I’m on the phone every week with practices that have marketing problems. That’s what I do. Diagnose and create treatment plans to get them back on track. I had six of those calls last week. By nature of the volume, I’ve gotten pretty good at identifying common symptoms. Marketing problems tend to take on certain patterns and like an experienced clinician, I can typically tell what’s going on from a few quick questions.
Last week, I spoke with a practice that signed up with a well-known, national dental marketing company for $7,000 a month. Ten months later, they called me because it wasn’t working.
Another startup called six months after opening their doors. They were getting 30 - 40 new patients a month, but felt like they should be getting 70 - 80. They said they had a marketing problem.
A third call was a potential new client that I had spoken to over a year ago. He had purchased an existing practice and decided to pass on our marketing plan because he wanted to keep costs low. He contracted with a well-known dental website company that promised him a site for about half the cost. After getting into the process and realizing all the “add-on” services he needed to build a similar site, he actually spent more money than he would have with us. Despite all their work and upgraded solutions, he felt like his marketing was just “okay.” He couldn’t put his finger on why, but it felt like it wasn’t connecting the way he thought it should.
So how do you know if your marketing has a problem? It will usually show up in these six common symptoms.
1. It’s a race to the bottom.
If you constantly feel like you’re competing against price; If you feel threatened by the corporate clinic coming into town; When you tell me that dentistry is being commoditized, your marketing might have a problem.
This is why a $19 new patient exam mailer may not be the best option for your practice. EVEN if it drives record new patients. EVEN if you have your best month ever. If the quality of patients is not in line with the vision of your practice, it’s very likely your marketing is off target. When price becomes the focus, it’s usually a symptom that we’re not communicating strong values.
Prescription: Create value for what you do by educating patients.
2. There’s no clear change communicated.
You may have heard it said, “People don’t go to the hardware store to buy a drill bit, they go to the hardware store to buy a hole in the wall.” Patients aren’t buying the services you provide. They’re buying the change they want in their lives.
Dentistry is service-based, so we tend to talk about the services, but people don’t buy services. People seek confidence, security, health, relationship, trust. Our marketing needs to communicate below the surface and address universal human needs. Are you making your services, technology, continuing education and expertise the focus of your marketing? Or are you speaking to the desired vision for their lives?
Prescription: Speak to human needs, not your services.
3. There’s no raving fans.
When was the last time you received an UNSOLICITED review or testimonial from a patient? Not one that you asked for or incentivized, but the kind that surprised you because you weren’t expecting it.
We received one recently from a new client with a very creative project we had been working on.
“Hi Josh and Studio 8E8 team, I really don’t even know where to begin, or, do I have the words to describe how I felt going through this unbelievable work. You guys and your team are truly life changers. We are pleased beyond our wildest dreams and can’t thank you enough. We are so happy we found you and can’t wait to continue our friendship.”
I shared it with my team and told them that trust is the most important part of our work. If we don’t do that, we won’t have a chance to show clients like this the amazing work we’re capable of.
Prescription: Develop trust and over deliver.
4. There’s no engagement.
What you do should resonate and connect with your audience. It also shouldn’t be a mystery whether or not your marketing is connecting. We all use this little thing now called social media that makes it very obvious when there is (or isn’t) engagement.
When there’s no engagement, it’s typically a values alignment problem. Maybe you haven’t taken the time to define your values and then intentionally communicate those through your marketing. Maybe you haven’t taken the time to focus your voice. Maybe you haven’t taken enough time to communicate your “why.”
Every post on social media doesn’t have to produce raving fans, but you should be routinely generating engagement.
Prescription: Intentionally communicate your values and your “why.”
5. Decreased momentum.
One of the most common situations I run into is the existing practice where everything was going great for years, then all of sudden it “slowed down.” When doctors speak that way, they’re referencing a loss of momentum. The diagnosis is pretty simple: You had a new practice where everything was exciting and you did your best to make sure it grew. But once it did grow and you didn’t have a “need” for marketing, things went on autopilot. Now, it’s slowing down.
One of the laws of marketing is that marketing is momentum; it’s energy. When you’ve got it, everything feels amazing. It’s fun and exciting. Morale is high. There’s margin for error because everything is moving in the right direction. When you lose momentum, everything feels tougher. It’s exhausting. The team is bored and apathetic. Even the slightest misstep seems to blow up into a bigger issue.
It can all be traced back to marketing and a decrease in momentum. When marketing is ignored for a sustained period of time, practices slow down.
Prescription: Marketing is a system of a healthy business and should happen whether or not you “need” it.
6. Chasing what’s hot and trendy.
The last symptom of practices with marketing problems is constantly chasing the latest marketing trends. Free whitening, QR codes (remember those??? I once heard a marketing consultant telling a convention center full of doctors, “If you don’t have a QR code, you’re getting left behind.” Wow, we’ve come so far.), Groupons and email drip campaigns. None of these are wrong and some have their place in a comprehensive marketing plan, but if you expect a trendy tactic to be a miracle fix, your marketing might have a problem.
Prescription: The most effective marketing communicates a long-term, consistent message.
If you have a marketing problem, the good news is the solution is straightforward. The only way out of a marketing problem is to communicate your way out of it. It starts with intentionally defining your values and then communicating those consistently through everything you do. The bad news is you can’t fix it overnight. So stop trying. Give me a call (shameless plug) and we’ll help you put together a long-term plan.