Marketing Modern Dentistry
Attracting and retaining patients is no easy task. For decades dentists relied on reputation and word of mouth referrals to build their practices. In time, dental practices used directories, began to advertise and got involved with the local community to expand their patient base. Yet in a super connected, digital world where patients are ever more discerning, owners and managers now need to consider a wider range of marketing methods to attract new patients and to keep the existing ones coming back.
Marketing is all about communication – reaching the right people, in the right way at the right time. It is important to tailor communication to any patient demographic and as well as using the traditional ways of delivering messages, practices should explore fast and convenient ways of attracting attention, delivering information, making connections and engaging patients. Dental practices have an advantage in that potential patients are likely to be local, so sending out branded brochures, postcards or mailed offers within the radius of the practice will hit the target audience. Equally,
electronic newsletters, e-shots, emails and text messages can be used to keep existing patients up to date, confirm appointments, send recall reminders and introduce special offers. Plus, digital media offers a multitude of opportunities to attract and interest new patients, enhance the reputation of the practice and build the business. Here are just a few tips:
Create a strong, engaging website
As we are all well aware, it is no longer a bonus to have a website, it is a necessity. People looking for a dentist in a specific area or to provide a certain service are most likely to use a search engine on the internet to find what they are looking for. The practice website is often the first impression anyone has of the dental practice so it must to be informative and engaging. Certainly, people can form opinions remarkably quickly and if they have to wait for the website to load or if it looks confusing or unprofessional, they will simply move on. The practice website should be well designed and organised to provide instant credibility. It also needs to be easy to navigate and effortless to use from all types of devices.
To stand the best chance of turning a visitor into a new patient the practice website needs to provide all the information a patient may need, answer any questions, convince them that the practice is right for them and encourage them to book an appointment. Details such as what services are available, where the practice is located, opening hours and prominent contact details are essential, plus, a section introducing the dental team with profiles and photos will help to build trust and patient relationships.
Patient testimonials and reviews are equally important because the first thing people are likely to do is to read what others think of the practice. There should be a link on the website where patients can leave their feedback as well as links to social media pages. Interesting on-site content with eye catching images helps to grab attention; it is an opportunity to showcase services and success stories, mention individual and team achievements and promote the ethos of the practice whilst using key words such as “pain-free,” “gentle” and “preventive dentistry”.
Equally, blogs, videos, news and a “frequently asked questions” section can also drive visitors to the website. However, consider getting professional assistance to employ search engine optimisation strategies (SEO) that ensure that the website is aligned with relevant search enquiries, reaches the right audience and converts as many visitors into patients as possible.
Generate patient reviews
It is widely accepted that people trust online reviews written by people that they don’t know as much as recommendations from people they do know. Positive reviews are highly influential; they endorse the practice, provide reassurance and help people to make a decision about which dental practice to choose. The dental team should be trained to ask for reviews as part of the practice processes with a gentle nudge after appointments or a follow up email, for example. It is as important to thank patients for their kind comments as it is to respond quickly and efficiently to negative reviews. Always acknowledge the patient’s concerns even if they are unfounded and show sympathy – e.g. “sorry your visit did not match your expectations”. Thank them for bringing the issue up and give an explanation from the position of the practice and describe what is being done to rectify it. This is often enough to convince other readers that the incident was a one-off and shows the practice’s commitment to resolving problems and improving services.
Connect to social media
Social media provides the perfect opportunity to reach out to potential patients, create an online community and to strengthen relationships with existing patients. Social media offers constant connection and communication to engage patients all year round, not just at a six monthly or yearly appointment. Platforms such as Facebook, Instagram or Twitter allow practices to post updates, news, oral health advice, campaigns and interesting information about the practice and the team. As well as including contact details and patient reviews it provides a variety of touchpoints for potential new patients. Furthermore, it is easy to share information with plenty of visual interest – remember, photos are likely to receive around 30 times more engagement than a written status.[i] Encourage patients to let you take photos of them for social media and tag them in these posts – a good way to show both skills of practice and good treatment outcomes as well. Also, when people when see their friends tagged in the photos it can prompt them to the practice and possibly opt for a similar treatment themselves.
Plug in to technology
To relate to people living in a technology driven society, it is a good idea to show off any new technology or equipment and demonstrate how it is being used to add value and improve oral health. The CALCIVIS® imaging system enables you to put your practice on the map as a progressive, patient-centred establishment that embraces innovation for the best possible dental experience and oral health outcomes. The CALCIVIS® imaging system visualises early active demineralisation on the surfaces of the teeth. Using bioluminescence, it highlights areas or ‘hot spots’ that are likely to lead to caries or damaging dental erosion at the earliest, most reversible stages. This technology demonstrates the practice’s commitment to minimally invasive preventive dentistry and it is also a powerful communication tool. The CALCIVIS® images are displayed at the chair side, which helps patients to understand their oral health status more easily. They also engage patients and empower them to take action and comply with preventive measures to save their teeth from further destruction.
Patients are now willing to shop around for high quality dental care. They don’t simply choose the nearest practice, they expect excellent customer service, read online reviews and are happy to swap practices to access exactly what they want. By using combination of different marketing strategies, an increase in business is sure to follow.
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[i] Stelzner M.A. 2018 Social Media Marketing Industry Report. May 2018. Published by social Media Examiner. https://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Industry-Report-2018.pdf [Accessed 10th September 2019]