Attracting prospective patients
What I like about a quote like this is it captures a recognisable truth instantly. We already know it’s true and this has simply reminded us. The quote also poses a challenge for all of us in business; including orthodontists. How to overcome these obstacles?
Most practices know there’s a need to market, sell and communicate with prospective and existing patients. This need is not going away and will increase as competition from dentists offering orthodontics increases. This, coupled with increasing uncertainty over contracts and increasing regulation, means that effective patient communication has to be high on the priority list.
Working with over 70 orthodontic practices, spending time in each one and, crucially, filming hundreds of patients means we’ve gathered an invaluable knowledge base of what makes a practice successful.
Here’s a list of facts, observations and practical steps owners should take to attract more patients, sell more treatments and provide improved treatment results.
Getting patients through the door
Your website is the first impression most prospective new patients will have of you. Patients will find you from a dental referral, recommendation or generic search, but they still have choice and the first impression is what counts. Your site needs to reflect the calibre of skill, service and satisfaction a patient can expect. The ‘soft’ issues of how your practice looks, the welcome they can expect and the personality of staff and patients are what you’ll be judged on. Details on ligatures and archwires can wait!
A professional-looking video on your site ticks a lot of boxes for patients. They can look around your practice, meet you and the key staff, get information on treatment options and ‘meet’ patients either in treatment or who’ve recently had their braces removed. The net result is you’ve bridged the trust gap, established integrity and put that patient at ease; all from the comfort of their home. This makes it much easier for them to pick up the phone and make a first appointment.
• Fact: Visitors spend on average five times longer on a website with video than just text. We’d rather watch than read!
• Fact: Your website is 53 times more likely to be on page one of Google’s search results when it has video content.
Spread the word
Your marketing choices are never ending; gone are the days of when putting an ad in the Yellow Pages was enough. First port of call for many is your website, the mothership. You can drive traffic via social media, SEO and pay-per-click adwords. Optimising and syndicating your video across the internet offers more opportunities to be found. Increased visibility means you’ll be more easily found when a patient decides they need your service.
Inbound links from your video on sites like YouTube, Facebook, Vimeo, Yahoo and Flickr will optimise your site further. The key is to get found and convert as many new visitors as possible into patients.
It’s nice to have instincts affirmed by evidence and the authors of Freakonomics have unearthed some interesting information on ‘The economics of teeth and other beauty premiums’. We’d like to think wages are perfectly correlated to talent and effort, but the facts suggest more trivial factors come into play. In fact, the authors state men with bad teeth earn on average 18% less than those with good teeth, and women 11% less. It seems lifetime self-esteem is heavily formed in adolescence so the message is loud and clear: get your teeth fixed as early as possible.
Patients may not have read Freakonomics, but they can see how this makes sense. It’s up to orthodontists to be proactive in the way they promote the end result. Once you’ve gained a patient’s trust, shout about all the life-changing benefits. These are the twin pillars your marketing and communication should focus on. The good news is you don’t need to use the heavy sell. Your patients will do that for you, and happily. It’s almost impossible to fake video testimonial. We’ve filmed patients after treatment telling us they feel more attractive, they’re happier; their smiles make people around them smile more; they feel younger, healthier and less stressed. These are real people too, which makes it much easier for the average viewer to connect and empathise with them.
Orthodontics for all ages
More and more orthodontists I speak to are seeing an increasing number of adults for treatment. It’s fascinating meeting and listening to their patients’ stories. When you ask an adult why they wanted straight teeth the stories pour out. Everything from weddings, divorce and redundancy to wanting treatment at the same time as their kids and simply as a present to themselves. The potential growth for adult orthodontics is huge in every practice I see. Visiting practices around the country, it still surprises me how few use their reception area to market to parents and other adults. In many ways this is an open goal for orthodontists. You have a parent who already trusts you with the care of their children, sitting in an environment where they’re forced to think about teeth and smiles. Some will want to read or text, but we know many will watch the screen/TV/iPad in front of them. Why put the news on when you can promote your own treatments and services. It often only takes a nudge to work. With a simple call to action like ‘Ask at reception or Dr Smith about lingual braces’ you’ll be surprised at the number of new patients who are sitting under your nose.
An increasing number of Fooco clients are using our bespoke audio-free reception area videos to inform patients of options, offers and family discounts. And it’s not just marketing information they can watch.
Brace care and oral hygiene – stop the waste!
An orthodontist, who shall remain nameless, told me one of his nurses spent up to 40 minutes giving brace care and oral hygiene instructions to every patient. Often these instructions were given to teenagers too self-conscious to even look her in the eye. So there’s a scene – no doubt played out across the country and indeed the world – where we have an individual repeating information for the umpteenth time to individuals unwilling or incapable of listening. These instructions are then given out on a printed sheet of paper destined to never see the light of day again. What a shocking waste of time and effort!
• Fact: There’s a higher percentage of orthodontic patient litigation cases in UK than in the US.
I’d recommend all orthodontists deliver brace care and oral hygiene information via video; using a combination of in-practice screens and their own websites. Patients can view them in the practice and sign a form confirming they’ve seen the information. By making them available 24/7 on your website, patients will always have access to the information. This will result in fewer problems and better treatment results. And no one can say you never told them!
Malcolm Counihan previously launched, ran and sold Space Matters Ltd and Group Travel Media Ltd; successful magazine and online publishing companies. As co-founder of The Pass group travel website, Malcolm recognised the demand for high quality, affordable, internet video was set for huge growth across a whole range of industries – Fooco is the result. Launched in 2007, Fooco now has over 300 orthodontic, dental and other health clients benefiting from a range of services including: video production and marketing, website design and development, SEO, in-practice marketing and other patient communication services.