Unless you're starting this new decade overflowing with new patients, you need to have a strong dental marketing strategy in place. Even if you prefer to rely on referrals for new patients (which, of course, make the best new patients).
Now, marketing can be a whirlwind, especially in the digital setting. Things move fast. Search algorithms change. New platforms surface. Even user behaviors change. We all have Attention Deficit Disorder when browsing the Internet (Thanks, Facebook Newsfeed).
We have to evolve with these changes. As a dentist, you do. As a digital marketing provider, we must do the same. So without further ado, below are the top 10 dental marketing strategies you (and we!) need to execute in 2020.
1. Overcome Social Media Fatigue
Social media isn't some new, sophisticated phenomenon. But it's still a powerful channel. Sarah Hassildine, Director at Smile Marketing, puts it this way:
"When it comes to Facebook and Instagram, I think about how more and more dentists are realizing it's a great way to get themselves out there. It's a way to communicate with patients and make that personal connection they are looking for."
While there are countless benefits of social media (building community, improving retention, etc.) there are also some note-worthy challenges. Competition is as fierce as ever and there is a growing level of "marketing fatigue" setting in among users. So, how do you break through the noise to make social media effective in 2020?
Get personal. Facebook pages that get the most engagement are those where doctors and staff members share what's going on in the office. What's important to them. What they're doing in their community. What patients are saying about them.
Interactive content is another way to break through the noise. Run a poll on your Facebook page, ask a question (i.e. "What's the number-one thing that makes you smile?")… Whatever you can do to keep your followers engaged and wanting more.
2. Go Hollywood With Engaging Videos
Consider this: 45 percent of people watch more than an hour of Facebook or YouTube videos per week. In other words, video is an excellent tool to incorporate into your digital marketing efforts. You can share videos on your website, post them on social media, and distribute them through other digital mediums.
Now, any old video won't do. Like your social media presence, your videos must be personal and engaging. Don't shoot a video that simply rattles off your services. That's boring. Create content that showcases your practice personality (are you noticing a trend?).
You could Facebook Live an event. Interview a staff member. Go "behind-the-scenes" by shooting a tour of your office. These types of videos make your current patients feel included and gives prospective patients a preview of what it's like to be one of your patients.
For a quick peek behind the curtain… We practice this at Smile Marketing. Sending an email with a personal video from a staff member reveals an important point: We are real people. We have aspirations. We care about what we do.
Remember, people crave authenticity online. Businesses that do this well always come out on top.
3. Be Findable by Digital Assistants
The popularity of voice search will rise exponentially in 2020. In fact, by 2022 it is projected that over 50 percent of households will have a smart speaker device. That's in addition to the overwhelming majority of people who currently have a digital assistant on their phone (i.e. Siri and Google's smart assistant).
As far as people using digital assistants for voice search, our Google Ads team is finding more and more search terms that start with "Okay Google" – which is the code phrase that activates an Android device's digital assistant. Moreover, we have first-hand knowledge from Google that the search engine is beta-testing a feature that will help determine which portions of a website are optimized for voice search.
What does this mean? You have to tweak your SEO strategy to cater to voice searches, not just keyboards and touchscreens.
Example: Rather than focusing solely on keywords like, "Dentists Fairfax VA," also incorporate long tail keywords like, "Find a dentist in Fairfax, Virginia."
4. Enhance Your Paid Search Campaigns
Google's starting to introduce a new feature called "Responsive Text Ads." These ads allow you to include up to 15 headlines and 4 descriptions. Google rotates and matches these elements to reveal the most relevant results to the search term.
"Google tells me they are partially designed with voice search in mind," says Lindsay Casey, PPC Team Leader at Smile Marketing. "So in my opinion, they are a good complement to text ads."
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If a user searches something like, "affordable dentist Ilchester," Google's algorithm might match headline #1 with description #3, as they both relate to affordability.
Other upcoming PPC trends include improved audience targeting, more automation, and greater emphasis on video advertising.
5. Get More 5-Star Online Reviews
The importance of positive online reviews isn't new. But reviews will become increasingly critical in 2020, as more and more people rely on them to make business decisions (or in your case, a medical decision).
Research shows that 91 percent of people read online reviews, and 84 percent trust online reviews as much as they'd trust a personal recommendation. In other words, your real-world reputation is now taking a backseat to your digital reputation.
Additionally, Google weights Maps search results based on review ratings – making it a key advantage (or disadvantage) for your SEO. For example, if you have an average 3.2 star rating on Google, and a competitor has a 4.7 rating, they'll have a better chance of ranking above you.
"I can't overstate the need for 5-star Google reviews," says Angela Hockabout, a Digital Marketing Specialist at Smile Marketing. "I tell clients that when their patient expresses how much they've been helped, they should ask the patient to share their experience on Google when they get home."
6. Optimize Your Website for Engagement
Having a beautiful website design has been a dental website marketing staple since the beginning of the Internet. But website design is way more than a beauty contest. When you focus solely on aesthetics, you miss a key trend – that is, that users view their computer (or mobile) screens far differently than they used to.
They don't want to labor through long blocks of text. Their attention has become so thin that if they can't find exactly what they're looking for the moment they land on your website, then you've lost them. And painfully, you probably lost them to a competitor.
It's all about optimizing for new patient conversion. Taking a potential new patient down a digital journey that leads them to a positive real-world experience (i.e. a dental checkup).
"Authenticity is key in your website design," says Julie Watts, Creative Director at Smile Marketing. "Authentic photography helps translate personality and the vibe of your practice. Also, write persuasive written content that tells who you are. No more salesy 'fluff' content. You make your web presence authentic and you have a serious leg up on the competition."
7. Spread Your Influence
It's time to improve your E.A.T. And no, this has nothing to do with food. E.A.T. stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. It's a relatively new concept that connects the dots between you (as a person) to your online presence.
After all, you are more than just lines of developer code. Google is trying to further "humanize" the Internet. It started when Google's search algorithm began penalizing low authority websites in the health and wellness niche. It cost businesses a lot of money.
What's the remedy? Build your authority and make yourself trustworthy.
"Google is rewarding websites that demonstrate E.A.T. well," says Jannell Howell, SEO Team Leader at Smile Marketing. "Meanwhile, clients who are inactive with their web presence will have a hard time keeping up, even with an amazing website."
To improve your E.A.T. score, you can post on social media, guest post on other websites, become more active on social media, and get engaged with your local community. The more places your name is found online, the better authority you will have.
8. Automate Your Email Campaigns
Email has been around for decades. What hasn't been around for decades? Email automation. Email automation allows you to send time- or action-triggered campaigns to your patient list. For example, you could automate a monthly newsletter. Or you could automate a new patient survey that is sent following a patient's first appointment.
While you do have to be more creative with email (due to inbox competition and message fatigue), it's still one of the most fruitful dental clinic marketing channels. Not to mention, it offers one of the greatest returns on investment.
FACT: For every $1 spent, email marketing generates $38 in ROI.
Now, going through your patient roster and sending out individual emails isn't practical. That's why email automation should be in your marketing arsenal for 2020. With the right software, you can automate new patient surveys, birthday emails, holiday emails, along with targeted promotional campaigns to help fill your patient schedule.
9. Ramp up Your Content Marketing
Is content still king in 2020? Absolutely. Website content helps demonstrate your knowledge and expertise to potential new patients. It's what Google puts in its search results. It fuels the fire that is your SEO. So if you want to improve your rankings, never stop creating content.
Of course, there's a catch. Garbage, rush-it-to-publish-it content won't cut it. Today it's all about quality. People want useful, relevant information served to them when they search on Google. What is Google's mission? Give the people what they want.
If a searcher shows up on your website only to bounce off ten seconds later, you likely have a quality problem – which, in turn, creates a Google problem (indeed, the Google gods are always watching).
In essence, don't just create content for the sake of creating content. Put on your thinking cap and put yourself into the mind of a prospective patient. Ask yourself, "What is my ideal target patient looking for?"
You could provide tips on how to handle dental anxiety. Or you could answer a question like, "How do I know if I have periodontal disease?" The key is to identify what they're looking for and then give it to them.
10. Implement All-in-One Marketing
Currently, there is a wide variety of marketing vendors and software technology to choose from. You could have an SEO consultant, a freelance writer, a website designer, a PPC provider, all working separately on your digital marketing. Over the years, this has posed serious challenges for businesses.
First, there's the hurdle of managing multiple vendors. Second, each vendor has their own agenda, making it difficult to find the weak link when things go awry. When your new patient numbers take a tumble, there can be a whole lot of finger pointing.
The reality is, if your digital marketing efforts lack synergy, the system fails. This leaves you with a host of questions: Do the content writers know my audience? Did the SEO consultant properly optimize my site for Google? Is my PPC agency blowing through my budget with little result?
It's mind-numbing. It's why more and more businesses are moving to an all-in-one marketing solution. One point of contact to manage your entire online presence. It's what is required to compete in 2020.
Dominating in 2020 means understanding the complexity of the digital marketing landscape and choosing the strategies that are going to work for your practice. After all, marketing is made up of a lot of moving parts. New tactics, technologies, and the ever-changing world of Google keeps digital marketers on their toes (our toes are getting very sore).
That being said, there are some essential digital marketing factors that aren't leaving anytime soon. Download our free eBook below and learn how these factors will boost your new patient flow in 2020.