Marketing to win during the recession
Successful marketing of a dental practice takes on special importance during a recession. You’ve got big decisions to make: How to save money and maintain your business at the appropriate level to keep cash flow heathy?
We see many dental practices taking a hatchet to their marketing budget in an attempt to save dollars, but this is misguided in the extreme. Removing your name from your prospective patients mind will likely have three detrimental effects for your practice: you’ll lose current patients, miss out on gaining new ones, and damage your future prospects because of a smaller pool of clients.
At FishDirectMail.com, we are in the business of successfully marketing dental practices. Our expertise is in helping dentists like you not only weather the recession, but actually take advantage of the lessened "clutter" in advertising mail to make your message stand out. We can help you build your practice.
In this white paper, we look at three successful strategies dental practices are using now to attract more revenue and new patients, even during the economic downturn. Moving beyond generic mailers, we will show you how to become the master of mano-a-mano marketing through direct mail.
Market through direct mail
Remember the days when everyone used the Yellow Pages to find a dentist? Times are changing, according to a recent survey conducted by Dental Practice & Finance magazine. Yellow page advertising fell nearly 7 percent from 1994 to 1998, and the Kelsey Group predicts another 1.4 percent decrease in Yellow Pages advertising through 2012. Other methods of advertising, like direct mail, are gaining significant popularity.
That’s because direct mail is the single most effective form of external marketing, a fact endorsed by ADA Intelligent Dental Marketing. This is your first strategy for success.
The problem, though, is getting dental practices to loosen the purse strings in general. Marketing budgets are meager, according to the magazine, with more than half of those surveyed spending just 1 percent on marketing at all. Compare this to similar small businesses and you’ll see that they spend about 7 percent on marketing. Further, just over 8 percent spend even 5 percent of their business income to market their dental practices. That’s a big deficit for dentists.
This seems to come from a basic misunderstanding about the function of marketing; done properly and effectively, external marketing will increase your customer base by bringing in new patients and referrals. This will earn you money and pay for any ad campaign many times over. After word of mouth, marketing is the best way to bring in new clients and by keeping budgets small, you are effectively shutting down prospects for future clients, one of the things that keeps your doors open.
A direct mail strategy that works well is sending a full color, odd-sized postcard that is printed on both sides. It should include some sort of offer that will get people into your office, like a free iPod shuffle or a $50 gift card. One successful direct mail campaign we’ve seen is a referral program for existing clients with this "freebie" offer. Make it worth clients’ time and effort to come to your practice and they will.
Zero in on patients
How well do you know your demographics? Knowing who you are serving and who you want to serve are the best ways to target your direct mail for excellent results. This is the second strategy of successful dental practices: getting to know your demographics and marketing to them. Are you seeing lots of moms and children walk in? Older clients? Know them, and you’ll know how to market to them.
Another key idea is to put some thought into who you want to be coming into your office. What is your dream clientele? Would you like more cosmetic procedure clients? More families with children? Older patients? We can help you buy a database of names to broaden your direct mail campaigns. To target higher income brackets, for instance, we could buy a list of names from zip codes with houses worth a certain dollar value.
Once you have these two pieces of information–who your clients are and who you want them to be–you can create of buy a mailing list based on that information. Here at Fish Direct, we know how to get you on the right track and, through our next tip, we can have you creating personalized mailers for each and every person on you list, based on the information from your database and any that we purchase.
Variable Data Printing
The third strategy for success during a recession is called variable data printing, or VDP. This is probably the single most effective marketing tool available to your dental practice. VDP basically is a technology that allows Fish Direct to personalize every piece of direct mail and make the content specific for each person. For instance, if your mailing list indicates that Jane Doe has children in grade school, your mailer to her could mention specials on braces and orthodontics. If the next person was in his 20s, you could make that mailer with a special offer for tooth whitening. An older client could get a mailer with a special on bridges or crowns.
Each person gets a unique piece of direct mail–mail they are more likely to read because it addresses them personally, and a targeted marketing message is a compelling marketing message. This is one of the most effective tools available to increase your return on investment.
Because Fish Direct specializes in VDP, we have the know-how to help you model a highly effective direct-mail campaign.
There is no easy way around the current economic downturn and the squeeze it is putting on dental practices. But keeping your name out there and actively marketing may actually