Patient acquisition and healthcare marketing aren’t priorities for many dental clinics.
According to the 2019 Kaufman Hall Healthcare Consumerism Index, only eight percent of healthcare providers who responded to the survey were considered best in class for consumer-centric marketing strategies, including access, experience, pricing, and infrastructure.
Your competition may not be investing in healthcare marketing, but you can – and you can win.
Effective patient acquisition encourages existing patients to refer your clinic while making it easier for potential patients to find you through a Google search or on social media – and it doesn’t need to be intimidating.
Here are some healthcare marketing ideas you can implement right away to increase patient volume for your clinic.
What is patient acquisition?
Patient acquisition marketing is defined by the brand strategy and tactics that drive the promotion of your healthcare clinic, including patient referrals, online reviews, SEO and search engine marketing, and social media content.
4 key pillars of healthcare marketing for dentists
- Understanding your patient acquisition cost – establishing the economics of your marketing strategy
- SEO for dentists – how to make sure patients find your clinic when they’re searching for a dentist through Google
- Social media marketing for dentists – staying top of mind by offering valuable healthcare information on social channels like Facebook, Instagram, etc.
- Patient communication and online reviews – asking your patients to refer your practice to people they know
Growing your healthcare practice: Why patient acquisition is difficult
Before we list healthcare marketing strategies that can help you acquire new patients, let’s get real about why your clinic might not be growing as fast as it could be.
We pulled some common reasons why healthcare providers struggle to implement successful marketing tactics, so you can mitigate against them when you’re drafting your strategy.
Three reasons why your healthcare marketing techniques would fail
- No web presence: 84% of people trust online reviews when making consumer decisions. If your clinic doesn’t have a Google business and/or Facebook listing with online reviews, your competitors who do will rake in a hefty share of your local prospects with little extra effort.
- Healthcare is competitive: Clinics are no longer only competing with other clinics; they’re competing with tech giants like Amazon and Walmart, who are starting to expand their healthcare services. According to the 2019 Kaufman Hall Healthcare Consumerism Index, 88% of survey respondents agree or strongly agree that “health systems are vulnerable to consumer-friendly offerings from non-hospital competitors.” You’ll need to perform some competitive analysis on new healthcare offerings and determine how you can differentiate your clinic.
- No online booking: Patients can find you through search or social media, read glowing reviews, and make the decision to book an appointment with your clinic – and then stop because they can’t book online. Online booking is now a fundamental pillar of great customer service, and you’ll need to lock it down so patients don’t get stuck at the last step before becoming a patient. (Don’t choke at the finish line!)
Patient acquisition cost: The basics
Before you invest in healthcare marketing tactics, it’s important to understand some basic marketing terms that will help you determine whether or not your marketing strategies are effective.
Return on investment (ROI): the amount of money you make from a patient versus the amount you spent on marketing to acquire them. All your marketing efforts should be ROI driven, meaning you’ll test different ideas and only continue investing in the ones that work for your clinic after a certain period of time.
Lead: a person who could become a patient. Someone is a lead when they express interest in your clinic through an interaction like calling your office or subscribing to your newsletter.
Cost per lead (CPL): the amount of money you spend for each lead you get. The goal is to keep this number as low as possible through testing different marketing tactics.
Cost per acquisition (CPA): the amount of money you spend for each new patient you get. You’ll compare this to the money spent on marketing initiatives to determine ROI.
Conversion rate: the percentage of leads who become patients. You can improve conversion rate by removing barriers to booking an appointment, through online booking.
Lifetime new patient value: the total amount of money that a new patient brings to your clinic. If your clinic is new, this number may be a bit of a guess. But if your clinic is established, look to past patient financials to estimate this number.
When you’re calculating ROI on your marketing spend, you’ll need to know your total amount spent on marketing, total number of leads, and total number of new patients.
Let’s say you’ve acquired 50 new leads in one month from your marketing efforts, and that 10 of them have become patients. You know your conversion rate for that month is 20%.
If you’ve spent $1,000 on marketing, you know that you’re spending $20 for every lead (CPL) and $100 for every new patient (CPA).
If your lifetime patient value is $800 and you’ve spent $100 to acquire them, that leaves $700 ROI for every patient.
After testing several marketing tactics and getting different results for each, your goal is to be more efficient with your spend by improving clickthrough rates on ads, increasing conversion rates, and lowering your CPL and CPA through better ad targeting, more online reviews, and free patient acquisition through SEO.
Search engine optimization (SEO) for dentists: Help your patients find you
According to a study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 93 million Americans have searched for a health-related topic online.
Moreover, when people are searching for a new dentist, they’re searching local. That means you’ll need to optimize your website for search queries like “dentists in [your city/neighborhood]” so that local patients find you.
Your SEO goal is to rank as high as possible in Google search results for keywords patients are using to find healthcare providers.
Google’s algorithm uses more than 200 ranking factors when serving up search query results, but some are more important than others. Here’s a quick step-by-step guide to optimizing your website for search.
Step 1: Perform keyword research.
Use Google Keyword Planner to search for keywords like “dentists in San Diego” or “how to whiten my teeth”. Put yourself in your patients’ shoes when you’re performing your keyword research. Which services are they most interested in? What are the most common problems they face when it comes to their dental health?
Pay attention to keywords that have high search volume (average monthly searches) and low competition – those are the keywords you’ll want to use on your website.
Step 2: Insert high-volume keywords into your website’s title tags.
Title tags are the titles of each page on your website. Your website’s content management system (CMS) allows you to change each page’s title and description, which are what will appear in a Google search engine result.
Step 3: Insert high-volume keywords into your website’s H1 tags.
H1 tags are the headlines on your website. If you have a blog, the headline is an H1 tag. Make sure your main headlines include high-volume, local keywords.
Step 4: Start a blog and/or YouTube channel.
Your core website can only capture a certain amount of high-volume keywords. Starting a blog and/or YouTube channel expands your capacity to drive traffic to your website by allowing you to target “long-tail keywords” like “how do I whiten my teeth?”
Next to Google, YouTube is the largest search engine in the world; generating video content is now a proven strategy for driving website traffic. To rank on YouTube, focus on “how to” keywords that show patients how to do something, such as floss more effectively or how to best use an electric toothbrush.
Step 5: Make sure your website is optimized for mobile.
At the end of 2018, Google announced “mobile-first indexing”, which meant that websites optimized for smartphones would rank higher than websites that weren’t.
You can check if your website is properly optimized for mobile through Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test. The test will also provide suggestions for how to improve your website for mobile.
Step 6: Generate backlinks.
When credible websites include links to your website, you’ve hit SEO gold. You may want to start generating guest posts on other dentistry websites or getting some press coverage for your clinic, so that associations and news sources with great reputations can link back to your website and boost your own authority.
Social media for healthcare: Patient acquisition through thought leadership
Social media is a useful tool for becoming a thought leader in your field. In healthcare marketing, credibility wins – just ask Dr. Joshua Wolrich, a UK surgical doctor who gained thousands of followers by debunking myths about masks reducing your oxygen saturation levels.
Through keyword research, you can discover the most common healthcare questions that are asked by your target audience, then develop content for social media that answers those questions.
Start your social media strategy with video on YouTube and/or Instagram. Patients want to connect to a friendly face when they’re scrolling through their social feeds.
Don’t feel the need to invest in high production value videos. People are now used to seeing healthcare professionals answer questions through video recorded on their smartphones.
When you record a video, adapt your content for other channels like your blog, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. Post your content for free, monitor its performance (likes, shares, etc.), then further adapt your most successful posts into ads that drive people to your website.
Organic thought leadership content on social media is a long game, but once you’ve established yourself as an authority in your field, you’ll remain top of mind when someone who follows you is looking for a new dentist.
Patient communication and online reviews
After all the advancement in digital marketing, one thing still remains true: word of mouth is king in patient acquisition.
You don’t get what you don’t ask for, and sometimes you need to go ahead and ask for that great online review. The sad truth is that happy patients don’t often leave reviews because they’re happy and able to move on with their day!
Patients need to be asked to leave a review. Don’t be afraid to send your patients a text message after they leave your office, immediately after they’ve had a good experience. A simple reminder that a review would be appreciated is often enough to get the job done.