Patients are the lifeblood of any dental office.
A dental office may have the finest doctors, the best equipment, even the latest, most up-to-date magazines in the waiting room—without a steady stream of new and returning patients, it’s all for naught.
An obvious statement, yes, but many dental offices struggle with this most fundamental question: how to get more dental patients?
Here are a few ideas that may prove helpful to those offices looking to increase their patient flow.
Improve your website
It’s no great insight to reveal that most patients start online when looking for a new dentist. And online, a dental office’s website is its calling card, its face to the world.
Yet many dental practices overlook this critical tool. Their websites are bland, or haven’t been updated in a few years, and it shows. Some even commit the cardinal sin of making it difficult for potential new patients to figure out how to get in touch (hard to believe, but true).
The great news about websites is that they’re actually not that expensive to update if yours is in need of a facelift. There are countless web design firms out there, some of them specializing in healthcare practice home pages, some even specializing in dental office websites. A quick search online should reveal plenty of national or local options for you to evaluate (make sure you get a few bids and ask for examples of recent work to get a sense of what they’ve done for others).
The largest dental groups spend impressive sums on their websites, bringing in cadres of consultants and outside advisors to determine the layout of every last button, menu, and icon. You may not have the resources to do the same, but it doesn’t take a fortune to design a new website or update your current site.
There are many commonly accepted guidelines and best practices for website design based on extensive consumer behavior studies. Most competent web design firms will adhere to these guidelines, giving you the benefit of past work in the field of online consumer behavior without having to spend an arm and a leg.
That wasn’t necessarily the case 20 years ago, when the internet was still in the early stages of its development. But today, when everything happens online, there’s a well-traveled path to successful website design that doesn’t force firms to reinvent the wheel (or charge you a fortune because they’re starting from scratch). They often work from proven, successful templates that give you the benefit of established best practices without sacrificing too much on what sets your dental office apart or making your site seem like every other site on the web.
Why is a good website so important to attracting new patients? Because it’s the first impression your office makes to new patients. If a potential new patient visits your site only to find that it’s difficult to navigate, or that the information they need is difficult to find, they will quickly move on to your competitors.
Spruce up your social media presence
You’ve probably heard this suggestion before. And how many news articles have you read about the power of social media, about the benefits of hyper-targeted social media advertising? Many others have written in far more detail on the topic.
To take the most prominent example, Facebook (which also owns Instagram, another popular social network) has a massive trove of personal information on each and every one of its users, allowing it to offer targeted ads against a long list of demographic, social, racial, geographical, and other traits.
Did you know that Facebook generated $17.4 billion in advertising revenue in the third quarter of 2019 (the three-month period ending September 30th) alone? That’s an astonishing figure, and one that increased 28% over the same period last year.
Everyone seems to be chasing new patients with advertising dollars on social media. But there’s one surefire way to improve your social media presence without helping to inflate Facebook’s quarterly revenue figure—a technique that doesn’t require you to spend a single red cent on online advertising.
Simply ask someone at the office to spend time highlighting all of the good things that happen at your practice. Yes, your team is likely quite busy as it is, but spending an hour a week posting photos to celebrate patient successes and to spread the good word about how great your office is goes a long way, and it doesn’t require you to spend any money on advertising.
There are countless ways to showcase your team’s many talents and fun-loving spirit (friendly competitions, costumes during different holidays, etc.) that only require someone to take a few photos and post them online with a brief caption.
When patients research a new practice, many will take a look at its Facebook page to get a sense of the place and the people. And because Facebook features so prominently in the organic search results that appear when a new patient enters your practice name in online search engines, that Facebook page is very easy for them to find (at no cost to you).
Patients are naturally drawn to practices that feature pictures of smiling patients and friendly staff. The investment in time of a few hours a month to make sure your social media presence comprises more than just an address and phone number is well worth it.
Consider traditional media
This third suggestion may cause some to roll their eyes: consider traditional media.
What do we mean by traditional media? Think radio, print, outdoor advertising—the kind of advertising that was the only option before the internet took the world by storm and ushered in the era of social media.
While social media is certainly a useful tool for connecting with patients, there are plenty of ways to connect with patients on social media without spending thousands a month on paid ads with social media advertising consultant who claim they can help you target individual patients with carefully curated ads if only you’ll spend your entire marketing budget with them (see suggestion number 2 above).
Instead, you may want to consider diverting some of your marketing spend to a billboard, or a newspaper ad.
According to an article in the marketing trade publication Marketing Week, marketers have a tendency to undervalue the impact of traditional advertising channels while overvaluing online campaigns.
Perhaps the reports of traditional media’s death have been exaggerated. Or maybe everyone got caught up in the frenzy of social media advertising, with its promises of micro-targeted ads based on a bottomless well of consumer data.
What seems clear is that there’s still an opportunity to reach new patients with traditional media. And given how so many businesses have been chasing the shiny new object in social media or online advertising, there may even be an opportunity to do so at a fraction of the cost compared to what traditional media outlets would have charged even a decade ago.
And if your competition is focused exclusively on online advertising, you may just find that you’re the only dental practice still using traditional media—making you the only voice in town. Even better!
Sticking to the basics
We hope this blog post will give you some ideas to improve patient flow at your office, or at least give you something to chew on as you ponder the age-old question of how to get new patients in the door.
The unifying thread across all three of our modest suggestions here is perhaps simply sticking to the basics—with a solid website, a fresh social media presence, and maybe even some basic old-school advertising in the local newspaper or on that billboard by the interstate (you’ll be shocked at how inexpensive billboards can be nowadays, particularly if you’re not in a major metropolitan area).
All of these suggestions are relatively straightforward and easy to execute. Good luck out there and keep spreading those smiles!