Last year I undertook an independent search marketing performance review for a client who was using a ‘marketing expert’ in the dental sector. It had been tricky to keep an eye on performance due to the nature of the contractor’s reporting. He’d send a small summary each month saying something like “we’ve had xx clicks and xx conversions at a cost of £xxx”, and over a six month period he stated four times that he would be switching focus to concentrate on conversions rather than clicks but that he needed time to see who to target from the analytics.

I suspected the contractor was shielding his performance by being vague. I felt frustrated and hadn’t been able to get a grip on what kind of return on investment he was providing for my client, so I wanted to dig deeper and assess what was really going on. I reviewed his emails over the past six months and tried to build a picture of what was happening, calculating that his average conversion rate on PPC from a click to a call or email into the practice (digital marketers not being responsible for how calls and emails are handled) was 1.3%. The average conversion rate in the same period for Google Adwords campaigns managed by the Hive digital team was 4.2%.

My client’s average cost per enquiry with this supplier was more than £100. Ours would have been £30. If they switched to us they would get 3.5 times as many conversions. This was clearly visible in the hard data as you can see in the table below. Over six months Hive would have delivered 250% more enquiries and reduced the average cost per conversion by 70% with no change of ad budget.

SUPPLIER  Mar Apr May June July  Aug
Total clicks 869 1594 1525 1616 1194 727
Conversion rate from click 1.56% 0.69% 1.31% 1.18% 1.30% 1.69%
Conversions 14 11 20 19 15 12
Ad spend £1,290 £1,673 £1,677 £1,632 £1,671 £1,250
Avg cost per click £1.44 £1.05 £1.10 £1.01 £1.40 £1.72
Cost per enquiry £92 £152 £83 £85 £107 £102
Avg conversion rate from click 3.88% 4.15% 4.59% 4.30% 4.30% 4.17%
Conversions (estimate) 35 66 70 69 51 30
Extra conversions 21 55 50 50 36 18
Cost per enquiry £36 £25 £23 £23 £32 £41

So why had it been so hard to realise this was a bad way to spend money on digital marketing? Mainly because the key information was hidden from the client — the contractor hadn’t provided the right data in his reporting, conversion rate and cost per conversion being key. Plus, current performance wasn’t compared to historical performance. People need to be able to see the trends so they can appreciate seasonal peaks and troughs and assess whether there are special reasons for them that can be capitalised on.

Unfortunately many digital marketers don’t like being transparent with practice owners, and they avoid ongoing conversations about performance. It’s easy enough for them to make a living by sticking to monthly reports, encouraging their clients to look at data in isolation and avoid the hard questions. My client had forgone approximately 230 enquiries in that six month period. If half of those had come in for a free consultation, and half of those had bought a treatment plan at an average value of £2k (this being an ortho and implant practice), that equates to £115k.

I believe that digital marketers should understand how the business they are serving works, and be able to articulate how their activities are contributing to that picture. Sadly many still work in silos, doing their clients no favours. When practice owners don’t have the information they need to be able to evaluate the performance of their marketer, it becomes a question of trust, or time, or convenience. That’s not fair. But I continue to see this in dentistry. The expert I mentioned has plenty of clients. I wonder how many other dental practice owners are in a similar position. Could your marketing supplier be costing you an additional £115k? If you would like us to assess and benchmark your marketing, please get in touch.