Wouldn’t it be great if your patients marketed your practice for you? Whilst a ready supply of celebrities willing to share their experience of undertaking orthodontic treatment cannot be guaranteed, what you might find is that you have a number of patients with a good following on social media or their blogs who are only too willing to help you promote your practice. In this article, we will explore what you should consider before working with influencers and how to best utilise this opportunity to market your practice.

Authentic marketing

There has been a movement in recent years towards authenticity and brands that utilise this in their marketing, find their message resonates more easily with those no longer influenced by polished advertising. And what better way to deliver the message about the experience of undertaking treatment at your practice than through the words and images of a patient who already has an audience of like-minded loyal followers. 

It is not uncommon for people to quickly develop a presence on social media based on the quality and relevance of content they put out, and if they get this right, follower numbers can grow quite rapidly. These content creators are often referred to as micro-influencers as they have the ability, on a smaller scale, to influence the habits and purchasing decisions of their followers. 

Most micro-influencers understand the value they can bring to a business they associate with and will likely be well prepared for any discussions with the practice about promoting their experience of treatment there. Unless you understand the benefits and risks of this relationship, you could easily find yourself at a disadvantage and not making the best use of the opportunity.

Where to start 

Firstly, before offering reduced price or free treatment, consider what benefits the influencer can bring to your practice. A high follower count is not always an indication of high influence so make sure you take time to review their channels and to look at how well followers engage with the influencer and just as importantly, how well the influencer engages with their followers. 

When recently looking at the effectiveness of an influencer who was promoting their orthodontic treatment, we found that their followers were commenting on their great progress and asking about where they were undertaking treatment but the influencer was not responding to their comments. In this example, it would be difficult to qualify the benefits the practice would be receiving from their investment in this relationship.

When looking at the influencer’s channel, make sure their brand values are aligned to your own. Are they expressing views and opinions which might cause your other patients to question why you are working with this influencer? Does the content and styling reflect the image you are trying to portray about treatments offered and does their audience reflect the demographic you are trying to attract? 

Once you have established the potential to work with this influencer, you will need to think about the potential return and what the influencer is looking to get out of the relationship. Often, they will be looking for lower-cost or free treatment but not always so it is worth checking before making assumptions. Your return can be difficult to measure unless you accurately track the source of all your enquiries so think about setting up a separate landing page on your website particularly if the influencer suggests devising a unique special offer to promote to their followers.

It is important that you agree expectations in your discussion about the quality, quantity, and frequency of posts during treatment. You might feel that monthly updates about their progress and the wonderful experience of undertaking treatment at your practice may be a fair exchange for discounted treatment but the influencer might consider one post at the start and one at the end adequate exposure. These expectations, on both sides, need to be agreed before entering into an agreement. 

You also need to think about what will happen if something goes wrong during treatment or the influencer is unhappy with how they are being looked after. You don’t want to find out about this via their 100K+ followers so you need to make sure this is thought about and covered during negotiations.

Supporting the process

Once you have reached agreement on the details of the relationship, give some thought to how you can help the influencer to create great content. If they have a YouTube channel, they will likely want to film part of the process and for this, you probably need to allow more time so they can get the content they are looking for. You might also need to help them understand the process and what to expect during treatment so again, make it easy for them to promote your practice by volunteering information that enhances the experience.

Once they have started sharing content, show an interest, and like and comment on their posts. This will help to link your two brands and gives you an opportunity to share thoughts and ideas about future posts during their next appointment. Look at the comments from their followers and consider what you can learn from the questions being asked? Does your own social media and website address these questions and if not, how can you create interesting content that aligns with the needs of those who are expressing an interest in treatment?

Working with influencers can be a rewarding experience and one that creates great exposure for your practice. There is some wonderful content on social media from influencers who have had treatment and the practices who regularly use this form of marketing have seen more new patients starting treatment as a result of it. For the cost of a discounted treatment fee, could this be something to think about in 2020? 

This first article first appeared in the Jan/Feb 2020 edition of Orthodontic Practice