How to get back those lost patients in 2019
Ring in the changes this New Year with some dental marketing moves that will boost profits. Shaz Memon looks ahead…
Absent friends is a big theme of the New Year celebrations – I’m pretty sure we all raised a glass to those we have loved and lost or were apart from as the clock struck midnight to mark the start of 2019.
But as practice principals kick-start the year with one eye on the books, missing persons from the dental chair can be problematic – and January is notoriously a long month. With bank balances emptied and patient enthusiasm wilting, what can teams do to ignite those appointment books?
Arguably, the Scottish government’s controversial proposal to extend the dental recall interval for so-called ‘low-risk’ patients to intervals of 24 months doesn’t do dental practices any favours.
Aside from the concerns regarding the need for regular screenings and tackling oral diseases early and successfully, patients can see this as a green light to side step appointments – whatever the state of their oral health and in whatever country they reside.
Your dental marketing therefore sometimes has to partake in a little fire fighting to nip in the bud those common myths and misconceptions that arise for generic media coverage.
A year is a long time in dentistry let alone politics (as 2018 proved) so there needs to be engagement throughout the 12 months in order to hammer home these key oral health messages among existing patients and to reel in new ones.
Target the missing
So, target former patients you haven’t heard from in a while. Why are they staying away? Do they understand their own individual needs and oral health challenges? Remember, their absence is not only hitting your bottom line but also impacting on their overall health. In which case, use this as a reason to make contact.
Get active on social media to job memories as to why a dental health check is so important. Post-Christmas, many of us are seeking a healthier lifestyle following the indulgences of the season. Flag up the New Year resolutions idea and turn the long dark month of January to your business advantage.
Remind them of the importance of regular attendance and set up an email marketing campaign to those former patients you haven’t seen in a while.
Blog… a lot
Include a link to the relevant landing pages on your practice website to encourage further interested in the treatments you offer beyond the annual oral health examination.
Recycle blogs with a rewrite and update information if you haven’t the time to write fresh copy – or consider investing in a copywriter to put together a timetabled package of regular dental blogs that are unique to your practice. Ensure your website is as easy to read on a mobile as it is on a desktop – these days, most consumers begin their purchasing journey on their smartphone.
If you haven’t done so already, consider setting up an Instagram account. It is now widely considered one of the key tools used by businesses to market their products and services – and dentistry is no exception.
Dentistry is obviously a very visual business, which means the photo-sharing platform is perfectly placed to showcase your skills, those happy patients and ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos of successful smile makeovers.
Technology is revolutionising the profession with innovations and tools to ensure treatments are delivered faster, are safer with more predictable and pleasing results.
Shout about the equipment you’ve recently invested in to ensure your patients’ receive cutting-edge care. If you’ve recently refurbished the practice, update your website with images and share on social media. If a patient hasn’t been to see you in a while, they wont know about the changes you’ve made unless you tell them.
Be sure to raise awareness of everything your practice offers, including any methods you may use to reduce dental anxiety. Statistics from the Oral Health Foundation suggest almost half of UK adults fear the dentist, with 12% of these suffering from an extreme dental anxiety or phobia.
Tell a story
Essentially, dental marketing is simply a form of story telling so do encourage patients to share their experiences. Personalise treatments with patient videos. Rich content is key for any business looking to interact with its target audience, with evidence suggesting that by 2020 videos will account for 82% of global consumer traffic.
Dental marketing is driven by good content but you also need to analyse your activity. Look back at 2018 and consider the posts that worked as well as those that didn’t. Paying to boost the content on Facebook that the statistics suggest excites your audience, for example, is better than second guessing what is of interest. You may be surprised by what posts get them to engage. Like dentistry, reflecting on past performances hones skills and will lead to better results in the long term.
Reviews, referrals and testimonials are powerful marketing tools. Invite feedback from your happy patients to boost the number of positive online comments about your business. Statistics suggest 97% of consumers are likely to read online reviews before settling on a local business.
So, regularly monitor your rating on Google. With patients chiefly concerned with quality of care, affordability and convenience, make sure you deliver on these areas. If your practice is particularly strong in any sector, shout about it on social media. Be sure to handle any disgruntled patients sensitively and react to their online posts immediately and professionally with a positive approach. Good complaints handling has been known to change around a negative viewpoint.
Be sure that the whole team understands your dental marketing strategy, is encouraged to share the ‘good news’ and encourage them to invite patient feedback. Effective team training is the backbone of any successful practice and marketing is no exception.
Tailor your dental marketing plan to meet the needs of your patients – lapsed or otherwise – and ensure there is consistency in your key messages. Educate, entertain and engage with long-forgotten patients using unique and valuable content on your website, via social media posts and in email marketing campaigns. Keep it coming – and so will they!