Content Marketing: What It Is and How to Make It Work

It is a universally accepted truth these days that you need to proactively market your practice to grow.

And while many in our industry think of "marketing" as a somewhat scary and "dirty" word, there's a type of marketing your patients want to receive from you, and that you're already doing without realizing it. The kind of marketing we're referring to is "content marketing." As the name implies, it's about delivering content that is useful to your patients in order to promote your practice. It's the same thing that you're doing every day by speaking to patients at your office – but doing it more frequently and with more patients. Here are the three elements you need to understand in order to make a content marketing strategy work for your practice.

1) Content

Of course, it goes without saying that content marketing cannot exist without meaningful and valuable content. Yet what many of our customers are surprised by is how many shapes it can take in the context of their relationship with their patients.

Here are some examples based on the sort of content patients like and benefit from getting:

  • Recall/reactivation messages – Sometimes we need a friendly nudge when it comes to following through on responsibilities we'd rather shirk. For most, a visit to the dentist is one of those responsibilities, so don't be afraid to nudge, and nudge again when it comes to recalls. Getting the attention of your patients is (believe it or not) appreciated in the long run, AND just what they need to hear.
  • Post-op instructions – Messaging after surgery, a cosmetic procedure or even a prophy provides patients with information they can use to guarantee a comfortable and satisfactory clinical outcome. It's valuable information they'll appreciate receiving from your office.
  • Treatment plan follow-ups – What patients need most after visiting your office and learning they need a procedure done is more information on that treatment. Don't think about sending them a treatment plan presentation as a "selling" effort. You're providing them with information they need to make the best decision for themselves.
  • Newsletters about office happenings – Talk about a super low effort way to stay connected. Hired new staff? Taken advanced training? Renovated, or added new office technology? Brag about it a bit, and let your patients know that you're working hard to keep their needs at the forefront of your practice.
  • Educational newsletters that focus on dental conditions, procedures, tips, etc. – By providing articles with content that appeals to a broad audience, you're making sure every reader finds something that sates their own curiosity.
  • Educational newsletters on elective services – How much do your patients know about cosmetic dentistry? How about modern orthodontics? Sleep appliances? Not much, obviously – and yet these elective procedures may hold answers to problems they're challenged with every day. A newsletter about teeth whitening, Botox or a sports guard is good, valuable content – even if its real goal is to generate demand for these services for your practice.

2) Frequency

No doubt, you're familiar with the idea that it takes a certain number of "impressions" for a message to be noticed. The numbers are all over the map: from three, to five, to Thomas Smith's famous bulleted list in 1885 for advertisers that suggested 20 was the magic number. The takeaway is you've got to repeat your message again and again for it to be heard and acted upon.

There is evidence of this everywhere. Think back to your days as a student. How many times did you need to read and re-read your course material to truly understand it? Or, how many times do your loved ones need to ask you to complete chores, or write a thank you card, before you do actually pick up the pen? We all need reminding, so don't be afraid to do it in your practice. Your patients expect it and welcome it.

We see the effectiveness of these reminders every day at RevenueWell in our work with over 30 million patients around the country. Overwhelmingly, offices that send multiple messages of varying themes (items like recall and reactivation emails, insurance reminder notices, birthday cards and newsletters) see an increase in booked appointments over those practices that communicate less frequently.

3) Reach

Reach is the final piece of the puzzle. You may have great content and can repeat it often, but unless you're speaking to a large enough audience, the impact will be limited at best. Marketing in general (and this applies to content marketing too) is a numbers game. You have to reach more people – and there are many ways for you to do it:

  • Social media – Reuse your content across social media channels.
  • Email marketing – Experiencing a resurgence in usefulness, email marketing works; it provides patients with an instant way to engage with your message (click to find out more, request an appointment, etc.).
  • Text messaging – Not easy to do manually across an active patient list, but simple with a solution like RevenueWell. With 61% of all people in the country tucking a smartphone in their pocket or purse every day, text messaging provides excellent reach. All you've got to do is figure out how to adapt the content to the medium. Hint: keep it brief!
  • Direct mail marketing – Past its heyday? Hardly. In fact, because patients get less direct mail now than they used to before, a well-executed direct mail promotion targeted at the right patients can perform very well.

If you want to grow and maintain your practice, you cannot operate under the false belief that you're communicating effectively and enough, if you're only talking with patients who come into the office. Doing so will leave you stuck in a dreaded Catch-22 situation: you can't talk with your patients unless they come in, and many won't come in unless you talk to them. A tool like RevenueWell can help you extend your reach by using a variety of media, making it easy to send the message out and helping you control your outreach costs through effective patient segmentation.

The largest hurdle to achieving success with content marketing is often mindset. Find peace with the fact that no matter how much consternation the idea of marketing may cause you, employing a repeatable, effective marketing system is the surest way to steady, predictable growth.