Sometimes I look back at the start of my career in marketing and wonder, “How did agencies back then survive without laptops, online chat, social media, and web developers?”
Technology has made our work faster, more accurate, and more profitable, to the point that I can’t imagine waking up in a world without it. It has become so integrated into our lives that we assume everyone wants it and values it as much as we do. However, patients may not feel the same way about your dental technology.
While dental technology helps you provide better quality care via highly accurate impressions, more comfortable treatment of periodontal disease, and even the precise placement of implants, those benefits can be difficult to convey to prospective dental patients. Until they experience the negative impact of a dentist not using this technology, they won’t understand its advantages.
We often receive calls at Golden Proportions Marketing from very excited dentists who say, “I just purchased this amazing new piece of technology. It cost me an insane amount of money, and I want you to market it so that I can pay for it.” Their excitement and enthusiasm are palpable, and they want to share that with their patients.
Ideally, before you invest several months’ salary into a new technology, you should consider consumer demand, impact on your bottom line, and whether this technology can truly differentiate your practice. If you want marketing to pay for your investment, marketing must influence your purchase decision in the first place. Here are three key questions you should ask.
Is it unique?
The average dentist attracts patients within a five- to seven-mile radius of his or her office. Using this radius, visit the websites and social media pages of your competitors to see how many of them have the same technology that you’re interested in. Being the very first office to offer digital x-rays was big news 20 years ago, but today’s patients assume most offices have digital x-rays. If you can stake a claim as the first in your area to offer “mess-free dental impressions,” for example (figure 1), there’s more potential marketing value than being an also-ran.
Does anyone really care?
In marketing, we’re taught to constantly ask ourselves if our messages answer consumers’ most important question: “What’s in it for me?” (This is commonly referred to as WIIFM.) (Figure 2.) No matter how valuable you think a service, technique, or technology may be, if you aren’t able to clearly articulate the WIIFM principle, it simply won’t resonate with patients. Remember, dental supply companies have a vested interest in pointing out the benefits to you because they are targeting your WIIFM, not your patients’. How do you find out if patients will care about this new technology? How do you find out what's really in it for them?
I believe the best way to learn the answer to WIIFM is to simply ask your patients. Some advance research will help you identify your patients’ biggest problems so you can evaluate whether your purchase will solve the issues.
Let’s assume you want to invest in a digital impression system. Here are three steps to measure future consumer interest.
1. Count every patient during the next month who complains about impressions, gags as you insert the trays, or generally acts unhappy about the process. Multiply this number by 12 and determine roughly what percentage of your total patient visits each year will be impacted by this technology. Is it enough to justify the purchase?
2. Use social media to post a survey. Don’t ask “Do you hate impressions?” or you’ll skew the data. A good sample survey might ask, “What is the No. 1 thing we can do that would make your visits more enjoyable? Check what applies.” Examples of answers are painless injections (figure 3), no-goop impressions, on-time visits, and same-day crowns.
You’ll want at least 100 answers for a somewhat statistically representative sample, so don’t be afraid to post this survey on your personal pages to ask your friends. Your team can also share the survey with their friends for a more robust and demographically representative sample.
3. Assuming the survey reveals that followers care about your purchase as much as you do, share a photo of and statement about your intended purchase on social media. Ask your followers: Would you be willing to change dentists for this technology? Would you recommend our practice to others based on the fact that we use this new technology? Is the convenience and comfort of this technology worth a small increase in cost of your care? (Quantify this if you can.)
How do I drive interest in my technology?
By now, you should know if your research proves whether patients will appreciate your new technology. To be safe, assume it’s going to provide only half of the cost savings or increase in new patients that you were promised. Is it still worth it? If so, grab your credit card.
Now you need to promote the technology. Brainstorm a list of five to 10 patient-oriented benefit statements that your team can use to describe your new technology during patient visits. The team should role-play how to use these statements during a normal patient visit.
Update your website to feature your new technology on the homepage and include a clear call to action. The day your new technology arrives, go live on Facebook and have your team broadcast you opening the box. Get really excited as you tell your viewers what this technology will mean on their next visit. Show them, “What’s in it for me?”
Record additional videos of you using the technology on your team as they narrate what it does from a first person and patient perspective. Ask the first few patients who experience your new technology to write a review about it on Google or Facebook. Send an e-blast to your patients that shares patient testimonial quotes or videos about this new technology.
Post signs in each room that say, “Ask me about our new _________!” This is the time to increase your requests for referrals. Patients love being the first to know something and tell their friends and family about your new technology. It’s a form of social currency.
If your technology is truly different, make a pitch to the media for news coverage. Highlight this technology in any existing marketing, such as postcards, TV commercials, or the Google Ads landing page.
Test and measure
Your technology will lose its “new car smell” with you before it does with your patients. At best, most of your patients visit your office once or twice a year. It could be months or even years before there’s a reason for some patients to experience your technology. Establish key performance indicators to measure the use of your technology each month via a procedure code. Track and report on this data monthly during a team meeting. If you see the interest in your technology waning, draft a plan to keep your team and patients engaged. Measure the year-over-year increase in revenue from this technology and measure your true ROI.
Dental technology will continue to advance, pressuring you to add more purchases to your practice over time. While some are necessary, such as digital x-rays, others are more elective for your practice, such as i-CAT. Ensure there is demand and interest in the technology that has caught your eye if you’re going to pay for it and market it.
XAÑA WINANS is the founder of Golden Proportions Marketing, a full-service dental marketing company. Married to a dentist, her group has been marketing dental practices for over 18 years and provides strategic planning, internal, external, and digital marketing to dentists across North America. Contact Mrs. Winans at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (866) 590-4476 to learn about dental marketing strategies, or visit goldenproportions.com.