Dr. Max Kerr and Elias Kalantzis look at effective marketing campaigns online and offline and offer some ideas on how to increase the overall success of your practice.
by Max Kerr, DDS, D.ABDSM and Elias Kalantzis
Almost 90% of the U.S. population uses the internet on a daily basis. This spawned a nutrient-dense landscape for online marketers over the past ten years. But as industries are apt to do, they overworked the once fertile soil, leading to ignored, ineffective ads and spam filters working overtime. We’ve been inundated with online ads and online SEO companies that reiterate this astounding phenomenon. Juxtapose this with the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) which has experienced annual decreases totaling a 33% decline in business over the past decade. Most people we speak with think direct mail is dead.
A 2017 Forbes magazine article estimated most Americans are exposed to 4,000–10,000 ads each day. This may seem difficult to believe, but most people see hundreds of brand impressions before even leaving their house in the morning. As our lives are increasingly uploaded and online, what role does offline marketing play for dental practices? Is it an archaic artifact or a fiery phoenix?
Most online dental marketing companies spend very little time promoting the online response rates they deliver. Why? Because those numbers are in a precipitous downfall. According to several internet research company studies, the Click-Through Rate (CTR) of email marketing has been on a steady decline for the last decade. Some analysts have postulated CTR rates have declined to a mere 2.6% average in 2019. Inversely, direct mail’s total volume has decreased over time. However, studies from the Association of National Advertisers have shown that when targeting client lists with direct mail, response rates have significantly increased from 3.4% in 2010 to 5.3% in 2016. There is a difference between marketing to your patients of records compared to prospective patients, e.g. non-patients in a 5 mile radius of your practice. The aforementioned stats apply to both segments.
Let’s zoom in on Dr. Max Kerr’s approach to marketing for his general dentistry office and his 4 dental sleep practice locations in Austin, TX. He habitually reinvests 5% of total gross revenue into marketing, with a 50/50 split of his budget going to online ads vs. direct mail. “For years, online advertising was king for our practice. Over the past 2 years, it’s plateaued at best. Realistically, we’re seeing dramatically diminishing returns,” claims Dr. Kerr. He continues, “The online marketplace is just so noisy. It’s nearly impossible to differentiate yourself, and it’s so competitive in Austin. We had to figure out a way to stand out and stand apart.”
One of the key reasons for the success of direct mail is its undeniable tenacity. You can delete a promotional email in a second, or worse for online marketing companies, report it as spam. And you can do this faster than Usain Bolt ran the 40 yard dash in 2019. Most people seldom – if ever – open promotional emails in their inbox. Conversely, we are all forced to open our mailbox on a regular basis. There could be a check, a bill, a greeting card. To get to those coveted items, you have to physically touch each of the other items. Direct marketing is tactile.
Unless you’re like Kramer from Seinfeld when he decided to refuse his mail from the post office, you look at and briefly engage every piece of direct mail you receive. You are not only reading the advertiser’s name and seeing their logo but potentially absorbing the promotional message itself. This is very different than ignoring or deleting an unopened email. However, not all direct mail is the same. Dr. Kerr qualified this, “I touch a lot of junk mail, so do my patients. We tried a couple postcard pieces and didn’t get a gangbuster return. Then I received a sample product kit from one company, and I thought, “THIS is quality that reflects our practice and will be embraced by a lot of patients.”
Google and Yelp has us held so far over the barrel…
One of the most frustrating issues with online patient engagement revolves around the subjectivity of patient reviews on sites like Yelp and Google. “You’re at the mercy of someone’s bad day, whether a patient or a team member. Google and Yelp has us held so far over the barrel,” Dr. Kerr declared. If one patient out of your last fifty treatment plans thinks your prices are too high, hundreds of potential patients can hear about their subjective experience. Heaven forbid you choose not to advertise with Yelp, as they are currently in litigation with several companies for the placement of ‘bad reviews’ on their page. Some of the claims against Yelp are that negative reviews from years ago suddenly pop up at the top of the page when businesses decide to stop advertising with them. Seriously.
So, how should you decide where to advertise and how much to spend on marketing? “Unfortunately, most dentists don’t view marketing as a strategic method to help guide patients into their practice,” Dr. Kerr states. You have to take a broad approach to marketing by utilizing different advertising media. However, highlighting your strengths and uniqueness to a specific, target demographic is absolutely necessary.
The U.S. Post Office offers a program called the “every door campaign” which basically takes the shotgun approach by having the mail carrier deliver to every house on their route. There are superior options though. Similar to some online advertising platforms like Facebook, you can strategically select potential patient demographics with direct mail. Your marketing expenditure should deliver a desirably return on investment (ROI). The ROI can be maximized by laser-focusing your marketing activities. Rather than mailing to every residence in a 5-mile radius, you should coordinate with a firm that can facilitate hyper-targeting of your ideal patients. In this situation, you’d deliver high quality, low cost, compelling, engaging promotional items to prospective patients based on age, marriage status, and household income like Dr. Kerr does.
“We use Viva Concepts for all of our tactile marketing. Their marketing collateral has depth and promotes curiosity,” Dr. Kerr states. Viva offers direct mail to patients and prospective patients and a patient referral system to track every single encounter. If you don’t have a systemized method of obtaining patient referrals, you should strongly consider one as soon as possible. All of this guarantees new patients, ROI trackability, and a way for your practice to stand up, stand out, and stand apart. “Viva sets up a domino and cascade effect that is unique in the dental market.”
Whichever direct mail company you choose to assist your practice, make sure they will target your exact demographic, provide you with beautiful marketing pieces that stand out, and have the ability to track every single piece of marketing that you pay for.
Lastly, it’s important to reiterate that an effective marketing campaign should focus on a combination of online ads, email marketing, and tactile marketing. Even though online response rates have decreased, and direct mail responses have increased, they are all crucial to the overall success of your practice’s growth. Complementary marketing is crucial to capture patients’ scarce attention wherever they are.
Dr. Willey offers his keys to effective marketing campaigns for the dental sleep practices in his article that you can read here: https://dentalsleeppractice.com/keys-to-succesful-marketing-in-dental-sleep/.