For five years now, we’ve been coaching hundreds of client practices and thousands of other dental practices on the merits of nurturing patient relationships online. Doing so is certainly a foundational cornerstone for effective social media marketing. However, as important as that is, it isn’t the only cornerstone.
Recently I was visiting with a dentist about this topic. She’s a long-time client who is very successful in her social media efforts − directly attributing an 1158% ROI on her social media efforts over the last 12 months. She asked me what I thought about a new strategy she was considering, i.e., moving toward posting only one category of content across her most trafficked platforms, which include Facebook, Instagram and her blog. The content that she was thinking about creating exclusively was content that features her team members and their activities, both inside and outside her practice. She said that those types of posts seem to get the most engagement (Instagram and Facebook Likes, blog comments, etc.).
While I wholeheartedly agreed that content centered around team members is very effective for raising awareness and strengthening relationships, I cautioned her about focusing exclusively on any ONE type of content − and making engagement her only measure of success. Our conversation quickly turned into a discussion about the marketing funnel.
Moving Patients Toward Advocacy Helps Grow Your Practice
This idea isn’t exclusive to social media marketing. Various interpretations and variations on this principle have appeared in marketing books for decades. The idea is simple. If you can move others toward brand advocacy, you don’t have to be the only one holding the bullhorn in growing your business. But people don’t pick up their own bullhorn on your behalf easily … it takes thoughtful cultivation, time, patience and a smart, long-term view of your marketing model.
Social media provides a remarkable opportunity for dental practices to generate and share content that helps move people through this funnel toward advocacy − and, to generate greater revenue while better serving patients along the way.
The marketing funnel I like to use has five sections, each of which has specific objectives.
Section 1: Awareness (Top of Mind)
Some content tactics are designed to get attention. Many times they include posts that have nothing to do with dentistry. Sometimes they’re intended to entertain, pique interest or bring a smile.
Section 2: Providing Value (Earning Trust and Consideration)
Blog posts are often the mainstay for this type of content. Modern dental topics that center around advancements in patient comfort, the connections between oral health and whole body health, and the confidence that comes from a beautiful smile are relevant and interesting to people. This kind of content also provides opportunities to build stories around your treatment recommendations.
Section 3: Purchase (Treatment and Product Acceptance)
Once you’ve provided value, you’ve earned the trust and consideration necessary to actually “market” to people through thoughtful calls to action. Never forget the ultimate objectives here … to use social media to grow a thriving practice. Be gentle, but don’t be shy. Case acceptance increases on the storytelling heels of Section 2 above.
Section 4: Retention (Strengthening Relationships)
Although estimates vary, most practices lose between 12% and 20% of their patients each year through attrition. Even reducing that number by one or two percent can make a big difference in your practice. People like doing business with people they know and like.
Section 5: Advocacy (Building Your Practice)
Very, very few practices have deep enough pockets to simply advertise their way to the top. We depend on the trusted referrals from our existing patients. Social media marketing is primarily internal marketing to your patient base. It shouldn’t replace all of your traditional marketing strategies, but it provides opportunity and value you won’t find anywhere else. Yes, word-of-mouth has been around a lot longer than social media. But when word-of-mouth is combined with social media’s scalability and reach, great things can happen.
Different Funnel Entry Points Warrant Different Types of Content
In a dental practice, people enter the marketing funnel at different points. There are people in your community who have never heard of you or your practice, as well as patients who have been with you for many, many years. And, there are lots of people between those extremes (including patients and prospective patients).
Not everyone responds to the same kinds of content. There’s no one-size-fits-all, especially given the different objectives for each section of the funnel as outlined above. There’s method, and sequence, to the madness.
And It Isn’t Always a One-Time, One-Way Trip
Depending on circumstances, patients who are already practice advocates may not be familiar with a particular service you provide. For example, if you start offering CEREC one-appointment crowns, that long-time patient who loves you may be entering back into the funnel at the top because she’s unaware you provide this new service. So, there’s some movement in and out of different funnels. The important thing is to be doing all you can to help people trickle down through.
Now, back to the original question …
Our client asked me what I thought about narrowing the focus of her practice’s content to exclusively creating posts that feature her team members and their activities, both inside and outside her practice. The good news is that this kind of content really helps get traction inside two sections of the funnel … i.e., 1) Top-of-Mind Awareness, and 4) Strengthening Relationships. The drawback is that this kind of content doesn’t help as much with the other three sections and leaves some gaps as you strive to move people through.
Are You Moving People Through Your Unique Marketing Funnel?
If you’re a practice owner or manager who is still reading this long-winded post, you’re likely one who “gets it” when it comes to recognizing the value of relationship marketing in growing your business. I admire you. It’s not for the faint of heart. It’s easier to keep writing checks to other people and then forget about marketing. But that model is dying a rapid death. You’re on “new” marketing’s leading edge.
If this post rings true in your gut, my advice is to take an upcoming weekend to step back, draw the funnel shown above on the whiteboard in your office, then ask yourself what you’re doing to create practice advocates. Doing so can be a rewarding personal experience and can change the way you view your practice marketing.
What have I missed? If you have thoughts or suggestions, please share them below. And as always, if we can help you with your content, let me know.