MARKETING STRATEGY FOR A DENTAL CLINIC
FEATURES OF THE INDUSTRY
Dentistry is quite a complex field from a commercial standpoint due to certain industry-specific features that distinguish it significantly from other service sectors. It's particularly challenging to promote dental services for young professionals and newly established clinics that haven't built a solid client base and a strong reputation. The absence of professional marketing makes the market journey for such clinics and specialists lengthy and not always commercially successful. On the other hand, for a more established dental business, marketing proves beneficial in enhancing reputation, expanding the client base, repositioning towards more lucrative target audiences, and possibly transitioning into a premium segment where the dentist's hourly rate is considerably higher. So, what are the characteristics defining the state and dynamics of the dental services market in terms of their importance to marketing processes? Here are the main ones:
- Patient Attitudes towards the Service. The market for dental services is characterized by the extremely careful and demanding attitude of most patients towards both the process and the outcome, both functionally and aesthetically. Dentistry is one of those fields where a patient won't return to a clinic or dentist if they're dissatisfied with any aspect of the work or service. This patient attitude is the primary factor and foundation that determines all subsequent industry features.
- Importance of Personal Recommendations. For all service sectors with a high level of demand, personal recommendations have a significant impact on patients' decisions to visit a specific dentist or clinic. Personal recommendations are the primary criteria for the majority of patients in choosing their healthcare providers.
- Reputational Imbalance. The demanding nature of patients and the importance of personal recommendations create a substantial reputational imbalance among dentists or clinics, even with similar qualifications and expertise. This manifests in fully booked schedules for some, while others struggle to fill their calendar. Prices vary significantly, with some charging well above market rates, while others engage in fierce price competition, targeting less financially capable segments of the population.
- Intense Competition. The number of dental clinics and offices in modern cities, coupled with reputational imbalances, results in fierce competition across all available communication channels. The battle for patients takes place in digital channels, traditional media, through advertising, and organic promotion, among other avenues.
- Creative Marketing Complexes. The competitive situation is such that a single advertisement is insufficient for long-term success. Patients now consider various parameters, including qualified doctors with proven experience and a strong reputation, modern equipment and consumables, a comfortable office, pleasant and trained staff, a digital presence, trustworthy advertising campaigns, positive reviews and recommendations, and more. Successful clinics have long adopted systematic marketing complexes integrated into their overall marketing strategies.
In summary, the list of dental industry features can be extended, but we'll focus on these characteristics as the key ones for modern dental marketing and move on to the next question. How do you compete in such challenging conditions?
SOME GENERAL STRATEGIES AND APPROACHESS
Competition in dentistry is indeed fierce and demands a thoughtful and comprehensive approach. Success primarily requires a professional marketing plan, encompassing market and competition analysis, the development of a brand platform and market positioning, and the construction of a marketing complex tailored to the specific needs of a dental clinic or private practice. In most cases, the marketing complex of a dental business includes the following main elements. Let's explore them primarily through the lens of building the clinic's reputation as the key factor in commercial success in dentistry.
- Clinic Location. The choice of a dental clinic's location can depend on various factors. Some may open a clinic near their residence without considering that the location, consciously or subconsciously, adds to the overall reputation. However, the clinic's location shapes consumers' perception over the years. For example, if a clinic is situated in a low income residential area, attracting a high-income target audience will be considerably more challenging. On the contrary, being located near well-known medical institutions, in prestigious neighbourhoods, or in new residential complexes creates a completely different consumer perception.
- Promotion of the Dentist or Team. The personal reputation of dentists is perhaps the most significant consumer capital for every dental clinic. While it would be ideal for clinics if patients weren't attached to a specific dentist and only remembered the clinic's name, that's not the reality. Patients primarily recommend a specific dentist and then the clinic. Recognizing this, clinics with advanced marketing support and incentivize their dentists to promote their own brand. They create an ecosystem for dentists with personal pages on the website and social media, produce video content featuring the dentist, support their participation in media interviews and public events, fund continuing education, and training in new methods and practices. Of course, such investments in dentists should be protected by long-term employment conditions and personal relationships.
- Interior Design. Dental services are provided exclusively in the clinic, and a client's visit is unavoidable. Whether consciously or subconsciously, patients note their attitude towards the clinic's interior design and may transmit it to others in the form of recommendations or negative comments. Naturally, patients have different expectations and standards regarding the level of interior design that is sufficient and acceptable. Dental marketing must consider the expectations of the target audience from the very beginning.
- Digital Marketing Ecosystem. Digital marketing holds a key position in such a competitive market and significantly contributes to building the clinic's overall reputation. All available tools in dental marketing must be utilized - an attractive and modern website, SEO optimization, social media pages for both the clinic and key dentists, robust content marketing with a focus on video content, advertising on Google and social media, and more.
- Managing Reviews and Recommendations. Handling reviews and recommendations deserves a separate point. People tend to leave negative reviews on relevant platforms or social media, and this needs to be consistently and professionally managed. Unprofessional responses to negative reviews can lead to viral spread on the internet and catastrophic consequences for the clinic's reputation. Furthermore, within a loyalty program, incentives should be provided for receiving positive reviews.
- Traditional Advertising. While TV advertising might be too expensive for most clinics, advertising on local radio stations and in printed publications can be a accessible and effective element in certain cases. Depending on the target audience, location, and competitive environment, outdoor advertising on billboards, lightboxes, stops, and public transport may also be considered.
- Loyalty Program. Loyalty programs in dentistry should be viewed not only as a system of retaining patients through discounts but rather as a system for building positive impressions of the clinic and dentist to create the necessary reputation. In this case, a loyalty program acts as a "post-sales service" where patients receive a call from the clinic, preferably from the dentist, who inquires about the patient's condition a few days after the visit, provides necessary recommendations if needed, offers additional individual solutions, and more. Such an approach may not be necessary in all cases, but inquiring about general feelings — whether the new filling is causing any concerns, or the bite feels normal—creates a very positive impression on patients and contributes to reputation formation.
It should be noted that within one article, we cannot show all the pitfalls or demonstrate all the marketing methods and tools specific to the dental industry. In other words, these are just a few examples of quite general marketing approaches that can be applied to dental business. From a practical point of view, everything is much more complicated - the choice of a specific marketing strategy and tools depends on the target audience, competitive environment, and unique advantages of the clinic, etc. At the same time, it is desirable to understand that marketing of a dental clinic may encounter a number of specific problems that are unique to each individual case and require an individual approach to their solution.
Achieving the commercial objectives of a company through effective marketing requires a deep understanding of the market situation, consumer needs, the ability to analyze and explore alternatives, and a creative approach to problem-solving. Our company has extensive experience in defining optimal marketing strategies for our clients' businesses, creating a strong brand and market positioning, as well as developing a marketing mix and implementing the chosen strategy. You can familiarize yourself with the services and solutions our company offers on the "Services
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