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Investing online
Susie Samuel
Susie Samuel spoke at the VPMA and SPVS Congress in Newport, Wales.

Susie Samuel looks at where to put your time and money

"Substantial amounts of time and budget are now going into internet marketing," said Susie Samuel, speaking at the VMPA and SPVS Congress this morning. "It's really important to ensure that it's being done for a reason, you know why you are doing it and that it's carefully planned."

In a practical session at the Celtic Manor Resort, Susie gave delegates some ideas for internet marketing and listed some practical ideas that they can take home and start doing straight away.

Step 1) Defining objectives

Susie explained that the first step is define what you want to achieve out of digital marketing. Is it to acquire new clients, is it to educate your clients, or is it to encourage more dentals? "It's a good idea to write all these down, so that you know exactly what you are trying to achieve, and then you can measure to see if you have achieved it," she said.

Step 2) Work out who you're talking to

The next step is to work out who you are talking to and to create a client persona. This can be achieved by looking at your practice management system, checking your Facebook 'insights' or by distributing a survey - find out how your clients would like you to communicate with them.

Once you have established who your clients are, you should put together a series of personas. These should detail the client's age, marital status, what pets they have and what social networks they use.

For existing clients, the personas will help you to allocate a marketing budget and time, choose a suitable language, create blogs tailored to their interests and plan preventative care communications.

For new clients, client personas can start to give you an insight into what new customers might be looking for. What information will they need from your website - address, opening hours etc. It will also prompt you to produce content that shows you are trusted by your existing clients.

Step 3) Which platforms

Susie explained that there are three different tiers of internet marketing, but it is the top tier that is the most important and the most basic. This includes websites, e-marketing, reviews and Facebook.

A website is the most important component, as everything else you do online will link back to this, she said. She advised delegates to post regularly to Facebook and to respond and engage to posts as much as possible. "This really sets the page alight and makes the client feel good," she said.

The second tier includes Google SEO, Wordpress, video content and Instagram - all of which would be of benefit to practices.

The third tier of platforms include Twitter and Facebook. Susie explained that these outlets are really just for large referral practices and nationwide brands because they can be extremely time consuming.

Paid adverts

During the session, delegate also heard about whether or not to invest time and money into Google Analytics and Facebook Ads.

Susie suggests that if your practice is not currently at the top of Google naturally (through good search engine optimisation), then it is certainly worth paying to be at the top until you are. Publishing fresh content - like news and blogs - and directing content to your website from your Facebook page are two great ways to achieve this.

Step 4) Measure and test

One of the joys of digital marketing is that it is measurable, and although you can't always measure a return on investment, you can measure a lot of factors that will give you an idea abut how your digital marketing is progressing.

Tools such as Facebook insights and Google Analytics will give a good idea of how much people are engaging with you, how many people are visiting your website and how long they're spending on your website.

"This is time very well invested, so please do put aside time each month just to look at the basics of how your internet marketing is performing," said Susie. "Once you start doing paid ads, it's very easy to start spending money like water. Please do check very regular how those are performing in particular."

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