Expectations are high among consumers as we end the first quarter of 2022 -- they want easy ways to feel connected to their healthcare team in an increasingly virtual world.
The ways in which dental practices connect with, and market to, their patients has changed over the past few years, largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic and new innovations and technologies in the market.
Leveraging practice marketing to engage with patients and build trust is a trend I anticipate seeing a lot of in 2022. Having a strategy in place can help practices not only retain existing patients, but it can also attract new ones and reactivate dormant patients.
Here's how to use popular marketing techniques to build relationships and trust with consumers.
1. Survey patients for a tailored approach.
How well do you know your patients? You know the demographic you serve and the common procedures you see, but diving deeper into what a person looks for in a practice can ensure patients stick around long term.
Surveying your patient pool to determine how they want to be communicated with can help you understand which digital tools make the most sense for your marketing strategy. And, to no surprise, having a variety of options is a great idea so that each patient can choose their preferred method of communication, helping create positive interactions that further build a healthy practice-patient relationship.
Adopting such technologies can also have a positive impact on staffing shortages you may be experiencing right now -- if the phone lines are busy, an online option can mend the experience for patients, increasing the likelihood of a positive experience being shared with friends, family members, or online. These reviews can then be added to your marketing mix.
2. Manage and use your online reviews.
It's not enough to collect reviews from patients after their visit -- it's what you do with those reviews that really matters. How you leverage patient reviews can significantly impact your online reputation, overall business, and the relationships you are building with patients.
While it may seem like your reputation matters the most for attracting new patients, it is critical for existing patients too. It can help ensure their willingness to refer friends and family. Someone with a strong patient-practice relationship is also less likely to be affected by a negative review they see online.
Additionally, how you manage reviews always plays a critical role in your online reputation. Responding in a timely manner and taking escalating situations offline is key and can provide consumers with the transparency they demand in today's landscape. Remember, no online reputation can be as concerning as a bad one.
Use negative reviews to your advantage. They provide valuable insights that can help create a better consumer experience. Positive reviews, on the other hand, can be used on signage, your website, or in other marketing communications you send. This is a valuable way to showcase the great relationships you already have.
3. Retain uninsured patients through savings options.
Patients trust their healthcare professionals to provide them with quality treatment and health advice. Part of that, particularly today when so many are uninsured or underinsured, is helping them understand their financial options, such as dental savings plans, healthcare credit cards, patient financing options, and/or dental insurance, so they can afford the care they need.
Creating awareness of alternative solutions to traditional insurance, particularly when the patient can use the plan and start treatment right away (like with most savings plans), can help patients feel that the dental practice is working with them to help complete their treatment plan. Additionally, it benefits the practice through increased treatment case acceptance among uninsured or underinsured patients.
4. Support your retention marketing efforts with technology.
Each patient's experience with your practice is unique to them. It is therefore important to create seamless, personalized experiences for each person. As much as you want the experience to be easy, you want it tailored to the patient's specific journey with your practice. Someone coming in for their first visit with your team may benefit from a text about check-in and what to expect, while a tenured patient may prefer a message about what has changed in the office and any new processes.
Fortunately, digital tools, such as online booking features, appointment reminders, and dental practice management software, are available to provide scalable ways to customize your patient experience while relying less on your administrative staff to manage those areas. Adding these tools to your retention marketing strategy (or continuing to leverage them) will be key, as real-time communications become increasingly expected among consumers.
For instance, in today's world, many dental offices -- and other industries alike -- have an ongoing need to update patients about new or changing health and safety procedures. This is an area where digital tools can shine, helping you communicate with patients regarding urgent matters with ease.
All of this consistent, customized messaging can help shape trust between patient and practice. In addition, customized messaging not only supports your retention marketing efforts but also your practice, patients, and the community in which you work. And as the pandemic continues to have people pausing and resuming their regular care, the more educational resources, innovative tools, and support you provide, the greater the likelihood is that they will continue to get the care we all know is crucial, even during uncertain times.
Jenn Stoll is the chairperson of the Consumer Health Alliance and chief commercial officer of DentalPlans.com, a leading online marketplace for dental savings plans in the U.S. and a Henry Schein One company.
The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of DrBicuspid.com, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.