Best Ways to Track Your Dental Marketing Spend with Neil Zemba

In this episode of How I Grew My Practice, we're inviting Neil Zemba, the founder and CEO of Rise DDS, to discuss the significance of tracking marketing numbers and analyzing spend to understand the effectiveness of your dental marketing campaigns.

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Alec Goldman (00:02.19)
Welcome to How I Grew My Practice, a 15 minute podcast sponsored by NexHealth. I'm Al Goldman. Joining us today is Neil Zemba, founder and CEO of Rise DDS. He is here to talk to us about best ways to track your marketing dollars and really knowing where to spend them. Neil, welcome to the show. How you doing?
Neil (00:24.502)
Thanks for having me. I'm great. How are you?
Alec Goldman (00:26.818)
doing great. This is kind of how we always start. But for the folks who do not know who Neil Zemba is, Neil, if you don't mind just giving us a quick introduction, who you are, what is Rise DDS, take the floor.
Neil (00:39.618)
Sure. So I kind of always described myself as a tech nerd from Michigan. I grew up in the country and then I moved to Silicon Valley area after college. I got really involved in sort of an obsession, you could say, with sort of tracking marketing data. And so that was kind of a niche that I fell into early on. I moved back to Michigan and my partners were gracious enough to allow me to.
Neil (01:06.326)
buy into at the time we had two dental practices. It was around this time where I just got very excited when I realized that it wasn't illegal for me to co-own dental practices. And I learned kind of the ins and outs of what a DSO was and the value that it was providing. And I just got really excited to be able to work with Dennis more intimately. I originally came on as sort of our Chief Marketing Officer and then I was our Chief Operating Officer for a couple of years.
Neil (01:35.59)
We grew to seven practices, but the sort of obsession in the back of my mind of tracking, particularly tracking marketing dollars and marketing spend was kind of always there. And I started kind of tinkering with tools and brought on my very talented gentleman by the name of Sanad that I'd been working with for a long time. And we built out what is now Rise DDS, which became sort of a.
Neil (02:01.598)
a tracking system for marketing, as well as a company that provided very, very trackable marketing services along with a marketing analytics platform.
Alec Goldman (02:12.678)
That's really awesome, especially to hear how Rise EDS started coming and kind of spinning out of a DSO. So, you know, as somebody I guess hosting the show, my ask of anybody who comes on is to pick the topic that they think would be most beneficial for our audience. And I know that it's extremely close to your heart, but picking something along the lines of best ways to track your marketing dollars.
Alec Goldman (02:37.234)
obviously very important. Why is it so specifically important today being that of 2023 in our economic environment?
Neil (02:45.066)
Well, the first thing that I can tell you is that I'm notoriously cheap. Um, and I, I like to use the word frugal, but you know, I'm, I'm cheap and I don't like to spend money where I don't have to. And, you know, I think what's awesome about the dental business is that it's kind of the, the one business in healthcare where it's sort of expected that you have to become an entrepreneur. If you're, if you're a doctor.
Neil (03:08.378)
I'm not a clinician. I would probably kill people if I was, but I always say that, you know, at least on the business side, you know, there's so many things that you have to be responsible for. So, you know, for me, just because of my background, I really kind of honed in on the marketing piece. And I learned very quickly, a lot of my friends are dentists, that, you know, a lot of folks kind of feel that they're spending money and they don't exactly know where it's going. And I know that I felt that as soon as I kind of came into the dental space.
Neil (03:38.662)
Um, and I just think it's a theme that, you know, you, you, you see a lot nowadays. Um, I think particularly now, I mean, you look at what happened with COVID, you know, a lot of people got into a really tough financial situation. Dentists really didn't understand, uh, rightfully. So, I mean, none of us knew, right? Like how was this going to affect dentistry? What were patients going to, going to, going to do and how are people going to behave differently?
Neil (04:05.066)
And I think now in 2023, you've got regional banks collapsing, and you've got crazy stuff going on internationally. These are real things. And so people are wondering, all right, I mean, just practically, like, are people going to throw money down on braces right now? Are people going to go for expensive elective treatments? What can we do to mitigate people's fears and get people in? And you couple that with when times get uncertain.
Neil (04:33.442)
people tend to kind of pull back their budgets and say, all right, let me just hold on to what I have now. And I'm kind of like that. And there's nothing wrong with that. And so I think like what we're trying to do right now is we have a lot of really cool data and I don't have all the answers, but I'm very sort of weirdly obsessed with trying to find themes and use really cool data that exists in other industries that we can bring into dentistry. So my background largely was in the e-commerce space.
Neil (05:01.482)
So you look at like what Amazon has, for example, or Shopify, there's so much data out there that people aren't really applying to healthcare and specifically dentistry. So that's one of the things that we really like to look at is, you know, what are themes going on and what kind of narratives are going to bring in, you know, implant patients or, you know, and then you look at specific marketing channels. Like, you know, one of the questions I get asked a lot is like, how much money should I be spending on Facebook versus Instagram?
Neil (05:28.426)
You know, when, when COVID first came out, I think like half of our clients called me up at some point and said, does this mean I have to start dancing on Tik TOK because this is a theme that's happening right now. So there's a lot of questions. And so we just kind of want to be able to use data to, to, to bring, you know, answers to those questions.
Alec Goldman (05:47.474)
That's really cool. Neil, do you have any specific examples of data that most practices may not be using or thinking about that you are recommending to your customers? And are there any really great outcomes, or positive stories that you could share with us?
Neil (06:06.226)
Yeah, I think, you know, my, the first step that I like to have practices do is start listening and recording to the recording their calls. So, um, I like, I like call rail. I like, there's a company called call box that I really like, and there's vendors out there that you can work with that you can, you can basically create tracking numbers for your marketing, and then you can actually listen to those calls. And so that I think is really important for practices that aren't doing that. A lot of practices.
Neil (06:35.614)
use solutions where you're listening to all of your calls. But the problem with that is that it's very time consuming to do that number one. And number two, there's not a lot of information about where that call came from all the time. So the reason I like Callbox, CallRail, there's a lot of different vendors that do it is because you can assign like, okay, this call came from, call comes in and you have a little data packet associated with it, you have notes that come in with it.
Neil (07:04.202)
Hey, this call came in from my Google ads. Okay, great. Let's listen to this call. Did this patient come in? Did they have the right insurance? Are they a Medicaid patient? A lot of the pain points that I hear is, and this was the case with me, I'd work with my marketing vendors and they'd be like, hey, we got you 200 calls this month. Aren't you super happy? And I look at my schedule and I'd be like, yeah, you got me 50 extra Medicaid calls and we're a fee for service office. I can't really do anything with these patients.
Neil (07:33.822)
And they didn't know that. And that's what I say all the time to like, you know, uh, uh, owners is like, you know, they may not understand the qualitative aspect of what they're doing. They have a bunch of quantitative data and, you know, a lot of offices, if they work with marketing companies like, Hey, you know, we got you this many clicks. We got you all these impressions. Aren't we amazing? And then you're looking at your schedule going, well, I mean, I'm not really any busier, so where's the disconnect?
Neil (08:04.046)
To me, the big disconnect is always, it always has to do with the calls. So if you can understand even at a very fundamental level, where your calls are coming from by using tracking numbers or what are called the Google IDs or Facebook can plug into it. And these companies will do it for you. It's not super intensive to set it up. That really gives you a lot of insight as to what's going on with your marketing and your front desk.
Alec Goldman (08:29.55)
That's an awesome point, Neil. I guess it sounds almost too intuitive that practices should be spending time listening to their calls, understanding what their team is saying, digesting the data of understanding where a customer is coming from, how they found them in the first place. So I guess my question that, and it's something that I hear over and over and over, is that there's dental practices that are not super excited about the marketing agency that they have selected or that they are using.
Alec Goldman (08:59.366)
So I wanted to ask you, what are some questions, what are some criteria that you would recommend to our audience to ensure that they can go back to their current marketing agency and really just hold them accountable?
Neil (09:14.222)
Well, I think the main thing really is that, you know, they should be providing some kind of qualitative data. They have to be able to track what they're doing as it relates to who's actually coming in. So I used to kind of challenge my companies and be like, Hey, you know, don't show me how many anymore. I mean, you can still show me how many, how many clicks, how many calls, how many, what they call a conversion. But I started asking them, show me who, who did you bring in? Who did the mail bring in? Who did the digital bring in?
Neil (09:42.298)
And kind of a tangent to your point, it kind of reminds me, I mean, a lot of my friends who are dentists, it kind of gets into this point of they're really not focused as much on the front desk as I believe that they should be. Now again, I'm biased. I'm not a clinician at all. So I can't tell you the first thing about the clinical work that they're doing. But what I can tell you is that they get very excited about all the CE credits that they're doing, all the additional treatments that they can offer, and all these kinds of things.
Neil (10:12.358)
Oh, if I go do CE and I can start to offer implants, then patients will just come to me. And kind of a build it and they will come attitude. And it's just not the case. You have to be able to bring awareness to your practice. It's really the best marketers that I think are gonna win over the next couple of years, not necessarily the best clinicians. And so...
Neil (10:35.03)
That being said though, I think it's really easy to get the word out there in very free ways. Again, I'm super cheap. I mean, Google reviews is the main one. I am the biggest fan of Google reviews. Another thing that we noticed, like during COVID, a lot of patients were going into hospitals.
Neil (10:54.062)
thinking that maybe the dental offices were closed or they weren't using, it was like, what's PPE and is everybody, are these offices safe to go into? So people started going into hospitals and they kind of kept doing that. Even to this day, there's a lot of patients that are going into hospitals. I just saw news today that the World Health Organization finally declared the COVID pandemic over today. It's May 5th of 2023. So.
Neil (11:23.222)
you know, that's interesting. And so patient behavior, like people are still going into hospitals. So we just started going to our local hospitals and urgent care centers and just saying, hey, we're here, we're here. We do awesome work. You know, here's a trifold. Here's a little pamphlet that we've made, you know, start sending patients over and they do. And they started doing that. And then, you know, we got reviews from those folks and they didn't know we were there. You know, we're in pretty competitive markets. So, you know, there's a lot of...
Neil (11:53.446)
offices that could that they could be going to so you know they ended up coming to us and we also do the same thing with Like large employers, so we'll take that same trifold put their logo on it You know write some custom blurbs about you know John Deere or whoever the you know large employers in our area And you know we kind of do the same thing and it's a lot of the same material But that kind of stuff works, and it's very inexpensive
Alec Goldman (12:16.334)
So just to be clear, both the hospital idea for perhaps a specific practice and the large company idea both stem from being and listening on calls to understand where customers are coming from.
Neil (12:30.77)
Yes, yes, they can't. That's a good point. I mean, you can also just use Google and just look up, you know, I'm a big fan of Google Maps and just looking up where these businesses are and where the, you know, sometimes it's hard to build relationships with large hospitals, but especially like the smaller private urgent cares, it's really, really easy, we found to build relationships with them. And then 100% listening to the phone calls to understand, you know, who these patients are.
Neil (13:00.47)
Where did they come from? I always love to ask people where they heard about you. This was a huge thing. It's funny, because I thought every office was asking this, but sometimes offices don't. I just think it's a big thing that should be done. And so just understanding what's top of mind for those patients I think is important as well.
Alec Goldman (13:22.446)
So given how important, I mean, obviously finding new patients, making sure that patients who are new to the nearby area are aware of your practice from the get go, it is the life flood of your business. How do you think about dental practices making the decision of even trying to bring this in-house given just how important it is, right? We know that providing service, you would never outsource that. But marketing and...
Alec Goldman (13:50.378)
patient acquisition are almost seemingly the pieces that get people in the door equally as important. Why would so many of them just immediately think, oh, I don't know how to do this. I should outsource when they would never do that with their own service themselves.
Neil (14:05.014)
That's a good point. I think, you know, my view on that, I think it depends on how many offices you have. If you're a small DSO or, you know, large DSO, I think that it becomes, you know, I think it becomes a more important conversation to have.
Neil (14:24.498)
I think that the benefit of an agency or a company is that they're going to have a lot more data. So they're going to be working with a lot of offices across the country and they'll have a lot of, you know, data to understand what's going on. But that being said, I do have, I'm pretty opinionated on the, the.
Neil (14:41.586)
order of operations that an office should market in. So I think based on everything that I see right now, I think that an office should get their Google ads right first. That's what I believe. That's what I see. Google ads is always going to outperform Facebook or Instagram ads by about four to one when you talk about actual patients that show up. Now, that's in twenty three, that's subject to change. But I think this is going to be the case for at least the next couple of years.
Neil (15:04.01)
marketing changes and marketing is related to tech. And as we know, tech changes every five seconds and we have AI and robots and all kinds of stuff going on. But I think right now it's important to get your Google ads in a really efficient place. Your Google ads, all the money that you spend, you should be doing at least two to four times.
Neil (15:25.462)
you know, in production, what you're spending every month. And I'm not talking about lifetime patient value. I'm not talking about I'm talking about if I spend $5,000 on Google ads, I should be making at least 10 to $20,000. I mean, let's just say 10 to $15,000 every single month before I move on to anything else. And the reason I say that is because I think it's really easy to get right.
Neil (15:48.494)
Google ads is amazing. It's what we call inbound advertising, which is sort of a jargony term, meaning someone has to take the first step first before I decide to then spend money and actually try to win their business and bring them into the practice. So as opposed to billboards, mailers, even Facebook ads, I have to basically create the content first, send it out.
Neil (16:11.134)
and then hope that people are going to be in my audience and come to me. So it's just a little bit more expensive inherently to do that. So that's why I love Google Ads first. Also with Google Ads, I recommend, I'm a huge fan of having what are called practitioner profiles or provider profiles, meaning just like you have a Google My Business that has reviews and everything for your main practice, you should also have a separate Google My Business for your main dentist.
Neil (16:37.826)
for your main provider. And if you have multiple, I would get a profile for every single one of them. You can simply just, it's just, you just write their name on it, create the profile, you can use the same address, you can use the same website as your main profile, and you're just gonna generate more traffic. It is another profile that you are responsible for getting more reviews to, but you don't have to have a lot at all. You can have maybe five or 10 five star reviews, and you're gonna get a lot of traffic as opposed to, you know, some of our main profiles, we try to get to like five, 600, you know, reviews.
Neil (17:06.762)
which is hard, that takes a while, but it's worth it. My big question when we started was, one of our offices has like 600 Google reviews. So I was freaking out. I was like, if I create another one, another profile and it messes this up, I'm gonna be mad. So we did a test and we figured out that not only was it not leeching traffic from our main profile, but it was legitimately bringing in traffic from the rest of the community. And some of the reasons for that are,
Neil (17:36.118)
One, people really like to see people and having a provider profile with their face on it is a good opportunity to kind of get, get, get their face out there. On that note, I'm a huge fan of having on your website, these profiles have a professional photo, but then also put a couple of family photos. Are you climbing a mountain? Are you riding a bike or something like that as a dentist that really shows, you know, that you're a human being. And I think marketing is all about, you know, relating and that kind of stuff. And it's very helpful. So.
Neil (18:06.418)
That was a really long answer, but those are some of the things that I've seen right now.
Alec Goldman (18:11.114)
What after Google reviews?
Neil (18:13.574)
After Google reviews, that's when I really think that a practice should start doing a lot with like social media and content. I believe it's very secondary to Google. That's my opinion. That's what I see from the data. But I always say like, you know, with our business, for example, we do social media management, but it's never something that I recommend that we start with. And if an office has somebody that can do their social media in house, it's, I always think it's better.
Neil (18:36.982)
That person's there, they're on site, they can take photos, they can take videos. You know, we can provide them with, um, you know, the themes. The question that we always get asked is I don't know what to post. So we can tell you what to post and not just us. There's a lot of, there's a lot of companies that can tell you what to post. And it's great because we can use that data about what are people searching for. You know, what's the best way to whiten my teeth, press white strips, or should I come in and do in-office whitening? What age should my kids start going to the dentist? What's up with fluoride? You know, all kinds of stuff.
Neil (19:07.13)
Um, you can make pieces of content that asks the answer all those frequently asked questions. I'm also a huge, uh, believer in having hygienists shoot videos Don't ask me why but it's a thing I think hygienists are more open to shooting videos from what I see than than doctors themselves where it tend to be more camera Shy, that's a that is a stereotype.
Neil (19:30.206)
But a lot of hygienists are really more open to doing it, and they're incredibly knowledgeable. I mean, my friends who are hygienists and nurses, I think they know, I mean, they're very knowledgeable. I mean, they're right up there with doctors and dentists.
Alec Goldman (19:45.55)
I think knowledgeable, friendly, extremely warm. And I think those are great characteristics for somebody who is front and center of your content on your social media channels.
Neil (19:56.258)
Alec Goldman (19:58.39)
Um, Neil, we're at the 20-minute mark. I want to ask what is the final thought that you want to kind of just leave with our audience today?
Neil (20:06.422)
I think there are a lot of things that you can do to boost your practice for free and get the word out there where you really don't have to spend money. I think you should really work on getting personal photos of you or family photos of you if you're the dentist on your Google My Business. Really work to get five-star reviews and just really start to build the word in your community that way.
Neil (20:31.87)
and then start to invest in advertising, but do it incrementally. Don't spend $5,000 on ads until you've successfully seen an ROI with maybe $2,000 a month on ads and just build up from there.
Alec Goldman (20:45.162)
Neil, thank you so much for joining us. I know we'll have you back soon.
Neil (20:48.706)
Thanks for having me. Thank you so much.
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In the rapidly evolving world of dental practice marketing, utilizing data effectively can be the key to success. in this episode of How I Grew My Practice, Neil Zemba, an expert in dental marketing and founder and CEO of Rise DDS, shares valuable strategies and insights on how to leverage data for improved patient acquisition. In this article, we will explore Neil's recommendations as actionable strategies for dental practices. Let's dive in!

Know Where Your Patients Are Coming From

Every great e-commerce brand knows where their customers are coming from: which campaigns, which channels, which storefronts, etc Neil recommends front desk call tracking and assigning unique phone numbers to different marketing channels, allowing practices to track the source of incoming calls. Unlike generic call monitoring, call tracking provides valuable information about the origin of each call, enabling a deeper understanding of the effectiveness of marketing strategies.

Neil recommends using call tracking services like CallRail or Callbox to assign tracking numbers to marketing efforts. This allows practices to gather data on call sources and identify critical information about potential patients, such as their insurance coverage or specific needs. By tracking calls, practices can optimize their marketing strategies and improve patient engagement.

Qualitative Data and the Importance of Tracking

Neil highlights the need for marketing agencies to provide qualitative data to measure their effectiveness accurately. Apart from quantitative metrics like clicks and conversions, practices should focus on understanding who their marketing efforts are bringing in. By asking patients how they heard about the practice, dentists can gain a deeper understanding of what is working and what needs improvement. This qualitative aspect is often overlooked, leading to a disconnect between marketing efforts and actual patient growth.

Leverage the Power of Google Ads and Reviews

Neil suggests starting with Google Ads as a primary marketing channel due to its proven effectiveness in attracting new patients. Don't spend $5,000 on ads until you've successfully seen an ROI with maybe $2,000 a month on ads and just build up from there. Hold your marketing agency accountable.

Also, positive online feedback can greatly influence potential patients' decision-making process. Leveraging Google reviews can boost your Google My Business profile and SEO to attract more potential patients.

Consider In-House Social Media

After Google reviews, Neil suggests that's when a practice should start testing social media and content. And it’s better that the office has somebody who can manage the social media in-house and be onsite to take photos or videos of the practice and patients.

Building Relationships with Hospitals and Urgent Care Centers

Neil shares a successful strategy of reaching out to local hospitals and urgent care centers to increase awareness of dental practices. During the COVID-19 pandemic, some patients visited hospitals assuming dental offices were closed or unsafe. By proactively distributing trifold pamphlets and introducing their services, practices can attract patients who were previously unaware of their presence. Similar efforts can be made with large employers, customizing marketing materials to appeal to specific companies.

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