Dentists Forced To Market More As Appointments Dry Up

The Wall Street Journal Reports that dentists are being forced to focus more on advertising, since their regular and recurring appointments are decreasing.
The WSJ writes In the slowdown, even dentists are feeling the pinch.David Wong, who runs a private practice with his wife in Tulsa, Okla., has seen his business slip 10% since the beginning of this year. That has him spending more time marketing and less time cleaning or pulling teeth.
Dr. Wong has upped his advertising, taking advantage of low newspaper and broadcast rates, and now sends email reminders to customers on top of traditional mailed postcards. He is even on Twitter, aiming to connect with customers as “not just the guy in a white coat with a drill in his hand.”
“It’s a lot more work,” he admits. “You can’t go to the office and just be a dentist anymore; you have to go to the office and be a dentist and a CEO.”

Jim Blasingame and I were recently discussing on his radio show Small Business Advocate how this recession will force, even more so, small businesses to rethink their entire business and in particular their marketing to customers.
This means that business MUST market smarter and more. They must do more to RETAIN customers (capture their contact information, sell to them much more targeted, etc).
Here’s my take on some tips and resources you should take advantage of.

Businesses cannot afford to NOT have an email newsletter.
Campaigner, Constant Contact, Vertical Response, iContact, and Office Live, all make it relatively easy to create an email newsletter.
Most of these companies have tremendous resources to help you do your email newsletter and make sure it’s a success. Also check out Clickz’s email marketing section.
Capturing Customer information, as dentists do already is so important. NOT just to have a record of your customers but to REACH out to them. Many dentists send reminders to their patients about their appointments, but how many send INFORMATION to their patients about how to better take care of their teeth?
Capturing customer information is not hard. Most dental offices have databases for customers already.
For those of you who don’t: You can capture information online, using a form that customers can fill in and automatically add their information to a database.
You can easily setup a database for customers who walk in to your office that you receptionist can fill in or customers can fill in on their own.
For retail stores, your point of sale system (such as QuickBooks Point of Sale) can capture customer information as well.
Online marketing is not hard, it just takes patience. You have to try. Test. And try again – just like shooting or something. Aim. Fire. Aim.
Some advertising options are: using cost per click search engine marketing, optimizing your local search listings (see Google local) and optimize your web site so when people search on key words your web site comes up (see the guys at OrangeSoda).
Another thing to do is use social media. For example, find customers who need your product/service via Twitter or Facebook – you MUST market online.
Let’s learn a lesson from the dentists. Don’t market when it’s too late.
Have a marketing plan which will enable you to:
Retain customer information.
Send information to them.
Market to them based on their preferences.
Actively market online to find new customers.
It’s that simple.
Also, YOU don’t have to do this yourself. Hire someone who can help you manage your online marketing activities. They can be an online marketing guru, or check out a virtual administrative / virtual assistant who is quite handy and has experience in these things. You can find some great help on Elance.