The Progressive Orthodontist magazine just published our feature story about how to survive as an independent practice without getting squeezed in the middle from above by large corporate Dental Service Organizations (DSOs) and from below by low-cost, so-called DIY orthodontics. Written by our co-founders, Dr. Leon Klempner and Amy Epstein, MBA, the main idea is to teach orthodontists how to break from the pack with a marketing program that differentiates a practice and attracts more qualified patients.
“As the orthodontic business model becomes increasingly competitive, prospective patients have many lower fee options. Traditional private fee for service practices are finding themselves squeezed in the middle, steadily losing market share. Large, corporate, DSOs and insurance companies are pushing down fees while overhead costs keep going up. Computer generated tooth straightening applications in the form of so-called do-it yourself orthodontics are commoditizing services into a point-and-click shopping experience. Adding to the burden is a surplus of competition and mounting debt that orthodontists need to carry in order to remain technologically competitive. Orthodontists are definitely feeling the pressure from every side.”
When you are finished reading the article, come back and read more marketing advice on our blog. For a free marketing analysis, contact People & Practice today at 888.866.DOCS, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
People & Practice was invited to write an article for The McGill Advisory–the monthly newsletter of The McGill & Hill Group, a dental practice advisory group–about the importance of social marketing. In this article, titled “Increase Your New Patients By Differentiating Your Practice Online,” co-authored by our founders Leon Klempner, DDS and Amy Epstein, MBA, they wrote about the mix of strategies used to gain the right new patients when competing against corporate dental practices.
The full text of the article that appeared in the April issue of The McGill Advisory is posted below with permission from the publishers. You can also read this article on The McGill Advisory website (subscription required) by clicking here.
Increase Your New Patients By Differentiating Your Practice Online
By: Leon Klempner, DDS and Amy Epstein, MBA
In today’s world, traditional practices are not only competing against each other, but also against corporate dental practices, also called Dental Service Organizations (DSOs). DSOs typically have the advantage of a much larger advertising budget and generally charge lower fees. How can you succeed in gaining new patients when competing against these Goliaths?
Delivering Superior Quality of Care
If you plan to differentiate and grow your practice, the delivery of high quality care is non-negotiable. Any marketing strategy will be short circuited without good clinical and nonclinical care.
While doctors base their perception of a high-quality practice on the level of clinical care provided, patients use a totally different yardstick. Since most patients are not able to evaluate clinical care, their evaluation is largely based on several nonclinical factors.
One critically important factor is your staff. Patients want staff members that are well-trained, friendly, courteous, compassionate and offer the highest level of customer service. Do your staff members make scheduling an appointment quick and easy? Does your practice respect the time of your patients and run on time, or with only minimal wait times?
Another factor influencing patients’ evaluation of your practice is how trustworthy they feel the doctor is. It is very important for doctors to build trust by establishing a strong personal relationship with the patient. It only takes a minute to look the patient directly in the eyes, address him/her by name and show your interest in them as a person. That could be as simple as asking about family members, job and other personal matters, all of which can demonstrate that you care about them and their well-being. The doctor should take time to thoroughly explain to the patient their dental symptoms, recommended treatment options, and communicate the negative impact of not accepting treatment.
Your competitive edge over low fee competition is your ability to build strong long-term relationships, and those relationships are built on trust. Now, let’s talk about how to leverage that trust, which translates into a competitive edge, using social marketing.
Power to the Practice
In today’s competitive dental marketplace, it’s essential to have a carefully crafted digital marketing plan to effectively communicate your superior quality of care, and differentiate your practice from your lower fee/lower quality corporate competitors. Below are three strategies to harness the power of patient referrals, tell the story of your practice, and capture the attention of potential new patients cost-effectively.
Reputation Management: In Reviews We Trust
Potential patients trust online reviews and often base their decision on what others say about your practice. A recent survey by BrightLocal.com found that 84% of those asked said they trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. That’s the same as a friend telling them that they should call your office. The same survey showed that 74% of consumers reported that a positive review will make them trust a local business more.
Your future patients are researching practices online and will make a decision based on what they find, particularly on review sites such as Google and Yelp. Just going from 0 to 1 favorable review increases the rate that online practice shoppers will contact your practice by 65%. And to be truly effective, you need to generate at least 20 favorable Google reviews. This creates a cycle – the more reviews, the more new patients joining your practice, leading to even more reviews, and higher search engine rankings.
The survey also revealed that a majority of patients will leave a review for your practice, if asked. This highlights how important it is to have a system in place to amplify positive comments you hear in your office and help “catch” potentially negative experiences before they go public.
It’s not as hard as you may think to convert an offhand comment into an authentic, five-star public review so that potential new patients can read it. At the same time, it’s important to offer a sounding board to patients in case their experience wasn’t perfect, giving them a chance to vent before they take to the Internet to air their grievances.
Social Engagement Done Right
There’s no better way to add value to your practice than having current patients share your content with their social media friends. Actively engaging with your patients through social media will reap benefits exponentially if done right. A Facebook page must not only have a regular stream of updates, but also must be interactive, encouraging current fans to like and share your post on the pages. This helps reach their network of friends, increasing the number of potential new patients aware of your practice.
The content needs to be personalized, informative, or entertaining to be good enough to share. A contest that incentivizes patients to like and repost to their own page in order to have a chance to win is just one of many great examples of interactive, shareable content.
Facebook Advertising: Choose Your Audience and Get Clicks With Educational Content
Facebook’s dynamic ad platform allows doctors to target a specific audience and potential new patients who are in need of your services, and live within a short distance of your practice’s physical address. These ads can be directed back to educational content on your website, with forms that are specifically designed to capture new patient data delivered right to your inbox.
While these strategies can operate independently to boost your practice’s referral rates, they work best together. In conjunction, reputational management, social engagement, and Facebook advertising form a digital marketing plan that’s unmatched in communicating your competitive advantages in expertise and experience to deliver personalized customer service that’s superior. This will help you compete and win against DSOs in converting more new patients.
Download a PDF of the full article.
By far, the fastest growing segment in dentistry is large group corporate practices. They are very profitable, fueled by deep-pocket venture capital dollars and they are coming your way.
The following is an excerpt from Dr. Leon Klempner’s article on Practice Management in DentalTown Magazine: “The reality of business is that corporate groups, affiliations, and conglomerates often replace small-business owners, and can do so efficiently. We know that in theory, but it’s much more prolific when it affects us on a personal level. The dental […]
NPR reported on some interesting information regarding doctor reviews online via a partnership between ProPublica and Yelp. Yelp isn’t just for restaurants and stores anymore; its share of the review market in the healthcare industry is steadily growing, with 1.3 million health reviews collected to date.
What’s interesting about this data is that overall, people are mostly happy and are happy to share their positive reviews, but aren’t usually that vocal. That said, those who are unhappy are quick to say why, where and how with 1 star reviews. They’re loud about their dissatisfaction and want others to know about it. One reviewer stated, “people put a lot of trust into their healthcare providers, and if my review could help others make an informed decision regarding their treatment, then it was worth it.”
Another interesting trend is that while Yelp reviewers are more likely to leave positive reviews for health providers than stores or restaurants, the providers that do the best are those who make their patients feel better quickly: acupuncturists, massage therapists, and the like. Doctors and dentists, on the other hand, can take longer to show results and their reviews suffer for it. The data reports that “doctors earned a lower proportion of five-star reviews than other health professionals, pushing their average review to the lowest of any large health profession.” One dental chain actually received over 3,000 reviews, the majority negative. Its average star rating is 1.8 out of 5 stars. Pretty dismal.
As a healthcare provider, how do you combat this? The answer isn’t as difficult as you may think: Simply ask for feedback.
At People & Practice we find that asking patients for feedback while they’re still in the office has a few great benefits:
- You find out which of your patients are happy and can reach out to them specifically, asking if they’d be willing to leave a review on a public site. Get them talking!
- Unhappy patients get a chance to blow off steam while airing their grievances…often when they’re done they’ve gotten it off their chest and move on, never leaving a what might have been a scathing public review. Plus you can then follow-up to smooth things over.
- You get a chance to grow and improve your practice by hearing ‘straight from the horse’s mouth’ about where you’re successful and where you could improve.
Another way to combat the negativity on Yelp is to help your prospective patients bypass Yelp altogether by boosting your presence on Google+. Google+ pages are set up in such a way that you can both interact with patients and have the page showcase their positive feedback.
Building your public reviews on Google+ has an added benefit. Research shows that the majority of people using the internet for search default to Google as their search engine. If you build up public reviews on your Google+ page they will begin to appear under your website in search results! That means 5 pretty, eye catching stars, showing up under your website. These will be the first thing prospective patients will see. Quite a glowing recommendation, don’t you think?
Building your online presence with reviews and engagement takes work, but given the trends outlined in ProPublica’s research, the impact on your business can be significant.
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.
People & Practice is a digital marketing company exclusively for doctors. We help to increase the quality of your new patient calls, encourage current patients to become brand influencers that refer you more and establish strong brand equity for your practice.