Why Your Orthodontic Practice Can’t Survive Without Social Media

I’ve been practicing orthodontics for over 35 years and have seen many changes in our field. But nothing I’ve experienced is like what’s happening in the online marketing industry.  In one of my social media lectures I have a slide that says, “no one likes change… except a wet baby”.  But in this arena, change is really the only constant.

There is a cat and mouse game underway between SEO (Search Engine Optimization) experts and Google.  The game is to trick Google into rewarding our websites with high visibility by using a series of back-end programming techniques.  It used to be that by investing your marketing dollars solely in SEO you would be way ahead of your competition. However, Google has recently changed the game with a recent update called Penguin.

The Penguin Google update was specifically developed to reward quality, unique content and designed to showcase sites with active user social participation (your patients on social media). At the same time it penalizes websites using “black hat” techniques such as “keyword stuffing” and overuse of back linking.

This change is a great thing for those who have happy and engaged patients. Now, it’s not about hiring someone that can help your website manipulate Google, but rather about activating your patients to talk about you online.

At the same time, it’s now crystal clear that SEO and social media are not two separate marketing approaches with separate budgets and separate campaigns.  Progressive orthodontists realize that combining the two are essential if we are to successfully promote and grow our practices in this new era of social media.

 

 

Three Common Missed Opportunities in Social Media

I’m fortunate enough to be invited to lecture to my colleagues on social media, and it provides me the opportunity to meet and talk with orthodontists across the country.  I am always amazed at the number of my colleagues that don’t take advantage of even the most basic online marketing opportunities that are so readily available.  Here are the three easiest and least expensive marketing tips ignored by most of your colleagues:

1)    Claim your Google+ Local business page
Google Places have been replaced by Google+ Local.  This is Google’s entry into the social media arena and is very important for SEO (Search Engine Optimization) due to its integration with Google search, Google maps and Zagat. This is a free service and it’s very likely that orthodontists with an active Google+ social network presence will enjoy higher visibility and more online reviews than their competition.  Click here for more details.

2)    Set Up Google Alerts
Reputation management has always been important, but with online reviews it is now imperative.  All orthodontists must continually monitor the web for all positive as well as potentially negative comments.  I’ll discuss how to respond to negative reviews in another blog post, but the point is that you need to be the first, and not last to know.  Fortunately, Google has a free service that will immediately email you whenever your name or office is mentioned. Click here to set up your Google alert.

3)    Demand Geographic Exclusivity
Online social media marketing and search engine optimization (SEO) are currently recognized as crucial components of any orthodontic marketing plan.  Let’s face it; this is a competition for patients.  It makes no sense to hire a company that also represents your competition. There’s an inherent conflict of interest. However, most orthodontists are represented by companies that provide the identical services to their local competition. Orthodontists should demand geography exclusivity. Click here to find out if your location is available at People & Practice.

New Patients Starts – How To Shorten the Cycle

We are not only doctors, but also CEOs of a small business.  As such, to be good managers we need to measure our effectiveness. A common metric in orthodontics is the new patient start ratio.  We go to great lengths to create a “new patient experience” in order to “wow” them to enhance this metric.

But it seems we only get 45 minutes to convince these prospective patients, and much of the effort falls on our Treatment Coordinators: They meet the parents and patients, get to know them, give them an office tour, understand their needs and desires, bring in the doctor for an exam, explain a treatment plan, present the fee and in the best case scenario, get a payment to start.

This is what I call the orthodontic sales cycle.  All new patients go through a similar process, which is essentially a trust-building exercise. The process goes something like this:

Find us – Know us – Like us – Trust us – Pay us – (and if we’re lucky, Endorse Us to friends and family at the end).

Expecting this conversion to be done all in one visit is unrealistic. An effective social media strategy allows parents and patients to find, get to know, and like your practice ahead of the first meeting, shortening this cycle and improving conversion rates.

One of the primary goals of this online marketing approach is to allow prospective new patients to discover your office’s personality and see your patient testimonials before coming for their first appointment.  This makes it much easier for your treatment coordinators to start the case.  Many of the new patients that I see already know all about us, and hopefully already like us before coming in the door.  As long as their expectation matches their experience, we are well on our way to starting the case.

People & Practice, LLC is dedicated to helping orthodontists use “word of mouse” to enhance their online reputation, build patient loyalty, enhance visibility and most importantly, start more cases.

Wave Goodbye to the Good Old Days

Orthodontic Products Magazine Article

Dr. Klempner was recently invited to contribute an article to Orthodontic Products Magazine about the changing factors influencing the success of orthodontic practices today. Click here to read the full article.