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New Patient Advertising

For practices just starting out or struggling to bring in new patients, though, social media is a powerful tool whose cost is a small fraction of what billboards and print ads cost.
Mary Ellen Cagnassola
PUBLISHED: Monday, October 2, 2017

Practices need to find a method of advertising that works for them, whether it's Facebook or direct outreach.
 
When it comes to advertising, Dr. Anissa Holmes, the creator of the online dental community Delivering WOW, has tried just about everything.
 
Before Facebook became the entity it is today, Holmes paid for ads in Yellow Pages, local newspapers, airline magazines, even mailer coupons. But in 2010, she noticed something that changed the way she advertised for good. 

“When I started advertising on Facebook, I was getting five new patients for every $50 spent. The $800 I was spending on Yellow Pages delivered the same number of new patients,” Holmes said.
 
From there on out, her advertising decision on where to put her ad dollars was a no-brainer.
 
That’s not to say, however, that there is no value in traditional modes of advertising, Holmes said. Many of them are still effective, and if a practice is seeing a positive ROI from billboard and newspaper ads, they should continue doing what works for them. 
 
For practices just starting out or struggling to bring in new patients, though, social media is a powerful tool whose cost is a small fraction of what billboards and print ads cost.
 
“For my clients who we run Facebook campaigns for, none of their budgets are over $500,” Holmes said. “Billboards just don’t do what Facebook does.”
 
The value of Facebook is not solely due to its comparably small cost, according to Holmes. The reason Facebook is the best strategy, even stacked up against other social platforms, is because it allows businesses to target their audiences using data and measure the metrics on those ads. 
 
“A dentist’s target demographic is using Facebook. That’s where people hang out, when they wake up in the morning and when they go to bed at night,” Holmes explained. “Before, people were watching TV, now they’re on social media. It gives you a captive audience.” 
 
From age to occupation to marital status, people put a lot of themselves on Facebook, which allows you to control who sees your advertising. In fact, Facebook even tells you who has visited your website in the past, clicked your links or viewed your videos. You can then put an advertisement directly in their news feed.
 
While it might sound like Facebook is doing all the work for you, Holmes emphasized that the content you put out dictates the success of your ads.
 
The power is in images and video, she said. Show the patient what you can do for them rather than putting out generic images and content that has nothing to do with your practice.
 
“People don’t want to see reposts of dental cartoons. Anytime you’re posting, share the story of your practice. Use testimonials and outreach to build a community,” Holmes advised. “Once people like you and feel a connection, they will want to come in.” 
 
Dr. Michael Abernathy, owner of Summit Practice Solutions, favors a different approach. While he acknowledges that social media marketing is important, it is only a piece of what dentists should be doing to market themselves. 

“The type of marketing that dentists need to be doing is direct response marketing, meaning that whatever it is you’re doing, it should elicit a phone call,” Abernathy said.
 
But what does this mean? According to Abernathy, the most important step you can take to attract new patients is the following three things: be in network, be able to treat the whole family, and offer convenient hours. 
 
That being said, marketing is still a necessary part of getting your brand out to the community. For Abernathy, he found the most success by direct mail and local ads. He urges dentists to stay away from milquetoast advertisements and strive to be the “purple cow” among a herd of boring billboards.
 
“The real branding comes once a patient enters the office,” Abernathy explained. “Digital marketing has become too common and too impersonal. For every 100 pieces of mail you send out, you will get 1.5 new patients. But it’s effective, personalized marketing.”

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