Digital dental patient engagement – and the need to slow down

Shaz Memon explains why deep and meaningful interactions can go a long way with potential new patients.

We live in a world of an ‘in the moment’ culture. Communication is instant and almost any event is Instagrammable. We can ‘meet’ people online and gain an inside track on their private and professional lives, even if we are never likely to press the flesh with them.

Fast is not just furious, it’s essential for a dental practice to stay afloat. The internet is a conduit for great dental marketing – and, ultimately, a profitable business. In effect, you have to be in it to win it. Social media platforms are the equivalent of show and tell on steroids, giving dentists endless opportunities to showcase smile makeovers, shout about their teams, show off their practice refurbs, highlight award wins and educate and entertain their audience (and possible next patient) to boot.

In a world where content is king and bold is beautiful, dentists need to make an indelible mark online as part of a successful marketing strategy, adding immense value to the patient experience – sometimes before they’ve even stepped inside a practice door.

In an Instagram-driven world of ‘see it, snap it, post it’, practices are perfectly placed to capitalise on the opportunities this platform affords them.

However, whilst digital dental marketing is essential, dentists should be wary of neglecting the more traditional channels of communication.

Indeed, the secret ingredient to successful marketing campaigns is ‘consistency’ – across all channels and in the real world as well as online.

The delivery of care behind the ‘flash and dash’ of any digital marketing needs to reflect what your patients see in the palm of their hands – in effect, their dental experience with you in the chair needs to be synonymous with your smartphone storytelling.

To ensure business sustainability, the time given to online patient engagement needs to translate seamlessly into the clinic. A brand that evidently takes time to engage in every way reaps the benefits and will be one that patients consider worthy of their long-term investment.

Mutual respect is a key component in any relationship and a practice team should be well versed in – and be able to deliver on – the ethos you expect and the virtues you extol within your digital marketing activity.

Keep it real

Whilst bespoke dental care is not an entirely new concept, it is certainly one that drives patients into the chair – and this is particularly relevant in an aesthetic setting.

We all wish to be made to feel special ­– dentistry is no exception. Importantly, the ideal of trust should run throughout the messages you convey, transcending the boundaries of online marketing to deliver tangible experiences for your patients whose expectations are more than likely to be based on what you have said and shown digitally.

Promotional activity must be substantiated with clinical care. If your social media posts suggest you are a trailblazer, what evidence is there in clinic to support this?

If you’re innovative online, how is this reflected in the real world? If you take time to answer questions and share oral health information on your website, do you also actively listen and offer key advice to patients in the chair during an appointment?

In essence, the dynamics of your dental marketing should have roots in your delivery of dentistry and not the other way round.

So, rather than working from the outside in, establish what lies at the heart of your practice and then promote these values to the outside world.

There’s nothing wrong with being experimental in your dental marketing, so long as you remain authentic and true to your core values.

For the chosen few

Recently, I decided to host a small gathering in London for a few of my dental friends and colleagues and chose a more traditional approach to the invitations. You can read more about the event here

Whilst I pride myself on delivering a cutting-edge marketing experience for my clients, my return to old-school methods of communicating and its obvious attention to detail did not go unnoticed.

I printed the invitations on quality stock paper, I used a traditional wax seal on the envelopes – a labour of love applying these, I can assure you – and hand delivered those I could. To make life easier for my guests, however, the RSVP, was requested to an email address.

In effect, it translated into a luxurious experience and optimised the best of both worlds.

The response to my post on Instagram, in which I delved into history of the wax seal, was terrific and many followers from a young demographic, appreciated my ‘retro’ approach.

Old-school touches

In the financial flux in which we currently find ourselves, due partly perhaps to a little political instability at the time I write this, deep and meaningful interactions can go a long way in sealing the deal with potential clients, as well as add a different dimension and possibly a talking point to client-patient relationships.

Using a combination of traditional and digital communication pleases a cross section of the population and also appeals at different levels for many of them.

Patients seek reassurance at many levels – investment in their long-term continuity of care can be demonstrated with little touches, such as personalised appointment reminders, free wifi and drinks in reception areas, and samples of oral health products to take away and try. Small gestures go a long way to cementing long-lasting relationships and many of us attach value to tradition and welcome a return to old-fashioned values and a long-forgotten culture.

Look at the resurgence of vinyl records, for example, and the embracing of journaling as a hobby – both an embodiment of time and added value. Old-style values can easily be accommodated in the new order of things. There is a lot to be learnt from traditional ways of communicating and convergence of the old and new is beneficial to everyone.

Just as patients appreciate an unhurried appointment, they will welcome an investment of time in the way a practice communicates with them.

A traditional form of communication is the quiet, gentle voice in a noisy, busy online setting – and is also another way to set your business above your competition. Your dedication will not go unnoticed.

Yes, time is money but investing in quality time with patients reaps rewards, too. Enhance your dental marketing with some old-school touches and watch your brand grow.

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