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Creating a Successful Marketing Strategy for 2016

Three steps towards your most amazing marketing plan ever.

2016 is right around the corner. One of the things you should be thinking about right now is your marketing strategy for next year. Here are three steps that will help you put together a profitable marketing plan for your dental practice.

1. Tracking

A successful marketing plan ALWAYS starts with tracking. What do the numbers say? Someone once said that marketing is really just math. I completely agree.

So let’s start by pulling your new patient by source report and analyzing the numbers. {Note: If you haven’t done a good job tracking or haven’t tracked new patients at all, then your first step in your awesome marketing plan for 2016 is to track them. I want every new patient categorized and accounted for. Without that we can only make emotional decisions about where we spend our marketing dollars. And that is the best way to sabotage your plan before it even gets started.}

Here are a few things we’re looking for:

a. Word of Mouth/Internal Referrals — this should be your largest category. If not, the good news is it’s usually an inexpensive fix.

b. Digital Sources — how many new patients are coming from digital sources like Google, your website, reviews, Angie’s List etc? It’s hard to put an exact number on this, but a healthy practice should be growing in this category every year. Every few months really. If you’re not getting many new patients from digital sources it usually means you have an SEO problem. Patients are not finding your website.

c. Anything You Spend Money On — Are you still in the Yellow Pages? Then we need to know exactly how many new patients came from that. Local newspaper? Radio commercials? Mailers? Anything that requires an investment should have data at the end of the year to support it.

Take the amount you spent ($18,000) divided by the amount of new patients that year (18) and you can calculate your New Patient Acquisition Cost($1000/new patient). For external marketing, anything under $500 per patient is usually acceptable. After that, we need to assess the return on investment and perhaps reallocate those funds.

2. Budget

The second step in our amazing marketing plan is to create a budget for 2016.

The thing about marketing is that we could literally spend over $100,000 right now on your practice. So we have to create limits. A budget is the best way to do that. Here are some guides to help you establish a budget:

a. What did you spend last year? Was it enough? Too little? Too much?

b. What’s the average? Most practices across the country invest 3–5% of revenue. Use this as a guide to establish what you “should” be investing.

c. How aggressive do you need to be? How competitive is your area? In some areas 3% may be plenty to establish you as one of the top practices. In other cities, 5% is not enough. If you really want to stand out, you may have to spend 6% or more.

3. Spend

The last step is to decide where to spend the budget. What worked last year and should continue? What didn’t get the return you expected and should be reallocated somewhere else?

Here are some quick categories to help plan your investment:

a. Traditional Media — most practices still have some spending in traditional media (newspaper, magazine, radio, billboard, mail, etc.). I’m fine with that as long as the numbers support the spend. I don’t like to see traditional media get any larger than 25% of the overall strategy, 33% at the very most.

b. Digital — what are the big digital sources that are driving new patients? You should have an investment plan for search, reviews, website, social and content creation.

c. Experimental — I think every practice ought to keep a little bit of their budget for experimenting in new areas. Maybe it’s a community newsletter. Maybe it’s Instagram. Maybe you want to see what an investment into Yelp gets you. Set aside some of your dollars to try new things. You’ll be surprised at the return you may get.

2016 can be your best marketing year ever, but it starts with a strategic plan. Use these three principles to create a profitable strategy that increases new patients.

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