Having been in practice for over 31 years I can say without a doubt, patients and parents have changed the way they search and decide on Orthodontic treatment for themselves and their families. For those of you reading this that are General Dentists, the same is true for your patients too.
Back in 1986 when I finished my Orthodontic residency, it was rare for a patient to come in and either tell me they were going to another 3 or 4 consultations or that they had already had 4 consultations and we were number 5.
Another rarity was the patient who came in and wanted to negotiate your fee. Back in the late 80’s and through most of the 90’s, I do not remember having a patient asking for a fee reduction or discount, whereas today it is a daily occurrence.
What about loyalty?
My family had the same dentist for as long as he was in practice. He actually retired and just closed his office and at that point my parents went to another dentist who my mother still sees 25 years later. Today, patients can be as loyal as their last cleaning if they can cash in their Groupon for a $29 cleaning, they go for it.
So that is the bad news…but wait I have good news for you if you read on.
Your Patients may have changed the way they purchase dental and orthodontic services, but have you changed the way you are communicating to them?
Have you noticed that your patients and their parents are better informed about the dental services and procedures that are available? Where are they getting this information?
Most of the time they are getting the initial information from family and friends who may have had braces, Invisalign, an implant or periodontal surgery. Of course this information is often skewed or incorrect.
If their experience was good, they will most likely recommend their dentist or orthodontist. If the experience was poor, the chances of a recommendation go away. In either case, the potential patient will most likely move forward to learn more.
What do you think the next step might be?
Most of us now have access to the world wide web and whether we like it or not, we need to be on the web frequently, be very visible, and giving patients and parents information about what they are looking for.
It is up to us as dental professionals, to provide the potential patient the information they are looking for. We need to educate them about everything related to our practice and the services we provide.
Once you have done this successfully and routinely and positioned yourself as the “expert” authority on those topics, patients will come to the conclusion that you are the dentist to see for the services they need.
It is that simple but there steps you must take to position yourself as the “expert” in your community.
Your website is a living breathing marketing machine.
Your website is not static. It needs updating and new content on a regular basis (monthly is ideal.)
Add a Blog to your website with the purpose of educating your potential patient about some of the new services and technology available. Make the Blog post educational and informative and not centered on you and your practice.
Add video to your website. Have a short (2minute) introduction video when potential patients find your website they will instantly click on to watch it and get a feel about your practice. Make it a fun, short, but informative video. Here is where you can get some patient testimonials and share with the viewer your philosophy of your practice.
Get a YouTube Channel set up and load even shorter videos to your channel. These videos could be simply discussing how they can get a crown done in a day or showing how braces are easily placed on the teeth. Make sure to keep the videos short (3minutes max) fun and as entertaining as possible. Boring does not work here!
Although I am not a Twitter fan, there are millions who are “tweeting” all day long and they are doing it in your office. Get a Twitter account and encourage your patients who have had a great experience that day in your office to send out a “tweet” about their appointment with you.
A Facebook page for your practice is a must and a great place to share information about dentistry and orthodontics. Especially here, you do not want to ”toot your own horn”, but rather post and brag about your patients, staff or even other businesses. In our office, we will regular post photos of patients who just finished with their orthodontic treatment or won a prize or contest we were holding. (With parental permission of course!)
Besides the web, some other ways to get noticed and develop yourself as the “expert” would be to write a column in your local newspaper often called an advertorial as it is a paid advertisement, but looks like an interview.
Write a book. I wrote a book called Healthy and Beautiful at Any Age: Your Smile and Modern Orthodontics. We give this to all our parents when they come in for a new patient consultation. It is instant credibility and expert status.
Speak at every opportunity possible for Rotary, Lions, Chamber of Commerce or any other local groups. We are buried with dentistry and know everything about it, but the public does not and actually needs to be educated. Make it your mission to be the one doing it in your town.
Patients are looking for someone they can connect with and who is appears open and willing to share their knowledge. Choosing a dentist or orthodontist for their family is a big decision. Help them make that decision easily by setting yourself up as the “expert” in your community.