Grow your patient base in a competitive market

If it seems to you that dentistry is more competitive than ever, you’re right. The rise in the number of dental school graduates equates to more dentists in both group and solo practices in your local area. And that means more choices for consumers, who are becoming even more discerning and have the digital tools to do so.

How, then, does a practice grow and retain its patient base when the competition is fierce? By creating plans and making purposeful decisions in two areas of focus: being found by consumers and improving the patient experience.

Getting found online

A modern, well-functioning website is essential. Too many times, once a site is launched, it isn’t updated for years. Even if the practice’s service offerings don’t change, the site should evolve with the ways in which busy consumers read and make decisions.
Make it quick and easy for them to see the value of your practice’s services while helping Google algorithms index relevant information from your site. A few guidelines include:

  • Don’t overwhelm the reader with content; keep information scannable.
  • Limit topics to one per webpage with the exception of your home page.
  • Use friendly plain speak, rather than dentistry jargon, for procedures.
  • Keep content fresh through friendly “meet the team” pages and blogrolls; a blogroll is a list of helpful links.
  • Highlight your team’s personality and specialized expertise.

And while “exceptional service” is something most practices pride themselves on, be sure to spotlight the areas that make your location stand out. Your unique selling proposition may be flexible financing options, evening and weekend appointments, a relaxing atmosphere or specialty treatments — and that may be just the thing your potential patients are seeking.

Connecting to consumers

Also consider how those patients are finding your site in the first place. Often it’s through social media channels and online reviews. If you haven’t done so already, now is the time to stake your office on Yelp, Facebook, Healthgrades and Google My Business. These free-to-use platforms have significant reach, and this matters because even if you aren’t active online, people are still talking about you. It’s much better to see the reviews you’re receiving than to have an unchecked perception of the experience in your practice. Once you have a digital “home,” you can more easily receive feedback and share the great work that you do.

When Pew Research Center began tracking social media adoption in 2005, just five percent of American adults used at least one social media platform. By 2011, that number had risen to half of all Americans, and today 69 percent engage with some type of social media. Therefore, a healthy marketing mix that includes informed social media participation is key to increasing your reach.

Once you’ve claimed your pages and ensured that the core information about your practice is up to date, create a content calendar. That way, you can delegate the responsibility of social media to a trusted team member. Just a few hours per month spent scheduling posts in advance, checking notifications and responding to messages can yield positive results.

One of the best ways I’ve seen to improve online engagement is through video. You can use video to provide a virtual office tour, explain a procedure or share testimonials. The more you can show instead of tell, the more your site and your social channels will shine. And by linking testimonials back to your reviews on Yelp or Healthgrades, you’ll give potential patients a real view of the experience they can expect.

Delivering service excellence

Now, once those patients are attracted to your practice, it’s your job to convert them into lifelong patients! That exceptional service we want them to read and write about online is supported by patient-focused moments from the initial scheduling call through case acceptance and treatment.

Consumers are seeking convenient, customized and engaging experiences online and off. Digitization — from appointment-setting to X-rays and impressions — makes the patient experience faster and more comfortable. Personalization — from warm conversations to celebrating successful treatment outcomes — builds trust and loyalty. Distinguish your practice in a competitive market by leveraging both new digital tools and consistently excellent service.

Updated: 7/17/18

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In today’s dental market, patients have more choices than ever before. High expectations and an influx of information means competition is fierce, leading to a marked shift in how practice owners attract and retain patients. Long gone are the days when patients chose their dentist based on static provider directories, word-of-mouth or the Yellow Pages. Today, consumers are highly connected and able to research online reviews, ratings and guides prior to making a dental or health care choice.

Now more than ever, patients are demanding discretionary dental treatments. Where just a few decades ago dentistry was seen primarily as an avenue to better oral health, it is now seen as a way to improve quality of life.