As another year comes to a close, now is the perfect opportunity for you as a dentist and practice owner to reflect back on your own highs and lows of 2019. Whether you’ve had a lackluster year in the dental practice and are looking to start fresh, or you’re invigorated by recent success and are excited to keep the momentum going, it’s helpful to tap into consumer-driven marketing trends in order to create a plan to reach them and build your practice in the coming year. After all, your dental patients and consumers are one and the same.
When looking at the most prevalent consumer trends of the year, there is one overarching theme that keeps popping up, and that is the growing need for dentists to build meaningful patient connections. Competition among dentists is fierce right now in most markets across the country, meaning patients can pick and choose among any number of private practices and Dental Service Organizations (DSOs). It’s harder than ever for dentists to stand out from the crowd, but those who make the effort to build connections-both online and in person-are better able to reach more patients and differentiate their practice from all the rest.
So how can dentists use the idea of patient connections to help shape a productive and profitable 2020? Let’s dive in.
Forging patient connections through…content creation
Nearly every dental practice has an online profile today, so how can you break through the noise and get noticed online? By creating and sharing your own content, and the good news is online content can take any number of forms:
Regardless of what style of content you choose to produce, what is most important is to personalize your marketing. Get real, tell stories and engage with patients (without violating any HIPAA regulations, of course).
Forging patient connections through…online chat
It used to be that incorporating an online chat feature on a customer-facing website was viewed as a “nice to have,” but within the last year, it is quickly becoming a “must have.” In fact, a recent study found that for consumers who visit your website on a mobile device, 62 percent of them expect to have the option to chat with your office online.1 Consumers love the ability to communicate with your office in real-time-any time that is convenient for them.
Put yourself in your patients’ proverbial shoes for just a minute. It is far easier and more enjoyable to open a chat box and schedule an appointment in just minutes instead of calling the office and waiting on hold. You also may have noticed that for most people under the age of 40, the concept of a phone call is completely foreign. Texting and chatting is the name of the game for Millennials, who, believe it or not, now make up the majority of moms.
And it’s also important to remember that today’s patients are often thinking about your practice during off hours, such as late evenings or weekends, which then requires them to email or to call and leave a voicemail on the office phone, delaying communication for hours and maybe even days. At that point, the impulse may have passed or they may have already made an appointment with another provider who was simply more reachable. Online chat can be a valuable tool, helping patients at the precise moment they are on your website and most engaged with your practice.
The good news is that implementing online chat does not require you to staff your front desk 24/7. There are well-known industry professionals that specialize in helping dentists modernize their websites with HIPAA-compliant real-time chat features, including WEO Media (weomedia.com) and PBHS (pbhs.com).
Companies such as Weave (getweave.com) offer dentists the opportunity to enhance their front desk, helping staff to text in real-time from their desktop computers, alleviating the crush of telephone calls while helping reach patients using their smartphones.
Forging patient connections through…social media
Social media sites remain a powerful way to forge and maintain connections with your patient base, but there are many platforms today that present countless opportunities to reach patients. Facebook certainly still reigns supreme in terms of numbers of users (1.59 billion daily users2) and is simply too large of a force for dentists to ignore, but that doesn’t mean Facebook has to be the only social media platform to engage on.
With over 1 billion users worldwide (110 million in the U.S. alone), and with over 60 percent of users logging in daily,3 Instagram is the second most engaged social network after Facebook. Instagram is steadily growing in numbers and is a more visually-driven platform that can be a fun and light-hearted, yet effective way to connect with patients as well.
Many dentists scoff at the idea of marketing to Millennials. But the truth is if you are trying to reach local moms (who are often the chief healthcare decision-makers of their families), the oldest of the Millennial generation are entering their 40s, putting them front and center in one of your key target audiences. Millennial moms, along with the Generation X moms who are also an influential factor in dental offices, are tech-fluent and active on Instagram, and more than 80 percent of Instagram users follow a business account.4 So if you haven’t shifted your social media strategy to include Instagram, it will definitely be worth your time to take a closer look in 2020.
Forging patient connections through…retention strategies
While it’s important to have ongoing efforts to reach new patients, the patients you already have won over are invaluable to practice success, so it pays to invest in keeping your current patient-base happy. Give your patients reasons to continually come back to the office. Expand your offerings to include highly sought-after cosmetic treatments or by providing more comprehensive dentistry to keep your patients in-house. Consider investing in patient-centric technology that offers same-day solutions such as CAD/CAM (cerec.com orplanmeca.com) and immediate implants (ultratooth.com) to appeal to busy patients on-the-go. Also, consider lasers that can enable you to provide virtually pain-free procedures that will make even the most nervous patients comfortable in your chair (convergentdental.com/solea).
Building long-term patient connections starts in the practice, but with today’s technology, it is easier than ever to cultivate your own dental community that speaks to the modern dental patient. Engaging with patients in the ways they have come to expect and appreciate will no doubt have a positive – and productive – effect on your dental practice in the coming year.