Essentials of Marketing a Small Business

Melinda SpitekSpecial Marketing Feature
By Melinda Spitek, CEO, Hycomb Marketing

What’s the difference between your dental practice and any other small business in America? Simple: your education, professionalism, and technical abilities defy comparison with the rest.

But beyond that, you’re just another small business, faced with promoting the value of the service you offer. The principles of marketing remain the same, regardless of what service it is.

Seven Critical Reasons to Start Marketing Your Practice NOW:

  1. Your market is always changing. People move. Neighborhoods evolve. If you give up promoting your service, you fall out of touch with those you hope to serve.
  2. People forget — fast. Every day, we’re assaulted by information. People filter out all but their priorities, and arrange those on a “ladder to the brain.” A consistent marketing program lands you at the top of that “ladder.”
  3. Marketing strengthens your identity. The service you provide could be superior…and also the community’s best-kept secret! Don’t hide your light under a basket.
  4. Marketing is a potent reminder. No matter how great your service was, unless you regularly maintain contact…out-of-sight becomes out-of-mind.
  5. Consistent marketing puts you ahead of the game. Marketing efforts that come and go don’t work. Developing a long-term plan, funding it, sticking with it, pays off.
  6. Marketing gives everyone a lift. Employees and customers (or patients) feel good about patronizing a service well known in the community.
  7. It’s an obligation! You owe it to your team, your family, and your retirement program to be a success. And that only comes with persistent marketing. It’s not an expense; it’s an investment in your business and your lifestyle.

Choosing the plan that’s right for you

You need to define what you want for yourself: where you are now, and where you want to go. You must choose success; it will not just come to you. How much personal time and effort do you want to invest in marketing your services? All the tangibles (newsletters, stationery, advertising) play only a supporting role. The anchor of your marketing plan is the personal time you invest in your community.

A Successful Marketing Plan Reflects Your Character and Your Goals

  • The plan accounts for both short- and long-term goals
  • Your goal is to increase production, attract new patients, or change the community’s perception of your services
  • The shifting marketplace demands a new identity
  • You’re in transition, and need to communicate that to the community at large
  • You want a return on investment in education, equipment or materials you have invested in.

What is your comfort level with marketing tools?

How do you feel about direct mail…newspaper ads…savings certificates? Are you a believer in Yellow Page ads? The important thing is to present your business in a way that reflects your personality—and fits your comfort zone.

Who will play a role in managing the marketing plan?

Even owners who want to “run the whole show” are usually dependent at least in part on their staff for day-to-day activities, like tracking your results. To be successful, your marketing choices must reflect the office’s overall style—and more importantly, be enthusiastically accepted by your office team.

Where to Begin?

Marketing any small business may seem—to the owner—like a daunting task. But really it’s a combination of common sense and experience. The worst thing you can do is to put it off until “tomorrow.”

Small Businesses Most Trusted by Americans

Congratulations, small businesses: you’re now the most trusted institution in America.

That’s according to new data from the Pew Research Center. More people said they trust small business than any other institution – including churches, universities, government, or the media.

America's most trusted institutionsThe graph at right shows how trusted various institutions are. It’s definitely worth noting that the two least trusted institutions are Congress and banks and financial institutions… hardly a vote of confidence.

Survey respondents also felt that small businesses were the most underserved by the government – more so than the middle class, poor people, labor unions, or Wall Street.

What’s more, this isn’t a partisan issue. While there’s plenty of disagreement on other topics, Republicans, Democrats and independents were in near-total agreement on these small business issues.

So take heart, entrepreneurs: your fellow Americans have faith in you!

What about small businesses in the health care sector?

“I know firsthand how the government ignores and actively tries to eliminate small businesses from experiences in my sector,” commented one entrepreneur. “I own a small healthcare business and am constantly harassed by our state regulatory agency. In just a tri-county area in my state, they have shut down over 450 small businesses like mine in the past 6 months over alleged violations that the larger corporate places get away with over and over again. Only 2 corporate agencies were shut down. Rampant reports of neglect and abuse not to mention unethical practices abound in these places, but apparently the agency feels that shutting down these large places would actually cause more harm than good to the local economy, so they ignore major problems until the media reports it publicly. We do everything by the book and then some, but I am always looking over my shoulder to see when the next uptight incompetent inspector will come breathing down my neck.”

The People & Their Government: Distrust, Discontent, Anger & Partisan Rancor: Read the overview or the full results [PDF, 138 pages]

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