Marketing to Millennials Requires a Different Strategy

February 20, 2017
Ed Rabinowitz

Attracting millennials to your dental practice requires a tech-centric marketing strategy. Naren Arulrajah, founder and CEO of Ekwa Marketing, says that this generation wants instant information, delivered on their terms. Social media, email and text-based marketing are all critical components of a strategy that will reach this group, Arulrajah says.

Marketing is marketing, right? No, not exactly. With today’s technology, marketing is anything but a one-size-fits-all strategy. And if you’re marketing to millennials — and of course, you should be — then it’s imperative that you understand how this generation makes decisions.

Millennials grew up with smart phones and computers. Most of them don’t know a time when they couldn't find the information they wanted or needed within a few quick keystrokes. And when they reach out, you’d better be ready to respond.

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“In the old days, I call you, and I leave a voicemail,” says Naren Arulrajah, founder and CEO of Ekwa Marketing. “Nowadays, if I’m a new customer and you don’t answer the phone, you will lose me. I don’t have the patience to leave a voicemail and wait.”

First Impressions

The old saying that you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression rings particularly true among millennials. They are an impatient generation, Arulrajah says, and they don’t need to take six months and talk to 10 of their friends to figure something out. They have choices, and they exercise them.

“Remember when you had the Yellow Pages, and that was all you had?” he asks, rhetorically. “You didn’t have the ability to switch very easily. Now they do.”

Arulrajah explains that the playing field has changed, and the bar is being raised all the time. If you want to reach the millennial population, forget about voicemail. For that matter, forget about email. You need to be prepared to text.

“Some of our clients are having us enable texting on their mobile website,” Arulrajah says. “They’re used to texting. They live on texting all day long. That’s how they make an appointment to see you. And if you don’t serve them the way they want to be served, they’ll go elsewhere.”

Forming Relationships

Millennials also form relationships differently. Arulrajah says he has clients in their 60s who love a handshake and the personal touch of a face-to-face encounter. Those elements don’t impress millennials.

“They’re more into data,” he says. “Give me what I want, don’t waste my time, and get to the point.”

The source of information is also important. For example, millennials are more likely to trust the wisdom of the crowd than they trust individuals, and more likely to trust strangers than large institutions. Consider Airbnb — sleeping in someone else’s bedroom, and everyone is okay with that. Why?

“Because they read the reviews,” Arulrajah says. “Because 20 other people slept there, so they feel it’s a decent place to sleep.”

Capture the Comments

Do patients say nice things about your practice? If they do but others don’t hear those comments, or those comments are not recorded somewhere for others to read, what good are they?

Ekwa Marketing has a product called Gotomyreviews.com, and Arulrajah says it makes leaving a comment as easy as pressing a button. Patients are sent a text and it asks them if they’re on Facebook. If they are, they press a button and they’re taken to the practice’s Facebook page where they can select the number of “stars” they want to award the practice.

“Two minutes and it’s done,” Arulrajah says. “Many practices miss out on this because they’re either not asking patients at the right moment, or they aren’t making it easy for patients.”

Handing patients a postcard and asking them to fill in comments and mail it back never happens.

“Sending the text makes it easier.”

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Maximize Social Media

Arulrajah points out that millennials rely heavily on social media. Even on birthdays, no one talks to each other. They post on friends’ Facebook pages instead, and the messages are seen by hundreds of other people. Dentists can maximize that exposure.

When the patient’s exam is finished, have a staff member take a photo of the patient and dentist, with the patient holding a sign that might say “I had my crown done at Joe Smith Family Dentistry.” Then upload the photo to the practice’s Facebook page and tag the patient.

“The patient didn’t have to do anything,” Arulrajah says. “He or she didn’t even have to smile. But because they are tagged, now all of a sudden 300 of their friends are seeing it.”

And because their friends want to be nice, they’ll award the post a Like. Now, all of their friends are seeing that.

“The mindset has changed,” Arulrajah says. “It’s not that people don’t like sharing good news with others, it’s just that the way they do it is different. You can reach thousands of people with one minute worth of effort.”

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