Location. It’s one of the biggest decisions you make for your practice, and yet one that doctors give surprisingly little thought to. Whether you’re thinking about a move or locked into your current location for the next 20 years, here are some things to think about when it comes to dental marketing and your location.
Before you choose a location
If you’re thinking about moving or building a new office, consider the impact of the practice location before you sign the lease or purchase the land. These factors may seem trivial now, but the long term implications are bigger for future dental marketing than you might realize.
1. Is this office location highly visible? Sure, it’s more peaceful to have an office on a side street in a residential neighborhood, but your drive-by traffic can be severely compromised. Just like any business, visibility is important to a dental office. Be sure to choose a location with good traffic, where your office and dental sign can be visible day and night. You don’t need to be on main street, but don’t hide back in a large, generic office complex or on a quiet side street.
2. What are the signage regulations? Check with local municipal regulations regarding signage before you move in. I know of a gorgeous office in New Jersey that is only allowed a 2-foot wide sign, barely big enough for the practice name and definitely not visible from the street. Signage is a one-time investment and often brings in at least a few patients each month who walk or drive by, ensuring an excellent long term ROI.
3. Do the demographics of this community match my target patient demographics? It’s important to be realistic about the community you plan to build a practice in. Not sure who is in your future neighborhood? Go to www.clrsearch.com (yes, it’s a real estate site but when you type in the zip, you’ll get all the demos you could ask for) and type in the zip for your proposed practice address and a few surrounding towns. Check out the total population count, education level, ethnicity, median income, unemployment and poverty levels for your area. You might be surprised at what you find.
If you want a high level restorative or cosmetic practice but your immediate zip code boasts a median income of $34,000 and only 23% of the adults have a bachelor’s degree, consider a different community. Still want to settle your practice in this town? You may need to change your expectations for the type of dentistry patients will be willing to commit to.
I’m already in my location. What can I do?
So you’re stuck where you are. Literally. No need to give up, there are things you can do to make yourself more visible, even if your office location isn’t.
1. Get creative with your dental office signage. Dr. Charley Varipapa once had an office where the signage could only be a certain height off the ground, as per municipal regulations. Unfortunately, that limitation severely restricted the visibility of his signage to drive-by traffic. So Charley trucked in a load of soil and “raised” the ground. Problem solved.
Another office found their signage was blocked to northbound traffic by the neighbor’s trees. They asked the neighbor if they could remove the trees (at the doctors cost) and then planted new trees in a more strategic location. Both parties were happy with the result. Don’t assume you can’t do anything – sometimes all you have to do is ask!
2. Make yourself visible with dental advertising. So what if your practice is in a small town miles from your target patient demographic – don’t give up! Create “visibility” with radio, television, print, direct mail and web. Develop a marketing position for your practice by telling patients how you’re worth the drive. Draw attention to the negative (you know they’re already thinking it) and make it a positive!
3. Market to the demographics that live in your area.You want to do fee-for-service dentistry but you live in a community with highly skilled blue collar workers who rely on their insurance. Don’t resign yourself to a life of silver fillings and crown of the year patients just yet. Instead, change your message. Imagine a postcard with side-by-side images of an ugly silver filling and a composite filling, captioned “what your insurance covers” and “healthier, and only $100 more.” Show patients what a small difference there really is for significantly better care. Build value.
Clearly, location has far more impact on your marketing than you might have realized. The next time your real estate agent preaches “location, location, location!” you’ll have a better appreciation for the statement!