Don’t Buy A Chocolate Fireguard.

5 Ways To Avoid Wasting Money On Marketing Your Practice.

The idiom ‘chocolate fireguard’ is sadly the perfect way to describe the marketing initiatives in many UK dental practices.  Thankfully, the marketing industry has moved on from the often quoted Lord Beaverbrook utterance, ”50% of what I spend on advertising is wasted, the problem is I don’t know which 50%!”  Now, we live in an age where everything (in terms of marketing investments) is accountable and measurable. Not only that, if you want to take a peek at what your competitors are up to, you don’t even have to leave the safety of your practice, now, thanks to Google’s Street View and your competitors web sites, you can visit all of your competition and evaluate their propositions, positioning and pricing in less than an hour!

So, how is it so many practices end up with ‘chocolate fireguard’ marketing?

From my 35 years experience of running my own marketing agencies and more recently, my experience with Breathe Clients, I find that very often, marketing is not seen as a process but is (mistakenly) exclusively seen as a compelling creative idea, or a nice looking website or a welcoming reception lounge with a state of the art coffee machine.  All of these elements are important in communicating your proposition, however, unless they are joined up in a cohesive process they massively under-perform or worse, end up being incongruous and misleading and therefore ineffective and counter-productive.

Marketing is primarily and fundamentally a process and in order for it to fulfil its potential and provide you with an effective return on your investment [ROI], then, you (or your marketer), has to understand the many, linked inter-dependencies.

The first steps in effective marketing are:

  • To agree the business objectives
  • To monetize the objectives
  • To determine the acquisition process [that’s the marketing bit].

For example.
If you are a GDP and you wish to penetrate the highly lucrative Orthodontic market [ahead of the likely changes to the NHS provision of Ortho in 2015] by offering “Inman Aligners”, you might set a business objective of generating 10 cases per month @ £3.5k each = £35k/month or an increase in annual revenue of 400k plus.

Ok so now you need a framework to make it happen ~

The method by which you recruit new Inman Aligner patients needs a plan and a detailed process which could look like this:

  • Decide on your target market.  List a hierarchy of who you think is going to buy:  Teachers/Nurses/ Solicitors/Cabin Crew, females aged between 30 – 50 and lets say Saga-Set female aged 55+, working and retired.  Spend lots of time on this, challenge how many of them exist in your catchment – remember you increase your catchment by offering a relatively unique proposition – prospects might travel 15 miles for straight teeth but only 2 miles for a check up.
  • Build a conceptual vision for each of your targets.  In other words create characters that fit within your chosen profile[s]: What they earn, What type of house they live in, Are they single, The car they drive, Retired, Children left home etc.  Bring them to life by giving them names and ideally cut out photos of them from magazines and build a collage of: what they like, what magazines they read, what high street brands they like. This is a great team exercise.
  • Think about how you are going to get the target’s attention: What do they read locally, What web sites do they visit, Are they likely to be members of the Virgin Gym, or the local tennis club? Do they use the train to get to work? What professional bodies might they belong to?
  • Build a ‘Hook’ campaign aimed at getting their attention which could be, for example: Utilize a combination of LinkedIn or Facebook with a series of very small 3×1 advertisements in the local press on the same day with headlines like ~  “Invisible braces now available for adults – find out more by...” or. “Crooked teeth straightened in as little as 5 weeks” or, “Braces are not just for kids” –  or, “Perfectly straight teeth quickly and easily”.
  • The Hook campaign takes the prospect to a micro web-site that just talks about straight teeth and offers down-loads on everything they need to know about getting straight teeth and a wonderful smile.  To access the down load they need to submit their email address etc.  There is a link to your main web-site which also has a section that mirrors the micro site.  The priority of the micro site is to motivate the prospect to escalate to voice as quickly as possible – in other words to ring the practice.
  • Inbound engagement – how the practice handles the inbound enquiries is crucial.  The caller will be unsure and desperate for information – if you deliver too little they will not be convinced, too much and you could easily confuse, how quickly you can see them also has an impact on the number of leads you convert to a consultation appointment.
  • Understand your marketing budget.  Have an acquisition target cost based on your sales objective
  • Train your team on the mission and the desired outcomes.  Make sure they get it and are actively part of it
  • Record performance at each stage or pinch point!

Perfect your marketing process and ultimately reduce your acquisition costs by utilising continuous assessment and learning from your mistakes!

It is important to understand that:

  • All channels [press/telephone/web/poster site]  perform differently and need to be attributed separately.
  • There is a marked tendency to wrongly attribute what was the ‘first stimulation’ that promoted a new patient enquiry [often web enquires are attributed as web but may have originated as a referral – the web just acted as a bridge – the patient could then have used the telephone to make the appointment !] this can wildly distort channel performance metrics and can in certain situations create double counting. Ask the lead, how did you first hear about us?
  • All channels have very different propensities to convert to appointments  – therefore different finely tuned engagement protocols need to be deployed for every channel.
  • All channels have different propensities to transact – filters are critical.
  • Different ‘offerings’ have different propensities to convert.
  • Not all ‘offerings’ suit all channels.
  • The consistency of engagement processes both electronic and human can have dramatic impacts on channel performance.

5 Ways To Avoid Wasting Money On Marketing.

  1. Set clear, measurable, realistic business objectives and monetize them.
  2. Decide what it is you are going to sell [the proposition and its packaging] and why somebody would be motivated to buy it. Identify clear target markets  for your proposition, check that they exist in your catchment in sufficient numbers, find out  as much as you can about them.
  3. Build a marketing plan ensuring that all the elements are integrated.
  4. Constantly measure performance at each of the touch points; number of visitors to the micro site/ number of visitors CTA [call to actions] by telephone, by email, by walk in, the number of each which converts to an appointment, the number of which actually transacts, (in other words treatment plan conversion ratio).
  5. Make sure your team are with you 100% of the way and feed back and celebrate performance daily/weekly.

I will be running a number of 1 day, Breathe Marketing Workshops, ideal for practice owners looking to understand the fundamentals of the marketing dental practices, at different locations in 2012.  If you are interested in joining me, please let me know!

If you would like some help you with any specific marketing issues or challenges, please drop me an email or ring me at the Breathe Office: – 0845 299 7209.

All the best


Jonathan Fine

Director of Marketing

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