Dentistry’s guide to improving your practice during the coronavirus lockdown
People across the country have been little further than their homes for the two and a half weeks following the government’s lockdown announcement.
But just because the world of dental treatments has come to a temporary halt, it does not mean that your practice has to.
Now is the perfect opportunity for you to work and improve your business – and it can all be done from the comfort of your own home.
We’ve spoken to a selection of dental marketing, finance and social media experts to deliver you the best tips for making your lockdown productive.
Improve your marketing
Fortunately, dental practices are always going to be needed. With this in mind, it’s important to keep your marketing up to date and relevant. Nobody knows when the country – or world – is going to emerge from the chaos. However, it’s important you are ready for when we do.
As Chris Baker, of Corona Marketing Limited, points out, it is likely that marketing is near the bottom of your to-do list at the moment – and rightly so.
However, he believes missing it completely will make things harder once we are out the other end. ‘Pretending that your marketing is irrelevant in the current situation would be a big mistake too,’ he said.
‘When we get through this – and we will get through it – people will remember how brands and their communication made them feel.
‘Many people are feeling sad, alone and somewhat anxious. We are also logging on to social networks much, much more than before in search of information.
‘How you communicate with your audiences across the various touch points during this crisis can have a big effect on how quickly your practice comes out of it and get back to normal.’
So what should you and your team be doing? Chris offers some tips:
- Ensure that the practice website is up-to-date with all the pertinent information in terms of emergency points of contact, advice and so on. This should be easy to find – a pop-up on the homepage that is clear and unavoidable.
- You should be sending your existing patient base a ‘keep in touch’ email at least every month. This should include, oral health education, ideas for looking after their bodies and minds, and community and corporate social responsibility items. You should also offer home care advice. For example, if a patient has braces, direct them to www.bos.org.uk for advice on how to look after them during lockdown
Keep on top of social media
As people remain home during lockdown, it is likely they will be spending more time on social media than ever before. Don’t miss out on the opportunity.
However, there are obvious ‘no gos’. For example, now is not the time to start sending out ‘selling’ posts. But Chris says this does mean you can’t engage with your patients.
He said: ‘At the moment remember, you have a pretty captive audience. Now is your time to shine as the informative, inspiring and humorous bunch that you and your team no doubt are.
‘What would you like to see on your Facebook timeline or pop up on Instagram? Above all else, this is the time to be authentic. When this is all over and life and work return to some kind of normal, the public is going to be able to make choices again. You can’t feel particularly connected to a building or a scanner – but you can feel connected to a person, a group of people or a team.
Similarly, Shaz Memon, a dental marketing expert, says now is an opportune time jump on your social media marketing. He has revealed his top tips:
- Change your tune – it’s not the time to be making Instagram posts that are not sympathetic to current times. Consumers won’t engage with or absorb messages from brands when they are mentally disengaged. Insensitive posts that do not consider our current climate is reckless and will undoubtedly annoy people and damage the brand you have spent time building
- Show solidarity and care – send out a post directed from the founders of your business, expressing solidarity and care for your patients. Show leadership by telling them you care, and that you are still accessible for phone and video calls
- Relevant information – your patients may be mid-way through many treatment plans. Send out specific guidance to each group of patients on what they should do to manage their journey. Patients who are undergoing a specific treatment may want to know what they should be doing right now if they are coming to the end of treatment. Don’t just send out the email once. Re-send communications at least every two weeks. Personalise the emails where possible
- Goal setting – Inspire your patients and help them set personal goals. Share goals and encourage followers to share their results. Setting measurable goals and being encouraging makes it more likely that followers will share their results, and they will remember this experience and how you made them feel in their time of need.
Get involved with online CPD
Now is also a great time to scrub up on your CPD requirements. While the GDC has said nobody will be removed from the register due to CPD access troubles, it has reminded professionals that there are other options aside from face-to-face sessions.
On April 15/16, we are launching the first Online CPD Dentistry Show. Thanks to Oral-B, this will give you a year’s ECPD from the comfort of your own home.
All profits from the event will go to the NHS to help it continue its great work in the face of COVID-19.
Signing up to the show will give delegates nine hours of ECPD across two days. Delegates will hear from leading speakers from around the profession – and all for free.
Add to your website
Your website should never be seen as separate from your practice. You should take as much pride in your online presence as you do in your actual practice – and this should not stop as a result of COVID-19.
Dental Design recommend using your website to reach out and help your patients:
- Updates. Your website is essentially an extension of your practice, one that can be reached at all times from the comfort of the home. It’s the ideal place to put up notices and update your patients with news about the practice during this time. You can also set up a WhatsApp for your practice so patients can get in touch more easily. Keeping your website up-to-date not only keeps your patients in the loop, but also helps your site in the long run. Regularly updating content gives your site a boost in your rankings.
- Closed notice. Many of our clients are making use of our notice pop-ups that appear when their site loads. These notices serve well in letting patients know that the practice is closed while giving information on what to do during a dental emergency. As an alternative, some practice websites are adding the notice to the homepage itself to avoid having that key information missed
- Video consultations. These are a simple and convenient way to communicate with patients – most notably those in dental pain. Being able to connect with your patients in this virtually face-to-face manner will allow you to better assess their needs and more accurately identify a genuine dental emergency. We know that there are limitations to emergency dental services at the moment, but having a caring and friendly dentist on a video call can be relief in itself when someone is in pain. You can talk them through ways to deal with the symptoms until it is safe to visit a dentist.
Take a look at the practice market
Like everything at the moment, the dental sales market has been impacted by the outbreak of COVID-19. However, that does not mean that it has to come to a halt entirely – and should not stop you taking a look at what’s around.
Andy Acton, of Frank Taylor & Associates, believes flexibility is key during this uncertain time but suspects funding will be soon be available. As a result, the pandemic should not mean now is an inappropriate time to consider a practice purchase or sale.
Andy said: ‘However, for ongoing transactions we have had only a couple of deals abort due to COVID-19 and encouragingly deals that were close to completion carried on as both parties were fully committed and have completed.
‘A number of transactions in the legal process have been deferred and ‘slowed’ down with a view to picking up the matter when the future landscape is clearer.
‘Buyers are looking to still make long-term decisions and I am taking the view that the current climate will be a temporary measure that whilst it will disturb the performance of a practice for a period of time there will be no impact on the long-term success of the sector.’
Additionally, he believes demand for dental practices will still be significant as we near 2021.
‘There is a considered and calm approach being taken by the specialist lawyers advising clients, as is the case from accountants,’ he said.
‘The situation with the banks is in a state of flux as they support existing clients. However, as we come through COVID-19, I would expect there to be clear mandate from the Government to stimulate growth across the UK.
‘Given that healthcare, and dentistry in particular, is a low risk sector I would expect to see funding support being made available very soon.
‘There will be period of time where it will be necessary for sellers, and buyers, to adapt and be flexible in relation to agreeing terms on the sale of a dental practice.
‘However, this situation is not expected to exist for more than a few months.’
He added: ‘Taking all these factors into consideration I am confident that there will still be a significant demand for dental practices as we move towards 2021.’
Research the latest dental innovations
Another good use of your time is researching new and exciting dental technology that’s set to hit the market. Jeremy Cooper says now is a good time to scrub up on industry knowledge.
He said: ‘The internet is good when it comes to looking at a company website.
‘However, I am much more interested in reading articles from independent magazines – especially those where different companies are mentioned. Independent product assessment by your peers is often the best recommendation you can get about a particular material or piece of equipment.’
And of course, when this is all over, exhibitions and shows will start back up again.
With this in mind, he added: ‘My final advice is go to meetings and courses so you can try before you buy.’