Moneyball Marketing by Casey Bull

Categories: Marketing;
Moneyball Marketing 

How to sustain and improve practice performance in the current economic environment

by Casey Bull

“You will either step forward into growth or you will step back into safety.” — Abraham Maslow

In-office patient interactions and delivering actual orthodontic care are top priority for all practices, which means marketing efforts typically fall to the wayside. This results in practices relying solely on word-of-mouth referrals and existing dental relationship referrals.

This model of very minimal marketing initiatives may have worked for many orthodontic practices in the past, but times are changing: With the consumer confidence index at a level typically associated with a recession, practices will not be able to sustain a no-effort marketing strategy for long. Marketing efforts will need to be reprioritized as a business necessity. After all, without new patients, there is no practice.

Balancing the cost, maintenance and results of various marketing efforts is complicated; there is no magic button or strategy a practice can implement that will guarantee success. The closest thing you can get to a guarantee is by using data and strategy to create effective campaigns. In this article, I’ll explain a concept called “moneyball marketing,” which involves identifying undervalued marketing opportunities, setting up targets, tracking the performance very closely and then using the data to drive decisions for the campaigns moving forward.

Paid advertising campaigns
Paid digital advertising is still one of the best ways to get new patient leads quickly. It’s no longer a question if digital marketing works for orthodontic practices—the results are undeniable, but you have to spend enough in order to see the return on investment. Recommended ad spends are going up, with ad spend recommendations currently at:
  • Google Ads: $1,200/month.
  • Facebook/Instagram Ads: $1,000/month.
  • Display ads: $300/month
  • TikTok ads: $1,500/month is suggested, although consistent results in the orthodontic space are still not yet proven.
If you want to grow your practice and are ready to invest in digital marketing, paid search should be one of the channels—if not the only one—you focus on to drive new patient leads.

Improve conversion rates
The single best, cheapest, fastest, most sustainable way to grow your practice is to improve your conversion rates. (For more specifics about this, see Fig. 1).

Fig. 1

The results of improvements to your new-patient funnel have compounding effects. For example, if you wanted to double your practice and chose to simply start running Google Ads, you would experience growth, but it would be very difficult, if not impossible, and very expensive to do so. But if you focused solely on improving conversion rates, starting at the top of the newpatient funnel with your website conversion rate and improved performance throughout the funnel all the way to the treatment coordinator conversion rate, doubling your practice is definitely possible.

Unfortunately, this is typically easier said than done. This requires expert website optimization and support to be able to monitor website performance and make the necessary adjustments to improve the conversion rate. It also requires staff training and assumes that the practice is well staffed and those individuals are open and ready to make improvements to existing processes.

Partnership marketing

The orthodontic practice is typically a very local business, and other very local businesses in your community would love to collaborate to extend both businesses’ reach. The first step in building a successful partnership campaign is to identify who in your community has a similar audience to yours and ensure they have a good reputation. Potential partners include businesses in the wedding industry, dance/fitness studios, sports clubs, barber shops and beauty salons.

Once you’ve identified a list of potential partners, you’ll need to come up with an idea to pitch. Partners will be more likely to say yes if you’ve already developed a thoughtful campaign idea and made it very easy for them to implement with you. The idea should be simple, such as collaborating on a one-day event or running a co-branded social media campaign.

Whatever your idea is, be sure you have a defined goal and it is trackable. You can set up a unique phone number exclusively for that particular campaign or partnership. You should also create a unique co-branded landing page so you can track the volume of visitors to your website. Then test, test, test. Don’t give up on your first attempt! It may take a couple of tries to be able to identify the most lucrative partner, initiative, channel or promotion.

General dentist referrals
Many new patients are still referred to an orthodontist by a general or pediatric dentist. In most instances, this happens with relatively little effort made by the orthodontic practice. The time and effort it takes to generate new-patient leads from the dental community is incredibly small compared with other marketing channels. If orthodontic practices could get this same “time + effort + cost : results” ratio on the digital marketing side, they wouldn’t hesitate to invest!

Test out various ways to increase the amount of dental referrals coming into your practice to see what works best in your community. Ultimately, all efforts should be raising the profile of the doctor( s) in your community. Concepts to increase referrals include:
  • A quarterly email newsletter to area doctors.
  • A collaboration experience with mutual patients.
  • Podcast guest appearances.
  • The About Orthodontics coffee table book.

Importance of a CRM
“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.” — John Wanamaker, retailer and marketing pioneer

Even with the advanced tracking, attribution models, UTM codes, pixels, Google Analytics, etc., it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly which campaigns did and did not influence your lead volumes and, ultimately, your starts. Practice management tools are fantastic for managing patients in treatment, but they fall short on the sales and marketing function of the practice.

Customer relationship management (CRM) systems allow your practice to properly track incoming leads all the way through to treatment start. When set up properly, CRM systems can help you leverage the technology to set up workflows, automation and email marketing campaigns based on a wide range of variables and data collected:
  • At which stage in the new patient funnel did the patient fall through the cracks?
  • What was their objection to starting treatment?
  • Adult versus child.
  • Referral source.
  • Insurance or private pay.
When looking for a CRM tool, it’s important to find one that allows multiple users, task management, workflow sequencing, automation and email marketing.

Notice that buzzword marketing trends such as Instagram Reels, TikTok and virtual consultations didn’t make this list. That’s not because they aren’t part of the marketing landscape; they just don’t tend to have an immediate or short-term impact on practice starts.

For practices looking to grow their business, be sure you’re doing more in marketing than just posting organically to social media channels. On the flip side, you also can’t just throw money at marketing and expect to win. Set up targets and proper data tracking, then use that to make datad-riven decisions. Test and adapt. Test and adapt.

Author Bio
Casey Bull Casey Bull, the global director of content and community at The Invisible Orthodontist (TIO), drives TIO’s efforts to provide member practices with marketing and business management expertise. Bull began her career in the orthodontic industry in 2014 working for Dr. Alexander Waldman in Beverly Hills, where she developed a range of practice management processes encompassing tracking and reporting, management systems and templates, treatment plans, marketing programs and more.

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