This past year has been turbulent, to say the least. Companies in all sectors of business have had to adapt greatly in order to meet the needs of their clients in the ‘new normal.’ The field of dentistry faced several unique challenges, as this medical practice most often requires in-person consultations and procedures. Although it was not officially deemed an essential service, dentistry had to adapt quickly in order to service clients in need. Patients still had dental emergencies during the lockdown and they still required dental care.
As a dentist, it is your job to communicate with your patients to help them understand your COVID safety measures, operating hours, and requirements needed in order to run your clinic. Your communications should also involve letting your patients know if you offer emergency services and reaching out to those that have had appointments rescheduled due to COVID. But it can be difficult to know where to start, especially in these changing times.
A Path to Dental Marketing Success
At ElementIQ, we know a patient’s need for dental care does not pause even if dental clinics do. Life must still go on, which is why - even during COVID - marketing must remain an essential part of your clinic's success. The patients are still there and looking for a trusted, safe and reliable dentist; it is just a matter of getting in front of them at the right time. The best way to do this is through dental marketing. Marketing is the one key way to drive sales and gain new clients, even during a global pandemic.
VCCID and LA Dental Clinic, both marketing clients with ElementIQ, each saw excellent results from continued marketing during COVID.
Like many other clinics throughout the United States, LA Dental Clinic had to shut down during quarantine. They could still take emergency patients, but they nevertheless saw their average revenue numbers dip throughout April and May. During this time, our team put in extra effort to ensure patients were well informed about the clinic’s hours, online booking details and COVID policy.
Beyond that, LA Dental Clinic did not cut back on marketing. Instead, they doubled down on the aspects of marketing that would make the biggest impact on prospective and current clients. In June, the clinic’s revenue numbers began to recover and they maintained those numbers throughout for a strong July and August as well. By changing their strategy to adapt to the times, LA Dental Clinic was able to maintain their relationships with existing patients and immediately re-gain average pre-COVID revenue levels upon fully reopening.
VCCID, a dental clinic based out of Burnaby, BC, experienced similarly positive results. Their lead numbers dipped in April and May during the lockdown, to about half of the leads the clinic was used to. As a result of continued marketing, however, their lead totals shot back up to pre-COVID levels in June, July and August once health restrictions were loosened.
These clinics got excellent results by marketing consistently during COVID, and we want to share how they were able to get there so that your clinic can experience the same results.
As counterintuitive as it may seem, the best thing you can do as a dentist or clinic owner is to continue marketing to your patients. Try innovative new ways to reach your patients online, where they’re spending most of their time.
Here are some of the ways we recommend that dentists continue to market themselves to their patients during the ongoing global pandemic.
1. Increase Your Engagement on Social Media
COVID created a massive influx of social media accounts and users. With the quarantine, people have been using social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and Pinterest to connect with family and friends, while also distracting themselves from the harsh reality of these times.
If you are a clinic that was hesitant to go on social media before, now is your chance to adapt and really get involved with creating your online presence. Many dentists object to this because sometimes it can be difficult to create an account and advertise online while actively running a clinic. But now, with COVID going on, you as a dentist may have time to get more involved.
Use your social media platforms to communicate with your patients. Post about your office hours, updates or any changes in your schedule. Post images of the clinic itself in order to reiterate that it is a clean and safe space for those that do come in for emergency care.
Social media opens up a plethora of possibilities for dentists to interact with clients in a new way. According to Holly Neilsen, CMO at Renew Dental: “46% of consumers are using social media more vs a week ago, so more people are going onto Facebook or wherever...so social is something we should consider talking about.” (Holly Nielsen, CMO at Renew)
Your clients are online now, they have not left, and when it comes time for them to visit a dentist, you will be at the top of their minds if you are front and center in their newsfeed.
2. Communicate Updates With Emails
Keep in touch and top of mind by sending your patients updates directly to their inbox. It’s an excellent way to let clients know about changes to your hours and the safety measures you have in place. Chances are, you already have a mailing list for your patients where you send promotions and reminders of upcoming appointments.
But with COVID going on, increasing your level of communication with your clients is a good idea. Email them and let them know about your new social media accounts, and invite them to follow you for updates. If you are running remote clinical sessions via video, use your mailing system to let your clients know how to access you by video.
Email may seem like an outdated form of communication but “email marketing drives more conversions (66%) than any other channel” (Campaign Monitor) - even in 2020. With patients working from home, they are still avidly checking their email. It is time to let them know that you are there for them.
3. Share Informative Content
Even during COVID, it is very important that you keep your website up to date with relevant information for your patients. Create content that applies to the current circumstances, such as advice about at-home dental care routines, or a post on the signs of a dental emergency. Content is a great way to position yourself as knowledgeable and helpful. Give your clients useful information that can help them maintain their oral health during these times.
This is also an excellent time to start creating video content for your clinic. Videos are a way to connect ‘face to face’ with your clients and establish that sense of personal interaction and connection so that they see you as a trusted source of information.
4. Update Your Website
Whether your doors are open and you’re already seeing patients, or you’re still waiting for the green light from your local health authority, COVID should be spurring you to update your website and turn it into a foundational part of your clinic’s operations. Make it user friendly with your COVID statement front and center. Now is the time to bring your website into 2020. If you have changed your hours due to COVID, make sure that information is there on your contact page.
If you offer new virtual services or other forms of dental treatments such as emergency care, ensure that is on the website as well. Add a place for potential clients to subscribe to your mailing list, and add links to your social media channels if they are new. Now is the perfect time to establish better communication and overall upkeep, and the best place to start is your on website, which acts as a digital storefront for your visitors.
5. Consider Teledentistry
Many doctors and professionals in the medical field have started holding patient consultations online for non-emergency visits. Whether it is a prescription refill or general check-in, this convenient digital way of meeting with clients has expanded into the dental industry as well. Teledentistry is perfect for non-emergency consultations, and it makes it possible to video chat with your patients and discuss their oral health needs, concerns and questions.
As there is no sign that COVID will be resolved in the near future, teledentistry is a great way to maintain that connection with any of your existing patients who aren’t comfortable visiting your clinic. Show them that you care and that you are still there for them, even in these uncertain times.
Moving forward, when we do finally see an end to COVID, it is possible teledentistry will remain popular with patients. This is because it is legitimately useful, patients find it convenient, comfortable and accessible. They no longer have to take time off work or make time on the weekend to visit your clinic for a general check-up. They can connect with you anywhere, without detracting from their busy schedule.
As stated by Dr. Anna Singh, VP of Clinical Training and Development at Heartland Dental, "This secure platform, integrated with proven processes of traditional dental care, provides our supported doctors the ability to quickly and easily interact with their patients to assess oral health, discuss concerns, and plan a course of action regarding treatment. Fully integrating this technology will significantly improve our existing model of care for the future."
Teledentistry may have become popular due to COVID, but it is not going away any time soon. Patients will soon expect this as an option and it is a good idea to get ahead of the curb and begin to offer this new form of consultation now.
6. Create Targeted Ads
If you do not run targeted ads for your dental clinics, such as ads on Google, Facebook or Bing, now is an excellent time to start. If you are currently running ads for your office, it may be a good idea to re-think the search terms that you are paying for.
According to Holly Nielsen at Renew Dental: “The one other thing that’s interesting is the search terms have also changed. So, increased traffic on two search terms: dental emergency services and online dental consultations. Those are both just interesting how that increase in traffic is going to keywords that we didn’t have before, that didn’t exist before.” (Holly Nielsen, CMO at Renew)
Paid ads allow you to get right in front of a potential client who is searching for dental clinics. By looking at user intent and bidding on certain words, such as “dental emergency” you know that the person searching for that term is likely experiencing a dental emergency and is in need of a dentist.
As tempting as it may be to reign in your advertising budget during COVID, the prudent move is to reallocate funds so that they’re being spent on the search terms that are getting traffic as a result of COVID. Patients may be searching for clinics that are open, clinics that offer teledentistry or in the case of an emergency, “dentist near me.” As a business, you want to be there when potential patients are looking for dental services, now more than ever.
7. Monitor Your Online Presence
You may have heard of Yelp and Google My Business, but are you aware of your business’ image on these platforms? These customer-centric review platforms are where your potential clients will look to read reviews, see images, find your location and determine whether or not you seem like a good fit for them. Clients can upload images of your clinic and write reviews of their experience, so it’s important that you put your best foot forward and address any questions and concerns that come up.
While you can’t remove reviews and user-uploaded information, you - as the owner of the business - can edit information on these platforms by claiming your business’ profiles. From there, you can freely upload images, reply to reviews, share your office hours, and links to your website and social media channels.
However, according to a national study by DMscore, “Nationwide, 71% of dentists have a Yelp profile, but 20% of these profiles are “unclaimed” by the practice itself. Businesses that claim their own profiles can exert more control over the way their business is perceived.” (DMscore)
Right now, it is more important than ever to have a positive online presence. You want to use these platforms to update your clinic’s information, provide accurate opening hours, and upload clean and welcoming images of your clinic. If you’re based in the United States and are interested in checking your current online reputation and the effects of your current marketing efforts, DMscore is a great place to start. It works like a FICO score, but for dental clinics. With a database of over 54,000 dental practices in the US, it can help to show you where you stand in comparison (Check your DMscore here).
Be Patient, Focus on Long Term Results
So much of your dental clinic’s success post-COVID depends on what you do now. It is very important to take a long term approach to your COVID dental marketing strategy and be proactive with your planning and marketing efforts.
COVID has changed how businesses market themselves, but it hasn’t made marketing any less important than it was before. When patients are looking for a dental clinic online, you want to be sure you have made your presence known.
At ElementIQ our team has helped several dentists with continued marketing efforts during this pandemic. As restrictions began to be lifted, all of our dental clients saw an increase in business, so much so that many of their clients are now on waitlists due to the volume of clients.
Life does not stop during times of crisis, it simply must adapt. Similarly, your patients’ oral health problems do not stop simply because we are in a global pandemic. They will still need a reliable, trustworthy dentist to visit during an emergency or for a checkup once this is over. You want to stay relevant to patients who matter most and use this as an opportunity to grow and update your digital presence online.
If you are looking for advice or marketing management, ElementIQ is a digital marketing agency that specializes in marketing for dental clinics. Our team has the experience and understanding needed to help your business thrive in these changing times. We provide website design, content creation, graphic design, social media and online reputation management. We have a firm grasp of the dental industry and are ready to act as your digital marketing team during COVID and into the future. Contact us or call for a consultation at (604) 909-3750.