This article originally appeared in the July/2020 issue of the Academy of General Dentistry’s AGD Impact magazine.
By Jackie Ulasewich Cullen
If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that marketing your dental practice online is more important than ever, but that the message may have changed. The crisis has trained people to reach for their computers for information, products and services instead of heading out to Main Street. It has also reframed how we interact with the world and each other; what is safe and what is not is still a question in many people’s minds. Whether or not this new reliance on digital access stays this way remains to be seen, but, as a practice, you can leverage the online momentum and the public’s need for facts to rebuild your practice.
A cohesive marketing strategy that uses several marketing channels will always be the best way to grow your new patient list and retain your existing ones. Your audience is scattered across the online world; new patients are not just going to your website or finding you via a review site. You have to meet them on all the various online platforms where you can share information about your practice, such as your website, Facebook page, Google My Business listing, website landing pages and email marketing. Marketing to these new patients doesn’t stop as soon as they book their first appointment, though. You’ll need consistent communication with your patients outside of your practice to keep them engaged. Using Facebook and email marketing are great ways to help you stay top of mind with them as well as market new services or promotions.
What has changed, however, is that your patients may need even more information about your practice to feel safe again. Educating your community will be an ongoing process, but it’s an opportunity to share your expertise, position yourself as a trusted authority and set yourself apart from competitors.
Include content about the safety precautions your practice is now taking and how your team is keeping up to date on new safety training. Your overall goal should be to set a confident tone that will put patients at ease. It might not be clear to them what is safe and what is not, and providing them with this information will not only have them setting new appointments — it will also give them a reason to share your knowledge with friends and family.
Equally important is listening to your community and patients to understand questions or issues that they are having. Whether it’s answering a question that keeps getting mentioned in your practice or providing content to help people feel uplifted, share that in your marketing.
It might not be about your practice specifically, but hearing a hopeful message from you makes you stand out in the crowd. Again, use all your online platforms to spread this content. A blog on your website about your new safety measures can be turned into a video that is shared on Facebook, sent out as an email, added to a new landing page and more.
This is new territory for all of us, and that means there will be some trial and error when marketing and running your practice. If something doesn’t work with your marketing, instead of abandoning it, adjust. For example, if your Google Ads are not getting the response you expected, you may just need to change the copy on the landing page or the message in the ad. What worked in the past may be different now, but that doesn’t mean Facebook or email marketing is broken. Keep testing and adjusting.
While uncertainty about the future remains, one thing that is certain is that we need to adapt to changing times. While you may not have performed virtual consultations in the past, you might need to include them now. Your audience might be consuming information differently, and you’ll have to meet them where they are. Where a meet-and-greet in person was the norm before, a Zoom meeting might be just as acceptable. It may be uncomfortable at first, but adopting these new ways of communicating and interacting with your patients will help them stay connected with you in the face of inevitable change.
Jackie Ulasewich Cullen is co-founder of My Dental Agency, a marketing company specializing in dental practice. To comment on this article, email firstname.lastname@example.org.