Want to know how a struggling orthodontist managed to master marketing and grow his business into a six-practice firm in Arizona?
Below, you’ll find a breakdown of an in-depth interview that our CEO Keaton Walker held with Dr. Tyler Coles, a successful orthodontist in Phoenix, AZ. The interview goes over a wealth of orthodontic marketing knowledge, so we recommend listening to it in full when you have the time.
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Our staff regularly interacts with orthodontists and digital marketers. In this remote interview, Keaton talked to Tyler Coles, who is the owner of Premier Orthodontics in Phoenix, Arizona: a successful orthodontic business that has grown significantly over the last eight years.
In the interview, we primarily talk about how paid ads can be used to scale orthodontic businesses. Additionally, Tyler shares some personal advice he’s learned over the course of his career.
Here are some of the things you learn in this video interview:
Dr. Tyler Coles’ Story – How Premier Orthodontics Grew from a Struggling Practice Into a Successful Business
Dr. Tyler Coles currently runs Premier Orthodontics with his brother, and the pair of them have six different practices scattered throughout the Phoenix area. Dr. Coles comes from a family of dentists and started practicing in the early 2010s.
In the early days, Dr. Coles would work everywhere he could – he notes that his first job search was hampered by the 2008 recession, which was still ongoing at the time. Because Dr. Coles didn’t want to constantly be running back and forth between five or six different orthodontic practices to make his student loan payments, he started researching ways he could grow his brother’s practice, in order to be hired full-time.
Dr. Coles discovered digital marketing and gradually improved the business using the techniques he learned to great effect. It wasn’t long before Dr. Coles was working full-time with his brother and had built up their private orthodontic practice into one of the biggest and most successful in the Phoenix area.
According to Dr. Coles, the most important thing he learned from the last eight years was how to get new patients without using referrals from other dentists. He does note that referral marketing is great because it’s a quick way to get new patients into your orthodontic practice. But at the end of the day, you don’t own the marketing process for those patients and all the referrals can go away at the drop of a hat.
Furthermore, referral marketing isn’t very scalable. There are only so many doctors and dentists to reach out to in your local area, after all! Once you’ve gotten referrals from those sources, new patients will be few and far between.
Dr. Coles found that the most successful way to scale his marketing and the number of patients he brought into his orthodontic practices was through digital marketing; including search engine optimization, Google ads, and social media marketing. His bottom line is ultimately this: if you want your orthodontic practice to be successful, you have to use external marketing techniques rather than just rely on referrals.
The Goals and Processes when Starting Paid Advertising
One of the big reasons why Dr. Coles has been so successful may be because of his unique way of thinking of goals and marketing processes. Specifically,analyzing where most of his orthodontic patients come from, figuring out how much he spends per patient, then working backward based on how many new patients he wants to bring in per month.
For example, Dr. Coles says that if you want to bring 120 new patients into your practice, simply look at your current marketing budget and intake rate. Then, figure out how much you paid per patient and build that into next month’s marketing budget.
If it costs you $96 to bring in a patient from Google, for example, and 20% of your patients come from Google, then it would cost approximately $2304 to bring in another 24 patients from Google over the next month.
More importantly, once you streamline this method of analysis, you can then make tweaks and adjust your paid advertising efforts as necessary. You can see which marketing channel or method gives you the most bang for your buck.
Say that social media marketing got you a new patient for $50 instead of $96. You could then, theoretically, spend more money on social media marketing and save money or bring in more patients for the same budget.
Furthermore, this is the secret to scalability. As your practice grows and becomes more successful, you’ll have more marketing dollars to spend, and can bring in new patients even more efficiently than before.
Running Google Ads vs SEO
When asked about why he runs google ads as well as focusing on SEO, Dr. Coles replied that return on effort and return on investment are two different things.
Return on investment is self-explanatory, but the return on effort is a little more unclear. Coles says that SEO is excellent because it eventually becomes very cheap, but it takes a lot of effort to become good enough at SEO to rank your website on the first page.
According to Coles, both SEO and Google Ads are necessary, especially if you are just starting out. Google ads, Facebook ads, and other paid forms of advertising are great because they don’t take as much effort as SEO or website design.
Because of this, you can bring in new patients and gradually increase your SEO and search engine results. Combined, you’ll dominate the rankings and become much more likely to get clicks from your target audience.
Plus, Coles is right when he says that you have to be better than your closest competitor – if you operate in a competitive market, you probably can’t only do SEO or Google ads and stay on top!
The Differences Between In-House vs. Outsourced Marketing/Content Creation
One of the big struggles that orthodontists have is balancing the saved time they get from outsourcing their marketing and content creation needs vs. the arguably better results they get from doing all of that work in-house. After all, we’ve always said that no one knows you better than you.
Dr. Coles agrees, and he notes that many copywriters, freelance web designers or artists, and other outsourced marketing or content creation experts are either good at a) the creative or b) the technical side of digital marketing. It’s very rare that you can outsource your marketing and content creation needs and hit both at the same time.
Coles says that it’s important, if you choose to outsource your marketing and content creation, to fill in the gaps wherever they are. For his part, he has two full-time marketing employees: one who handles the technical SEO and Google optimization and another who handles creative aspects. This setup works well for him, and it may also work well for you as your orthodontic practice grows.
3 Key Aspects for Successful Websites
Dr. Coles builds on his discussion about successful website creation and mentions that there are three key aspects he’s learned about over the course of his career. These are:
- The creative aspect, which is how pretty or visually appealing your website looks
- The strategic aspect, which examines how well your website converts customers into patients
- The technical aspect, which includes SEO, back-end tech, whether it connects to analytics tools, and so on
Coles says it’s very important to master all three aspects.
Furthermore, Coles suggests that the orthodontic practice’s doctor or owner should hone the strategic aspect of the marketing effort. As the owner, the doctor can look critically from a patient’s perspective and determine whether the practice is attractive, whether the website makes signing up for a consultation or appointment easy, etc.
Learning How to Market as an Orthodontist
A big reason why Dr. Coles has been so successful is that he’s self-educated about marketing and business over the last eight years of his career.
a few major tips:
- Take courses. Coles prefers courses as opposed to reading a bunch of blogs or watching YouTube videos when he wants to learn a new skill. He credits this to his expertise with marketing; he takes marketing courses and learns marketing straight from marketers, not fellow orthodontists or people trying to sell him a course.
- Digitalmarketer.com is Coles’ foundation source for all of his marketing questions and knowledge. Thanks for the tip, Dr. Coles!
- Spend as much time learning as possible. Coles was able to absorb a lot of information from courses because he spent his time watching or listening to content on his commute to his office or during other gaps in his day
Social Media Outsourcing Strategies
Orthodontists looking for a great online presence need to know what they can and cannot outsource. According to Dr. Coles, anything organic you post, like videos of patient reactions or procedures, has to be made in-house.
This is because only you know your practice inside and out. A third-party content creator or manager doesn’t. So they might misrepresent what your business is about or incorrectly promote the wrong style/character. If you try to outsource your “organic” social media content, Coles says, you could end up seeming inauthentic and turn away would-be patients.
Fortunately, posting content on Facebook, Instagram, and other social media channels is usually pretty easy and doesn’t take a lot of effort away from your core duties. You can even assign a receptionist or another employee social media marketing duties to make sure this is taken care of.
Of course, Coles also notes that you should focus on your strengths when it comes to posting on social media. Coles himself is very willing to admit he’s never going to be the king of Tik Tok, so he leaves that to other members of his staff!
Coles does say that paid ads can be 100% outsourced. The technical expertise that digital marketing agencies can provide is very valuable and can save you a lot of time.
For more info on our paid advertising programs here at OrthoPatients, click here.
Referral and Review Campaigns
With all his digital marketing experience, Dr. Coles has invaluable advice for acquiring more patient referrals and leveraging review campaigns for maximum effect.
Naturally, Dr. Coles says you have to be careful about regulations and how you word referrals – in many states, it’s illegal to outright pay someone to refer a patient to your practice since you are providing a medical service. The danger of crossing a regulation or getting in trouble for breaking a rule also becomes higher as your practice becomes more well-known and successful.
Dr. Coles says that there are ways to get around these limitations, however. For example, he uses a strategy with referral drawings where patients who refer a friend get entered into a prize drawing. However, the ad or marketing push also notes that there are other ways to get entered as well.
Alternatively, you can provide “swag” to patients who refer their friends like T-shirts, mugs, and so on. Or you can offer a slight discount on a patient’s next appointment bill for a referral. The big thing to remember is this: you can’t directly pay a patient for a referral with cash or a valuable item.
Google review campaigns – where you get people to leave more Google reviews (preferably positive) – can also be effective ways to boost traffic and consults. However, Dr. Coles’ office still gets called out for mistakes from time to time. These mistakes usually revolve around violations of specific rules found in Google’s terms of service. For instance, you can’t advertise review prizes or bonuses online – this is against Google’s rules.
As a workaround, Dr. Coles recommends doing review campaigns in-office only. In many cases, simply telling a patient before they leave your office, “Leave us a review and you’ll get a $5 Starbucks gift card” can inspire them to post a review without breaking any rules.
If you use this strategy, make sure that you don’t tell the patient they have to leave a positive or five-star review; any review will do!
Overall, Dr. Coles says that Google reviews and referrals can be great parts of a broader marketing strategy. But he does say multiple times you have to be careful as you get bigger. That’s because your odds of getting called out for stepping over a legal line get higher.
Advice for New and Seasoned Orthodontic Practices
The interview continues with a few pieces of advice for both new orthodontic practices and more experienced or established practices.
According to Dr. Coles, if you are an established practice, the best thing to do is keep doing what’s currently working for you. However, he does recommend that you be prepared to pivot or adopt new marketing strategies – the landscape is always changing.
Furthermore, if you want to really scale and grow your business, you need to be prepared to adopt new marketing techniques and strategies. If you’re more content with having a single location, a sustainable, consistent, well-known marketing effort should suit you just fine.
If you’re a new orthodontist, you may want to learn how to do digital marketing yourself. Orthodontists, after all, are extremely intelligent as a rule. There’s no reason why you can’t learn many of the marketing cornerstones and fundamentals from some free or relatively cheap courses.
If you put in the effort at the beginning of your business, you’ll be able to grow more organically and possibly even more quickly than if you had started with subpar marketing strategies and had to rebuild your website and online reputation from scratch.
Plus, there’s a big advantage you have in marketing as an orthodontist; most orthodontists aren’t marketing experts. With this logic, it doesn’t take that much more proportional effort or skill to become the best-marketed orthodontist in your area.
Social Media’s Major Marketing Benefit – Being Everywhere All the Time
There’s no denying that social media marketing is extremely powerful in this day and age, especially for businesses like local orthodontic practices. This may be due in part because traditional media consumption has dropped significantly (Dr. Coles speculated may be as much as 50%!).
But it’s also because people are on their phones and mobile devices much more frequently. Social media is everywhere, and people are spending more time on it than ever before. So it’s a no-brainer that you should devote lots of your marketing time to social media ads or organic content to grow your orthodontic practice.
From Dr. Coles’ perspective, social media marketing is where the money is right now. It’s only right to pivot and focus your efforts there, even if that may change in the future.
The interview wraps up soon after as Dr. Coles tells us about his work/life balance and how to find the right balance for you. Dr. Coles recommends thinking about your personality and balancing your work focused depending on what you want out of your career. For his part, Dr. Coles likes working and the challenge of growing his business and trying to maximize his returns.
All in all, the interview is an excellent opportunity to hear the thoughts of an orthodontic marketing master. We highly recommend you check out the entire interview in detail here!
Key Takeaways from this Interview
- Marketing is an orthodontist is primarily about mixing multiple marketing channels together and staying consistent
- You should analyze your marketing budget and returns regularly so you can maximize every dollar spent
- It’s often a good idea to keep running Google ads even after you master SEO
- In-house marketing is usually better, although outsourcing your marketing and content can work depending on the channel
- All successful orthodontic websites need creative, strategic, and technical mastery to really work as well as they can
- Use referral and review campaigns carefully, especially as you grow and become increasingly subject to legal liability
- New orthodontists should learn as much as they can about marketing. Older practices or doctors may want to outsource their marketing efforts more
- Social media marketing is the focus of digital marketing in this day and age, and for the foreseeable future
What did you think of the interview? Do you have any thoughts on digital marketing for orthodontists? Let us know what you thought below or get in touch with Orthopatients today! Make sure to check out our free training to see how we can help you implement these strategies today!