How to Attract New Patients to Your Dental Practice?
What Should A Hardworking Dentist Do To Acquire More Patients? Is it Ethical to Advertise?
We get calls and inquiries from dentists and dental practice managers every day. The key question asked, how can they improve their new patient acquisition? Dental practices need to strive to get new patients to their businesses constantly. The current patients a practice has today will not be the same group of patients months from now or the following year. New patients are needed to replace those who no longer come to a practice. There are a variety of reasons why a practice may lose a patient. Some of the most common causes include:
- Change in insurance
- Moving away from the practice’s location
- Practice does not provide the services they need
- A favorite doctor of theirs has retired or moved to a different practice
- A competitor had lower prices
- A negative experience at a practice
Some of these reasons are within the control of a medical or dental practice, and others are things they can not control or stop. There needs to be constant work to obtain new patients to grow and stay in business or a practice will struggle.
What are some ways a medical or dental practice acquires new patients?
There are various ways a potential patient will find a medical or dental practice or how that practice will find them. Below are some of the most popular and effective ways to acquire a new patient. There are also tactics a practice uses that plays a role in their effectiveness. PatientGain.com can assist with these strategies to build an effective medical marketing plan for a practice to meet their patient goals.
1. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
In today’s healthcare, patients want to have more control and say in their healthcare decisions. As such, they are often looking for doctors or specialists themselves or researching their medical issues and finding possible solutions. This will ultimately lead them to search on a search engine, usually Google. For a practice to acquire this prospective patient, they need to appear in search results when these would be patients use keywords related to the practice’s services. A proven and effective way to do this is through SEO or search engine optimization.
SEO is the process of improving the organic ranking of a website by including important target keywords throughout a site’s content. These should be the exact keywords that potential patients use when looking for medical care. Keywords should be the technical terms for conditions and procedures and everyday terms that are more common but may not be words doctors use. This excellent mix of words will give a site authority and look relevant to potential patients who do not have those medical terms in their vocabulary.
SEO Keywords should include both short-tail keywords and long-tail keywords. Short-tail keywords generate higher traffic, cover board topics, are competitive, have low conversion rates, and are three words or less. Long-tail keywords generate less traffic, focus on unique or specific topics, are less competitive, have high conversion rates, and are four words or more. Both types of keywords are needed to capture patients who are casually looking for a healthcare solution (Short-tail keywords) and those looking for a specific service (Long-tail keywords).
Search engine optimization is also something that needs management and maintenance. Simply setting up SEO keywords and not monitoring them will not help a medical or dental practice. The SEO of a website needs to be watched to ensure keywords are performing well and getting the expected web traffic and clicks. Sometimes, the content or placement of SEO keywords needs to be adjusted to produce better results. If the content is rewritten, a practice needs to check to ensure keywords are not overused. Stuffing as many keywords as possible into content often leads to penalties in organic rankings from search engines. Finally, the keywords being focused on today may not be the best keywords months or years from now. A medical and dental practice would be wise to see if new keywords are becoming popular and if any previous keywords are losing their popularity. SEO work that is monitored and refined will give a practice an advantage over its competitors.
2. Local SEO
A factor in the decision-making for a healthcare solution is how close the facility is to the patient. In search results, after the paid ads, many people are presented with map results, usually showing the top three local results and how close they are to the searcher’s physical location. Many people explore these results first and may not even look at the following organic results. A medical or dental practice must appear in those map results, and using Local SEO will help accomplish that task!
The first step to effective Local SEO is to claim or create a practice’s listing in directories. To appear in map results (or on an online map, for that matter), there needs to be a listing. Creating or claiming one on Google, Yelp, Facebook, and Bing will cover a practice for practically all possible map results or map apps a practice will want to appear on. These listings often need to be verified via phone, text, or a mailed postcard, so keep that timeline in mind when going through this process. Also, ensure all of the following information is the same on these listings and matches information on a practice’s website:
- Name of practice
- Address, including any suite or office numbers
- Phone number
- Hours of operation
- Website URL
Finally, to boost overall Local SEO, some practices will create a “Directions” page on their websites. A practice will write out various directions to their location on this page. By including street names, landmarks, and other towns, a search engine will get a better idea of where this practice is on a map and will improve the local SEO of the listing. Depending on the practice location, be sure to include any bus, rail, or subway stops. This, too, will boost local SEO and help those taking public transportation reach the practice. The direction pages on these websites will generally have a map embedded into the site. A prospective patient can explore the area around the practice and map out a route there from their location and without leaving the medical or dental practice’s website. Google makes it very easy to embed maps into a website. This marketing tactic is becoming more frequent, and many patients are familiar with seeing it.
3. Patient Referrals
Getting patient referrals is essential for many medical marketing plans and can play a critical role in acquiring patients. A referral patient is any patient that is “referred” to a medical practice from another source. Generally, referral patients come from other patients or other doctors. Regardless of the origin, referral patients need special care. Many practices will have a designated staff member to handle referral patients to ensure they get the attention they need. If a referral patient has a bad experience or does not get the service they need, it can significantly impact future referrals. Not only will that patient not come back, but the patient or doctor who referred them may be hesitant to send prospective patients to a practice.
The key is to make referrals from doctors as easy as possible to refer a patient. They should have a special phone number or email to contact a referral coordinator at a practice. The second thing a practice needs to do is send medical records over. This process usually falls to the staff and not the provider. A medical or dental practice should give the referring practice an easy, secure, HIPAA compliant portal to send medical records over. The easier it is for staff to send and accept a medical record, will make the entire process between two practices more efficient.
Patients who refer other patients usually need some motivation to do it. While some will refer others organically, a practice can help boost these numbers. Depending on the nature of the practice, a discount or credit can be given to the patient who made the referral. Some practices send a thank you letter or a gift card. Regardless, patients who generate referrals should have this noted in their records so a doctor can personally thank them. The acknowledgment can go a long way to keep those referrals flowing into a practice.
4. Traditional or offline marketing
While digital marketing certainly has taken the lead in acquiring patients, some effective traditional or offline marking methods should be consider by a medical or dental practice. One of the most popular ones that can still generate new patients is direct mail marketing. Unlike other traditional marketing methods, like TV or radio ads, direct mail marketing has a degree of targeting associated with it. A practice can determine precisely what households or neighborhoods receive its marketing material. Depending on the volume and organization, a practice could get postage discounts from the United States Postal Service. Anything sends to an address needs to catch the attention of the person who checks the mail. A practice should experiment with paper size, color, and even texture. Although mail volume is down, a marketing piece will still compete with other things in the mailbox. Anything sent should always have a practice’s name, address, URL, phone number, and a call to action.
Another traditional and effective marketing method is getting published in a local newspaper. Offer publications a written column from a provider addressing a local or current health concern. While these columns will not be a vehicle to promote a practice, they will show off the provider’s expertise. Biographical information about where they work with a website URL is often provided. As a bonus, many of these columns will then be published online with referral links to the website, boosting its SEO. Getting a column posted in large cities with regional publications may be challenging. Instead, search out local, neighborhood, or community newspapers that are always looking for content. These media organizations will be more receptive to being approached to publish something.
5. Online Advertising on Search Engines and Social Media
Online advertising is another great way to acquire new patients for a medical or dental practice. In search engines, paid ads will appear before map and organic results. They are the first thing people see when they begin their online search. Effective pay-per-click (PPC) ads will target keywords patients use to search for services. PPC campaigns need to bid on the correct keywords and budget to back up those campaigns. If the daily budget runs out in the first 2 hours of every day, even the most well-designed online ad campaign will not be very effective. A significant advantage paid online advertising has over SEO work is that it gets immediate results. An ad campaign launched today should see clicks coming to it within 24 to 48 hours.
Another online advertising method many medical and dental practices promote their services on social media. Many major social media channels have robust advertising platforms that practices can access. Like PPC ads, these platforms can target by city or zip codes. However, advertising on social media allows practices to refine their audiences even further. A practice can narrow its audience by age, gender, and interests. While these audiences will be smaller than they could reach with search engine advertising, they often see higher conversion rates.
The key to good online advertising campaigns, whether it is a PPC campaign or a social media campaign, is to ensure the relevant keywords and ad copy. These ads will also link to a site page that again needs to be relevant to the potential patient. If an ad promotes a specific service, using keywords a patient will use for that service, but the link sends them to the website’s home page, it will not be as effective as it could be. If an ad promotes a service, that ad should take a patient directly to the page to learn more information and make an appointment. Ads will also be more effective if the keyword that are being bid on also appears in the website’s content. While effective SEO work should primarily take care of, it is always good to double-check before marketing money is wasted.
Additional step process for your dental practice’s online success
Step 1. You start with a high quality website. Website that communicates with potential and existing patients effectively. Website that contains high quality content and hence high SEO rankings. It should be mobile optimized, and interactive.
Step 2. Start building long term dental SEO (Search Engine Optimization) based on adding useful content for each of your dental services.
Step 3. Start building local SEO for your dental practice. It starts with Google my business page, Google maps, and Google reviews.
Step 4. Hire a professional dental advertising company to setup and manage your online advertising. 3 key places to advertise are 1) Google PPC ads 2) Facebook ads 3) Instagram ads. A professional company will do a much better job than trying on your own. You are very likely to waste money by running your own ads.
Step 5. Must have tracking software installed and a healthcare CRM. This does not mean Google Analytics only (this is your basic step 101). You need a system to track all phone calls, leads from website, social media, Emails, Texting/SMS and other mediums like dental Chat*Bots. This system should be HIPAA compliant
Step 7. Get reputation management apps. These apps allow you to maximize positive reviews and minimize negative reviews
Step 8. Start monthly Email marketing. Send useful information about your dental services and how they benefit the patients, Include promotions at the end of the Email message, this increases your open rates.
Step 9. Install online appointments app on your website. Allow patients to request or book appointments.
Step 10. Install Dental*Chatbot app on your website. Make sure it is HIPAA compliant. These apps increase conversion.
Step 11. Install 2-Way texting app on your website. 82 percentage of patients visiting your dental website do it on a mobile device. Your mobile website should allow them to send you texts. 91 percentage of patients prefer to be contacted by a simple Text/SMS rather than a phone call. Your strategy should be to accomodate them and increase conversions.
The experts at PatientGain.com are available to help you create a high-performance healthcare website that will help you acquire new patients for your practice. Contact us today, and let us show you what we have done for other practices across the country!