Orthodontic Marketing – Is Your head In The Box?

Head In The BoxI came across two blog posts this morning. Both articles discuss how average consumers are reacting to the current economic meltdown and its affect on consumer buying habits.  

Sales of TV sets turning into litmus test for U.S. economy.  

Wall Street tumbles on fears about economy Investors uneasy about the outlook for the holiday shopping season

If you think about it, few if any professional practices today have experienced the aftermath of a major economic meltdown like we are experiencing today.  This economy is uncharted waters.  With high overheads and employee salaries to cover, there is cause for concern.  

I’m hearing feedback from many practices and TC’s across the country reporting:

  1. New patient referrals seem to be somewhat holding their own…  good news
  2. Conversion rates are down… cause for concern
  3. Consumers seeking a second opinion is up…  need to sell treatment more effectively
  4. Higher cancellation rate among RC patients. (Many asking to be placed back into the system for future appointments…)  Not much we can do about it
  5. Some parents with disposable income are assuming a conservative “wait and see” position before committing to long term treatment contracts…. ?????

In most cases, the news is not causing sleepless nights. Unless of course, you offer OFP or other third party services as your primary source of financing. If the orthodontic consumer continues into the first quarter 2009 with this “wait and see” posture, the question I pose to everyone is this..  How are you going to encourage New Patient Starts in a profession where treatment is elective and consumer fear has sabataged buying trends?  My intention is not to be the voice of doom and gloom…  What I am asking you to consider is this:

  • How are you going to market yourself “outside of the box” to catch the eye of the serious orthodontic consumer with disposable income who is now shopping for the best deal in perceived value for treatment and service?
  • Are you going to beat your competitor to the punch with agressive marketing tactics or stick your head in a box and “wait and see” what happens like your patients? 

“Marketing paralysis through analysis” and procrastination is common among professionals even during the best of times.  In this economy, marketing as usual may prove to be a very costly mistake.  You don’t slow down marketing during tough times… you kick it up!  Especially when Obama and financial advisors are predicting a rough road ahead in 2009.  And you don’t spend your marketing budget on traditional marketing strategies such as direct mail, and newspaper advertising when statistics show the average  consumer’s #1source for information gathering is the Internet.

Here is some Food for Thought over the next few days to start the ball rolling, if you haven’t already, with an effective online marketing program… Your first point of contact with patients is no long the new patient phone call. Serious shoppers with disposable income will be surfing the Internet, looking for treatment providers and checking out the competition FIRST, before contacting offices for new patient appointments:

  • How will the design and more important…user friendliness of your website compare with the competition?
  • Is your website keyword or SEO (search engine optimized) for your demographic on page one of Google? 
  • Do you know what keyword phrases patients use when searching for treatment providers in your area?
  • Do you know how to test your website to determine if it is easily found in your area and targeted demographic?
  • Are you taking advantage of Google maps and FREE databases on all the search engines?
  • Organic positioning on Google vs Pay Per Click – Do you understand the advantages and disadvantages?

If not, it’s time to find out.  How do you do this?  With a Competitive SEO (search engine optimization), page ranking, and keyword analysis of your website, based on your demographic. Understanding the basics of SEO is not complicated but necessary for any business owner taking marketing responsibility for their practice in a tech savvy society who is going online for everything.  This knowledge is valuabe not only to oversee the SEO services provided by your webmaster, but to monitor the online competition in your area on a regular basis.  With this information your will be better equiped to determine if a more aggressive Web 2.0 marketing campaign is warranted to increase your online presence to attract new patient referrals.

If your website  was created more than a year ago, the odds are high your website is not optimized correctly.  Is this a big deal? You bet….

With the “New Rules of Marketing” Google set in place in the Fall of 2006, how your website is found on the search engines has changed dramatically with social networking.  SEO dictates your page ranking and click through rate on Google… the only search engine that matters.  Marketing and promoting your practice today to a  highly skeptical consumer isn’t just about the size, experience level, treatment expertise, or longevity anymore…  its about the ability to attract new patients and engage them with your orthodontic message at the very moment they are looking for you online and willing to make a phone call.  Then…Even though they find you online, you must also be able to grab their attention long enough to direct them to contact your office for a new patient exam. Because if you don’t, someone else will.

Bottom line –

  • Internet marketing, correctly promoted, is crucial to the current and future success of your practice. 
  • The window of opportunity to organically position your practice on Page #1 of Google is limited. (Statistics show the average consumer gives more credence to organic page positioning than pay per click ads.)
  • If you continue to “keep your head in the box” when it comes to Internet marketing, your practice will suffer over the long haul.  

Still confused or paralyzd?  Contact me to set up a complimentary coaching session to discuss a competitive SEO analysis of your website and what can be done to “protect your turf” with Internet Marketing.

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