Leveraging online media for today's savvy patient

With the majority of dental patients able to research anything, anytime, it’s more important than ever for your practice to have an extensive online presence. There might be more to check than you realize.

Jun 1st, 2017
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Rita Zamora

Did you know that 95% of Americans own a cell phone?¹ Of those 95% who do, smartphone ownership is now 77%, up from just 35% according to Pew Research Center’s first survey of smartphone ownership, which was conducted in 2011.¹ With the majority of your patients able to research anything, anytime, it’s more important than ever for your practice to have an extensive online presence. Optimizing your website and establishing your practice on a variety of online review sites and listings, as well as on social media, will ensure that patients easily find you - no matter where they spend their online time.

Practices can increasingly count on patients who are informed when it comes to finding and considering a dentist. According to Google research on ThinkwithGoogle.com, consumers looking for new products and services today are likely to visit your website, read online reviews, watch videos, and ask their social network friends before making purchases.2

Specific to dentistry, during the decision-making process, many patients conduct extensive and simultaneous research into the recommended dental treatment and the cost of care, including payment and financing options. With this in mind, let’s look at the key online media your practice can leverage to attract and appoint today’s savvy patients.3

Today’s patients demand convenience. Even websites that are only a few years old may not include some of the latest features that patients expect. Consider the rise of millennials - those born between 1981 and 1997 - in the US population. According to Pew research, millennials are now the largest labor force and population in the United States. They’re also the first generation to have never known life without technology. Not surprising, text communication is often their preferred method of communication.

Modern website must-haves

Among the most important features modern dental websites need today is the ability to accommodate text communication. People of all ages who prefer texting to phone calls will be more attracted to a practice that allows them to communicate in their preferred method. Text communication is also a benefit for your front office team because it doesn’t require team members be tied to a phone, it allows for multitasking, and most importantly, it allows your team to focus on the patients in the office.

It’s also important to allow patients to request appointments online. A growing number of patients choose to communicate in any manner that involves a keyboard or touchpad over a phone call. As an added benefit, this allows patients to appoint outside of business hours. Wouldn’t it be great to let technology fill your schedule while you and your team members are out of the office enjoying the weekend?

Next, you should ensure that your website functions quickly, and that it clearly highlights the dentistry you want to perform. Forty percent of people abandon a website that takes more than three seconds to load.4 Visit your website from a variety of mobile devices to see how it functions. Most importantly, ask yourself what procedures you prefer to perform. If you answer dental implants, sleep dentistry, or smile makeovers, how visible are the links to access information about those procedures on your website? Do you have an abundance of content about the preferred procedures on your website? In other words, if you want to grow a certain type of dentistry, those treatments should be visible, attractive, and engaging to website visitors. This is imperative if you’re investing in online advertising to grow specific procedures.

Lastly, a dental study shows 67% of dental respondents researched cost and financing. Of the study respondents, 52% were not aware that financing was available for their needs, and 47% would consider financing if it enabled them to receive care immediately.3 Does your website clearly show patients their options with regard to financing and convenient online payments?

Online reviews - how do you measure up?

Sixty-six percent of consumers trust the opinions of other online consumers.5 This is not far from the 83% who trust recommendations from people they know.5 If you’re not asking for reviews from your patients, not only are you missing out on marketing opportunities, you’re leaving your online reputation vulnerable.

There are a variety of high-tech or organic methods you can implement to invite patients to post reviews. Of these options, automated surveys e-mailed or texted to patients after their appointments tend to be the most popular and effective. With an automated patient engagement system in place, for example Solutionreach, you’re able to grow relationships with patients and expand word of mouth about your practice, all while creating a strong online reputation for your practice. There is no better way to minimize a negative review than to have 100 positive reviews to outshine it.

What does social media say about you?

If you aren’t spending time on social media, you may have no idea how powerful a marketing tool it can be. Patients of all ages are discovering new products and services every day through social media. The old saying about telling your spouse you love them before someone else does applies here. Practices that are actively sharing a variety of content, including team photos, tidbits about treatments, video interviews, and more, allow patients to learn about what they may not know they’re missing.

There are a variety of ways to make social media manageable, including outsourcing to a trusted vendor. Don’t let the fact that you or your team members personally don’t enjoy social media keep you from leveraging the many benefits social media has to offer.

In summary, patients are looking for the most convenient methods to communicate with your team. They want to easily explore the treatments and financial options you offer, and then book their appointment online, all without having to talk to another person. In some cases, patients may not intentionally look for a new dentist; however, through their use of online reviews and social media, they see word of mouth at a large scale and discover new options. Discuss this article information with your team and use it as a checklist to diagnose the health of your online practice. Keep me posted on your findings.

ReferenceS

1. Mobile Fact Sheet. Pew Research Center website. http://www.pewinternet.org/fact-sheet/mobile/. Published January 12, 2017. Accessed April 11, 2017.

2. The customer journey to online purchase. Thinkwithgoogle website. https://www.thinkwithGoogle.com/tools/customer-journey-to-online-purchase.html#!/the-us/arts-and-entertainment/large/generic-paid-search. Published September 2014. Accessed April 11, 2017.

3. Tauber R. Consumers’ Path To Healthcare Purchases Study. White paper. https://www.carecredit.com/assets/views/news/files/13948_Whitepaper_072315.pdf Pubished July 2015. Accessed April 11, 2017.

4. Akamai reveals 2 seconds as the new threshold of acceptability for e-commerce web page response times. Akamai website. https://www.akamai.com/us/en/about/news/press/2009-press/akamai-reveals-2-seconds-as-the-new-threshold-of-acceptability-for-ecommerce-web-page-response-times.jsp. Published September 14, 2009. Accessed May 11, 2017.

5. Recommendations from friends remain most credible form of advertising among consumers. Nielson website. http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/press-room/2015/recommendations-from-friends-remain-most-credible-form-of-advertising.html. Published September 28, 2015. Accessed May 11, 2017.


Rita Zamora is an international speaker and published author on social media marketing and online reputation management. She and her team offer customized monthly social media management and training programs. Zamora has over 20 years of experience working hands-on in dental practice marketing and has been helping practices with their social media since 2007.

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