Do you want an illusionist or a partner?
Do you want an illusionist or a partner?
Not so long ago marketing was more of an art than a science

Not so long ago marketing was more of an art than a science. A dark art, some would say, because agencies deployed smoke and mirrors, and return on investment was hard to measure and, therefore, easy to fudge, so that the client couldn’t really tell when a campaign had bombed.

The distinction between art and science should have become blurred because of all the data that’s available now. So much is measurable and sharing information with clients is the basis for effective marketing, although I do see agencies hold back data in their reports. They do this for different reasons. Two of the main ones are underdeveloped reporting systems and low confidence in sharing and interpreting data.

That might be why marketing continues to be seen more narrowly as ‘advertising’ among many dental practices. But where there is an appetite to engage, a practice owner or manager given the right information will develop a new relationship with their marketing agency. The agency should be leading this relationship by sharing the right information and educating the client.

There has to be an investment of time and effort on the part of the agency at the outset to make this happen. Unfortunately, from what I’ve seen, this rarely happens in the dental sector. An agency might say “we delivered 60 leads” and not worry if none are converted, because the practice didn’t call any of them. A conscientious agency would want to know why no calls were made and fix that problem.

The data that practices keep on their own initiative has in my experience been poor, so the flow of data and the interpretation of that data is a crucial service. Hive supplies the most comprehensive reports possible, with contacts, calls missed, call information, conversions by channel. We also ask our clients to tell us which leads go through to consult and treatment so we can see any holes that exist. We try to give them a 360 degree view of their marketing system.

It’s not possible to do this unless the client is engaged, so our clients are in a sense self-selecting. Someone in the practice must be responsible for the activity, and if the owner is too busy in surgery it goes to someone else, a business manager ideally. A treatment coordinator can do it just as well — anyone who can interact with us regularly, because we need that insight often to make sure the marketing machine is performing properly and to make adjustments.

Once this relationship is set up we can get really accurate on delivering what the practice owner wants. If it’s to sell more of a certain treatment, with a certain marketing budget, we can advise on the best channels and make sure the right one is prioritised. For example, social ads can work in two ways, one is in ongoing lead generation where users note their interest and ask for more information. The lead can be less motivated leading to a lowish conversion rate but is nevertheless valuable. Then there’s the option of advertising an open day via social ads. There’s a clear goal which motivates the customer, it’s less intensive on the team to manage and treatment values can be higher than average.

I did hear about a receptionist turning patients away because an open day was full — obviously the team needs to know what is happening, and if you have a treatment coordinator, send new enquiries to them to take the pressure off reception. But your marketing agency should be helping you with all of this, troubleshooting and spotting opportunities and bugs shoulder to shoulder with you, not leaving you alone to struggle and make avoidable mistakes.

We see our role as creating an extending team culture, so that we overlap, and deliver return on investment in the most obvious and least obvious ways. Modern dental marketing isn’t about isolated initiatives any more, or it shouldn’t be, it’s a rounded support service. A good question for an agency to ask itself when deploying a marketing budget is: if this was our money, would we be doing it the same way? What you really want is a marketing agency supporting you that sees wasted money as its own loss. And wants to stop it and change something, even when that goes against what it thought would happen. Not everything is going to work, but when you make decisions together, you can fix things together too — fast.

Luc Wade
By Luc Wade Management Consultant
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