3 Reasons Your Practice Needs an Online Marketing "Recare Plan"

March 20, 2014
As a leader of a successful dental practice, you understand that recare is an essential component to monitoring and maintaining the overall oral health of patients.

By Diana P. Friedman, MA, MBA

As a leader of a successful dental practice, you understand that recare is an essential component to monitoring and maintaining the overall oral health of patients. You are well aware that numerous factors, from personal oral care habits to genetics, impact a patient's oral health. This makes recare a necessity. You also realize that skipping recare appointments introduces a risk and can be detrimental to the oral and physical health of your patients.

Have you ever considered this same line of reasoning holds true for your online marketing strategy? In a study conducted by Sesame Communications, 93% of patients stated it was more convenient to find answers online compared to calling the office. Given this preference and the rapidly evolving Internet technologies (e.g., smartphone and tablets) and options for finding dentists outside Google searches, it's likely the online marketing strategies a practice deployed even 12 to 18 months ago are outdated.

Here are three reasons a practice should consider a recurring evaluation of an online marketing plan:

1. The Internet Has Gone Mobile

A recent study found 63% of adult cell phone owners now use their phones to go online. All one has to do is look in a practice's reception area to see this trend in action. With this pattern of mobile adoption, reevaluating your website to ensure it is optimized for mobile viewing is more important than ever.

This can be accomplished by building a separate mobile site that identifies the device and presents an alternate website that will work with a limited set of devices. But the optimal way to accomplish this is to update your website to what's known as responsive design. In this scenario, a website is built on a state-of-the-art platform that automatically adapts the design and content to screens of any size to ensure an optimal patient experience on virtually any device.

2. The Internet Has Gone Topical

The name Google is synonymous with search; however, due to the immense amount of content of the larger search engines, there has been a rise in what's known as vertical search or topical sites. Basically, these are websites that cater to a specific topic or area of interest. In the last half of 2012, topical sites had an 8% increase in search traffic while major search engine traffic decreased by 3% during the same period. Examples for successful topical sites in the consumer world include websites such as WebMD, Amazon, and eBay.

In the dental world, the best example for this is Healthgrades.com. Today more than 20 million prospective patients search Healthgrades.com for a new dental care provider in their local area and more than half will schedule an appointment when a click-to-request an appointment feature is present. Topical search sites such as Healthgrades.com provide increased practice exposure to highly qualified prospective patients and drive more of them to a practice. Focus attention on those topical sites that have an area dedicated to dental care providers.

3. The Internet Has Gone Social

Last year, 72% of Internet users ages 30 to 49 were active on social media. Even more interesting, 47% of Americans say Facebook is their No. 1 influencer of purchases (up from 24% in 2011). Social media, when done correctly, will drive new patients to a practice from referrals and foster loyalty with the existing patient community. But as consumers rely more on social media to make decisions and refer friends to a practice, they also expect more from the online relationship. The days of adding a Facebook or Twitter account and expecting it to act like a billboard for a practice have ended. To ensure social media efforts pay dividends, a practice needs to plan to keep all its sites up-to-date, providing relevant and patient-directed content of interest, or invest in a service that specializes in social engagement for dental care providers.

Final Thoughts

Dental recare is designed to monitor patients' oral health and ensure they are receiving optimal care. This system not only helps improve the quality of life of patients but also maintains a positive relationship with the practice and drives increases in production. A recare plan for online marketing will accomplish these same objectives for a practice, fortify the engagement with patients, drive new patients to a practice, improve production, and ensure sustained growth and profitability for the practice. A complete review of current online marketing efforts is a great way to start. Make sure to consider the evolution of mobile, topical search, and social media in planning a go-forward strategy.

Sources
1. Sesame Communications Member Survey.
2. Pew Internet, 2013, http:// http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2013/Cell-Internet.aspx.
3. ComScore, 2013,
http://www.comscore.com/Insights/Press_Releases/2013/2/comScore_Releases_the_2013_U.S._Digital_Future_in_Focus_Report.
4. Healthgrades Use Study, 2013.
5. Infographic, http://www.jeffbullas.com/2014/01/17/20-social-media-facts-and-statistics-you-should-know-in-2014/.

Diana P. Friedman, MA, MBA, is president and chief executive officer of Sesame Communications. She has a 20-year success track record in leading dental innovation and marketing. Contact Diana at [email protected].

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