Dentists who are business owners should be admired. Not only are they focused on being great clinicians, but they are running a business as well. Which means despite how good of a dentist they are, there are a million other things to take care of on a daily basis. Okay, maybe not a million. It may be more like eight to twelve other things, but it can sure seem like a million.
Marketing is one of those. Most dentists are the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) of their practices. While this is a great and often times necessary first step, as the practice grows, it will become almost impossible to keep up.
So when you should handle your own marketing and when should you hire someone to help?
- Do-It-Yourself (DIY)
Dentistry has a great DIY movement, and naturally so. Most dentists start out boot-strapping their own practice and filling every possible role just to make it through the first few years. As a business owner overseeing so many different aspects of the practice you end up handling much of the marketing by default.
The key here is to have great resources. Read marketing articles, listen to podcasts, research websites and ask lots of questions. I find that when I venture out into an area, the best approach is to learn from those who have been there before me. Identify the experts, collect their content and then act.
Need a quick, inexpensive website? Squarespace is awesome.
Trying to get a handle on social media? Read this.
Design a practice logo? 99designs is the best for the money.
Want to get a handle on local search and SEO? Check out Moz.
Interested in starting a Google AdWords campaign? This book is like the Bible.
Have dental specific questions you can’t seem to find the answers to? Watch the 8E8 Dental Marketing Show.
Does it take time to learn? You bet. At this stage in the practice, it’s probably worth trading time to save some money.
2. Trusted Advisors
As the business grows you’ll find that the operations become more demanding. The staff needs morning meetings and monthly training. HR is beginning to suck up all your time. The existing building either needs renovated or you need to move. Expenses are pilling up and waiting for checks to be issued and now that you’re making some money, shouldn’t you think about an investment plan?
The solution to the never-ending needs of a healthy, growing business will be to replace yourself in these areas with trusted advisors. Your job is to find professionals whom you trust and begin to put together your very own “board” of advisors.
You’ll need a great accountant, a wise financial advisor, a strong attorney, a responsive HR company, a detailed book keeper, and a smart marketing advisor to name a few.
The goal for marketing at this stage is to get expert advise. You need someone who can analyze past efforts and acquire insight for future strategy. You need a professional who has intimate knowledge of the dental industry and proven respect in their field.
At this point your website probably needs an upgrade, but Squarespace isn’t going to cut it. You need a dental industry leader and search expert to oversee the project.
You have a feeling your local search efforts and Google AdWords campaigns could be so much more effective if you had someone who really knew what they were doing.
What’s the deal with direct mail? It seems to be working for some dentists, but it’s such a big investment. Is it worth it?
You’re hearing that Facebook has some really great marketing opportunities but honestly your page has been neglected recently. Do you really want to take the time to learn that?
Begin to form relationships with smart professionals who can take your marketing efforts to the next level.
3. The Investment
As the practice grows in revenue the marketing budget should naturally increase as well. Treat it as an investment. For every dollar you spend hopefully you’re getting at least two to three dollars back.
The average practice invests 3–4% of production into marketing. That means once your practice nears the $1 million mark, you’ll be investing $30,000 a year minimally in marketing. It’s a sizable investment for sure. One that now needs be treated different.
What’s important at this stage is a long-term marketing plan, intentional brand development and consistency of message. You may find at this point you have four to eight different companies involved in your marketing (yellow pages, SEO, website, local search, community newspaper, signage, direct mail, etc.). While that may have been a good plan up until this point, it has definite weaknesses moving forward.
When marketing is spread out over multiple companies, brand establishment and consistency is nearly impossible. There tends to be either an overlap in the services these companies provide or worse yet, gaps where nobody is responsible. You’ll begin to realize the need for a company that can put together a long-term marketing plan for your practice AND execute it.
My advice is when the investment grows beyond $30,000 a year, the best strategy is to work with a full service marketing agency that can (a) create a custom and comprehensive plan for your practice and (b) execute that plan.
Remove the stress of communicating with half a dozen different companies, creating strategy, ensuring consistency and managing payments. Hire a marketing company that you trust to oversee the entire project. A company that, in a sense, becomes your marketing department. A company that gives great advise, has a handle on future trends and most importantly becomes a member of your trusted board of advisors.