You’ve got your dental business plan in place, and you’ve been working hard to get all your licenses, registrations, zoning, taxes, and insurance in order. (We recommend taking a look at this checklist provided by the ADA to make sure you’ve got everything covered.) You have even started looking for a friendly staff that has experience working with dental patients.
Everything seems to be moving smoothly toward your grand opening, but do you know how to attract new patients to your dental office once all that other stuff is done? Many new practices rely on referrals of some kind to ensure that someone knows about them in these early phases of the business. If you really want to grow, though, you’re going to have to build awareness and familiarity with your practice through more than one-on-one referrals.
Marketing from the Ground Up
Building a reputation in a community and getting new dental patients can take some time, but if you get started on the right foot, you won’t have to come back and try to fix things later (which is always more difficult).
There are a lot of online and offline channels through which you can market your practice, but in these early stages it’s important to create a strong foundation from which you can get many new dental patients. This starts by creating a unique and memorable brand and connecting it to all your other marketing endeavors.
Know Your Brand
A brand ties together your messaging and your reputation in a way that’s easy for new patients to remember, and your logo is a good place to start since it will be the most recognizable and visible aspect of your brand.
In general, the things you need to remember are:
- Keep it unique – don’t use the same silhouette of a tooth that everyone uses
- Keep it simple – too busy is too hard to remember
- Keep it readable – it should be just as clear on a business card as it is on your signage
Getting a Domain Name
Your domain name is also a major part of your brand because it will go on your business cards, referral cards, and other marketing materials.
This should be easy enough to get, right? Simply purchase the domain name that matches your practice’s name.
Unfortunately, it’s always possible that someone may have scooped that name up first. On top of that, there are many other questions that could influence your choice.
- Should you use the dentist’s name or the practice’s name for the domain?
- Should you include words that specify the location?
- Should you use generic terms if your name has already been taken?
These are good questions, but you can boil the answers down to some simple things.
First, the name should be easy to remember and easy to say. That makes it easy to share.
Second, if you use generic words along with a location for your domain (i.e. “[cityname]dentistry.com”), you may be able to appear for certain Google searches, but it will be harder to create a brand around it that patients will remember.
Keep it as simple and relevant as possible and it will be easier to use as part of your branding efforts.
Building an Effective Website
A new dental patient will immediately judge you based on the appearance of your website. If it looks like it was made 10 years ago, many people will be hesitant to do business with you.
An effective website will immediately inform your visitors where they are, what they can do here, and why they should do it with you, rather than the many other dentists that appeared for the same search. This means you need to:
- Make it clear what they can do on the site
- Use attractive images, but don’t rely on generic pictures to sell your services
- Use clear content that informs and guides without overwhelming
- Provide an intuitive interface and make it easy to navigate to the information they need
- Setting up an appointment should always be a single click away
It’s a lot easier to build this kind of website from the start rather than try to redo it later or try to make an outdated site do a sufficient job in the modern marketplace.
Get on Google
From day one, you should be working to get some exposure on Google.
You want to know how to get new dental patients? Just be there when they sit down in front of their computer or pull out their phone and search for terms like “dentists near me.” And that means you need more than just a website. You need to actively promote your online presence and make sure that search engines display your listing for relevant searches.
There are several important activities you can use to make sure your online presence is effective.
- Use Google My Business to help your site show up in the search results and on Google Maps.
- Use Schema website markup to make sure important information displays in regular search results.
- Ask for reviews and watch for those that pop up online. If they’re good reviews, be sure to say thanks. If they’re from patients that had some issues, show them how you’re working hard to make corrections.
Starting a dental practice can be an exhilarating challenge. It can feel like it’s taking forever to see the kind of success you want, but if you have everything in place as you dive into this competitive marketplace, you’ll start to see growth in the number new patients and the patients who will keep coming back.