13 Marketing Resolutions for 2013 by Angela Weber

Whenever January rolls around, people resolve to join gyms, volunteer more or set professional goals. Orthodontic practice owners should likewise take part in this time of reflection and self-improvement. The New Year provides a prime opportunity for you to review your marketing efforts and make improvements. The following 13 ideas for your 2013 marketing program can help your practice turn over a new leaf.

Start with a Structure

Idea 1 - Pay Attention to Data
Orthodontic practices have plenty of potential marketing tactics at their disposal, but before you dive into implementing them, define your practice goals. Maybe a goal is to boost revenue by 10 percent, acquire a certain number of new patients, or gain a certain number of "better" patients (after defining whatever "better" means to you). Once you have achievable, quantifiable goals in place, you can choose the marketing tactics best suited to help you meet them. Determine in advance how you will measure your goals and evaluate progress along the way.

Idea 2 - Give It Time
It's human nature to be attracted to the next shiny, new thing that comes along, especially in the tech and Internet worlds. Many promising new marketing methods appear all the time. But you are unlikely to see immediate results from any one marketing initiative. If you're the type who is always looking for the next big idea, the chances are you are abandoning your marketing efforts before they have the chance to truly take shape. By sticking with an idea, you will give yourself a better opportunity to measure its success.

Idea 3 - Get Buy-in from Your Staff
Coming up with a marketing plan is only part of the picture. You will need support from your team to get your strategy and tactics off the ground. At the very least, they need to be informed of how the practice is marketing itself. You don't want patients coming in mentioning an ad or a publicized offer that your staff knows nothing about. Ideally, you should recruit a staff member to take ownership of the marketing program. It's a big job. You shouldn't try to do it all yourself.

Engage Patients Online

Idea 4 - Provide Meaningful Content
"Content" is a bit of a buzzword these days, but the idea behind it is common sense. When you're doing content marketing, it basically means you provide information that is useful and interesting to your audience, as opposed to focusing on strict self-promotion. Make a list of 10 questions both current and prospective patients ask about the most, and address the answers on your website, e-mail newsletters or Facebook page. Patients will see your practice as a resource for credible and interesting information, which will boost your reputation and keep them coming back for more.

Idea 5 - Be Social
On your website and on Facebook, use language that is direct and relatable to your patients. The tone should be conversational, not corporate. That's not to say it can't be professional, but the point is that your practice shouldn't be afraid to reveal a personality. Your website's staff bios or About Us pages can tell the story of how your practice got started and the aspects of your work that are personal to you. Patients enjoy getting a sense of who the real people are behind your practice.

Idea 6 - Rev up Facebook
You might have Facebook users who have "liked" your Facebook page, but if they are not interacting and engaging with your social media posts, then neither of you benefit. The more engagement each post has, the more visibility it garners in users' news feeds. In Facebook-land, the quality of posts is now generally more important than the number of subscribers. Encourage engagement by publishing compelling posts and using action words such as "like," "comment," or "tell us." Photos and videos are always popular, and if you can't post every day, keep in mind that Thursdays and Fridays tend to see more traffic.

Embrace Your Practice's Personality

Idea 7 - Be Different
Every orthodontic practice website seems to talk about its "caring staff " and "friendly atmosphere." While these claims might be true, they're so commonplace that they leave no impression. Look at your competitors' websites and really think about how you are different. Find fresh ways to express your ideas. Tell your story on your website, and stand out from the pack.

Idea 8 - Seek Self-improvement
No one's perfect, so your practice undoubtedly fields complaints from patients. Make a list of the top 10 patient complaints you or your staff have heard in the past year. Maybe there is a concern over waiting times, communication or personal attention. Take steps to address these complaints to improve patient satisfaction, which will boost your reputation and spur referrals.

Idea 9 - Keep up with the Times
Trends related to orthodontics and dentistry often seep into pop culture. Whitening treatments were hot a few years ago. What's going on now? Which professional athletes or famous singers are getting braces? Take advantage of these trends by tying them into your marketing. Some ideas include a celebrity smile watch on your website or Facebook page or issuing a special offer related to what's going on in the news.

Idea 10 - Stand for Something
We all have charities and causes that are special to us. As a practice owner, you do not need to keep your favorite causes a secret. Align your practice with a good cause in the community, and publicize your affiliation. It will help differentiate you, create conversations and engagement with patients and reveal your practice personality.

Upgrade What's Old

Idea 11 - Enhance Your Practice
There are countless ways to improve your practice in 2013. You might add new procedures, remodel your waiting room, or add a rewards program for patients in compliance with their at-home care. Whatever you choose, patients and prospects like to see that you are making strides to stay relevant in your field. Use social media, e-mail campaigns and your website to promote your improvements.

Idea 12 - Update Photography
People respond to pictures, and if the photography on your website is stale and outdated, it might be doing more harm than good to your practice. Invest in photography from a professional (or at least a good amateur) to update the headshots of you and your team as well as the photos of your practice.

Idea 13 - Go Mobile
A 2012 study from the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that 56 percent of American cell phone owners use their devices to access the Internet. That means your website needs to be optimized for mobile phones. In particular, consider the information that patients will want to easily access when they're away from a standard web browser - in particular, your address and contact info, a map to the practice and emergency care information.

Happy New Year

New Year's resolutions, even those made with the best of intentions, are often broken. Don't get overwhelmed by this list of ideas. Small, achievable steps are the most effective way to create change, and all 13 recommendations might not be applicable to your situation. So the best recommendation is to use these ideas as a jumping off point for creating the marketing resolutions that suit your practice best.

Author's Bio
Angela Weber is the marketing director for OrthoSynetics (OSI), a business services firm that assists orthodontic and dental practices utilizing a full-service, turnkey management approach to address all non-clinical practice functions to gain better efficiencies and profitability. Services are also offered on an a la carte basis. For more information, visit www.orthosynetics.com or e-mail aweber@orthosynetics.com.
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