Monday, July 29, 2013

Traditional Word of Mouth vs. Digital Marketing

I’m curious to hear your thoughts on this topic.

What are your thoughts regarding traditional word of mouth versus digital marketing (including social media) to build your practice?

So, if you’ve read previous posts or if you follow me (@Social Media DDS), you already know that I think that digital marketing (including social media) is a powerful tool. When I speak to dentists, I am surprised by how many are still holding fast to the traditional word of mouth strategy. They are relying almost entirely on their patients for recommendations to build their business, without any hat tip to digital marketing at all. What confuses me is that many of these dentists have seen their new-patient numbers dramatically drop, yet they continue to hold onto that traditional word of mouth marketing raft, hoping it will save them in a sea of speeding social media marketing watercraft. Despite compelling statistics and a plethora of helpful information available to them, they still think that digital marketing is a fad and that it will go away.

Digital marketing and social media are not going away. So, why fight it? Why not work with it?

One of the ways that I hit home most effectively in my presentations to dental professionals is to demonstrate to them how social media actually IS the new word of mouth, just on a much larger scale. And, truth be told, having a much larger audience receiving our message is what it is all about!

By incorporating a digital marketing strategy, your office can run promotions that will reach far beyond your patient base. That said, tapping into the loyalty of your existing patient base is absolutely another way of extending your reach. Incentivizing your patients to recommend your office to their family and friends will increase your visibility and is the very best word of mouth out there. Taking that in-office promotion to the next tier, Facebook for example, will increase that visibility even further. It’s hard to say no to controlled exposure.

Here’s the thing. Let’s say you are perfectly content with your current patient base. Let’s say that if another new patient never walks into your front door, you will be fine. What about Dr. Prospective-Buyer in your future? Who is going to be more attractive to Dr. Prospective-Buyer: a dental business that has no marketing infrastructure and growth potential or your stagnant but satisfactory dental business with no digital infrastructure? My money is on the business with a digital marketing infrastructure.

Does it take work? Of course it does. But, then, anything worth having requires effort. And isn’t your business worth that effort? Aren’t the long term rewards worth putting in the sweat equity now?

What are your thoughts?

Claudia Anderson, DDS


gatordmd said...


I have to say that I am a big word of mouth believer but I am dabbling in, while holding my nose, social media.

Here is why.
I built my practice on old school techniques. I plopped myself down in a community and grew with it. I joined and was involved in the local church. I joined and was involved in the local Rotary. I got to know people FACE TO FACE. I speak at the local elementary schools. I do health fairs. We have booths at the "Taste of the town". We sponsor baseball teams.
Seeing people, shaking their hands.
I do Dentistry From the Heart every year. People know me and my practice as a rock in this community.

Now my associate comes in and I tell him how I did it. And he says, "yeah, old timer but how many "likes" do you have on your Facebook page? I told him that I didn't know. I was just happy to have an office Facebook page.
We incentivize our patients to "check-in" and "like" us with a drawing but that is about it.

He is like a FB wiz. He has posted 200% more than I have in the last two weeks than I have in 2 years.
And I have to admit we have a bunch more "likes" than we had just 3 weeks ago.

But I have to be honest with you. I support him and what he is doing but still not a huge believer.
You know when I will believe it, when that first person walks in the the door saying they found us on Facebook.

Oh, I have to go I have a member of the Rotary in my chair and a church member waiting in the reception area.


I say that last part tongue and cheek but still a little seriously. I believe FB is the new word of mouth but it shouldn't be the only thing you are doing. It has to be part of your whole marketing plan.

Claudia Anderson-Scimeca said...

Hi John! Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts regarding digital media vs word of mouth. First, let me say that it is possible that I didn't make my appreciation and acknowledgment of how important traditional word of mouth marketing is. It IS the most tried and true form of marketing and I LOVE when patients come to us because of that valuable word of mouth connection or because they have met one of my dentists or myself and liked the relationship we established with them and therefore, wanted to entrust us with their dental health. There is nothing like that trust and validation. That said, your last two sentences in your comment said it all in a nutshell..."I believe FB is the new word of mouth but it shouldn't be the only thing you are doing. It has to be part of your whole marketing plan" That is exactly right. What digital marketing allows us is just another option to enter into the virtual world to increase our visibility and, if that visibility is accompanied by credibility and engagement, perhaps a new patient. Digital media should just be PART of your marketing strategy...not the only thing. Digital media results are not only about the bottom line is about increasing awareness and making connections that can/may affect your numbers down the road. The combination of your solid and well established word of mouth connections that you have made and your associate's enthusiasm to partake in digital/social media is going to be a very powerful one-two punch that I think you are going to find very valuable. Thanks for being open to the possibility of digital/social media!

lilya Horowitz DDS said...

Claudia and John,

This is definitely a topic that many people have starting thinking about. As an associate in a practice less than 2 years old with an average patient age of under 40, we rely HEAVILY on social media and internet marketing to get patients in the door. I also see the value of getting to know patients in your town on a more personal basis. I use social media all the time, I follow friends, acquaintances and bloggers I have never met on platforms like Twitter. I rely on their opinions when considering what type of juicer or mascara to buy, but healthcare is a whole different animal. It is more personal, and I do not think most people are willing to be as open about going to their dentist on Facebook and Twitter, and this is how you are trying to visible, by having existing patients recommend you online. There is also a tremendous difference on the age of the patients you are seeking out. Someone that is 25 is much less conditioned to establish a personal connection with you than someone that is middle-aged. One thing is for sure,is that the social media generation is only going to increase with time, and a young associate can be a valuable asset in helping you connect with those types of patients!


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