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4 strategies corporate dentistry is using to steal your patients and how you can fight back

by Marc Fowler

by Marc Fowler

Corporate dentistry is like the neighborhood bully to the single location practice. They have big budgets for advertising, are in network with everyone, they have buying power with vendors, and they undercut long-accepted pricing structures. But you can fight back and win by taking a few pages out of their marketing playbook and exploiting their one big weakness (exposed at the end of this article).

Here are four corporate dentistry marketing secrets that you can learn from:

They use data from multiple locations to optimize campaigns and maximize ROI.

Corporate groups that have a dozen or more locations can test multiple approaches and fully implement only the most effective strategies. They are able to do this not only because they have several locations but because they have a dedicated marketing team analyzing the data.

Seeing what works across locations gives them unique insights. What demographics are responding? What ad tactics are showing a return? What niches can we move into? They are able to track data from an entire region and act on the results to benefit each individual location.

Likewise, corporate dentistry can test new and emerging strategies at a single practice without affecting the whole company. If a new idea works, they can quickly apply it to every practice. This gives them an advantage over the independent practice. One- or two-location practices often can’t afford to experiment with unproven marketing tactics that, if unsuccessful, impact the entire business.

As a small practice, you can’t use this approach – or can you? What if you were able to pool your resources and data with hundreds of other independent practices across the country? By partnering with a marketing firm that works exclusively with dentists, you can do just that. If the firm has a diverse client base, they can tap into that collective data and test results to implement a proven strategy that will put you on level footing with the bullies.

They use a diverse and integrated strategy.

Corporate dentists remove the perceived gamble from marketing by using what we call the DICE approach to marketing. Their marketing is Diverse, Integrated, Customized, and Effective.

Diverse is a way of describing a multi-channel marketing system that big retail brands use. They don’t just rely on a single marketing tactic. Rather, retailers use a variety of programs to increase brand awareness and convert leads to customers. Or patients. Depending on your market, a diverse strategy might include direct mail, online reputation management, digital advertising, community involvement, video and referral marketing. Several studies have shown that it can take 7-10 marketing “touches” to convert a prospect to a patient.

Integrated refers to the relationship that each marketing channel has with the other and how they present a consistent brand message across each. Every touch point with consumers must be part of a well-designed plan to build brand awareness and trust. Consistent messages help the corporate practices stand out.

Customized messages designed to speak to the needs of potential patients. Corporate dentistry uses their data on current patients to design marketing that appeals to similar audiences. This is proven to show a higher rate of return. You need to make sure your message speaks to your target patient and is meaningful to them.

Effective is marketing that generates a consistent return on investment (ROI). Through measurement and adjustment, corporations eliminate ineffective methods. Hope is not a strategy. Corporate dentistry is laser focused on the bottom line. You should be too.

They invest heavily in digital advertising.

The marketing departments in corporate dental offices prefer digital advertising. They use digital advertising because they know that, in most markets, it is going to result in a lower cost per new patient than its non-digital counterparts.
Why is digital advertising more cost effective? First, better targeting means less waste. With digital you can specifically target by demographics, psychographics and geography. Only your ideal patients see your message. Second, digital advertising is less expensive to produce. There is no physical product to print and send. So, the lower costs are passed on to you, the advertiser. Third, it is much easier to measure campaign effectiveness with digital media than with offline media. This allows advertisers to know what’s working and what isn’t – no more guesswork – and make timely, cost-saving changes.

People are spending more time than ever on their smartphones. Corporate marketing departments know this. So, in order to get their message in front of potential patients, they leverage Google search, digital display ads, online video and Facebook advertising to build awareness and convert prospects to patients.

For all of these reasons, corporate dentistry invests heavily in digital. Some may spend as much as $50,000 or more per month just on Google ads. This is more than the entire annual marketing budget of most single-location practices.
How are you supposed to compete with such a large budget? First, remember that budget is spread across all of their locations. A 40-practice corporation with a $50,000 budget is just spending an average of $1,250 per month per location. This brings the competition down to a manageable level. If you are a $500,000 practice, that’s only 3% of collections (well within the range most consultants recommend spending on marketing).

A digital marketing agency that understands dentistry can develop a strategy, create ads, and optimize a campaign that will be as effective as any corporate campaign.

They invest in brand building.

Building a brand is critical to any “retailer.” And with the increasing competition, being a dentist has become a lot more like retail these days.

Corporate dentists know the power of a well-conceived brand. ­­­­They invest significantly in logos, high quality photos and mobile-friendly websites with a clean, modern design. They work hard to build an image that communicates the best qualities of their practice.

Brand recognition and visibility is how they overwhelm individual practices and win. Corporations invest long term. They are patiently building name recognition in a community. Their goal is for their name to be synonymous with dentistry in a given market. The investment pays off over time.

To compete with them, you need your own brand and story. Invest in professional photography, a high-quality website, and even well-constructed videos. Be visible in your community. In fact, your individual name, brand and story are the keys to beating them.

The one big weakness you can exploit to beat the corporate dental offices in your market

The key to winning is you and personalizing your brand. Corporate dentists win when they make the conversation about a procedure. And price is their comparison point. You need to change the game. What they can’t compete with is you. Your experience, your service, your relationships. Corporate dentistry is faceless and impersonal. And that’s their key weakness.

While they may have lower prices and larger advertising budgets, the one thing they don’t have is you and your staff. Their doctors and staff turnover so often, they don’t have the consistency and community involvement that you have. This is why, as you’ll notice, they never feature the doctor or staff in their marketing. They know the faces may change before the ad even runs. So they make the marketing about price and volume.

Our client’s best performing campaigns are those where the doctor and/or staff are prominently featured. This gets back to item #1 – utilizing data. When we analyzed the data from hundreds of our dental client’s websites, we noted that after the home page, the next most visited page on the websites was the “Meet the Doctor” page. Prospective patients aren’t interested in procedures and cases. They want to know the professional who will be caring for them. This is one piece of key data that corporate dental marketing teams can’t leverage.

So, seize the advantage and shift the conversation away from price and procedure to quality and relationships. Build a great story about you and your practice. Then use corporate dentistry’s own four marketing strategies against them.

Marc Fowler is President of Bullseye Media, a Texas based dental marketing agency that has helped hundreds of dental practices across the country with mobile-friendly websites and digital marketing to build their brands and attract more patients. Learn more at OnlineDentalMarketing.Com or contact Marc at Marc@OnlineDentalMarketing.com.

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