When Yellow Pages Ads are NOT Worth the Price
By: Roger Eshaghian, DDS
How much do you spend on Yellow Pages advertising each year? More important, are you getting your money's worth?
If you are not reviewing your Yellow Pages ad results on a regular basis, you may be tossing hard-earned dollars down the drain. Yellow Pages ads have a number of built-in limitations that may reduce the effectiveness of your advertising dollar and restrict your ability to reach new patients.
These limitations include:
- High cost. Depending on its size and location, a Yellow Pages ad can cost up to $20,000 per year. And you can easily spend another $5,000 designing a customized ad. At those rates, it takes a lot of patients just to break even on the cost of the ad. Plus, studies show that the phone directory companies continue to raise their fees far beyond current inflation rates.
- Cluttered media. You spend a lot of money to design and place your ad, and where do you end up? Depending on the size of your market, right next to dozens, perhaps even hundreds of dentists all competing for your next patient.
- Lack of flexibility. In today's mass-media world, it takes a variety of messages to reach your audience and motivate them to contact you. Yet, once your Yellow Pages ad goes into the directory, that's it. You can't make any changes for a full 12 months.
- Difficult to test. Because of their inflexibility, Yellow Pages ads don't allow you to test different marketing approaches. Once you place an ad, you have to wait a year to test a new headline or message. And unless a patient says they found you through the phone directory, you have no way of knowing the effectiveness of your ad.
- Reach the wrong market. Yellow Pages ads tend to attract emergency patients and telephone shoppers. While these patients can augment your regular clientele, they're not the kind of customers upon which you can build a healthy, growing practice.
Does this mean that you should never use Yellow Pages ads? Of course not. A well-designed yellow pages ad certainly has a place in any good dental marketing program. The problem is that too many dentists rely on yellow pages ads as their sole means of marketing the practice. With such a strategy, however, the chances of your dental practice reaching its full potential are slim to none.
What's needed is an effective dental marketing plan, one that overcomes the limitations of yellow pages ads and uses a variety of tools to generate the biggest bang for your marketing buck.
Four Principles of Effective Dental Practice Marketing
At this point you may be saying, "Wait a minute -- I went to dental school, not business school. I don't know the first thing about marketing." Have no fear. Contrary to what many consultants and business "gurus" would have you believe, growing your business doesn't involve rocket science. It all begins by understanding the four basic principles of marketing a dental practice:
1. Advertising and marketing are not the same.
Advertising involves a one-way communication between a business and its target market. You pay a fee for someone else to deliver a specific message in a specific medium, such as print, radio or TV. In contrast, marketing uses an interactive process to deliver a series of personalized communications that educate and inform potential customers about your business. It tells the story of what makes your dental practice unique and why patients should come to you for their dental needs.
Trying to market your practice only with yellow pages ads (advertising) is like trying to clean teeth using only a rule scaler. It gets part of the job done but not all of it. Marketing involves using all the tools at your disposal.
2. Make your marketing communications relevant and personal.
Your patients and potential patients aren't all the same. You can't treat them that way and expect to grow your practice. Good marketing communications uses patient information to create personalized, relevant messages that speak to the unique needs of each patient.
3. Use multiple methods of communications.
We live in a media-saturated world. Breaking through the information overload requires choosing the best marketing mix available to you: It could be print, direct mail, case presentation, radio or the Internet.
4. Maximize your available resources.
Any dentist can capture new patients by throwing large amounts of money into the mix. However, profitably growing your practice requires getting the most results for the least amount of money. That requires testing various approaches, identifying what works and what doesn't, and focusing your efforts on the tools and techniques that generate the best return on your investment.
Once you understand these four principles, you can begin the process of effectively growing your practice.
Effective Marketing Plans: the Only Way to Go
Dentistry is a highly personal service. Just as your personality plays a large role in attracting and retaining patients, it also has a lot to do with how you build your practice. Some dentists prefer aggressive, hard-hitting marketing campaigns that involve high visibility.
Others feel more comfortable using a soft-spoken, gentle approach. Whatever path you take, the secret to success lies in creating an effective marketing plan that fits your personality and marketing style.
An effective dental marketing plan offers many benefits. It allows you to:
- Pick and choose the marketing tools that fit your personal style as well as the needs of your practice.
- Communicate with your patients and prospective patients on a highly personal level.
- Stop wasting your dollars on ineffective, one-dimensional advertising.
- Grow your dental practice in the most cost-effective manner possible.
You only have so many dollars to allocate to your marketing budget. And you can only take so much time away from your patients to grow your practice. An effective dental marketing plan will ensure that you get the results you want.