AI, GA4, SMS and More by Casey Bull

Categories: Marketing;
AI, GA4, SMS and More 

Strategies for diversifying your patient referral sources


by Casey Bull


In the ever-evolving landscape of orthodontic practice, staying ahead of the curve in marketing strategies is pivotal for growth and success. As we step into 2024, this comprehensive guide is your compass to navigate the dynamic world of orthodontic marketing.

But before going into specific marketing tactics, it’s important to review what can be considered the “growth formula” for which great marketing strategies are only part of the puzzle.

To have sustainable and maximized growth, the practice must focus on all of these areas:
  • Great marketing strategies.
  • Strong execution and implementation.
  • Good conversion systems and skills.

Foundational elements of a marketing strategy
Evergreen strategies are recommended. In this quest for practice growth, it’s vital to anchor your strategies in the fundamentals (which aren’t covered in this article). Don’t overlook these foundational elements in the pursuit of the latest trends. Evergreen strategies are timeless because they consistently yield results. Ensure your practice has a solid grasp of these bedrock principles.

Embrace ongoing evaluation. Even if you’ve already deployed specific marketing tactics or conversion training systems, it’s crucial to maintain a culture of critical review. Continually assess your methods to maximize the returns on your efforts.

Don’t overcommit. Avoid the temptation to do everything simultaneously. Aim to adopt one or two new strategies per month at most; by year’s end, you will have explored 12 to 24 new avenues. While not all may prove successful, you can reasonably expect six to 10 to flourish beautifully.

Improvement in conversions achieves growth faster than marketing. In the pursuit of practice growth, remember this caveat: Conversions take precedence over marketing efforts! Before pouring resources into lead generation, ensure there are no leaks in your conversion process.

Here are some key areas to focus on in your patient funnel:
  • Website. Scrutinize your site’s conversion rate, which measures the percentage of visitors who perform desired actions like clicking to call or filling out forms.
  • New-patient calls and follow-up systems. Evaluate your reception rate, which measures the percentage of new-patient inquiries that transform into completed consultations.
  • New-patient starts. Examine your treatment coordinator conversion rate, gauging the percentage of consultations that successfully convert into starts.
The burning question is, “What’s the best, most cost-effective, quickest and sustainable way to grow?” The answer is consistent: Improve conversion rates!

However, if you’ve diligently addressed conversion issues, it’s time to intensify your marketing endeavors. As seen in Table 1, you’ll need to ensure your marketing strategies are well balanced across three primary target audiences.
AI, GA4, SMS and More
Table 1

Now, on to the key marketing tactics that should be on your radar in 2024.


GA4 considerations
In 2024, orthodontic marketing is witnessing a shift driven by Google Analytics 4 (GA4). This robust tool is redefining how practices understand user behavior and make data-driven decisions. GA4 has replaced Universal Analytics (UA), with UA’s data processing ceasing in July 2023 and full access disappearing by July 2024. GA4 brings event-based tracking to the forefront, allowing practices to track user-initiated events such as clicks and form submissions, offering a more nuanced understanding of user interactions.

While there are a lot of positive reasons for Google to make this switch, the main challenge is our inability to presently track year-over-year comparisons. Consider, November 2022 performance was being measured based on UA standards and November 2023 performance was measured based on GA4 standards. Google, Facebook and other ad campaign performance tracking is unchanged. This change affects only website performance.


Google Local Service Ads
Google Local Service Ads (LSAs) represent a pivotal development in online advertising, especially for local businesses like orthodontic practices. Unlike pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, where you pay when someone clicks on your ad, LSAs operate on a pay-per-lead model. This means you pay only when a potential patient contacts your practice directly through the ad.

Here’s what you need to know about LSAs
  • Verification. LSAs require rigorous verification by Google. In the health care and dental sector, your professional licenses need to be verified through a thorough application process. Once approved, your practice will bear the trusted “License Verified By Google” badge (Fig. 1), which enhances credibility.
    AI, GA4, SMS and More
    Fig. 1
  • Cost and quality. LSAs may have a higher cost per lead than PPC advertising, but they’re designed to deliver leads of higher quality. It will be important to test this claim in your particular area.
  • Ad placement. One of the significant advantages of LSAs is ad placement. An LSA ad will appear prominently at the very top of Google search results, even before standard PPC ads. This prime positioning can significantly boost visibility and attract potential patients at an earlier stage of the decision-making process.
  • Complementing other strategies. It’s important to note that LSAs shouldn’t replace other advertising efforts, such as PPC ads or organic listings. Instead, they complement your overall marketing strategy by reaching prospective patients at different stages of the marketing funnel. LSAs help you engage with potential patients when they’re actively searching for orthodontic services.

Local SEO
Local SEO is a digital marketing strategy geared toward enhancing your practice’s visibility in local search results on Google. Given that orthodontic searches inherently carry local intent, implementing a robust local SEO strategy is crucial for improving your practice’s visibility across all Google search results.

Key components of local SEO:
  • Google Business Profile (GBP) optimization. Your GBP plays an important role in local SEO. To improve your ranking, update your GBP with fresh photos (monthly) and videos (quarterly), provide a “make an appointment” link (use your online scheduling link or your standard “request a consultation” URL), and provide comprehensive information about treatment and appliances provided in the “Services” section.
  • Keywords and descriptions. Incorporate relevant keywords and detailed descriptions of your orthodontic services in your GBP listing. These keywords should reflect what potential patients are likely to search for when seeking orthodontic care. These keywords should be used in a natural way, as opposed to “keyword stuffing,” and incorporated in all of the following areas:
    • Description.
    • Products.
    • Services.
    • Reviews.
    • Review responses.
    • Questions and answers.
  • Reviews and Q&As. Encourage satisfied patients to leave reviews on your GBP using your targeted keywords. Respond promptly to both positive and negative feedback. Additionally, leverage Google Questions and Answers to address frequently asked questions about your practice, thereby enhancing your online presence.
  • Content strategy. Develop a content strategy that includes weekly posts on your GBP. These posts can serve promotional and educational purposes, offering potential patients valuable insights into your practice, team, treatments and orthodontic facts.

Blogging in the AI era
Blogging remains a potent tool for enhancing your online presence and engaging with your target audience. However, the approach to blogging has evolved significantly in the artificial intelligence era. Key points to consider:

Quality over quantity. In the past, businesses would stuff blogs with keywords to attract search engine attention. Today, the focus is on creating high-quality content that provides genuine value to your audience. Google’s algorithms prioritize user experience, meaning content should address the needs and interests of your potential patients.

AI tools for assistance. While artificial intelligence tools can’t replace human creativity and expertise, they can assist by generating ideas, suggesting relevant keywords and even aiding in content drafting. AI-driven tools such as ChatGPT can help ensure your content aligns with the interests of your ideal patient groups.

Natural integration of keywords. When using AI tools for content creation, ensure that relevant keywords are integrated naturally within the content. Avoid keyword stuffing, because this can harm your SEO ranking.


Email and SMS marketing
Email and SMS marketing are powerful tools for nurturing leads and converting potential patients into actual ones. These strategies focus on engaging with individuals who have shown interest but haven’t yet committed to treatment. Key elements include:

Nurture campaigns. In any given month, a significant percentage of prospective patients may express interest in your practice but not complete a consultation. Similarly, some patients complete consultations but don’t proceed with treatment. Nurture campaigns aim to reengage these individuals. In 2024, prioritize the development of email and SMS nurture campaigns to nurture these leads.

Automation. It’s unrealistic to expect your team to individually reach out to every prospective patient who has shown interest in the past few months. Automation helps streamline this process, allowing you to set up sequences of automated messages based on specific triggers or timeframes.


AI tools for marketing
Artificial intelligence offers valuable support for marketing endeavors. Here’s how AI can assist your practice:

Keyword research. AI tools, including ChatGPT, excel at keyword research. They can generate a wide range of relevant keywords and help you refine your SEO strategy.

Here are some prompts to get you started:
  • “Please generate a list of 10 relevant keywords about orthodontics for adults.”
  • “Kindly produce a set of 50 keywords that are commonly associated with the subject of orthodontics.”
  • “I would like you to generate a set of 50 keywords closely related to orthodontics for children ages 7–10.”
Content creation. AI can also aid in content creation. While it can’t replace the human touch, AI-driven tools can generate drafts, provide content ideas and assist with copywriting tasks. Here are some use cases for ChatGPT content/idea creation:
  • Blog and article writing.
  • Social media content ideas.
  • Social media captions and hashtags.
  • Social media video script recommendations.
  • Email nurture series outline.
  • Email copywriting.
  • SMS nurture series outline.
  • SMS copywriting.
The quality of the output of the AI tool depends largely on the prompt provided. When it comes to content or idea creation, consider framing all prompts using the following template:
In a minute, I’m going to ask you to write some copy for my business. This will include blog content, Instagram posts with hashtags, sales emails and email nurture campaigns. Ask me at least 20 questions about our orthodontic practice, patients, audience and anything else you need to complete the tasks to the best of your ability.


Dental partner events
With all the innovation and development on the digital marketing landscape, it’s important not to forget about nurturing your relationships with the surrounding dental community! With so many people being time-poor, events are a great way to connect with the wider community in a scalable and meaningful way. Here are some ideas when considering hosting or running an event:
  • CPR events. Invite referring dentists and specialists to attend a CPR training event. This not only provides value but also strengthens professional connections.
  • Social events. Organize social gatherings such as dinners, movie nights or participation in local charitable events. These events create opportunities for networking and community engagement.
  • Charity initiatives. Partner with nonprofit organizations in your community for volunteer events. Activities such as pet adoption drives or volunteering at food banks are excellent ways to give back and connect with others.

Conclusion
By diving deeper into these aspects, you’ll be better equipped to navigate the complex landscape of orthodontic practice marketing in 2024. Just be sure to stay grounded in a structured marketing plan (or calendar), set key targets, and hold yourself accountable to execution and reevaluation.


Author Bio
Casey Bull Casey Bull, is the chief operating officer at MyOrthoVA, a company that has created expertly trained virtual assistants to orthodontic practices. Bull also continues to support The Invisible Orthodontist (TIO), where she drives TIO’s mission to provide member practices with marketing and business management expertise. Her profound understanding of the industry extends to the realm of digital marketing, where she excels in overseeing full-suite strategies, including website development and optimization, paid advertising campaigns, local SEO optimization and more.




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