Considering online marketing it's useful to look at:
- Traffic optimisation to a dental practice website, this typically includes:
- search engine optimisation
- On-site search optimisation using words and phrases
- offsite search optimisation with articles linked back to your website which Google sees as votes
- paid advertising (PPC)
- social media marketing
- e-mail marketing via permission-based list building on your own website
- search engine optimisation
- Conversion optimisation to get more of those website visitors converting into patients, this typically includes:
- calls to action and wording on the website
- things for prospects to do, typically these are downloadable guides which are handed out in exchange for an e-mail address
- e-mail marketing
- social media campaigns
For a dental practice website to be effective in attracting the right type of new patients we need both traffic and conversions. In previous articles we’ve looked at various forms of traffic optimisation as well as conversion optimisation and e-mail marketing… In this final article we will take a brief look at social media which you may notice appears in both traffic and conversion optimisation.
Everyone knows that the best form of new patient attraction is word-of-mouth marketing, social media is simply word-of-mouth marketing on steroids. Social media gives us the ability to communicate with the widest number of people in one go.
In order to understand social media marketing and relationship building we need to understand some basic business marketing theory.
In a product-based industry (which dentistry is NOT) consumers can evaluate the product before purchasing by trying it out in the store. They can also take back that product after purchase. Marketing for a product is about encouraging the consumer to make a snap decision, product marketing is therefore special deals, offers and incentives such as buy one get one free, 50% off sale today etc.
This is what is known as transactional marketing.
Dentistry on the other hand is very definitely a predominately service-based industry. Let’s take a white filling for example, consumers are not able to evaluate what that filling is going to look like prior to purchasing, nor, after you have completed it and if they dislike it are they able to request you put back any removed tooth and give them back their decay back!
Because of this basic difference between a product and service it means that service based marketing is entirely focused on building trust and reducing risk… when a consumer purchases a service they are (on the whole) unable to make a snap decision and the marketing should reflect this by seeking to build a relationship with them.
This is what is known as relationship marketing. 
If we are to use relationship marketing, which happens to be almost tailor-made for social media, then we need to understand the core of how a relationship develops… When we understand how business relationship forms then we can take our social media marketing to the next level.
Business relationships, indeed almost all relationships, form in 3 distinct stages.
- Actor bonds.
- Activity links.
- Resource ties.
In order for any relationship to move forwards there need to be bonds between the actors, bonds between yourself and your prospective new patient. Basic human psychology means we tend to like people we are like… So help patients to like you.
This is where sharing personal stories and information really comes into force. Great examples of this are:
- Books you like
- Films you like
- Restaurants you like
- Practice birthdays
- Practice weddings
- People having babies at the practice
- Practice anniversaries and celebrations
Indeed, any type of invent at the practice which allows someone to say “Ooh, I’m just like them, I like that too…”
These are conversation starters, they opened the door to take the next step in the relationship building process.
The next stage in the process will only occur when someone feels as though they like you, this next stage is giving people something to do.
This is typically handing out useful, free and relevant generic dental health advice, great social media posts that fall into this activity link category are things like:
- When should I take my children to the dentist?
- How many dental implants that I need?
- How to overcome dental anxiety
- What to do if my gums bleed when cleaning my teeth
- How to overcome bad breath
- What’s the difference between a dental implant and dental bridge?
The key here is to put a clickable link into your social media post, that link can either be to an image or to a website which has the answer to this particular dental question.
The key thing to understand here is that it DOES NOT have to be your own resources… You could link out to the British Dental Health Foundation, or Colgate or any other dental resource. The point of this type of post is that you are demonstrating that you care about solving patient’s problems over and above making a profit as a dental practice.
If you are trying to sell them something by deliberately pointing them to your website all the time it does not necessarily build trust.
Once we have spent some time building trust we can then move onto the final stage of the relationship building process.
And this is the part of relationship building marketing which feels like conventional marketing, it’s the part where we tell people how great we are and how well we can solve their dental problems.
In the resource ties section of the relationship building process we are asking a prospective new patient to commit some form of resource to us, either money or time.
Time resources could be reading a blog post you have written (answering one of the questions listed above) or it could be to come and see you for an initial consultation.
Patients are not going to jump to the resource ties section of the relationship building process if you haven’t spent time developing that relationship in the first place and they don’t trust you or view you as a low risk option.
Too many practices can’t resist the urge to jump up and down, shout loudly and wave their hands talking about how great they are, how fabulous their free consultation is, how much they want to give patients 50% off for a particular treatment on a certain day of the week… Completely missing the point that social media is about RELATIONSHIPS, not TRANSACTIONS.
My recommendation is to keep posts in the following percentages.
- Actor bonds 40% of your posts
- Activity links 40% of your posts
- Resource ties no more than 20% of your posts
Each time you go to write a social media updates, think about which of these categories it falls into, it’s absolutely fine just to seek to deepen the relationship with someone… Not all of your posts need to be about teeth - posting a picture of your dog, or a book you are reading, or restaurant you have recently visited may be the right thing for a person to see for the very 1st time on social media… You can then develop their relationship with you over a period of time as they see things about you in your practice that they can connect with.
Social media is about connecting with people as human beings, developing the relationship by increasing trust and lowering risk… Follow this advice and your social media marketing will work incredibly effectively.
 Gummeson E. (2002), Total Relationship Marketing, (2nd edition), Oxford, Butterworth Heinemann
 Hakansson, H. and Snehota, I. (1995) Developing Relationships in Business Markets, London: Routledge
© Mark Oborn, GDPUK Ltd, 2019