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Marketing Your Practice: Know Yourself, Know Your Team, Know Your Patients

Women's Dentist Journal - September 2007
by Naomi Cooper Eckhardt, Vice President of Marketing, 1-800-DENTIST®

Marketing your practice can feel like a full-time job. Whether you want to find a way to consistently add new patients month after month, or are looking to grow from within by increasing your internal marketing efforts, promoting yourself and the services you offer is certainly a tall order. How can you get your patients - and your prospective patients - to value what you have to offer and to see you as the professional you are? It's an age-old question, and the most important thing is finding a place to start.

Traditionally, in marketing you always begin with two basic things: knowing yourself and knowing your audience. You can hire the most prestigious ad agency in town to create the highest-quality direct mail piece, the most dynamic website or most sophisticated TV ad, but if your message doesn't both represent you well and resonate with your audience, you might as well not be marketing at all.

Knowing Yourself
The first part of this process is to ask: what is different about my practice? In other words, what unique experiences do patients have in your office versus every other dental office? Those attributes are important to keep in mind in all of your marketing so that you can play to your strengths - and create appropriate expectations that correspond with the experience you actually provide.

So, does your practice have a friendly, welcoming office environment? Is your staff the most caring and wonderful dental team ever assembled? Is your office a modern facility with all the comforts of home? Then say so! Think carefully about who you are and make sure that you express that message clearly in every communication. Whether it's in a business card, a new patient brochure, or a patient's first call to the office, you should always be aiming to communicate what separates you from the pack.

It might help to jot down a list of positive adjectives that you think accurately describe your practice. Be careful not to describe the ideal practice you've built in your mind - describe the practice you already have! You can have the whole staff participate in this exercise, and you might even include some patients - you never know what you may learn by seeing things from another person's perspective.

The other part of knowing yourself is to understand your own strengths and weaknesses. While it's important for you to be able to understand and articulate what is special about your practice, taking on the responsibility of creating and implementing a consistent marketing campaign is something best left to professionals.

"It's important for doctors to manage their time well," says Christine Taxin, a consultant based in Westchester County, NY, with over 30 years of dental office management experience. "Surround yourself with the best of the best - experts who can help you reach your marketing goals and keep your vision on track - and you'll be much more likely to have consistent results from your marketing efforts than if you try to do it all on your own."