Marketing your practice should be a continuous activity for you and your team. Running a successful dental practice and staying at the top is about so much more than your dental skills. It’s also about thinking about your patients as customers and improving the experience you offer them.
Not having a website…
I can hardly believe the number of dental practices I come across that still don’t have a website. Customers expect a shopping experience - lets not forget that spending thousands on dental work is still a significant and considered purchase just like purchasing a car. Think of the time and energy dedicated to car manufacturers websites. Would you buy a car from someone if they didn't have a website? I think many of us would consider them a dodgy salesman if they didn't. A website can add legitimacy to your dental practice, it can reassure and provide further information on you, your skills and your treatments.
A website is an extremely useful tool to communicate with your patients who are ever more internet literate and expect information to be readily available online. There is nothing more frustrating than searching for your dentist online and not finding anything. Are you even a real practice? When out and about people may just want to find your number quickly to cancel or update you on their appointment, or to find out your opening hours. They may be en-route to you and looking for directions?
It doesn’t have to be a big website; even something with just a few pages will help your web presence and give a better impression to your customers. Just don't be a blank page... You might find that you are already listed in business directories or that Facebook has already created a business page for you. It is far better to take control of these rogue pages and own them. Put the correct information on there and some decent images. whatever you do , don't underestimate the power of social media, but that's another blog post...
Showing Before & After Pictures
One of my pet hates is the use of dental before & after pictures on websites or even displayed in a dental surgery (Argh! The horror! ). Why do I as a patient want to see gory photos of bleeding gums and decaying teeth?
So many dentists get so engrossed in the techniques and skills needed for such complex procedures, which is great, but we can lose sight of the patient experience. If I am considering spending lots of my hard earned money on cosmetic dentistry I want to aspire to a beautiful smile, and the life I can lead following treatment. Think of those glossy car adverts, driving through the Italian riviera with a sunset in the background, roof down and hair blowing in the wind. It's all about the experience and lifestyle the car can offer you. Not the man at the factory in his grease stained overalls bolting the metal frame of the chassis together.
A picture showing something that looks like a device used for torture, shoved in someone’s mouth, does nothing to encourage me to go through this often expensive treatment. If I was a nervous patient I would be especially put off, not reassured! There are better ways to tell me I am in safe hands than displaying such pictures in your website galleries.
Just don't, please don't.
Not answering the phone & e-mail enquiries
From our WeKnow experience working with dental practices (we've managed 600 dental practice websites & their tracked telephone lines), we uncovered a shocking statistic that on average 40% of all enquiries to dental practices are not answered. What?! That's potential half your business that you're missing out on.
Taking time to make sure enquiries are answered is crucial. New business is one thing, but If an existing patient is ringing you to make or cancel their appointment and can’t actually get through it leaves them with a very bad impression of your business, and they'll be only too happy to rant about it to anyone who will listen.
Make sure you have an answer service in place and that you follow up each message, this should work out of hours too. E-mail enquiries should be checked every day. Do you know where the enquiries from your website go to? Don't forget that social media is being increasingly used for customer service and customers now turn to Twitter and facebook as a public forum in which to complain. Managing these effectively is a must. Sounds obvious, but this is something that is often overlooked.
Messy, tired décor
As we've established, Patients are actually Customers. It is easier and more likely that they will change dentist if they are not happy.
There is a growing trend for a visit to the dentist to be akin to a visit to a hair salon. Customers like to be pampered and welcomed. Does the inside of your practice match the price tag of your most extensive treatment?
I’m not talking extreme here, but even for an NHS practice a clean floor, comfy seats, newly painted walls, posters that aren’t tatty and ripped will go a long way to making sure that customers feel they have had a pleasant experience.
No Signs outside…
Again this may seem obvious, but a poorly signposted dental practice could be costing you money. Do potential Customers know that you're even there? There are so many businesses competing for attention that without a sign you run the risk of blending into the background. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.
A well designed sign, with your logo on will help to draw attention from passing traffic and potential customers. If you're accepting new patients let people know with a banner or a flag. Your trusty brass plaque is great for a sense of old school tradition and skill but it will not be seen from the pavement or the drivers seat.
Visit www.weknowdental.co.uk for more marketing tools and advice.