Mass mediums: will they bring the teeming masses to YOUR practice?

This is the first in a three-part blog series on the topic of high-risk marketing mediums. The dental marketing mediums that fall into the high-risk category include billboards, the yellow pages, radio and television. In each of these blog postings, we will give you an overview of the advantages and disadvantages associated with each one.

We’re not ad reps or sales managers. We don’t earn a commission by persuading you to use one type of marketing medium over another. We’re not here to convince you to use this and not that. We’re independent marketing professionals, and we’re here to provide you with an unbiased, unvarnished appraisal of each medium’s advantages and disadvantages so that you can make an informed decision about which one will work best for you. We’ll show you what costs are involved, what the risks are, and what the rules are for getting the most out of the medium.

We’re going to start by covering one of the two mass mediums that many dentists want to try first. This blog posting will be focused on radio advertising. Our second blog posting, in the high-risk marketing mediums series, will be about advertising on television. Both radio and television, are held in very high regard among most dentists, because they seem to offer far greater impact and reach than other types of media, such as online marketing or direct mail. And quite frankly, television and radio have a certain glamour factor that’s hard to resist. Who doesn’t want to be on TV?! It’s instant celebrity, right?

Our final blog posting in this series will cover both billboards and the yellow pages. Once you have finished our high-risk dental marketing mediums blog series, we will have downloaded years of marketing expertise into your head, and you’ll have the knowledge you need to be able to make smart decisions about what mass mediums are right for YOUR practice. With the knowledge you have gained you will be able to answer these questions: “Will mass mediums really deliver the kinds of results that justify those high price tags? Are they really the right way to go for your practice?”

Radio: solid potential, but it’s NOT for everyone

Radio can be a very effective medium to promote a dental practice. It’s also one that—along with television—many dentists are eager to try.

Choosing radio as a marketing vehicle is tricky. On one hand in some markets, it can be a tremendous vehicle through which to breed familiarity with your practice or even a specific procedure that you provide in your practice. The reality is, there are too many variables involved with determining whether radio is right in your particular market, in your particular situation for us to be accurate in our recommendations for your personal dental practice. However, we can offer some guidelines and some special situations where we have seen radio do quite well. Let’s discuss the most common scenario, a solo dental practice that has been in existence for 10 years with a marketing budget of $50k per year.

If you’re interested in advertising on the radio in this situation, we want you to answer the following questions:

  • Do you currently have a well-designed website in place?
  • Do you regularly send out direct mail pieces?
  • Do you conduct internal promotions and/or offer referral program?
  • Do you regularly advertise in print media, such as the local newspaper and/or magazines?
  • Have you had a marketing budget and a marketing plan in place for more than three years?
  • Does your practice earn a minimum of $1.5 million in revenues per year?
  • Are you in a position to take a risk with your marketing budget?

If you answered no to a single one of these questions, we would advise you against getting into radio. Our reasoning is:

  1. If you haven’t fully explored Internet, direct mail, internal and print media, you’re not going to see much benefit from participation in radio. We get into the specific reasons for this in chapter six, but essentially, there is a statistically proven, ideal sequence in which you should deploy the various types of mediums. Skipping straight to radio is just a waste of money.
  2. If you are new to marketing, you have many more effective options available to you before advertising on the radio. Radio advertising should be added to a mature campaign that already includes the marketing media described in point #1 above.
  3. If your current revenues are below a certain amount, you will simply not have the budget to sustain an effective radio ad campaign. We’ll be talking about ‘frequency and reach’ below, and showing you why skimping on a radio-advertising budget is the worst thing you can do.

Now, if you DO meet all the criteria for radio advertising, or you want to look into it for the future, here are some pointers to help you use this medium to maximum advantage.

Applying your initial budget

Let’s stay with our example practice and look at a reasonable radio budget. Let’s say your radio budget is 40% of your total annual marketing budget. Should you divide your radio budget by 12 months? Probably not. We are going to give you a different perspective. We know, and you need to understand before going into radio, that radio is the type of medium that works best with a concentrated number of exposures. Therefore, if you took your total radio budget and spread it out over 12 months, you would likely give up on your radio campaign prematurely simply because you did not accumulate enough exposure to begin to generate your desired returns.

Here’s the reality. Radio works best with a concentration of impressions that is higher than most dentists’ budgetary tolerance.

Choosing the right radio stations

We strongly recommend that you hire a media planner or media buyer to help you select the right radio stations for your radio ads. Media planners and buyers are marketing professionals who specialize in understanding a specific station’s market profile and helping you determine the best use of your budget to effectively reach as many of the right people as possible. It’s a fairly complex set of skills, which is why we, as marketing professionals, employ these specialists all the time when one of our clients needs to launch a radio marketing campaign. A media planner/buyer has access to analysis data that people outside the profession just don’t have, and they know how to interpret the data to make excellent decisions. Because they buy ad space in bulk for a range of clients, they also have buying power that you, as an individual, just can’t match. Most radio stations are owned by one of five big media conglomerates. A national media buyer pools all of their airtime buys and can typically get better rates from the big media company.

However, if you’re determined to manage your media buy yourself, or if you’re just curious about what factors are involved in the decision-making process, here are some considerations:

Footprint: The radio station tower should service your entire core market (a 10- mile radius around your practice). If it does not service your entire core market, consider a different radio station. Conversely, the footprint can be too large. If your core area is a small suburban Atlanta community, you don’t want to run spots on a station that broadcasts to the entirety of Fulton County.

Programming demographics: The station you select must serve the exact demographics you’re looking for. For most dental practices this would be females between the ages of 25 to 54. More broadly, you’re looking for adults over the age of 30 with a tendency toward higher earning power. A local dominant talk radio station would be a good choice to interview first. A conservative talk radio station would also be a good choice. In a downtown business district, a business news station might be a good choice. If your area has no talk radio, conservative talk radio, or business news radio broadcasts, you are stuck with music genre as a selection criterion. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but don’t let your own personal taste get in your way. Easy listening, soft rock, and classic 70s and 80s music are good choices for your target demographic.

Budget allocation: If you are going to invest in radio, plan to allocate $2,000 to

$5,000 per month to make your mark in most U.S. markets. (This is where a professional media buyer or planner will more than earn their commission by providing you with superior purchasing power for your budget.)

Anatomy of a PERFECT dental practice radio ad

Let’s say you’ve decided that radio is the right medium for you. You’ve hired a media planner or buyer (hopefully) or you’re confident that you’ve found the radio station(s) that target your demographic and geographic needs. Now you’re ready to craft the perfect ad. What does it look like? Is it funny and wildly creative and super-cool?

Sorry, no.

The ‘perfect’ ad is actually very formulaic. We regret to inform you, developing a radio ad for your dental practice will not be the most creatively fulfilling experience of your life. However, after years of developing successful radio ad campaigns for dentists across the country, we can say that this formula has tested and proven to provide the least risk.

Here’s what a ‘perfect’ ad looks like:

  1. The ad spot needs to be a testimonial or endorsement delivered by the most popular personality the station has during the two “drive times” (morning or afternoon).
  2. This personality must also be a patient of the practice or at least have visited the practice and experienced it in some fashion so it can be an actual personal endorsement. It MUST be authentic. You can’t fake this (and you don’t ever want to fake anything in advertising).
  3. The ad run must consist of four or five different spots, each focusing on a different aspect of the practice’s services and a different customer benefit. For example: sedation, metal-free dentistry, implants, two-visit makeovers and metal-free braces. The spots will rotate so that they all get airtime. Rotating a range of services like this will help you cast a wider net, whereas focusing exclusively on teeth whitening, for instance, will narrow your appeal and eliminate too many listeners.
  4. Each spot will have the same opening and the same closing. For instance, each will begin: “Hi, (popular personality) here to tell you about MY personal dentist, Dr. Sherry Smith of Smith Smiles in Boca Raton.” The end might be a URL and a jingle. The identical parts of each spot create a sense of familiarity and increased recognition among your listeners over time.
  5. Any music or jingles used will be identical across all spots in the ad run.
  6. The script will contain a maximum of 175 words. A human can normally speak about 175 unhurried words during a 60 second spot. This word count applies whether there are one or two or more speakers. This means you have to SEVERELY edit your radio spot script to exclude unnecessary words. The word allocation will look like this:
    35 words: radio personality’s opening endorsement
    100 words: description of ONE service and its benefits to the consumer 35 words: closing statement with URL and phone number
  7. The intro will say something like: ‘How would you like to have beautiful, straight teeth in just 6 months instead of two years? Hi, I’m Ted Jones here to tell you about MY personal dentist, Dr. Sherry Smith of Smith Smiles dot com.’
  8. The middle will say something like: ‘Did you know that today’s new metal- free braces give you straight teeth in a fraction of the time conventional braces used to? Imagine having a smile you can be proud of in just six months’ time. Plus, you’ll look and feel great during treatment.’
  9. The closer will say something like: ‘So if you want straight teeth in just six months, call Dr. Sherry Smith at 444-444-4444 today. That’s 444-444- 4444 or on the web at Smith Smiles dot com.’
  10. Don’t make the reader of the script say, “www dot (practice name).” Saying “www dot” wastes four words! Everyone knows that website URLs begin with “www.” So don’t put that in the script. Simply say, “Practice Name dot com.”
  11. Each of the numbers in the phone number is a spoken word. If you happen to be located in an area that has only one area code, you could safely delete it, which saves you three words (actually six or nine depending on how many times you repeat the phone number).

(Sample of a radio script)

Radio advertising script sample

(Sample of a radio script)

Mass marketing media - radio ads

(Sample of a radio script)

Radio Ad Script - Mass Media Marketing for Dentists

In the first part of our 3-part blog series, we covered the challenges and advantages associated with advertising on the radio. You have gained insights on ways to maximize your potential and minimize your risk of an unsuccessful radio campaign. To summarize what we covered in this blog post, radio is a popular mass medium and you should only attempt it if:

  • You have an established marketing plan that includes online, print and direct marketing campaigns
  • You have an established dental practice
  • You have an established marketing budget that will stretch to cover the cost of good creative AND adequate reach and frequency for your ads.