In our third and final posting in our series on high-risk marketing mediums, we will be reviewing the use of billboards and Yellow page ads for dental advertising. We’ll show you that although it is a mass medium, using a billboard to advertise is a relatively low-cost option provided you adhere to certain rules. As for the Yellow pages, this dying medium is no longer the dominant force it once was; however, with careful consideration to ad placement optimal advertising can still be achieved.

Billboards: Marketing to the masses

Billboards can be a great way to get your message across to a large number of people, but it’s also one of the trickiest to use effectively. You only have a few words and usually a single image to grab people’s attention and inspire them to act, so if you don’t understand the medium thoroughly and know how to use it, you might as well throw your money away.

Billboards are both a direct response medium AND a branding medium. This means that we would expect people to directly call or visit your site after seeing your billboard. But billboards also help you to gain familiarity and recognition with the consumer, so that even if they don’t reach out right away, it will increase their receptiveness in the future. They will be more likely to open a piece of direct mail from you, for instance, or will be more likely to call after seeing your ad in the newspaper or on television.

Billboards are also very useful in driving traffic to your web site. That’s why the web address is now the most important piece of information on your board— more important than the phone number. And that’s why it must be easy to remember.

Here are some tips for getting the most out of your billboard:

  • Ensure the billboard is located very near your practice. If you’re in the eastern part of Dallas, you don’t want to put up billboards in the western section—it’s too far away.
  • Choose a billboard positioned on a street or highway with a high volume of traffic.
  • Since you will only have a few seconds for the reader to see—let alone understand—your message, the message must be crystal clear.
  • Similar to other mass mediums like radio and TV, you cannot tell the whole story of the practice on a billboard. Instead, focus on one message at a time and change the message every three months.
  • Consistency is key to establishing brand recognition, so keep the logo and URL consistent on each different version of your billboard. Only the message and visuals should change.
  • Choose a single, unambiguous and strong benefit to feature each time you run a billboard.
  • Make sure you use an easy-to-remember phone number. Nobody will remember a string of numbers even a few seconds after the billboard has flashed past. Use a number like: 777-SMILE.
  • Never include an email address or fax number on the billboard. No one will remember them, and they just add confusing clutter.
  • Don’t include the practice address. It takes up too much space.
  • Always include a URL. It’s THE most important piece of information— even more important than the phone number.
  • Everyone knows that ‘www’ precedes a web address, so just omit that.
  • If you plan to make billboards a part of your marketing strategy, choose a URL that’s as short and easy to remember as possible. And make your URL more readable by capitalizing the key words:
MarinFamilyDental.com : Yes
www.marinmedicalcenter.com/drmackenzie-dds : No

Our good buddy, Dr. Mike Barr employs the ‘radio test” for URLs. He says a person should be able to remember your URL just by hearing it on the radio— without writing it down.

One thing you may not realize, that is very useful, is using alternate URLs. As an example, let’s say your URL is smiledentistomaha.com. Let’s say you have a billboard and you want to place an extremely easy to remember URL on the billboard. The area code in Omaha is 402. An effective URL for a billboard in Omaha might be 402Smiles.com. This is a perfect URL to redirect to your normal website. It is short. It is very memorable, and it is very familiar because everyone driving by understands that the area code is 402. An added benefit is being able to statistically quantify the number of human beings that went to this URL after seeing the billboard. You will know, for certain, after a period of time, if your billboard design and location are driving traffic to your main website.

Sample of billboard ads. Copyright 2019. New Patients Inc. All rights reserved.

Sample Dental Billboard Ads

The Yellowpages: advertising powerhouse or lumbering dinosaur?

At one time, the yellow pages were the most popular form of advertising among dentists, and many continue to spend advertising dollars on this medium.

However, when we give live presentations, we make a point of asking the audience: ‘How many of you use the yellow pages when you need to find a product or service?’

Very few hands go up.

The truth is, the advertising potential of the yellow pages has been dwindling steadily over the past dozen years. That’s because more and more people are turning to Internet search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing to search for what they need.

In a recent dental trade journal, we equated investment in yellow page directories as being a willing passenger on the Titanic. As marketing professionals, we believe the yellow pages have had their day. They’re on borrowed time, and throwing good money after bad is pointless.

Does that mean you shouldn’t even consider the local yellow pages as a marketing medium for your practice?

No. But it does mean that you need to question your participation in this dwindling medium and ensure that it’s not just nostalgia or inertia that’s keeping you there. We have seen dentists act as though cancelling their yellow page ads is like saying goodbye to an old friend. But if your friend keeps mooching money off you and never bothers to pay you back, how good of a friend are they, anyway?

The fact is that these days the yellow pages should really only be considered by a very specific type of practice. Is it right for yours? Read on…

We have a golden rule about which dental practices should and shouldn’t advertise in the yellow pages:

If you can get into one of the first six positions in your dental section for less than 30 percent of your marketing budget, advertising in the yellow pages could be a good strategy.

Please keep in mind that there are areas in the country that are served by two or more yellow page directories. You must be able to cover the first six positions in ALL the yellow page directories that serve your area for less than 30 percent of your annual marketing budget.

Now, in the cases of some rural, semi-rural or even suburban practices, this might be feasible. But following this rule will automatically eliminate the yellow pages as a viable marketing medium for practices in any of the major metropolitan areas. Why? Buying yellow pages ads in these areas will use up more than 30 percent of your marketing budget—guaranteed.

Unfortunately, dilution has also weakened the effectiveness of the yellow pages. Here’s how dilution works. Say you’re in a suburban location. Twenty years ago, there may have been only a few dentists in the directory in your town. Today there could be 30. And instead of one directory, there are now three. So, each year, you are competing against more and more dentists, and if your budget only stretches to an ad in ONE of the three directories, you’re only reaching a third of the population—or less. Nobody’s reaching for all three directories to look for a dentist. So, the luck of the draw dictates whether someone will pick up the one you’re listed in. Now your reach into the community is seriously diluted. And it’s the same scenario in urban centers, only on a larger scale. While your ad may have offered a good return on investment 20 years ago, the returns are shrinking each year.

Interesting fact: if there are three directories, there are three directory sales representatives that will all tell you they enjoy 80 percent market share when trying to sell you another annual contract. This is called yellow page ad sales representative math 😊

If you are currently spending your marketing dollars on yellow page advertising, make sure it’s actually paying off. Track the number of new patients and new revenues the ads are responsible for.  See our blog posting: ROI Tracking, for information on how to accurately track returns on your marketing investment. If you’re not seeing a good return on your investment in the yellow pages, cancel the ad and put your money into something that offers better returns.

And a note on cancelling… Those directory representatives will not be pleased to hear you’re jumping ship. (Perhaps this is what dentists hate most—having to say no to a directory representative!) The reps will try and sell you listings on their yellow page website. If this sounds intriguing to you, please, before you make any decisions, read chapter nine of this book. In a nutshell, you do NOT need to rely on a yellow page’s website to establish a strong web presence. You’ll get more bang for your buck—GUARANTEED—by using your marketing budget to create and market your own website. The online yellow pages are a colossal waste of money.

If you decide that ads in the print versions of the yellow pages are a valuable element in your overall marketing plan, take a look at this successful ad.

Sample of a yellow pages ad. Copyright 2019. New Patients Inc. All rights reserved.

Sample Dental Yellow Pages Ad

In this posting we’ve reviewed the challenges and advantages when it comes to using billboards or the yellow pages to advertise. There are a few key points that are good to remember when deciding if either of these mediums is for your dental practice.

Billboards: Billboards can be a relatively lower-cost mass medium, but be very careful to follow all the rules when choosing locations and developing your creative content.

Yellow pages: Despite its past dominance, the yellow pages are now a dying medium. We recommend spending money on yellow page ads ONLY if you are able to purchase a spot within the first six ads for your category in EVERY directory in your target geographic area assuming you will spend less than 30% of your annual marketing budget. Measure your returns on this medium carefully to ensure you’re seeing benefits.

During our blog series on high-risk marketing mediums, we’ve shown you that despite their ability to reach high volumes of consumers, they are not always the best choice for every practice. As a final note, there are some questions you should ask yourself when deciding which marketing medium is right for you:

Geography: Does the distribution of the medium cover my entire core market area? (If not, ditch it!) Does it extend beyond my core market area? (If so, how much budget waste will there be?)

Content: Does the medium provide information or programming that my core market (women between 30 and 90) appreciates?

Dilution: Are there multiple media outlets vying for the same reader/viewer/listener in this market?

Competitive dilution: Are there other dental advertisers using this specific media outlet? If so, will my message get lost in the crowd?