaign. These practices experienced 136% more calls, and an incredible 137% increase in new patient calls. This equated to an average of 87 calls per month, and 21 new patient calls.
But what does this mean in terms of revenue? At an average annual revenue per new patient of $9001, a single online strategy drives a potential increase of $7,904 in annual revenues per month of each campaign. Two strategies will drive potentially $10,071 in incremental production, and a potential $18,720 of incremental production each month can be achieved by a strategy utilizing three tactics.
These results indicate that diversifying an online marketing strategy by adding an additional campaign improves lead generation of new patients. Furthermore, the analysis indicates that having three online marketing campaigns¹ generate the largest increase in call volume.
The data from this study displays a strong, positive relationship between multiple online marketing campaigns and new patient call rate. Clearly, utilizing an integrated online strategy composed of several different marketing efforts has a significantly positive effect on new patient calls.
Patients use the Internet in a variety of ways, and by focusing all of your attention on just one facet of online marketing, you risk going unnoticed by a large group of potential new patients. Conversely, by using an integrated online marketing strategy composed of several campaigns, you can ensure maximum reach, coverage, and most importantly—new patients.