We've all been there - contemplating whether or not to pay a company money for something we think we could probably do ourselves.
Do you know how many times I've canceled my lawn care service only to realize (by the next time the lawn is ready for a cut) that I don't have time to mow, and don't like to mow my own lawn?
More than I care to mention is the answer to that question.
But what about marketing? First and foremost, it costs a whole bunch more every month than simple lawn care, and many people falsely believe that once it's set up properly, it will simply run on autopilot until the chickens roost. But I will get into that later with you.
DIY marketing is not always a bad idea, especially if you are generally pretty happy with where your practice is and don't really want to see transformational growth or shifts (by shifts I mean a major change in the types of patients you see, the types of procedures you practice, etc.). However, if you decide to take it on yourself there are some things you should know.
There is far more information you'll need to know to really be successful at this, but I'm here at my computer to help you with two things that you absolutely must do, and three things that you absolutely must not do.
Before you take this huge job on yourself, I would highly recommend doing much more research than simply reading this article, but hopefully it will provide some interesting thoughts that will help you get more of what you want, or less of what you don't want (pain and suffering when it comes to marketing).
We will start with the DO's, and this first one is mission critical. You could do everything else right, but if you forget this one, the whole plan will be soiled. It is a keystone in successful business, and you must not underestimate its importance.
#1. DO Involve Your Team
Marketing is part of every single business function of your company. There is both internal and external marketing. Internal marketing is the marketing that you use to influence staff, and that staff uses to influence each other. External marketing is the communications that we use to influence potential patients, active patients, and patients that need to be reactivated.
The reason it is so important for your team to be involved in the marketing discussions (your whole team) is because the ultimate execution of your marketing strategy hinges on their level of buy-in. If they don't believe what you're asking them to say is important (important to them, not important to you) then they simply won't do it.
A dentist that I was recently working with was forced to introspection after losing four of his key team members within the span of one month. They had more than enough patients and needed the support, and he had no idea why those team members left. After serious introspection (and deeper probing on the root causes of their staffs morale), he learned that the staff felt that the dentists success was the core mission of the practice. They felt like all of their efforts were only to enlarge his personal success in life, and they kept being driven harder and harder so that he could get richer. That is a tough situation to be in, but a common one in private healthcare.
Many dentists think that staff members will follow instructions simply because that's what their job is (we won't get into the normative argument), but this couldn't be further from the truth.
It's okay though because there is a solution.
The solution is to involve them in the marketing meetings where you will define shared goals and clarify your unified mission for every stakeholder of your practice. The stakeholders include the dentist, all the staff, and all the patients. Once you define the unified mission, you can tie anything that you need your staff to do to that unified mission in a logical way, and then remind them over and over again until it is ingrained. If there is a single team member or two that are infecting the process of reaching mass buy-in, kick them off the bus.
I could go on about this all day, but we should really move on to the next DO. If you're considering DIY marketing for your practice, then this next DO that I list in this article is really one of the most important out of the whole list. Without keeping the second DO in mind at all times, it will create for you unbearable stress, chaos, and a crushing anxiety that will make your marketing efforts counterproductive. Let's get to it.
#2. DO Be Realistic.
This is a huge one, because time and time again I see practices get caught in the "too trance," wowed by all of the tools we can use to market dentistry.
No doubt about it -- there are a lot of different tools. SO many that it is almost impossible not to become paralyzed by it. But the best marketers realize (and all of the other marketers will realize this too, eventually...) that the tools are less important than your marketing goals. You must first define a goal for your marketing, and then adapt the tools to your goals. Do NOT try to adapt your goals to the tools.
I am going to give you an example to hopefully get this point across.
Many novice marketers have a conception or belief about any given type of marketing tool or medium. I have never met a medium that I didn't like. I love direct mail, I love Facebook ads, I love Google AdWords, YouTube ads, I love radio ads and television ads, and I even love billboard ads - it just depends on the unique variables at play (the goal, the target market, the costs associated with each, and ultimately maximizing the ROI). These are all just tools (or "mediums") to communicate different messages to different people, and we can't confuse them for being anything more or less than just that.
So how could we mess this up? Let's say that our goal is to generate an extra $25,000 per month of production for dental implants. Pretty simple. Okay, we would be adapting our goal to the tool if we had a preconceived notion that Facebook was the best placed to advertise. If we believe this, instead of approaching our goal with an open mind, and exploring all of the possibly effective options to achieve our goal, we would simply jump to Facebook ads and do our best with them, even though they might not be the best medium, or the only mediums we could use to achieve our goal. I hope that makes sense. That is a cardinal sin, and one done not only by DIYer's, but also uninformed marketers.
A fascination with the tools, and the false belief that using more tools or a single tool will result to better marketing success will lead to a never-ending cycle of wasting time and then getting frustrated because you're getting nowhere. Have an open mind, pilot or test some different options, and be scientific about the tools you ultimately select, and always adapt the tools to your goal, not the other way around. I wish I could expand a little bit more on these, but the page is too short and I've got to move on.
We now come to the DON'Ts. I see business owners and marketers get burned all the time because they DO these DON'Ts. If you DON'T do these things, you'll have more money to spend, more time to use, and a better life. We will start with the overarching DON'T that will make the last two easier to understand.
#1. DON'T Think It's A Linear System
As is true of most systems in the entire universe, marketing is nonlinear. Amateur marketers often believe that marketing is linear, meaning that if they put $1 in and get $2 out, they can put $1,000,000 in and get $2,000,000 out.
There are certainly instances where this makes sense and strategies where this can actually work, but ultimately all inputs affect all outputs in some way or another. What I am saying is that although marketing can show fractal patterns at scale, and you can enlarge the system overall, the relationships within the system must be thoroughly understood before enlarging it all at once.
People get burned over and over again because they don't understand what influences the systems and their outcomes. One of the systems I am referring to is paid advertising, and each medium has its own systems and variables. At times it is a best guess, but there is an underlying system nevertheless.
Usually there is evidence that points to certain conclusions, and based on those conclusions we can determine what we should or shouldn't be doing. For example, when it comes to Facebook ads you should use the same computer to log into your Facebook ads account, and go directly to business.facebook.com instead of through your personal Facebook account to access your ad account. Why does this matter? Because there are different indicators to Facebook that you are less trustworthy should your IP address change often or your device change often. Who would have thought that could have an impact on the performance of your account or your ads? People have been outright suspended for this even though they did nothing wrong other than neglect the systems variables.
Another thing to remember for all advertising platforms is to rarely change your landing pages, and really try to never change them at all. If you change your landing page, it is a red flag to all algorithms because scammers often set up ads to run to legit landing pages until their ads get approved, and then change their landing pages to a scam once they get approved.
These are two examples of things to keep in mind that influence the overall system that aren't so obvious. It is not so linear and simple. So please, especially before putting your money on the line, do your best to understand as much about the systems as is possible, and DON'T think it is linear.
The next DON'T will make a lot more sense now, and I'll show you how those who do not take into account DON'T #1 have been burned time and time again.
#2. DON'T Start With Paid Advertising
That's right, one of the most effective methods of advertising is off-limits for you while you are taking off on your marketing journey.
There are so many different organic strategies that you can work on in a DIY capacity that hold much less risk and can have a decent impact on your marketing than paid advertising. Paid advertising can be extremely effective and predictable if you can really hone it and get it right, but the risks involved for a novice are massive. If you do not have a very clear understanding about how to structure your keywords, where you're targeting your ads, and how to write effective ad copy, you will be lighting your money on fire.
We were recently exposed to a dentists ineffective marketing model, and their office has lost tens of thousands of dollars to paid advertising without even knowing it. They entrusted an amateur marketer without much knowledge about the dental industry, and were receiving costly clicks out the wazoo that never led to any production for the practice.
It hurts less when you lose a few thousand dollars right out of the gate and fall flat on your face. At least then you can cut your marketing off and chalk it up as a loss.
However, I have seen dozens of businesses start up paid advertising with pretty reasonable budgets, let's say $100 per day, and then let it ride for 12 months without realizing that most of their clicks are coming from residents living a thousand miles away from them, or making searches about the toothfairy instead of dentistry. Yikes, that HURTS!
The point I am trying to make is that before you take your credit card out, I highly recommend beginning your DIY marketing efforts by utilizing organic and unpaid methods, like on-page SEO for your website, local business profile optimization, review generation across high impact review platforms like Google, and standardizing/scripting certain elements of interactions (like what exactly to say when someone calls, how to greet a patient walking in, or how to say goodbye as the patient walks out the door).
The last DON'T ties it all together. Let's move on.
#3. DON'T Set It And Forget It
Don't set it and forget it. Full stop.
The most beautiful thing about marketing especially today is that we can constantly test the current "best" way of doing things, a.k.a. the "control," with one other competing way of doing it. Some people refer to this as AB testing, where A is the control, and B is the new mechanism that you are testing.
What enables the best marketers to stay ahead in any market is the fact that they are alchemists. It doesn't matter what the market, industry, or the competition is doing. As things shift, the alchemists shift and adapt to win.
Marketing is ever-changing, not evergreen (although there are some pretty evergreen fundamentals). In order to set a plan for the long run that will continue to work, you must take the same approach as the alchemists. Instead of setting a system and forgetting it, adapting has to be built into it.
One amazing book that drills this point home is Breakthrough Advertising by world-class copywriter Eugene Schwartz. I highly recommend this book. The concept is that for any given level of market sophistication or awareness, your message needs to change and adapt to cater to the market. It also helps you adapt to what your competition is doing, so if competition is approaching marketing in one way (and it is working), you will be able to beat them by adapting your messaging based on the above variables.
I'm getting a little ahead of myself here. The point of the matter is that you cannot set it and forget it, and in order for it to work in the long run you must continuously adapt it and improve it. That is all I have for DON'T #3 right now.
It is a massive task to take on marketing in a DIY fashion. There are certain elements of marketing, namely social media posting, events, and team communication that we usually recommend is done within the practice. If you've noticed, the most popular social media posts on your accounts are the birthdays, big wins, or updates that you yourselves post, not the generic and white label branded posts about dentistry in general. Those ones are usually a waste of space, money, and time (I didn't say that patient education was a waste of time, so don't misquote me).
The rest of marketing, however, is a major endeavor. I found that the vast majority of people that try to do DIY marketing fail not only with the marketing, but then fail to believe that marketing can work for them. It's a double-ended sword.
Keep trying, though. I believe that an old dog can learn new tricks, and that the only reason an old dog can't learn new tricks is because it stops after the first attempt. Persist.
Good luck, and happy marketing!