I have control freak tendencies. Why are you giving me that look?
Come on now. You have your issues too!
Truthfully, this sometimes freakish behavior has value.
For example, you should consider it a good thing that you want to maintain control over your dental business assets. I marvel at those who face the wind while building a vibrant business (online or offline) – especially those who knock it out day in and day out with “sweat-equity.”
A recent post on Copyblogger stoked my control-freakiness. In this instance it’s a good thing.
I encourage you to read the entire post and let it prompt whatever useful insights it should in you. But I’ll cut to the chase and share what the writer, Sonia Simone, had to say about your dental business’s most valuable assets worth protecting – on the marketing side of the equation that is.
Simone affirmed the 3 assests you should be building – and for practical purposes – controlling:
1. A well-designed website or blog populated with lots of valuable content
2. An opt-in email list, ideally with a high-quality autoresponder
3. A reputation for providing impeccable value
In essence, your dental marketing content, connections, and character are of utmost importance to the lifetime value of your business.
I think you’d agree we live in an information-rich era. Social media has raised the water level somewhat. From blogs, to Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and more we’re a content fueled culture. And it’s not likely this will change.
But what must change is our due diligence to create and protect this asset (See Simone’s full post for her provoking insights on this).
Just as you’re not soon to stop promoting your dental industry products and services – you’ll not soon stop thinking of new and better ways to create compelling content.
Do a quick inventory:
-Do you have a blog? What’s the date of the most recent post? Who wrote it? Did it appeal to your niche? Was it actionable/practical information? Are your posts keyword-strategic? How are you curating content? (Curating? Huh!).
-Are you engaging your industry…clients with social media? How often do you post to Twitter and Facebook? If you’re a location based business do people have the option of “checking-in?” Do you give them any “love” for checking-in?
-How are you spotlighting your success-stories? Do you give clients, patients, constituents a feedback channel (surveys, etc.)? When someone provides outstanding feedback where do you feature it? Are you expanding your testimonials into benefit-rich case studies?
Just a few content questions to get your mind cranking.
You can have outstanding content but someone has to read and benefit from it. Your list, “tribe,” or community is the all-important asset here.
People connect with you publicly when they frequent your business location (if you’re location based). If you’re online as well, and connecting there, your best asset is a combination of email and social media.
Are your social media connections one-sided? By that I mean, if you’re the only one talking without acknowledging and giving or receiving feedback – it’s one-sided.
Social media, in particular, is more of conversation than a promotional medium. Sure, it works both ways – and most of us do our fair share of promotion via Twitter, Facebook, etc.
What if you improved your approach? Instead of primarily thinking of ways to promote, sell, and market your dental services what if you gave as much or more energy to starting conversations around them?
Use social media to ask questions specific to your industry and niche. Respond to answers with a blog post or two (more connective content).
Give people an opportunity stay engaged and conversing with you by joining your email list. Reward those who connect with a content-rich special report and/or a regular enewsletter full of practical content.
Give people a reason to connect and stay connected.
80′s pop-star, Cindy Lauper sang, “I see your true colors shining through…” (If you’re too young and saying, “Cindy who?”, hop on I-Tunes and give it a spin.)
It doesn’t take long for our “true colors” to show in today’s 2.0 marketing culture – online and offline. We’re talking character here.
Reputation is everything. And character guides reputation.
Measure your character here by how much consistent and “impeccable value” you deliver to others. Does it bug you to give valuable content away for free via your blog or enewsletter? If it does, do some character inventory. You’ll be glad you did.
Remember conversations lead to relationships that lead to more clients/patients, sales, and beyond.
You’re in business to help people, right? And that’s the truest color imaginable.
Some things are worth protecting. Character ranks high. And these days so does your content and connections related.
Sometimes I can’t get-over-myself. This occasionally happens when I write proposals to promote my services to a potential client.
My first hurdle with self promotion is taking myself just seriously enough to boldly inform someone that I’m the person to get-it-done for them. Something similar happens with product and service promotions.
The “est” syndrome.
This feature-focused disease includes promotion killing words like bigg-est…fast-est…great-est. The problem with “est” words is their potential to create unhealthy – or unnecessary – comparisons.
There’s a much better focus. I’ll share that in moment.
Think about making an impression on someone. That all important first impression makes it harder to breathe, doesn’t it?
You stress about your appearance – what to wear? You stress over your first words, how firm should your handshake be, etc.
It’s all about the feature presentation. And perhaps that’s the fear source.
When you think features – everything has to fit and flow just short of “perfect,” right?
But like all lasting relationships, you eventually move past the surface appearance and engage with what’s beneath – the real person. That’s where the relationship takes off and has staying-power.
The staying-power of your products and services have more to do with the deeper benefits than surface features.
Write your dental promotional content to the benefit level.
1) Look at the product or service with fresh eyes.
Ask – what problem does this service really solve? Then think solutions.
Perhaps you’ve focused so much creative energy on the presentation (features) that you’re missing your most compelling selling points (benefits).
2) List every possible problem the product/service solves (really, all you can think of).
This list could be creative-gold for your R&D (Research & Development) processes. Whiteboard or mind-map every possible problem and solution your dental product/service engages.
Punch-up your content with these gold nuggets. Benefits connect and compel your prospect’s emotions.
3) Leverage the results of happy users/clients/patients.
When a problem is solved with one of your products/services that’s an emotional deal. No, there may not be laughter and tears (depending on what their issue is) but now you’ve won a customer…perhaps for life!
Why? Because you engaged them at an emotional level – where a dental problem, an issue, etc was causing “pain.”
You delivered a timely and useful solution to their dilemma. And they’ll talk you up because of it.
But…they won’t if you don’t give them a venue. Testimonials, case studies, survey forms are excellent venues for this kind of “love.” Leverage them.
Seeing yourself as the solution (benefits) is much more effective than comparing yourself to everyone else (features).
YOU have a voice that’s uniquely YOU.
Get over yourself. Start using it.
I researched the book. Got intrigued. Wrote the posts. Yet I put it aside on my shelf.
Thanks to social media (amazing how it works) and a recent tweet by Nick Usborne linked to a post about Scott – his book was back in my hands all weekend.
I started dabbling in social media in 2008. A colleague (at the time) asked me over lunch if I had a Twitter and that I should get one and start tweeting. Think about how odd and a bit intimately personal that suggestion must have sounded to me at the time (“…get a Twitter…start tweeting…” Wha…?).
But I listened…just like I’m listening now.
I wasn’t ready then, and I wasn’t ready a year ago to REALLY hear what Scott Stratten has to say. Now, I’m all over it! And have been for awhile now.
In fact, social media is the primary way I’m un-marketing my business. And dental businesses and dental practices that “get” social media will un-market themselves too.
What Stratten means by un-marketing (in a nutshell) is having the mindset that marketing is more about relationships (engaging) than it is about selling (marketing without a trusted connection). The results align – people are sold – but the platform is different.
Think of social media marketing (uh, engagement) as a return to the essence of sales. It’s like a handshake long before the deal is done. It’s a connection that says – I trust you because you’ve invested time to do so.
For social media, the time investment is about information…content. And that’s where the engagement (un-marketing) starts.
What Stratten is teaching me about how to start un-marketing with social media:
1) Value relationship development.
We’ve known for eons that relationships lead to sales. But some sales relationships are like an occasional one-night-stand. Ewww…right?
Picture this – a quick mailer (the wink across the crowded bar). Then – an unsolicited email blast or two (cue creeper-pick-up-line). Continued with – a flurry of slick-eye-candy-web-popup-ads (too many drinks to remember). Boom! Sales cha-ching (“…now what was your name…?)! A tad overstated…perhaps.
Use (not abuse) social media to create trusted conversations that lead to relationships where ongoing, profitable connections are made.
2) Restore engagement to selling.
As a trained copywriter I’ve learned the necessary value of trust building. What separates profitable promotions (whether print or online) from all others is their ability to lead a reader – in a trustworthy way – to a point of decision about the product or service. And ultimately a “yes” decision.
Everyone sells. Though some (like the dental industry) don’t necessarily like using the term.
Try this – exchange sell for engage.
For the most part, engaging with social media instills a trust-oriented attitude about how you approach patients, vendors, and all prospects related.
3) Get out-of-the-box (seriously!)
I didn’t say “think-outside-the-box.” Thinking often stops short of action. And action is vital if you’re wanting to engage with social media.
I know a dental business is at least thinking outside-the-box (about un-marketing) when I see social media buttons show up on their website or email signature. And that’s a good, commendable start.
But there’s more to going social than eye-candy buttons that indicate a Twitter account, a Facebook page or a Google + presence.
Take action…engage already!
>Ask questions you/your clients/patients want answered. Social media is generous with information.
>Answer questions others are asking. Give and receive (there’s something “golden” about that rule).
>Establish a consistent routine. Random activity (not engagement) will deliver random (that’s being generous) results.
>Get help. There’s plenty of us who see engagement as an un-marketing lifestyle and not a passing trend (Check our Twitter profile feed too. Follower numbers tell less about engagement than a consistent timeline of quality…tweeted content).
Now to un-finish Stratten’s Un-Marketing book!
Portions of this post – written by yours truly – were previously published on the Dentoola blog.
Trust rules. That’s why I’ve talked about it in a post or two.
It’s among the reasons you and I check our Twitter “Follows.” Making sure a “follower” is actually a trusted individual and not some “bot” with “size-matters” issues (follow/follower-list size, that is).
Social capital (the currency of web based influence as Brogan and Smith refer to it) is built over time. Like monetary capital, social capital can be spent quick and easy or increased day by day if not minute to minute. (Read Brogan’s and Smith’s book to get a useful scope about who a “trust agent” is and what they do.)
Recognize the value of social capital and trust if you’re going to succeed using social media as a dental marketing tool. Join the social media crowd – only – if you’re willing to be a trust-builder through consistent and relevant content.
3 ways to increase your social capital by becoming a trusted voice:
Tune into channels that have a voice in your industry and/or your niche. Sort, cull, and develop a “feed” list of those who seem to have their finger-on-the-pulse of what would benefit your “crowd.” (Use Google Reader, etc.)
Who is creating or repeating (retweeting, liking) relevant, useful dental industry content? And while you’re searching, become a voice by opening a channel.
Start listening with a blog page on your website. Then launch a Twitter account followed by a Facebook page.And if you’re a networking maven get LinkedIn.
Spend time on your industry’s blogs, Twitter, and Facebook pages (see 1-”Listen”). Learn what content others are sharing. Learn how they’re sharing it and how often they share (post) their content. Learn where they curate their content.
Sure, trust is earned. It’s also learned when you become a student of others who’ve paid-their-dues to earn it!
Leverage your trust into social media capital. For example, consider how you built your dental practice. You’ve become a trusted source of patient care and treatment expertise overnight…right? Of course not.
How have you built your reputation in a specific dental industry niche? You deliver quality, useful products to a market segment on a platform of trust.
In principle, think of your social media presence in terms of how you’ve developed trust as a dental industry provider. You give excellent expertise consistently. And when people experience a dental issue who comes to mind? You, of course!
Why? They trust you!
Increase yours online as you become a trust agent – listen, learn, and leverage.
“Social Media isn’t inexpensive, it’s different expensive.”
Jay Baer said that. And what he’s talking about is important…no, vital – especially as you’re taking-the-leap into social media!
First, don’t pull-the-plug on social media or start making cuts to your marketing budget so you can plug it into your dental marketing efforts. Baer isn’t talking cash-flow.
He’s focused on something we all have the same amount of but use so ineffectively – time!
Social media takes time.
To establish a reputation on the social web involves daily participation. Content creation, engagement, customer service – however you use social media – it ALL takes time!
Jay Baer explores the time investment more thoroughly here. Let’s take a look at his two insights (options) from the article and apply them to your dental business. Understand these as you launch a social media presence or reengage the one you’ve already begun (but are finding time consuming).
“Social Media Time Management”
Consider all the time-consuming tasks you do everyday. Sending and receiving email, returning phone calls…oh, and interacting with (hopefully) a steady stream of dental business clients or dental patients – depending on your niche. And if you’re planning to get the most mileage out of your social media presence you’ll need to do a serious time inventory.
“You need to do whatever you can to tie behavior and time utilization to business results. Then, you need to jettison what you’re doing that isn’t a clear net positive, and use that new found time vacuum to fit in daily social media participation.”
Many of your social media tasks should bear your unique voice. As Baer says, “…it’s difficult to outsource your voice.”
Keep a grip on your social media efforts. But not such a tight hold that you control too much of it and thus lose control of your valuable time.
Use these social-media-time-saving hints:
>Create a content calendar with topics of interest to your dental patients, upcoming promotions, the latest dental industry news of interest, etc.
>Outsource the research and content creation. Think written as well as video and photo content too. Broaden your social media scope to include the various outsourceable help-points you have available to you.
>Keep a greenhouse of content growing. Keep blog post, tweet, and article ideas in the soil. Water them occasionally with new thoughts. When you need content it’s there and ready to go! (Evernote is a superb “greenhouse” for content and idea “growing”. Check it out!)
Social media works! But you must invest valuable time and use the tools available to help you get the most mileage for your dental marketing purposes.
“Nobody said social media was both transformative AND a slam dunk! It’s hard. Really hard. So you either need to make the time internally, get more people involved, or stay on the sidelines.”
[Portions of this article - written by me - first appeared on the Dentoola Blog-01.11.2011]
Dental industry businesses and service providers that “get” social media will move ahead of the crowd. What’s a good first step?
Choices vary these days from Twitter, to Facebook, to LinkedIn, to Google+, YouTube and more. Try one or even better test-drive all. And while you’re at it remember a foundational essential – the blog!
“…blogging is an essential ingredient to any social media strategy.”
Amy Porterfield blogged that while confessing the common uncertainty of what to write about, when to post, how to grow subscribers, and how to keep them coming back for more. “If you’ve had any of these concerns you’re not alone!”
The dental industry as a whole can benefit from the social media marketing boom. And many are getting ahead as we speak!
Blogging is an essential entry-point strategy to get the wheels moving forward.
Let’s start with some blog basics.
1-Keep it simple
A blog isn’t a novel. There’s no real pressure to create a plot, back-story, or drama. It’s simply a place to engage, inform, and inspire (more on those in a moment).
Blog about your dental industry expertise. But don’t overwhelm your reader/subscriber with industry-speak. Remember the point is to engage (make friends) not impress or worse, alienate.
Start simple with your dental blog. Give readers and subscribers something to use. What do you know about them?
> Make a list of topics. What are your clients or patients concerned about? Read other industry blogs. Get a Twitter account and scan your niche’s trending topics (look for “#” – the hashtag). Then…write simple how-to tips and post on your dental blog!
> Create an editorial calendar and regularly add ideas to it so you’re never without a seed thought or two to develop.
> Contract a blog writer. Many copywriters specialize in online writing. They know how to write compelling blog copy and load it with SEO friendly keywords (tags).
2-Keep it conversational.
Write (blog) like you would talk to a friend over drinks or dinner.
You lose and readers lose when you speak a language they don’t speak. Sure, you know your industry and the terminology like the back-of-your-hand. Just remember to keep it out-of-the-clouds and not so “lofty.”
Use your blog to engage them in not only practical knowledge but give them a place to interact with your expertise via questions and comments. A blog gives them access to your knowledge-base 24/7.
Ongoing conversations about dental trends, orthodontic supplies, CE options, practice management and consulting services, etc. builds trust that you can take to the bank! A blog spotlights your well-earned professional knowledge, skills, and services in a most engaging way.
3-Keep it civil.
Sometimes you’re tempted to use your blog to rant. Should you?
There’s some buzz about social responsibility and online content. Keep in mind that what’s said online…stays online! Take-backs may work in face-to-face conversations or print media. But online…not so much! That should determine if (perhaps the best practice), when, and how you choose to rant via your dental blog content.
Inform. Inspire. Compel…but do so responsibly!
Deliver useful, practical, actionable content on your blog. Readers will come back for more…and tell others to do the same.
Blogging is an A-level strategy for taking the leap into social media marketing. And it flows very effectively into how you can use Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube.
I wrote a recent blog post around a now favorite quote by copywriting and marketing legend, Dan Kennedy.
“The ability to organize words that motivate people to buy is a super-power.”
Written communication has the moxie to change things. If you want to win-the-day with any topic, trend, thought, service or product transform them with super-poweredness (how’s that for a cool, new word).
I’m a copywriter (and an occasional public speaker/trainer) so you’d expect me to enter the fray with words. It’s why you hire or outsource your marketing content (word-wise) to those of us with the chops to bring just-the-right words to the front-lines of whatever it is you’re promoting.
Take oral cancer prevention for instance (and take it seriously!).
I picked up an eye-catching…informative data sheet from the front office of the dental practice where I work part-time – “Common Myths About Oral Cancer.” It used the common Myth-vs-Fact approach to heighten awareness of this life-threatening issue.
The more I’ve reflected on the “Facts” the more I believe that super-powered content can shift the battle against this killer that takes 9,000 lives annually out of the 34,000 impacted by it (more deaths per year, by the way, than melanoma and cervical cancer).
The super-power ability in me (thanks to Dan Kennedy) wants to go all Captain America on this health threat.
Words motivate! And there are strategic ways to organize them to compel people to have awareness and take action against something as serious as oral cancer – or whatever you’re promoting.
Someone has taken on oral cancer and won! Perhaps the tipping-point was an oral cancer screening product used by a savvy dental practice. Maybe a hygienist’s knowledge gained via a particular continuing education course trained her in what to look for. Could be that a practice management firm with a strong bent towards oral cancer steered their practices in the right direction towards state-of-the-art screening technologies.
A well-researched, compellingly written case study tells THAT story. And what better story than a life spared.
>A White paper or Special report
Sometimes the mountain of data must be distilled to its essence. Too much technical jargon numbs your readers or market to the real-life impact of something as threatening, in this instance, as oral cancer.
A white paper or a special report cuts-to-the-chase.
Their unique format states the problem and offers an expert solution (that’s you and your product, service, or information). These also communicate well to an audience that is typically accustomed to a more academic, technical approach. And they do it without the – sometimes necessary – word volume associated with standard technical writing.
>Social Media (didn’t think I’d leave it out did you?)
Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, Google+, YouTube, QR Coding, etc. provide a steady-stream opportunity to become a content super-power. Link back to big-gun content like case studies, white papers, special reports, web content, blog posts, etc.
Social media provides the opportunity to get chatty and occasionally frontal about the topic at hand.
Engaging dental social media builds trust. And dental businesses and dental service providers on the front-lines of social media will increasingly be viewed as industry experts.
That’s the big idea, really. Whether you’re talking about oral cancer or promoting dental products and services that offer preventative solutions – you want an “expert” in your corner…right?
Even better…how about some super-poweredness?
You receive a marketing piece via mail…and Wow! Or you log onto a website and the embedded flash reminds you of a Vegas show. My first, fleeting thought is – “Someone dropped some cash on that…!”
Hold that thought…because there’s a deeper question that begs answering. And it’s a question that the ever-changing marketing landscape asks with the persistence of a 5 year old on a vacation road-trip – “Are we there yet…Are we there yet…!”
Here’s the question: “Would I do business with them because the promotion was pure eye-candy or because it engaged me?”
Engagement matters! And that’s why social media rocks the establishment today and will continue doing so.
It’s creating entirely fresh ways of measuring whether your dental marketing and dental copywriting is hitting its intended target. And it further challenges you to be all the more intentional with your marketing.
Marketing content that’s attractive and marketing content that attracts are two different things.
These 5 questions from an article on eMarketer.com provide an important measure for creating marketing content that attracts (not just attractive content):
1—“Is the content unique?”
Don’t confuse “unique” with out-of-the-box! Be unique by highlighting the deeper benefits of your dental services more than your competitors do. Remember many companies are content to stick with the surface, feature-fluff while ignoring the real solutions their products and services deliver.
Answer the question – what makes us uniquely capable of meeting that client’s need? Steer your content in that direction.
2—“Is the content useful?”
Make your marketing message actionable. When a prospective dental industry client reads one of your Twitter or Facebook feeds are they persuaded to take action? That action could be as simple as clicking a link to a blog post or taking advantage of your clearly stated promotion by surfing over to your website.
Ask them to do something through actionable content. “Useful” content addresses your prospect’s needs…desires…lifestyle. For example, your ad for an orthodontic product or service should tap into their emotions more than it spotlights the latest…greatest technology!
Measure by usefulness!
3—“Is the content well-executed?”
Twitter works as social media platform mainly because of its 140 character limit. It forces tight, sharp, to-the-point content. Say what you will about our culture of social media sound-bytes – it’s actually helping us cut through the clutter and just say it!
What’s the message of the moment for your dental business? Social media helps you say it clearly.
4—“Is the content fun?”
Twitter earned a shout-out in the previous point. Facebook gets its turn in the spotlight now. As a social media platform, a Facebook page helps keep content fun. Photos and comments from a company gathering, an outing, or a client success story keep the fun-factor alive. And don’t forget the “places” feature. It adds value if you’re a location based business such as a dental practice.
The new Facebook video chat feature rolling out as we speak will add another layer of connective-engagement. Go face to face via the Skype-based tool with a potential or current client states or a continent away!
Make sure your content puts a smile on the faces of those you do business with. It’s contagious!
5—“Does the content make good use of the channel in which it appears (e.g., social, mobile, video)?”
Again, this is about “execution.”. It’s vital to fully maximize your marketing “channels.” And knowing which to use is as important as how they’re used.
Begin now to run all your marketing content – especially social media – through this 5-Question Filter.
Some post-Independence Day reflection has me thinking about the value of the holiday – given what it represents.
We celebrate with fireworks, grilling some form of meat, sipping a cold beverage, hanging-out with friends and family. And we remember – at the “twilight’s last gleaming”…as a celebratory burst of fireworks explodes overhead – to reflect on what it means to be American.
Think about it – you and I have freedom. The undeniable freedom to live, earn, and prosper in this great country!
Declare Your Independence
In the dental business, as in any business, true freedom is knowing what makes your products/services unique. Your USP (Unique Selling Proposition) gives you the confidence to stand independently among your competition.
How uniquely independent is the copywriting that promotes your dental services and products? Have you established your independence in the dental industry marketplace with outstanding copywriting?
3 Steps to Declaring Your Independence from Your Competitors
In the spirit of independence and all things freedom, consider your dental business growth in the first half of this year. It is, after all, July. You’re halfway through the calendar and either celebrating the profits to date or evaluating how you can emerge profitable at the end of the two remaining quarters come December.
Before you think “Jingle Bells” and mistletoe (that’ll be here soon enough) let’s do some mid-year evaluation of your marketing resources in the shadow of the the recent July 4th holiday and the ole’ “red, white, & blue.”
Exercise some freedom of thought by applying the following steps to your marketing content.
Read…Write &…Renew… (think red, white, & blue)
Reading your dental marketing copy with fresh eyes could be the key to increasing your second-half profits. Begin to read your promotions with a more critical eye.
Start right now! Pull up your current promotion. Scroll over to your website. Check out your latest blog post, tweet on Twitter, or Facebook page post.
Does each uniquely declare your dental market independence? Do the words suggest that you’re offering something different than every other solution currently available?
Often a business relies on outdated, over-done, over-written copy and expects it to work its magic on prospects and clients. Is it?
Eye the promotions that arrive in your email in-box and your postal mail. Which ones get your attention? What is it about the content that draws you in, inviting you to read further?
Compare it to your A-Level marketing piece. Differences?
The keywords and concepts you glean from the vast amount of copywriting you receive via postal mail and email might be good-as-gold to your business.
It’s been my practice to read a market proven promotion such as a direct-mail or online sales letter (I’ve got files and book full of them). Typically I’ll read the same one over and over again for a period of days during a given week. Then I’ll hand write a large portion of the copy word for word on a blank sheet of paper.
This discipline – rote as it may seem – ingrains key concepts and copywriting strategies in my mind (like hitting golf balls on the range…taking batting practice…shooting free-throw after free-throw). Perhaps you’re thinking that’s too much work (but remember this is my chosen field).
The principle holds – establish your dental market uniqueness and independence by schooling yourself in what’s working (and not working) in your industry niche. It serves the process to *write* down what you like about the copy, keywords, how they’re used, etc.
Halfway through the year is a great time to renew your dental marketing resources. What profits are you leaving-off-the-table as result of ineffective promotions?
Test a new sales letter, a fresh product case study, an email promotion, your web page copy, etc. against your current ones. You’ll never know if what you’ve been mailing, sending-out, or posting on your website could be improved until you test it. When sales increase (or decrease) you’ll know your renewal efforts and/or costs were or will be worth it.
Apply these simple steps to your business promotions. Declare your independence from your competitors.
That’s the kind of freedom you can take-to-the-bank.