By Roger P. Levin, DDS
In the last few years, we are seeing a new syndrome, a course of action (or some may say inaction) that is usually a serious marketing mistake. I call this syndrome “single focus marketing”. Single focus marketing means that the orthodontic practice focuses on one marketing area and not much else. Examples of this mistake in marketing include focusing only on internal patient marketing, relying only on a strong social media program to bring in new patients, hoping only that referring doctors will continue to refer or increase referrals, or concentrating only on advertising or community relationships.
When Levin Group was founded in 1985, we focused on referral marketing in multiple categories. While we see some orthodontic practices having singular focus marketing syndrome and it works well, that success eventually runs out leaving the orthodontic practice playing catch-up. And this syndrome can have even more negative effects today with the reality of the COVID-19 crisis, new delivery systems for orthodontic treatment, and increased orthodontic competition. Focusing on one marketing area is simply not diversified enough to consistently attract referrals.
The solution is what we refer to at Levin Group as the Five Focus Areas. Every orthodontic practice should have a strong marketing program and strategic plan in these five key areas:
- Patients. Patient marketing needs to be relevant, timely, and exciting by engaging patients in a fun environment where they appreciate the orthodontic experience. Think about Disney World or Disneyland. The experience is really what the customer is buying when they visit this iconic amusement park empire. Thousands of people visit, sometimes again and again, and come home raving about their trip. Your patients are your customers and they want to have a great experience too. When they do, they will keep coming back.
- Parents. Remember, parents are often the real referral sources. The 12-year-old who just left the office is unlikely to go out and refer another 12-year-old. However, parents have an amazing connection with other parents. For example, we recently reviewed a case where a parent was highly connected as an influencer in a community online group and had negative things to say about an orthodontic practice. That practice then quickly dropped in referrals by 15%. Parents have influence. Designing strategies to positively reach them as you are treating their children can increase referrals, gain awareness from other parents, and drive the orthodontic practice brand.
- Referring Doctors. Referring doctors are still far more important than some orthodontic practices believe. The reality is that referring doctors play a major role in guiding where many orthodontic patients end up having treatment. There are many opportunities to bypass referring doctors, but we believe it’s still critical to work with them and have a strong marketing program that builds relationships on a continual basis. We see numerous orthodontic practices where a single referral source sends anywhere from $60,000 to $200,000 per year of revenue. It’s also important to note that many parents may not select the orthodontist to whom the referring doctor referred, but they will still check with that referring doctor about their potential choice.
- Social Media. Social media has great value. Random posts and personal musings don’t cut it. It’s about what you put online, where you place it, and when you post it. Social media is now woven into the fabric of all of the other Five Focus Areas on a daily and weekly basis, and that’s why it’s so important. It is the glue that holds all the other areas together, providing a communication and outreach vehicle that encourages motivation and excitement long after a parent or patient leaves the office.
- Community. Being involved in the community is positive for almost any business. People appreciate knowing that a business is supportive of their community, so this can provide excellent exposure for the practice. Start by identifying the right target areas such as schools, school nurses, teachers, and general community exposure. They can all contribute to a strong community marketing program that will drive referrals through awareness. This is why we see so many local, regional, and national businesses with heavily promoted charitable programs within their local communities. In some cases the patient is not selecting the orthodontic practice based on the community marketing, but based on the familiarity that they have with the practice from seeing it exposed in the local community.
In this competitive world, all Five Focus Areas are essential and must be maximized. Doing one well will create referrals, but it probably won’t be enough to face today’s orthodontic competition. Addressing all Five Focus Areas with an effective marketing plan (carried out by a highly-trained marketing coordinator) will virtually guarantee referral success.
Roger P. Levin, DDS is the CEO and Founder of Levin Group, a leading practice management consulting firm that has worked with over 30,000 practices to increase production. A recognized expert on dental practice management and marketing, he has written 67 books and over 4,000 articles and regularly presents seminars in the U.S. and around the world. To contact Dr. Levin or to join the 40,000 dental professionals who receive his Practice Production Tip of the Day, visit www.levingroup.com or email email@example.com.