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Dental services as we know them have evolved into a fine juxtaposition of pain management and aesthetics that create unprecedented demand for preventative, curative, and purely cosmetic dental services.
Effective dental marketing is rooted in a dentist’s ability to deliver services of such caliber that current patients will be compelled to advocate on their behalf, online and offline, and future patients will be persuaded by the conviction of the current patient pool.
If you are a dental practitioner out to grow your practice, both in the number of patients and the type and cost of services that you provide, then you need to do so in a way that is efficient, effective, and presents minimal risk for your practice. By focusing on the most effective marketing tools available to your segment, you will save money and be able to focus on what matters most: patient care. As it stands, your best bet for cost-effective, impactful marketing continues to be online presence through reputation and brand development.
Reviews as a Means for Dental Marketing Are on the Rise
Between 2013 and 2014, the number of reported patients who resorted to online reviews when selecting a dental practitioner jumped 68 percent over a period of 12 months. Nearly half of those conducting online research during the selection process indicated that they would be willing to go out-of-network if a dentist had strong online reviews. (Go here to take a look at the complete report conducted by Software Advice.)
It is important to note that while there have been concerns on the part of dental professionals regarding the disproportionate representation of negative feedback, the reality is quite different. A large number of patients are open to leaving positive or neutral reviews, mainly motivated by the idea of helping other patients make provider decisions. In making decisions regarding the extent to which a dental practice will engage in review and reputation management, it is essential to take into account the importance of having a long timeline of positive reviews to demonstrate tenure as well as a consistent drip or recent reviews to increase trust.
Presently, while more than 50 percent of patients resort to reviews when making their dental provider selections, only about 5 percent of the total patient population leaves online reviews, giving dental marketers a significant opportunity for growth.
Let’s take a look at five easy and painless moves your dental practice can take today to improve your online reputation.
Yelp Goes First
We know this may sound counterintuitive – after all, you are getting most of the pitches for engagement from specialized medical or dentist directories only – but trust us on this one. Many studies point to Yelp as the main source for research as well as lead origination for dentists, orthodontists, and oral surgeons. When the time comes for your dental office to decide where to invest your time and money, make sure you have Yelp at the top of your list.
The best way to begin is by taking ownership of your profile and ensuring you are maximizing every single one of the no-cost marketing tools available to you, such as widgets, offline-marketing collateral, and the ability to respond to reviewers. As your review volume and density begin to increase, take time to assess the pros and cons of pushing a paid Yelp advertising campaign. Many dental practices in secondary markets report significant success through limited or seasonal advertising campaigns through Yelp for Business.
Request Reviews Where You Can
Now that we’ve talked about Yelp and how it can impact your dental practice, let’s move on to other third-party, popular medical review sites, specifically those that allow and encourage two-way engagement with your patients. There are many directory and review sites that not only allow but also encourage and equip dental practices to request online reviews from their patients.
By requesting directly from a patient list, you can leverage these review sites to ensure that the reviews they display are in fact from real patients, adding a layer of credibility to the content. Take time to learn which sites allow for patient outreach, and look into options to integrate your CMS in order to ask for feedback and secure reviews shortly after a visit, when the patient is still able to recall the details of his or her experience with clarity and accuracy. Because of its popularity and level of trustworthiness, one of our favorite options for dentists is Healthgrades, which provides practitioners with free, customized postcards designed to engage patients and secure online reviews.
Diversify Your Services by Mixing Core Services with Aspirational Services
Like we said before, dental practices have evolved and now are valued by their ability to offer core dental services such as dental hygiene, root canals, crowns, and restorative care, along with the dental services people want, such as dental whitening, adult-friendly orthodontics, and high-quality dental implants.
When crafting marketing collateral such as profile content, brochures, sites, etc., look for ways to mix what patients need with the things patients want, and find ways to make aspirational dentistry affordable. Through diversification of services, you will be far more likely to secure text-heavy patient reviews that highlight vanity services.
Go for a Spa Look and Feel
Step away from the clinical setting, and work on creating an ambiance conducive to a sense of luxury and relaxation. Aside from reducing the anxiety associated with dental phobia, a pleasant environment will trigger positive correlations in association with your practice. Consult with experts in matters of color selection and sound feedback to create a patient-friendly atmosphere.
Because many of the memories associated with dental phobia are triggered by olfactory feedback, it is important that you take the necessary steps to reduce offensive or chemical smells. Many patients end up writing positive reviews that are mainly inspired by the extra perks provided by your practice. When it comes to growing your online reputation, look and feel really matter. Work on making your clinic a special place, where patients feel comfortable and welcome.
Proactive Reputation Management Is a Must
Agility in adjusting services, clinic culture, and patient experience is key to the success of your practice’s online reputation. Implement an ongoing, hands-on reputation management plan that incorporates real-time monitoring, review response standards, and patient engagement. A managed reputation will put your practice ahead of the competition, and it will give you the essential data for the implementation of continual process and performance improvements.