You may be aware that the general data protection regulation (GDPR) comes into force in May of this year, the regulation doesn’t give exact wording for what you should do in a dental practice but it does give definitions. I’m therefore recommending that if you use any form of dental online marketing that you ensure you meet the standards as they are interpreted.
Doing consent well should put individuals in control, build patient trust and engagement, and enhance your reputation
According to the information Commissioner’s Office, consent
“…must be freely given, specific, informed, and there must be an indication signifying agreement. However, the GDPR is clearer that the indication must be unambiguous and involve a clear affirmative action.”
It must also be unbundled, have an active opt in, have your organisation named, be documented and easy for the individual to withdraw from.
To comply with this, I suggest you add a consent box to every single signup form on your website.
Accompanying this should be a tick box which everyone will have to tick, this should then be stored in their record in your e-mail system as a record of consent. Should anyone question whether you consent to send e-mails you can check back in the register to prove that they have clicked this box.
I also recommend adding a double opt in.
Potentially someone could maliciously enter someone else’s e-mail address into one of your forms, to prevent this all individuals should be required to verify their e-mail address, when they complete any form on the website they should be sent a verification e-mail which they need to click on, if they do not click on this e-mail, for what ever reason then you cannot use their e-mail address for any e-mail marketing.
What happens about existing e-mail subscribers?
It seems that if someone is considered a ‘customer’ then you can legitimately send them e-mails, you can therefore continue to send patients e-mails IF they can be demonstrably proven to be customers.
People that have not been to the practice is more difficult.
If the e-mail program you use is considered a service and there has been ongoing recipient e-mail engagement (opens or clicks) then this may be sufficient to show an existing customer relationship, as a customer you can legitimately send e-mails so long as the e-mails are considered a unique service in themselves.
Remember, the e-mail program needs to be a valuable service in its own right.
The system I use for e-mail is Aweber, this system is able to filter subscribers that have not interacted with an e-mail after a given date. I would suggest that you filter non-active subscribers within six months and delete any subscriber that has not interacted with your e-mail system during this time.
This will then demonstrate that you have an active GDPR policy for historic e-mail contacts. Of course, all new contacts will have consent requested at the beginning.
You have until May 25th 2018 to implement this so I recommend you pass this information on to the person that manages your e-mail marketing.
Resources for bedtime reading, should you so desire, please ensure you have read these documents in full before acting on any advice given above:
Just before Christmas Facebook announced an update to their algorithm… You did know that Facebook use an algorithm to show posts didn’t you!
I’ve been critical of these algorithmic updates in the past as they have sometimes been simply to allow Facebook to gain more revenue, on this occasion, I’m actually quite pleased to see this algorithmic change.
According to a blog post written on Facebook’s newsroom blog on 18 December 2017 they are beginning to demote posts which bate people into responding with likes, comments or shares. The technique is often called ‘engagement baiting’ or ‘Facebook baiting’.
We’ve all seen those posts:
Share baiting – “Share this post to be in with a chance of winning a new Porsche.”
Tag baiting – “Tag your friends in this post to be in with a chance of winning a new washing machine”
React baiting – “Click like to say you agree, click angry to say you disagree etc”
Comment baiting – “Comment ‘Amen’ to say you agree”
Image source: newsroom.fb.com
This new engagement baiting algorithmic update is in addition to Facebook’s ‘clickbait headline‘ update which went live in May 2017, Both of these algorithmic updates are to reinforce Facebook’s rule of authenticity.
If people stop using Facebook or get annoyed with these posts then ultimately they may use Facebook less and Facebook will lose revenue…I admit that I have used engagement baiting techniques in the past and they’ve worked well, (I used the reaction buttons to get people to vote on whether they wanted a marketing club or not) but this technique could now potentially see my posts demoted as a result.
Image source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EdgeRank
If you create a post on your page on Facebook it is not necessarily shown to all of your fans, Facebook uses their edge rank algorithm to calculate who to show that post to, if your post uses either engagement baiting or has a click baiting headline you may find that the post gets completely demoted… If you continually use this technique you may also find that your whole page gets demoted and none of your posts get shown!
I welcome this update, I welcome the authenticity that it brings and am looking forward to a less spammy news stream on Facebook.
The video is just under an hour long and goes through how to optimise a website to be found on Google.
This video looks at Website Traffic Optimisation (part 2), and includes using:
✔Social media to attract more traffic to your site.
✔Email to attract more traffic to your site.
✔Paid advertising on Facebook and Google (PPC) to attract more traffic to your site.
Optimising for traffic is an important part of your online marketing strategy, next month we will be looking at conversion optimisation, and equally important aspect to take into account.
The dental marketing club is free to join on Facebook, the live streams happen on the 2nd Thursday of every month at 1 PM UK local time. The next live stream, looking at conversion optimisation is on Thursday 8th of February 2018.
The video is just under an hour long and goes through how to optimise a website to be found on Google.
This video looks at Website Traffic Optimisation (part one), and includes:
✔Keyword/phraseResearch. Techniques and strategies to research the words and phrases that people search for in the local area.
✔Search Optimisation. What you need to do, where, when and how in order to get your website found.
Search engine optimisation (SEO) is often seen as a dark art, it doesn’t have to be that way and with some clear understanding of how to attract traffic you can begin to create an online dental marketing machine.
There are now so many consultants talking about marketing for a dental practice, using software, technology, paid advertising, websites etc. So where do you start? How do you know what needs to be done to attract more patients using the Internet?
What I’ve written here is a very basic overview of everything I believe you should be doing, which essentially falls into two categories… Traffic optimisation and conversion optimisation… Let’s delve a little deeper.
The list above forms the basic building blocks of increasing traffic to your website, yet even if you have 10,000 visitors per month and none of them convert into patients this is useless, so we also need conversion optimisation.
Conversion optimisation to get more of those website visitors converting into patients
This typically includes:
Calls to action and wording on the website
Things for prospects to do, typically these are downloadable guides which are handed out in exchange for an e-mail address
Permission-based e-mail marketing
Social media campaigns
I get so many phone calls about optimising websites on Google for more traffic and yet so many people completely miss the point. Being number one on Google has absolutely no benefit whatsoever if none of those patients convert, one absolutely has to have conversion optimisation running in tandem with traffic optimisation.
This is how I believe the conversion optimisation should work
Patients that visit your website may not all be ready to book an appointment straightaway, they will almost certainly be in one of these 3 key stages of their decision-making process.
Be simply looking for information on how to solve a problem e.g. replacing missing teeth or looking for information about a specific treatment to resolve that problem e.g. dental implants, bridges or dentures
Have done their research about their problem and treatment and are searching for the right service provider, needing a little bit of convincing to take the next step.
Have researched the service provider and decided that you are the one they wish to go for.
We therefore need to provide things for each of these people to do, in order that they can feel as though they have taken action whilst on your site (at the same time we get to collect their information!)
So in order to convert a website visitor into a patient we need to have something for them to do at each of the key stages in this decision-making process, not everyone is ready to request an appointment immediately.
For the respective categories this should be:
Free guides and downloads for patients wishing to solve a dental problem. Having a free guide for them to download demonstrate you genuinely care about them and have written this guide for them. You should hand the guide out in exchange for an e-mail address, using an e-mail marketing system such as Aweber.
An incentive to request an appointment, this could be a free consultation, refund of initial assessment or explicit promotion of your new patient health check. This will help to convince patients if they are wavering about requesting an appointment.
Request an appointment facility.
And now comes a rather long bullet list of what should happen
The ‘Request an appointment form’ needs to drop into an automated e-mail campaign where patients are followed up if they don’t come in to see you. Don’t just use a form which has no automated follow-up procedure.
Any patient that does come in to see you should be fed into an automated campaign asking for a review on either Google or Facebook (more reviews = more social proof, more social proof = higher rankings on Google)
All treatment pages should have the facility for a patient to download free information, they should then be automatically dropped into an e-mail follow-up series which informs, educates and drives them towards booking a consultation, this should be fully automated.
at each ‘touch point’ we should drive people towards your social media channel i.e. If someone downloads something, request an appointment or consultation they should be taken to a thank you page… On this thank you page should be a specific call to action to join you on social media
a regular newsletter should be sent to all e-mail contacts (collected via the website as above and from any that you already have at the practice)
calls to action to request an appointment or download a guide should be added around the site
All of these website conversions (downloadable guides, e-mail follow-ups, free consultations etc) should be tracked in Google analytics, we can then see where traffic comes from and focus more on that traffic source and/or conversion page.
Using free information downloads & free consultations/refunds and incorporating these into an automated e-mail system allows us to send relevant e-mails at the correct time for each patient. Once they book an appointment these prospecting e-mails should automatically stop and they should be asked for a review. This then sets up a fully automated and robust follow-up system which works 24/7/365…Never sleeping, always working… Just the way it should be.
What would you add to this list?
Some of the links in this blog post are affiliate links from which I earn a small commission. Any affiliate links used are because the products are great and I use them personally all day, every day.
Okay, let’s start with a question… Is it possible to rank in the search results when someone types the specific name of your competitor?
Let’s take this a step further… Is it possible to out-rank your competitor when someone types their name into the search?
The answer to both of these questions is YES, but with some strong caveats.
The first thing to mention is that one of the strongest mechanisms that Google uses to work out what a website is about, and therefore whether it will be relevant to any search results, is the words that are included in that website. Google reads your website pages very quickly, possbily a couple of times a day and uses the words in the site to work out what an individual pages about. If you mention the words dental implants then Google will know that page is about dental implants etc. This is VERY basic but is the essence of the way Google works.
So here’s an example…
Let’s say your dental practice uses your name as its business name e.g. ‘Mark Oborn Dental’, it would be pretty difficult for any other competitive business to rank for that name, you would completely dominate the search results if you chose this as your business name. This would be because in order for any website to rank for those specific words, ‘Mark’ and ‘Oborn’ those words would need to be included within the text of the site… A pretty strange thing for a competitive business to do!
However, let’s say that ‘Mark Oborn Dental’ is in Swansea, let’s also say that a competitor practice has imaginatively called themselves ‘Swansea dental practice’. Let’s add in another another competitor that has imaginatively called themselves ‘The Swansea Dentist’.
There is virtually no way that ‘Swansea Dental Practice’ and ‘The Swansea Dentist’ will ever rank for ‘Mark Oborn Dental’ as they would almost definitely need to get the words ‘Mark’ & ‘Oborn’ into their website and there would be very few reasons as to why they would do this.
However what about looking at it the other way round…
How easy would it be for ‘Mark Oborn Dental’, who is in Swansea to get the words ‘Swansea Dental Practice’ and ‘The Swansea Dentist’ into their website?
All ‘Mark Oborn Dental’ would need to do is include the phrase something along the lines of “Mark Oborn is an established Swansea dental practice that has, blah, blah… making him the Swansea dentist that X number of people have chosen”.
So in one fell swoop we’ve managed to get our own business name and the name of our competitors into the homepage of our website, all we would need to do* is to ensure we continually repeat these words throughout the site, in conjunction with other optimisation techniques around these same keywords to ensure that we rank for them.
It then wouldn’t take too much work to not only rank for the competitors business names but actually outrank them.
So, when deciding on a practice name, choose your name carefully!
Oh, by the way, as with many of my blog posts, this is actually a real life example although I’ve changed the names and geographical location to hide the innocent… Very proud to see my clients website out ranking their competitors!
*There is actually far more to ranking in the search results than just continually repeating the same words… In fact do this too much and you can end up being dropped from the search results altogether with the Google penalty. I’m simply using this here by way of an example.
I occasionally welcome Guest blog posts from people I like, know and trust. I’ve been working with Minesh Gandhi on a joint project for the last 7 years, we’ve seen traffic increase on the client website from 200 visitors per month to over 4000 per month, new patients from the website regularly exceed 50. Together Minesh and I form a formidable team, I have looked after the website optimising it for the maximum amount of traffic and conversions whilst Minesh has taken an overall strategic view of the marketing at the practice, guiding and coordinating efforts across all media.
Here’s what Minesh has to say about marketing in dentistry:
The UK dental industry is worth £5.8bn . So how can you make sure you’re getting your fair share of the business?
While word of mouth is still one of the strongest areas of business growth, increasingly, growing your business, attracting new patients and holding on to them is down to effective marketing.
So what is effective dental marketing?
Well, it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. Are all of your customers on Twitter? Do they all respond to emails? Of course not! The very best marketing adopts a hybrid approach, to maximise its impact and the number of people it will reach.
It is difficult for a potential client to choose your dental practice if they don’t even know it exists. Generally, someone will need to see your business name or logo as many as 15 times before they are likely to think of you when they need a dentist.
So marketing needs to be embedded into the culture of the practice, so that everybody is thinking: Does this make a good story? Can we share it on the website? Will it make a good Instagram photo? Can we share it in our email marketing?
Not many dental practices will be able to afford their own marketing department, or they may have an admin person who dabbles from time-to-time. For most practices, it is more cost-effective to get an expert involved by working with an outside agency. By all means, email your agency with those ideas you’ve had about a good story or a good photo, because you know your business better than anyone and they know how to convert your ideas into effective marketing.
The essential marketing tools are a well-designed website, optimised for SEO and regularly updated, and social media accounts, including Facebook and Twitter, and perhaps also Instagram and LinkedIn.
While it may be tempting to get one firm to design your website, another to run your social media and another to run you off some leaflets, it makes financial sense to use a single agency. That way, you avoid duplicating fees and you avoid time wasted on briefing the same information to a number of agencies.
Your website should be informative, fast, easy to navigate and attractive. Its only real purpose is to get patients through the door. So make that clear on every page with something like ‘Contact us to make an appointment’ and the option to either get in touch through the website or by phone.
Image by Salvatore Vuono freedigitalphotos.net
Blogging keeps your website up-to-date, and blogging regularly pushes it up the Google rankings. The blog must be about the company brand, but should also provoke discussion by bringing in bigger news or industry-wide issues. Each post should be optimised for keywords, such as ‘dentist’, ‘dental practice’, ‘dental surgery’ and your location, such as ‘London’, ‘North London’ and ‘Euston Road’.
Twitter is a great way to share content and build up a relationship with customers and potential customers. Always share your web and blog updates to Twitter to ensure they reach the widest possible audience.
Facebook is the most popular social media in the UK, with around 32m users, so it pays to be using it regularly. A Facebook feature called Facebook Graph Search means users can search for businesses that have been ‘liked’ by their friends. With 92% of people trusting recommendations from friends, it’s important to maintain an engaging Facebook presence that encourages patients to like your business.
A good marketing agency will build up a profile of your patients and potential patients. Maybe Twitter won’t be right for them. Other possible marketing tools include email marketing, such as Aweber, and ‘free’ advertising – offering a regular column in the local paper or slot on local radio. For an older demographic, leaflets and newspaper advertising may be more effective ways of reaching them.
Using as many of these approaches as possible will generate leads and convert them into patients on your books.
I have been working with The Dental Centre London, a busy four-surgery practice for five years. I have supported The Dental Centre with key projects, including a re-brand and email campaigns to existing and prospective patients, as well as overseeing a communications plan for when they moved premises.
The practice now receives 50+ leads per month as a direct result of the strategy.
Effective marketing needn’t be expensive, it just needs to work. By targeting the right audience in the right way, the financial rewards of good dental marketing are clear.
An accomplished hybrid marketing professional, with a proven track record working within the Dental industry to support clients with revenue growth.
 www.practiceplan.co.uk/resource-library/the-dental-industry-environment/dentistry-uk-summary-market-report-2014 Site accessed 5/6/17
There are four Golden principles with marketing which, if you choose to ignore you do so at your peril. HOW you choose to implement each of these four steps will be very personal to you, but whatever you do make sure you go through every step.
Those four steps follow the mnemonic AIDA
Step 1 – ATTENTION
Before anyone can take any action at all, before they can come to your dental practice, before they can phone, before they can visit your website you need to capture their attention. They need to know that you physically exist and that you are there.
The first stage of any marketing campaign should be to grab people’s attention. If you were at the recent dentistry show in Birmingham think big drums, bhangra music and oompahloompahs! Big drums, bhangra music and oompahloompahs may not be how you wish to grab people’s attention, that’s fine but the principle remains, in order for anyone to take any action at all they need to know you exist and this kind of marketing, along with people like Richard Branson and sailing around the world in a balloon is brilliant at grabbing people’s attention.
Step 2 – INTEREST
Once we’ve grabbed someone’s attention and they know you exist we can start to pique the interest. This is where marketing becomes far more subtle, this is where telling patient stories begins, this is where we begin to engage with a prospect, gently helping them solve whichever problem it is that they have… Missing teeth, crooked teeth, ugly teeth (In their eyes) etc.
This is using e-mail marketing on the website to collect prospects e-mail addresses in exchange for a free downloadable guide and then gently dropping them into an automated systematic e-mail marketing campaign, all very gentle and NOT SELLING!
Step 3 – DESIRE
Once we have grabbed someone’s attention and they know you exist and we have created some form of interest in solving their problem we can then work on the third stage which is creating desire.
Showing prospects before and after photographs of patients in similar situations to them can help create a desire. Talking about the problem and the solution is an important step here also.
Step 4 – ACTION
Without action the three previous steps become pointless, this is where using marketing speak and language is vital. When someone lands on your website or receives an e-mail, what do you want them to do? Call us today, phone us today, request a free consultation today are all phrases which can be used with great effect.
Incentives to take action can also work in the form of free consultations or refunds of initial assessment… Think about specific things which will prompt someone to take action… Simply having a request an appointment form on your website is NOT suggesting that someone takes an action.
The steps above are WHAT you should do, they do not in any way tell you HOW you should do them. Oompahloompahs and bhangra music may not be for you, you may choose something more subtle or even more outlandish in order to generate attention about your service/product.
What ever you choose to do remember, with out these four steps your marketing won’t work.
[WARNING: This is a long post with a lot of actionable content]
We all hate being sold to, that’s a given, the problem is that marketing can often seem like just a selling avenue. It’s not, and it shouldn’t be.
If your advertising campaigns simply say ” Come and see us, we are brilliant and can help” then it’s just annoying, boring, lazy and actually pretty ineffective.
Having a marketing system which works magnetically to attract people at a time that is right for them, without being annoying, aggressive or shouting about it is far more powerful… And that style of marketing is backwards marketing, also known as pull marketing or inbound marketing.
In this video I walk you through the principle of backwards marketing, why it is so effective, how to use it and how you can set it up for as little as $19 per month using Aweber.
Using this system, in conjunction with good Search Engine Optimisation, I’m regularly seeing some clients attract 50 -75 new patients per month and collect 16 Facebook reviews. All automated!
You will probably want to have pen and paper ready so you can make notes…
An overview of how backwards dental marketing works
The basic principle is that we need to understand where a person is in their purchasing decision, not everyone that visits your website will be ready to request an appointment… They may be in information gathering mode:
Patients in information gathering mode
These patients may want to know more about their problem such as replacing missing teeth or straightening crooked teeth or they indeed may want to know more about specific treatments such as dental implants or Invisalign.. The principle behind backwards marketing is that the patient has already identified that they have an issue which they wish to have resolved, what we have to do is to stand out, be noticed and provide a useful and relevant informatonn that the patient requires.
We do this using a free download from the website, simply ask for the patient’s name and e-mail address so that you can e-mail them a detailed report helping them understand more about either their problem and/or the various treatment options.
How to set this up
Do this by creating a list within Aweber and call it ‘free guides’, set your automated e-mail responses to go out at ever increasing intervals (I use the Fibonacci series of numbers with e-mails going out at increasing number of days as 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34 etc), these e-mails should answer those patients queries and should address topics such as:
How much does this treatment cost?
How will I know if I’m suitable for this treatment?
How comfortable is this treatment?
Where can I go to find out more information about treatment?
What are the links between this treatment and overall dental health?
What type of benefits could I get from this treatment?
In these automated e-mail responses we are not trying to sell any treatment, we are simply handing out useful, free and relevant dental health advice to that patient.
However, within each e-mail we should gently guide the patient towards the next stage in their buying process…
Patients wanting to take the next small and simple step
Once patients have found out all of the information they need about either their problem, treatment or indeed a service provider they may then be ready to move onto the next step which is to come in and see you. HOWEVER at the early stages but may need some incentive or motivation from you to do this.
A discount voucher works equally well
This is where free consultations coming, this may or may not be clinical (that is a whole other blog post) I’m simply looking at this from a marketing perspective, free consultations or even a voucher for a refund of the initial assessment fee has the effect of lowering risk and increasing trust for the patient.
When we lower risk patients that are wavering in their decision are more likely to take action and request an appointment.
The discount voucher works equally well in this regards, in this instance, notice how we are using five-star reviews to increase social proof at the point the patient is looking to make a decision.
How to set this up
Create another list in aweber And call it ‘free consultation’ or ‘refund of initial assessment’. Your automated e-mail responses can simply be thanking the patient for requesting an appointment and sending them a voucher entitling them to this free consultation or refund of initial assessment… At this stage it’s important to note but the primary motivation for doing this is to collect the patient’s details whilst they are online, thereby ensuring that we have the ability to continue to engage with that patient (if they wish to) over an extended period of time.
This gives your website very valuable ‘longevity’.
Important. You should now go into the list settings in Aweber and click on automation. Create a new rule which automates unsubscribing from the free guides list when a patient requests a free consultation or refund of initial assessment.
Creating this automation rule will stop the patient from receiving the prospecting e-mails that they had when they were simply looking for more information, this ensures the e-mails the patient receives relevant to their particular point in their new patient journey.
Patients that have been in to see you
Create a third list in Aweber and call it ‘patients’. as new patients come to the practice collect the e-mail address and name and ask them for permission to send them the very occasional dental health informational update, ensure you keep their details safe and secure.
Upload those e-mail addresses into Aweber using the import function. When Aweber asks, type into the box that you have permission to send these patients the occasional e-mail.
Now create a new automation rule as before, this time removing patients from the free consultation/voucher list AND the free guide list. This will ensure that as patients come into the practice they stop receiving any prospecting e-mails from you.
Create your auto follow up… This is the real genius!
When the patients have been in to see you you should create auto follow up message which simply says we would like to ask you a quick question, would you recommend us to your friends and family… Yes or no.
Create two new pages in your website:
YES – If patients click the yes button from the reviews e-mail direct them to this page. This page should thank them for being willing to give you a review and create links to your Facebook page and Google plus page
NO – If patients clicked the no button from the reviews e-mail, direct them to this page. This page should be an apology page and should have a feedback form enabling patients to give you feedback on why they are not happy to give you a review.
if YES is clicked – the social media icons link to the relevant site
if NO is clicked
Summary of backwards dental marketing
If you set this up as I have suggested you will now have an automated e-mail system which will gently help the patient find out more information, provide them with information, offer them an incentive to request an appointment and then when they’ve been to see you gently ask for a review and guide them to the most appropriate place in order to leave that review.
The system works 24 hours a day.
The system never sleeps.
You can now go back to doing what you do best…
If you’d like an audit of your own dental website marketing, please visit my website audit page.
The link to Aweber in this post is an affiliate link from which I make a small commission. I used Aweber for years before I became an affiliate partner.