Chapter 14: Meatspace Marketing
As a local business, serving local patients, meatspace marketing is at least as important to your business success as Internet marketing if not more so. Some prospective patients will find you online, certainly, but the reality is that many people do not look for local businesses online first as often as they look for global businesses there. And, you can be sure that if there are other dentists in your local area, they will have a physical presence in the real world. Some of the most common ways to market in your local area include flyers and direct mail; newspaper, local media ads and press releases; community involvement and excellent signage at your office.
Whatever you do in meatspace, do it consistently. If you are distributing flyers, it might take several times for your ad to “catch” with dental consumers. Eventually, they will remember your service at a time when they are thinking about it anyway or need it most, and that is when they will act on it. This takes a commitment to the marketing, which you can make after a few test runs.
What’s In It For Them?
It is all very well and good to send out marketing materials or media ads into the local community, but if dental care consumers do not see something that is valuable to them, they will ignore it most of the time. Give them something, and your ad will have a much greater effect. Whether that is a free service, a discount or educational materials on a new service you are offering, there is something in it for them, so they will be much more likely to contact you.
Pull, Don’t Push
Avoid being pushy with your marketing efforts. No one wants to be told they are a bad or intellectually lacking if they do not take care of their teeth. When you push them with warnings about the consequences of bad oral hygiene, they tend to rebel. Instead, pull them into your practice by telling them about how your services can benefit them. Let them know they can have a more attractive smile, straighter teeth or pink, healthy gums. Describe your ways of delivering pain-free dental care. Instead of dragging them into your office, make them want to come to you.
Do Not Forget the Call to Action
Just as you do online, you need to give a call to action on your meatspace marketing. Give recipients of the advertisement a code to enter on your website for a free brochure. Give them a coupon to bring in and use on their next dental visit. The call to action serves two purposes. First, it can prompt them to begin a patient-doctor relationship with you. Second, it can help you gauge how effective your ad is in getting people into your office and help you make decisions about what types of marketing to invest in later on.
Use a Scientific Approach
Test, observe, evaluate and experiment with each marketing attempt you make. You can test by investing a small amount in doing a trial run of the ad. Observe how well the ad does in bringing in new patients. Evaluate what you might do differently on the next run. If the ad seems to have little or no effect, change one thing about it at a time with new trial runs. When you find a marketing tool that works for you, scale it up to reach a much larger audience.
Flyers and Direct Mail
The practice of distributing flyers literally goes back centuries. Since it is an effective way to reach dental care consumers, it is still a viable marketing method for dentists today. The first step in your flyer campaign is to create it. Decide what you plan to offer the person who receives the flyer. It can be a discount, a free service, an informational booklet on a popular dental treatment or anything else the consumer will find valuable. Hire a graphic designer to create the flyer, and then have it printed.
You can distribute the flyer in several different ways. You can deliver a 100 flyers by yourself in an afternoon. You can take them to the post office and have them delivered to everyone in the zip codes you choose. Another way is to hire people to pass out the flyers directly to individual in a place where people gather, such as a train station or a shopping mall.
You should be building a mailing list from the time you open your office. Any time someone calls you, visits your website or comes through your doors, get their contact information and add it to your list. Then, you can send flyers and/or letters directly to people who have shown interest in your service. You can run a direct mail campaign to reach all the people on your list. Also, you can initiate individual contacts with direct mail immediately after a first visit or first contact.
Local Media Ads and Press Releases
You can place ads in local newspapers and magazines, and on local radio and TV stations. If you do, make sure they are written and/or recorded in a professional way. Ads can be quite costly, so remember to experiment with the ad before you go full scale with it.
Press releases provide another way to reach out to potential customers through local media. Press releases are often inexpensive, costing only the amount it takes to have them written or recorded. The media outlet will have to approve your press release, though, and this can be much more difficult than getting them to accept an advertisement. If the press release is an announcement of something new happening in your office or in the dental industry, your press release is more likely to be accepted than if it is simply a “puff piece” extolling your virtues as a dentist. Another option is to contact local radio and TV shows and offer to come in for a face-to-face interview on some current topic related to dentistry.
Being involved in the community can get you noticed in a very positive way. You can sponsor a charity event such as a golf tournament or a 5k run. Attend local networking events where people from many different occupations gather. Join a club or become more active in your church. Although your time and funds available to participate in community events will likely be very limited as you begin your practice, you can choose one or two ways to be involved without making too great a commitment.
In the best possible scenario, potential patients will be able to see your dental clinic signs when they walk or drive past your building. The signage is a constant reminder that you are available to provide dental care in your local community. If your office is in a large office building, you may not be able to put signs outside the building however, depending on the rules of the building. You can make sure your suite is clearly and attractively marked inside the building and listed distinctly on the building directory.