Regional Support Manager, Matt Hadman, shares his thoughts on ensuring that your patients feel confident about their safety when returning back to your practice.
Many of you will have reopened some weeks ago now, after the initial pandemic restrictions of face-to-face dentistry were relaxed. While you, and your team, were likely to be excited to get back to work, some of your patients may be apprehensive about returning for appointments. Making sure those patients feel confident about their safety is your main marketing priority to ensure as many of your patients as possible are happy to return to the practice.
From conversations I’ve been having, lots of you are concerned about what could happen two to three months down the line. Many of you currently have a backlog of urgent appointments so you are very busy and this will likely continue for the next few months. What will happen when the backlog is cleared?
What you do now will prepare you for the future.
I’m going to try to cover some strategies to help you create smooth and steady growth in your practice over the next six to twelve months. Growth from your marketing efforts right now will be essential for many of you, not only to counteract Coronavirus fears but also any long-term declines in your patient base due to unemployment, etc.
Many of you will have stopped marketing when routine dentistry ceased. This has caused a drop in competition in Google Ads and other pay-per-click marketing platforms like Facebook. Right now, getting new patient traffic to your website is easier and less expensive. Over the next six months, it’s likely we will see a return to more expensive advertising. Take this opportunity to drive traffic to your website in the short term while the costs are lower. Some of this traffic will turn into new patients that will help you smooth out the inevitable drop in demand over the next six months.
Marketing safety to your patients
One of the most valuable marketing ideas you could implement is to separate yourself from the competition for patients concerned about coronavirus safety. Dental anxiety is already an issue for a large number of people. Coronavirus has made that anxiety even worse for many patients (you’ll remember my previous email on ‘Don’t spook the horses’). Creating and communicating a trustworthy and safe environment right now is essential.
You’ll likely be using similar safety protocols to your competitors, but many won’t promote those protocols through their advertising. Creating safety-based messaging that you can use on your website and in your marketing campaigns will help to attract new patients. Steps you can take to show them how you are reducing their risk include:
- Well-written lists of new safety measures on your website
- Videos and photos that showcase the measures you are taking (for example, photos of the steps your team is taking to sanitise/clean down the surgery)
- Lists that outline patient protocols (hand-washing, pre-screening, etc)
- Lists of new safety equipment like HEPA filters, Perspex screens or UV treatments.
You can use this messaging on your website, social media, paid advertising, reviews and testimonials and this will help to reassure nervous patients.
Reputation management is more important than ever
Positive reviews can support patients to visit you. Negative reviews are always a problem, but negative reviews about safety procedures would be an even bigger problem. Give your patients clarity about what to expect and make sure they have a positive experience.
Being proactive and soliciting reviews is a key priority. Make sure you request positive reviews from new patients who are visiting your practice. Ask your patients who had a good experience if they could share that experience on social media or Google reviews. A few questions you can use to prompt them include:
- What safety measures did they notice?
- What was the pre-screening like?
- What were they worried about and did they end up feeling safe at their appointment?
These types of testimonials and reviews are very valuable to reassure patients with dental anxiety and fears about Coronavirus. Building trust with proof is one of the most valuable marketing tools available to you. You can tell them that they are safe, but when a happy patient explains it, their fears can be reduced even more effectively.
Everyone is spending even more time on social media
Lots of potential new patients are spending more time than ever on social media. It’s one of the only places people can still connect to their wider communities as we enter the ‘new normal’. Many of your current patients, as well as potential patients, are spending hours a day scrolling through their Facebook and Instagram feeds. This is a great opportunity to get in front of existing patients to reassure them about coming back for an appointment and making a trustworthy impression on new patients. Some ideas for posting content on social media:
- New safety equipment in the practice
- Show who in the team has come back to work
- Explain what new patients can expect for their first visit
- Educational information about oral hygiene until they can get to their next appointment
- Videos that capture the new safety environment.
Paid advertising is generating low-cost new patient leads
As I said earlier, many practices stopped advertising when they were forced to cease face-to-face appointments. This has resulted in a drop in the cost per click (CPC) and an increase in conversions and click-through rate for those who continued to advertise. The result is less expensive new patient leads for those who continued to advertise. Many practices haven’t started advertising yet because they are busy enough with the post-lockdown demand. The challenge will come later when the new patient flow slows. Advertising online is a fantastic opportunity to acquire new patients and to make sure you don’t experience a slowdown. The key to advertising in Google Ads at this time is to add the safety-based messaging I’ve mentioned in this email. This messaging will stand out and build trust with new patients who are concerned about safety.
Search Engine Optimisation
The quest to climb to the top of Google is a never-ending battle. It’s important to keep up all the tasks that lead to success in SEO like adding content to your website, attracting links, and the behind the scenes technical work.
A few actions you could take are:
- Create content for your Google Business posts that focus on safety messaging
- Add your website and business to any local directories that focus on businesses that have reopened in your area. These are valuable local links
- Update your hours and Google Business and turn off the temporarily closed setting
- Add photos of your safety measures to your Google Business
- Take advantage of any free media you can get about your business reopening.
Work with your marketing company and website developers to make sure that your COVID update pages are properly optimised. Also, consider adding new pages to your website addressing commonly asked questions about visiting a dentist safely during the pandemic and as we are eased from lockdown.
The path to stability and growth
Communicating safety and reassurance to your patients will help to build trust and attract the type of new patients who will stay with your practice because they know you are the best option for taking care of them. These messages will also reassure existing patients that they are safe at your dental practice. Dental practices may experience some rough roads in the near future as we never know what COVID may throw at us next. There is now an excellent opportunity for dentists to add new patients and make your future more stable and profitable. Doing this work now will pay dividends in the future.
NOTE: Where I refer to safety measures, including photos and videos, I am not solely referring to your enhanced PPE measures. Remember my previous email where I explained photos of people in HazMat suits can increase anxiety.
The safety measures to advertise are:
- Your new protocols – and keep these patient focused. You’ve introduced these to ensure the safety and well-being of your patients, and dental practices have always been experts in decontamination – it’s been part of your role for decades.
- New equipment to support patient safety – like Radic-8 ‘virus killers’ or air purifiers that will help people feel you’re doing everything you can to keep your practice as clean and virus-free as possible
- New cleaning materials – Maybe you’ve invested in new products to help ensure the surgery is COVID-free?
- Fallow time – let patients know you’re giving the surgery down-time between treatments for their safety and well-being.
All these things will support build patient trust in you and your practice.