We've created a list of the 15 best dental marketing tips to help your practice recover from Covid-19 lockdown.
If you have a mixed or private practice as many of our clients do, then you’re probably deeply concerned about financial sustainability and how to plan for recovery.
It’s fair to say that dentists who will be in a position to reopen their practices again when lockdown is lifted, will want to maximise every opportunity to regain loses. Any dental practice marketing that you do in this ‘new norm’ must have direct appointment outcomes.
But before you commit valuable funds to marketing, you’ll certainly want to know how patient behaviour, sentiment, attitudes and movement have changed during coronavirus. Will they have to travel further for a dental appointment? Are they desperate for an appointment with the first dentist who can see them? Are they putting off going to the dentist because they’re scared of catching coronavirus?
Having these answers will determine the best way to talk to patients through marketing, and the most effective way – whether it’s by email, paid search, paid social, radio ads, direct mail and so on – to communicate with them.
In the list below, we’ve put together a range of considerations for dentists who want to think about how to move forward and start looking for ways to attract new patients. Some of these you’ll be able to do in your practice for very little cost.
What should you start doing?
- Prioritise your dental marketing spend where there’s the greatest opportunity to help people. When practices reopen, there’s likely to be pent up demand for emergency treatments, hygiene appointments and check-ups. Market these procedures first and let patients know that your practice has reopened. Leave other non-urgent treatment campaigns for a more appropriate time.
- Accept patients from practices that don’t reopen. Sadly, some dental practices have had to close permanently. Use your marketing to let people in your local area know if you’re accepting new patients.
- Tell patients about the precautions you’re taking. Patients will want to know about the precautions your practice is taking to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Any posters or videos you create to explain the patient journey to new and existing patients needs to clearly explain this, as should your messaging on social media or in ad campaigns.
- Market your practice further afield. Before COVID-19, you may have marketed to prospective new patients living within a five-mile radius of your practice. But practice closures may mean patients have to journey further afield. To make sure they are aware of your practice and have access to it, broaden the targeting of your paid social ads and your paid search ads on Google and Bing.
- Post three times a week on your social channels. Once you know how patient behaviour, sentiment, movement and attitudes have changed, create posts that you believe will resonate with them. Posting frequency across all industries has dropped from four times per week to three times per week. This means that right now, if your posts are high quality and relevant to patients in the current situation, they’re likely to receive higher engagement rates and better post performance. A survey in March 2020, of more than 13,000 people in the countries hardest hit by COVID-19, also found that 45 percent of people were spending more time on social media.
- Ramp up your email marketing. Currently, there’s an increase in daily email open rates of 5-10 percent every week. That presents dentists with a unique opportunity to talk to patients, offering them information about how they can help them.
“Email marketing is one of the most affordable and effective ways that dental practices can generate awareness of their practice and build trust. At the moment, patient attention is highly focused on this channel.”
Ivan Davies, Executive Creative Director at Arc Worldwide
- Show how you’re providing care in the community. If your practice staff are raising funds for charity, helping people at home or serving the community, then it’s important that you communicate this to patients. Eighty four percent of US consumers said how businesses act during COVID-19 will be important to their loyalty in the future.
- Collaborate with other clinicians and practitioners. If you’re not already collaborating with a local doctor’s surgery and allied practitioners, now is a good time to consider it. Relationships between professional disciplines can help to improve oral health in the local community and help to grow your patient numbers.
- Automate and re-engineer internal processes to drive efficiency and reduce spend: Lockdown has seen the use of instant messaging apps like Facebook Messenger skyrocket. With this technology your reception team can talk to patients in real time. They can ask them to opt into your email marketing, so you can send them updates about your practice and treatments. Chatbots on your website take Facebook Messenger one step further, providing automated messages to patient queries. This frees up your reception team from answering common questions about pricing, opening hours, parking, location and so on.
- Ask for a discount. Some healthcare marketing agencies (ours included) are offering ‘booster packs’ of discounted services to help dentists rapidly grow their patient numbers when practices reopen. Google is also offering small to medium-sized businesses (SMEs) worldwide credits that can be used towards ad spend. Check with a dental marketing agency to see how your practice can access this support.
What should you continue doing?
- Monitor patient feedback and act on it. Patient reviews are one clear way you can find out what patients expect in this ‘new norm’. Retaining patients is essential for practices, but now more than ever before. Making sure your website is set up to receive patient reviews is essential for understanding how your patients feel about the treatments and customer experience they’ve received. Make sure you respond quickly to patients whose feedback is less than stellar and take the opportunity to improve your practice’s performance.
- Keep optimising your Local SEO. When practices reopen, patients who don’t have a dentist and are in urgent need of treatment may carry out ‘near me’ searches on Google. These searches have a much higher level of intent when it comes to appointment booking. Continuing to optimise your Google My Business listing, including Google Maps (so your practice is visible in the ‘Local 3-pack’ or the top three listings) and Google Phone Ads, will ensure you’re best placed to capitalise on those searches.
And if it’s at all possible…
- Keep improving your practice website. Your patients are likely to be a lot more digitally savvy than when lockdown started and as such, their expectations of how your website functions will have increased. Ensuring that your practice offers online appointment booking capability, offers Facebook Messenger as a way of talking to your practice team, has a responsive website and fast page loading speeds, will all help to meet their expectations.
- Don’t let your SEO slip. When practices reopen, we expect to see patients searching for those in-demand treatments, such as hygiene appointments and check-ups. By investing in search engine optimisation, you’ll improve your website’s ranking in Google, Bing and other search engines, so it’s visible to patients during those searches.
- Use micro-influencers. These people are like your patients, but have more of a following on social media. Have them tell personal stories relative to the current situation. This can help increase patients’ positive sentiment and affinity with your practice.
Over to you
Coronavirus has irreparably changed the way dental practices operate. Whether that relates to the treatments you offer, how you staff your practice or the way you attract new patients. With so much at stake, the way you market your dental practice will be more important than ever.
If you need strategic help and advice on how best to go about this please feel free to schedule a call with Somnowell Marketing’s Director Luke Clarkson.
Our team is here to help you plan for recovery.