We’re all looking for the practice marketing secret recipe—the golden ticket to easily bring in new patients hand over fist. If that is what you want, stop reading now. I’m here to tell you there is no one-size-fits-all, $10-a-month trick that is going to provide you with outstanding ROI and happy patients. However, it’s not all bad news. With two practices—offering the Damon System and leading treatment technologies—I’ve learned a number of lessons about practice marketing and have boiled my findings down to three core concepts.

Prioritize the Patient Experience

Fair warning, here is another dose of honesty: 80% of practices are exactly the same, generic, and easy to reproduce. While this may sound harsh, it’s the truth and has created two unique situations:

  1. Orthodontic patients have low expectations and expect very little.
  2. With expectations low, it’s simple to enhance the experience at your practice.

Think of ways you can pamper patients and give them a luxurious treatment experience that was never expected. How can you go the extra mile for patients? Maybe it’s partnering with a local frozen yogurt location to send recently bonded patients complimentary gift cards, or creating a well-stocked tea/coffee and refreshment bar in your waiting room to treat parents waiting for their children.

At my practice, we’ve created an almost Apple-like environment. We offer the latest treatment advancements, from the Damon System to digital scanning, and our office is tech-driven, comfortable, and sleek. This style creates a luxurious treatment environment that is attractive to both teens and adults. In my experience, a juvenile office theme will turn off adults, but the reverse is not true—teens/kids don’t care if it’s not all balloons and jungle gyms.

Don’t Ignore Social Media

Today’s consumer has gone through an evolution of trusting authority sources, to now putting trust in personal references (patient testimonials). More often than not, how patients share their experiences is through social platforms. In my opinion, the easiest entry point is Facebook. If you’re not sure where to start, tap into the most social media-savvy member of your staff—there is bound to be one. Another tip: Type “Facebook marketing tutorial” or “How to use Facebook advertising” into YouTube’s search bar. YouTube is a great resource for a quick social media education.

Remember, not all content should focus on your practice. Strive for a healthy mix of content, with a majority of posts sharing educational nuggets for patients—this may include flossing tips, recommended food choices for bracket wearers, news of celebrities in braces, etc. Creating an account that is solely focused on pushing your practice objectives will quickly turn off potential patients and will likely cause you to struggle with building engagement.

Additionally, once you invest time in social media, invest time in scrutinizing the insights. Understanding the analytics, tracking successes, and setting goals are important pieces of any social marketing program.

Differentiate Your Practice

Once you have the patient experience fine-tuned to where you want it, think about how that experience travels throughout your community via word of mouth. Here are my two tips for differentiating your practice to help encourage positive conversations about your business:

  • Look at the Facebook pages and websites of your competitors, and then do the opposite—do exactly what your competition is not doing. Maybe it’s sponsoring a fun run, hosting a golf tournament, getting involved with local schools, or partnering with a local Habitat for Humanity chapter. Do something new and different that your competitors aren’t doing—this will set your practice apart and encourage positive word of mouth.
  • Talk to your patients—take time to engage with your patients and learn what would be helpful for them, what would make their journey though orthodontics easier. And then, ask your team, “How can we do that for them?” The more you can become an ally in each patient’s treatment journey and a resource, the more likely you are to be viewed as indispensable. This type of patient support helps build strong relationships that differentiate your practice and earn patient referrals.

Think aggressively about your practice marketing initiatives, and then act on your goals. Get creative and invest! OP

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John-GrahamJohn W. Graham, DDS, MD, practices in Salt Lake City and Litchfield Park, Ariz. He received his dental degree from Baylor College of Dentistry and his medical degree from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School. He completed an internship in general surgery at Parkland Memorial Hospital followed by training in oral and maxillofacial surgery. Following his surgical training, Graham received his certificate in orthodontics from the University of Rochester/Eastman Dental Center. Graham holds faculty appointments at the University of the Pacific, Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry, and the University of Rochester, Eastman Institute for Oral Health.