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When To Start Marketing Your Scratch Practice — Wonderist’s 5-Step Process

It may seem far off now, but if you’ve decided to open your own practice, your marketing clock is already ticking. Developing your brand, your website, and your marketing channels takes more time than people usually think. Whether your opening date is 2 years away, or in 6 months, the time to start marketing is now.

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It may seem far off now, but if you’ve decided to open your own practice, your marketing clock is already ticking. Developing your brand, your website, and your marketing channels takes more time than people usually think. Whether your opening date is 2 years away, or in 6 months, the time to start marketing is now.

Our marketing specialists at Wonderist Agency recommend you begin conceptualizing and marketing your practice one year before you open. This timeframe will help you account for all the variables along the way like — knock on wood — construction delays. Feeling a little lost as to where to start? Here’s our tried and true 5-step method for marketing your scratch practice:

1. Consider Your Goals (12 Months Before Opening)

Whether you’re going to sign with a marketing agency, a consultant group, or go it alone, the first step you need to take as a practice owner is to consider your long-term and short-term goals. Do you plan to hire an associate? Do you want to grow and add multiple locations? What is your exit strategy?

Asking yourself these integral questions will be the basis for your marketing and branding plan. As a scratch practice you will likely need:

  • A unique brand (logo and name)
  • A digital presence (website and social media)
  • Digital marketing strategies (search engine optimization, paid ads)
  • Local marketing (collateral and direct mail)

There is a long list of things to check off, and you don’t have to do them all with a marketing team, but you do have to have a concrete plan. If you plan to work with an agency, it’s time to sign that contract. If you plan to go it alone, it’s time to dig in and determine your message. (Hint, hint: it’s time to do a little market research!)

2. Determine Your Differentiators (10 Months Before Opening)

In order to have a successful practice, you need to take a keen look at your market which consists of your patients and your competition. You should consider who your prospective patients are, their needs, and how you can add value to their lives. It is also important to consider what other dental practices are saying. If your marketing message is saying the same thing as all the other practices in the area, (e.g. “What sets us apart is how we actually care for our patients!”) your message is going to get lost in the crowd. That’s why considering your competition is essential to understanding your market and thus, one of the first steps in building your brand message.

The name of the game in marketing is no longer “build it and they will come,” now it’s “become what your people need.”  Consider what unique value you’re going to add to your community and lean into that to develop your brand and your voice. Your specific story and the way you tell it is what will help you stand out in your market and drive patients through your doors.

Maybe you have a completely unique aesthetic and ambiance. Maybe you’re going to offer complimentary kombucha on tap. Maybe you’re going to have the most updated technology in the market. You could even lean into a small-business feel if your area is saturated with DSOs and corporate dental offices.

If you’re feeling stumped as to what sets you apart, it may be time to ask for help! That’s where a trusty marketing agency, like Wonderist, comes in handy. We even have a Doing Dentistry Differently Guide that can help you do some discovery and find out what makes you and your practice unique.

3. Develop Your Brand (6 Months Before Opening)

Once you’ve considered your goals, your community, and your patients’ needs, now the real fun begins! It’s time to actually see your brand come to life. At least 6 months before you open, you should be seeking help from your marketing agency or a designer and copywriter to develop your brand. This time frame allows you enough room to solidify your brand before you begin creating your website and diving into your marketing channels.

If 6 months seems too far out, consider the caliber of deliverables on the line. In many cases, you’ll be investing in a practice name, a tagline, and a logo. Cookie cutter approaches might deliver quickly, but may be lacking in quality and authenticity. Rush jobs can actually cost you more time and money in the long run if you end up having to scrap it and start over.  

You’ll want your brand to be a reflection of you and your practice, and producing quality custom work will take time. Trust us, it’s worth it to do it right the first time. A quality brand will yield a higher ROI and make a more memorable first impression in your market. As a rule of thumb, a conservative scope of work for building your brand will look something like this:

  • Practice Naming & Tagline Creation (your brand voice and message) — 2-4 weeks
  • Logo Creation — 6-8 weeks

If you’re doing the math, that adds up to 2-3 months for your brand creation alone. Plan accordingly. Working with a reputable marketing agency, like Wonderist, will ensure you are meeting your goals and building an authentic brand from the start. We also have contingency plans if things end up running behind schedule.

4. Create Authentic Content (3 Months Before Opening)

You’ve probably heard the phrase, “authentic content converts”. Potential patients don’t want to see stock photos and lackluster content. They want to get to know you, your team, and what your practice has to offer before they book the appointment. A successful website will do just that. That is why we recommend that you have your website underway about 3 months before you plan to open. That includes:

  • A Completed Brand (and access to all necessary files)
  • Photo & Video (the shoot has wrapped and photos and video have been edited)
  • Approval on Foundational Website Deliverables (site map, style guide, and wireframes)

Your website is likely one of the first interactions a prospective patient will have with your practice, so it’s imperative to make a good first impression. As a major lead funnel, your website should be easy to navigate, aesthetically pleasing, and informative.

A reputable marketing team will ensure that you are flexing your differentiators, highlighting your most lucrative services, and providing the key information that patients are looking for so they feel comfortable choosing you. Building your patient base as a scratch practice can be tricky, but an optimized website is a dynamic tool that will give you valuable traction in your market.

5. Reach Your Audience (1 Month Before Opening)

At this point, the light at the end of the tunnel is growing brighter. Get out that oversized ribbon and the comically large scissors, because it’s almost time to open your doors! But, before you cut that proverbial ribbon, you’re going to need to launch ongoing services to ensure you have patients to treat on day 1.

About 1 month before you open, you should launch your paid ads and SEO campaigns and set up your social media presence (if you haven’t done so already! — documenting your journey from the beginning will help you gain a following).

For your ad campaigns, you’ll need to decide what services and value-prop offers you want to highlight. Again, this will be determined by your goals. For example, if you’re trying to get more dental implant cases, then running a dental implant special and targeting implant keywords is the way to go.

In addition to paid ads and search engine optimization, now’s the time to decide if you want to run your Instagram and Facebook accounts yourself, delegate it to an internal staff member, or even pass it off to your marketing team. There’s no wrong answer, you just need to be honest with yourself regarding your expectations and workload.

If you’re curious about how leveraging an external marketing agency for social media and ongoing campaigns works, let us know. We’d be happy to make your online presence one less thing to worry about.

6. Bonus Step: Capture Leads & Follow Up (1 Month Before Opening Day & Beyond)

But wait! There’s more! We have a bonus step to help you take your marketing to the next level.

Your ongoing services will be vital in generating traffic to your new website and getting leads to call and schedule an appointment. But those leads are usually already interested in booking. What about the patients who need a little more time to warm up?  

Don’t leave a single lead on the table. Investing in tools and software that automatically follow up and nurture your leads is essential if you want to consistently have a full schedule. That’s why at Wonderist we recommend WonderFunnels.

WonderFunnels use automated texts and emails to capture and nurture the leads who aren’t quite ready to pull the trigger. Because it’s automated, it eases the burden on you and your internal team and streamlines your processes. We give you access to a CRM, one central spot for you to communicate with all your leads, and a dashboard to monitor lead value, estimated production, overall campaign success, and case acceptance.

Interested in learning more? Schedule a call with our team.

Ready to Receive the Best Dental Marketing With a Smile?

If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed with the opening of your start-up practice on the horizon, don’t worry! That’s perfectly normal. Some doctors are excited to hop on Instagram and shout about their practice from the rooftops. For others, there’s nothing they’d rather do less.

No matter where you fall on the spectrum, Wonderist Agency is here to help with honest, straight-forward guidance. We’ve successfully launched over 250 scratch dental practices in the last four years, and would love to help show you the way. If you’re ready to kick your practice off the right way, get in touch with our team today for a complimentary consultation!