The Marketing Statistics Paradox

Marketing today is not what it was 20 years ago…

When I speak with dentists that come to me as dental marketing clients, I occasionally see a common misconception on how to look at new patients’ statistics.

By all means, this is not meant to judge or to make someone look bad.

Compared to my clients, I am ignorant on dental procedure, and I don’t expect them to be experts on my profession.

In the past, you could differentiate between your marketing channels and know exactly what is the ROI from each.

You could have a different phone number (that is tracked) on each channel, and religiously ask patients how they’d found you. In that way, you could know how many people came through Yellow Pages, billboards, postcards, Google, etc.

For me, as a marketing company owner, is was great! I loved being able to track and know where to add or trim. Heck, I loved the metrics so much that I even called my company DentoMetrix!

But these days, it is not so clear.

Patients are exposed to different mediums and channels and the lines are not clear anymore.

You may do campaigns that are geared for exposure and name recognition, being top-of-mind in your prospective patients’ head, and then a small trigger like seeing your sign, hearing your name at a party, or a minor promotion, can trigger the call. Maybe if the retargeting/ brand exposure campaigns were not done, the same trigger would not work.

It is a well-known marketing fact that you need multiple touch points to get someone to act. The number of touch points increases in time as people are exposed to more ads and shortened attention span. The touch point that generated the call didn’t do it all by itself.

There is another point – the actual “choosing” or “buying” process has changed.

In the past, especially pre-internet and social media, if you need a dentist, you would ask a trusted source, like a family member or a friend, and go to the dentist they recommended.

On top of that, dentists were not promoting as much as they do today (for several reasons, I want to keep it brief here so I will not elaborate). That means that patients are exposed to a lot more options these days.

From actual research (by CONE), the vast majority of consumers that are getting recommendations from family and friends, are not accepting them at face value anymore and are going to check on those recommendations and decide about their provider based on other factors such as reviews, impression from their website, social proof (including SEO), and more.

Now, usually, it is not one person they are asking. 

People these days are aware that different people may have different preferences and experiences. That is why people read more than one review on an item they want to buy.

So they are getting names and then deciding who to call.

In addition to asking around, they may conduct their own research. For example, they search for a dentist on Google and see 3-4 names that are ranked on page 1. This is good, but then they ask for referral. When they get a name that they also found on their initial search, that dentist gets an advantage over the others. If his or her website is decent, and the reviews are good, we may have a winner.

But here’s an issue: when asked “how did you find us?” they will probably not tell about the Google search (there is a stigma for lower level leads coming cold like that), most will much rather tell about the referring person. That way they may get a better treatment and their friend will get “brownie points” with the dentist (“tell them I referred you”).

They real answer to “how did you hear of us?” is more complex. It’ll be something like – “I have been seeing some Facebook ads from your office in the last few months. When I had the need for a dentist, I googled “dentist in [city]” and saw your name coming as #2, then I asked my friends (in person and on social media) and got 15 names. Your name was one of them as it came up 3 times, but since I remembered you from my search, I googled the name of your practice and saw you have good and recent reviews, and your website looks neat and updated, so I thought to give you a call…”

Here is a real example.

Below you can see a screenshot of a Facebook page. This group is for residents of Middletown, NJ, and there are over 29,000 members in this group. Occasionally people are asking for recommendations and in the screenshot you see someone asking for a dentist.

They got 183 replies!

I started counting for how many different dentists and when I passed 20, I stopped.

Months and years later, other people that are looking for a local dentist, just need to search the group and can see several posts like this one and have potentially 50 options for a dentist.

So, now here is an example of the misconception I was telling you about at the top of this article.

A dentist can get a low number of new patients. They decide to invest in good marketing and as a results they now rank high on the search results, they have a great website that reflects their excellence, and they maintain a 5-stars reputation.

As a result, their number of new patients increase.

Now, if they do not understand how the system works, they can think “well, most of our new patients are coming from referrals, so the other channels are not important.”

But months before, they didn’t get those referrals calling them. People chose another provider over them (because they are getting referrals to multiple dentists – sometimes 20 or more, as we’ve seen). Now, several factors combine forces to get those people to choose them over other options.

We cannot know exactly what the strength of each of the different factors/ channels is. That may be a subject for high level academic research, but from my experience those factors can change from location to location and from person to person.

Gone are the days you can differentiate between website traffic, Google My Business (maps), Google Search, Facebook, etc.

The exception is running a direct marketing campaign with a specific incentive (“call us and get X”). When you have that incentive, you can quantify a bit better the business coming from this promotion.

Otherwise, we need to focus on increase of business across the boards. All new business is welcome. We may not