One of the key themes emerging from the Practice Development Sessions at the British Orthodontic Conference in London was the increasing number of challenges faced by many specialists in attracting new private patients. The choice of treatment provider, and orthodontic options available to the patient are increasing every month and there has never been a more pertinent time to review your patient engagement activities. But where do you start and how should you do this? In this article I will share, from a patient’s perspective, some simple ways you can start to develop your digital marketing.
Before I am able to enquire about your services or purchase treatment from you, I need to know you exist. Patients are now more likely to do their research before making an enquiry, so you need to ensure the topics they are researching link back to your practice. Try a simple market research activity by taking your phone and searching for ‘Invisalign near me’. Does your practice appear towards the top of the search results? If not, who does? These are your competitors in that area.
Pick some other search terms such as ‘braces for adults in [your area]’ or ‘how much do braces cost’ to get a feel for what search results are returned, and how you might wish to improve the effectiveness of your website to reach new patients. This type of work is known as ‘search engine optimisation’ (SEO). You won’t see results immediately, it takes a while, but with the right strategy, you should see your practice appearing higher in the search results for the terms patients are using to try to find you.
Raising awareness of your practice isn’t confined to your website; social media plays an important role too, and it has been interesting seeing how some practices have embraced social media to the point it has become their primary tool for marketing and patient engagement activities. The level of awareness you can achieve through social media is huge and – if managed well – your existing patients will also support your efforts in attracting new patients. There are some innovative uses of social media in orthodontics so take some time to look at the different approaches others are using and decide what is likely to work best for you.
Once you have gained the attention of someone thinking about orthodontic treatment, you need to gain their interest. Imagine it is Sunday evening and in five minutes time, season two of ‘Bodyguard’ is about to start. Take your phone, call up your website, and take just a few seconds to look at what is in front of you. Would this grab your interest or would you quickly move on? Do the same for your social media channels. Are you engaged by the content, and what message does this convey to you about the experience of undergoing treatment at your practice? Ask your team, friends and family to also do this for you. You might be surprised by what they have to say.
From a patient perspective, what I am interested in might not be what you are promoting. Your marketing might not be aligned to what I am initially looking for, in which case I am unlikely to explore further. This is where a good understanding of your patients, and what motivates them to seek treatment, is essential. Making effective use of social media and having a website which contains well written content helps to engage the interest of the reader while also supporting SEO activities too.
Once you have gained the interest of the visitor to your site, you need to promote the experience and services you provide to make your offering desirable. This could be through explaining the benefits of a wide range of treatment options, facilities, competitive pricing, and exclusivity. You could also highlight some of the great results you have achieved for other satisfied patients.
You might be wondering how to make orthodontics desirable and to do this, you need to really understand patients motivations for starting treatment. They may present to you talking about how unhappy they are with the spacing or alignment of their teeth but behind this, there is nearly always a more powerful motivating factor. If you can produce content on your site or on social media which aligns to these motivational factors, you are more likely to properly engage with the reader and describe the benefits of undergoing treatment at your practice in a way that makes your offering more desirable to them.
By this stage, you will now have someone who is looking to validate their decision to proceed through the enquiry process. And you need to make this as easy as possible! Directing a potential patient to call your practice during office hours does not facilitate the next stage; instead it places a barrier to progress during which time they may find another treatment provider. Think about alternative methods a patient could use to contact you, for example, an enquiry form, or through a social media message. Make sure there are plenty of ‘calls to action’ on your website or social media posts to encourage them to the next stage and to make that enquiry.
This simple marketing model has been used for many years and what makes it so useful is that it is easy to follow, and straightforward to implement. Make people aware of your practice, gain their interest so that they will want to spend some time exploring further, and make your services look and sound desirable. Finally, make it easy for them to take action, so they can start their patient journey.
This article appeared in British Orthodontic Society News