So I’ve been reading a lot recently on how to effectively funnel website traffic into end-users of your products or services (if you’re a dentist, that means turning a website visitor a patient). And here are 5 important things you should be doing RIGHT NOW to help funnel visitors to call or e-mail your office for an appointment:
Patients are interested in themselves. We all are, aren’t we? Patients don’t really care about you and your fancy degrees, your staff, etc. as much as we all want them to. So why does everyone make their website “Us-Centric”. Meaning that, when you build a website, the language that you use ends up focusing on yourselves and not on the patients. Take “Testimonials” for example. Many dentists have this in their website (although the RCDSO has issued guidelines saying that they are not appropriate). But some dentists go a step further. Instead of “Testimonials”, they say “What Patients Like You Say About Us”. I know it’s a mouthful, but it makes the language “You-Centric”. Also, instead of writing “About Us”, some dentists make it “You-Centric” by writing “Your Dental Team”. And instead of writing “Our Services” on your website, some dentists write “How We Help You”. You can actually go through your entire website and change the language of all sorts of things from “Us-Centric” to “You-Centric”. Patients want to know: what’s in it for us? So speak to them.
2. Talk About Benefits, Not Features
Features are things that make your practice different and which you think are important. Perhaps your office has state-of-the-art equipment and you schedule active recall treatment through e-mail / text. Those are all features. But that’s not what really hits home when it comes to speaking a patient’s language. When you start talking benefits on your website, and how patients will benefit by you having these things, then you will see better results. Think about saying things like: we use state-of-the-art equipment to give you the best possible care / treatment with minimal recovery / intrusion. Or perhaps you could say something like: we know you’re very busy, so we’ll send you a couple of e-mail and text reminders when it’s time for you to come in. Think about what patients want: save time and money, get protected, do things quickly and easily, and the end result should improve their lifestyle. So talk about how your features result in those things.
3. Use Emotion
Decisions about going to the dentist, accepting a procedure / treatment, etc. are not usually rationally-based. Rather, they are based on emotion. That’s what Malcolm Gladwell’s seminal book Blink was all about (but on a broader scale). Decisions are made in the blink of an eye – and on an emotional basis. So if a patient’s decision to call /email you is emotionally based, make sure to incorporate emotion into your website (through pictures, text, and layout). Try to encourage them to take action by incorporating emotion. What kind of emotion works best? Well, you hear a lot about ‘fear’ and ‘lifestyle enhancement’. With respect to ‘fear’, you could talk about things like the fear of living with pain, losing teeth, looking less than ideal, etc. Or how about the fear of missing out on an opportunity. And with respect to ‘lifestyle enhancement’, you could talk about how coming in to see the dentist will help put you on the path to a pain-free, bright, beautiful smile – a smile that will land you that job you always wanted, that significant other, those beautiful pictures you dream of (where you can actually show off your teeth). If your website is bland, you might want to spruce it up with some emotion 😉
4. Remove the Clutter
5. Test, Test, Test!
You won’t know if your website is improving until you track things (using Google Analytics, CrazyEgg, etc.) and test things. You can watch this video also about the importance of testing and how to go about doing it properly.
So I asked a client of mine at the Ontario Dental Association’s Annual Spring Meeting: “How is your marketing coming along?” He had just bought a new practice and said: I’m getting a logo put together and then I’ll pay to have some flyers sent out. My jaw dropped. Obviously, he hasn’t been on our website, www.dentistlawyers.ca, and hasn’t been reading or watching our videos. My own client. I get it. He’s busy. And I remind him all the time to think about marketing as soon as he gets his new practice. BUT… alas… So now it’s time for a refresher.
And here it is: Marketing is not Advertising. Marketing is all of our efforts to communicate with your client. Advertising is done only in print (graphics, pictures, text, etc.). And I want you to remember this one: don’t you dare spend one cent of your hard earned $$$ on advertising, creating a logo, distributing flyers, etc. without reading this: YOU NEED A STRATEGY FIRST.
So what’s your strategy? This is the strategy that you’re going to start off with to get more patients in your chairs. This is the thing that all other things (including your logo and print advertising, website, and colour of your office, etc.) will revolve around. This is your BRAND strategy. This is the thing that goes inbetween your patient (end user) and your dental services (product). This is what you’re going to emphasize over and over again until everyone (your staff, your patients, the media, etc.) remembers you for.
And your brand is the thing that is going to spread. It’s the thing that’s going to attract top quality talent (front desk, chairside assistant, hygienist). Your brand will communicate a message to everyone and you won’t be able to keep up with the rush of patients beating down your door and wanting to experience it.
So what is a brand? Well, I’ve blogged about it before, so you can just click this link to read about branding and then you can read this to see how branding applies to dentistry. And if you’ve still got time to read and enjoy learning, then read this article I wrote in Oral Health Office about niche marketing. Enjoy!
In my last blog, I talked about 10 important lessons that came out of this new book I read entitled “60 Minute Brand Strategist” by Idris Mootee. And at the end of the blog, I asked: how does this apply to dentistry? Well, let’s discuss, shall we?
Lesson #1: Brands help us choose
There are so many dentists out there – especially in the urban areas. Developing a strong and memorable brand allows you to gain a competitive advantage. They allow patients to identify your practice and be loyal to you. Because you care about things like the experience they are going to have, the service they are going to receive, the emotions you’re going to tantalize, etc. You are going to make them a better version of themselves, get them the best job they can get, the significant other they want, a better life, etc. And you can do that through dentistry. And that’s why they’ll come to you.
Lesson #2: What a Brand is NOT
Don’t waste your time on developing a logo, a slogan, an ad, a graphic, a layout, a text, colours, etc. You need to develop a brand that connects patients with your dental services.
Lesson #3: What a Brand is
Your brand needs to communicate your message, your experience, the emotions that you’ll tantalize or engage. What will you be remembered for? What is the one thing you and your office does really well? Are you living a “recommendable life” when you go the office and outside of the workplace?
Lesson #4: Without a Brand…
You don’t want to be offering free teeth whitening and free COEs, do you? How are you going to pay yourself, your staff, your mortgage with discounts and FREE? Don’t be a commodity. Don’t degrade the profession. You spent too much time and effort getting to where you’re at. So start branding! You’re not a commodity service!
Lesson #5: Customers are on a treadmill
Here comes the WOW factor: deliver What patients Want, On Time, With attention to detail. Many patients these days (particularly the young ones or the ones with disposable incomes) are high maintenance. They want to be in and out. They want to be educated. They want cost-certainty. They want exceptional services. They want results. And they are used to it with other brands, so why not yours? Yes, they may be unreasonable, but guess what: you can command a premium for delivering the ‘unreasonable’.
Lesson #6: What a Brand can do for you…
If you target a certain market more effectively and efficiently than competitors and become known as the ‘go-to’ practice or dentist in that field (e.g. the new mother dental practice, the wedding dental practice, etc.), you can command premiums, work less, and enjoy the fruits of your labour (because it’s now easier for you to target a segment of the population and charge premiums!).
Lesson #7: The difference between a service and a Brand…
You don’t sell dental services. You sell an experience of going to the dentist. If you sold dental services, then you would compete on price. Your patient would also know (or try to figure out everything) about the treatment you’re recommending or how good you are as a dentist. But patients don’t know. They’re not trained to know. They can’t tell the difference. And dentists aren’t supposed to advertise their uniqueness or superiority. So what are patients actually buying? It’s not just your services…
Lesson #8: People buy Brands because…
If you are cool, your practice is cool, the experience is awesome and luxurious (see below) and you spend the time educating your patient, they will want to share that experience and wealth of information to everyone they meet that day and next. It makes them feel cooler and smarter. That’s why they’re going to come back to you…
Lesson #9: What is Branding by Customer Experience?
What kind of experience do your patients from, from start to finish, when dealing with your brand? Is your website a dated brochure of sorts? Does your logo have a toothbrush on it? Does your office smell like old carpet and flouride? Are your staff rude? Are you on time? Do you take time to speak with patients? These are all little parts of the overall experience that a patient will have and will spread (via word of mouth) about your practice.
Lesson #10: The Massification of Luxury
Everyone wants to have a taste of luxury. That’s how the whole time-share business came to be. It allows average people the opportunity to see what it’s like to live for a few weeks a year in a really nice place. And so, when your patients come to see you, are you treating them to a luxurious experience? Are your leasehold improvements stunning? Do you offer them a beverage (e.g. espresso from your Jura machine, which grinds the beans fresh with every shot) while they’re waiting? Do you have big screen TVs playing their favourite channels? Do the chairs in your waiting room give them a relaxing massage as they wait? Think luxury….
These days, I’m pretty addicted to researching why certain things catch on. I previously blogged about a book I read entitled “The Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell and how your practice could benefit from the lessons in that book.
I just picked up another book written by Jonah Berger entitled “Contagious: Why Things Catch On” and it offers additional lessons into why things go viral via word-of-mouth. In a nutshell, there are 6 principals or STEPPS (as the author calls them) of contagiousness:
#1: Social Currency
People talk about cool and remarkable things. And they want to show them off as part of their social status.
Triggers are stimuli that prompt us to think about related things. Eggs and ham. Cats and dogs. Dinner and a movie. You get the point. So you need to design a product, service, or experience that is frequently triggered by the environment and you also need to create new triggers by linking to prevalent cues in the environment.
Emotions like fear, peace of mind, frutstration, etc. make it easier to remember messages.
People need to be seeing what your customers are doing. That’s why car license plates have dealership names on them. That’s why businesses put their names prominently on shopping bags (to alert others where you have shopped). That’s why dental offices on the ground floor have large windows and signs for those passing by to peer into. Make your practice observable.
#5: Practical Value
Make your offering useful. Will it take the pain away? Will it improve your lifestyle (e.g. a big, bright, beautiful smile will help get you a better job, a beautiful date, make you feel more confident, etc.)? Will it save you money? Will it improve your health? The benefits of what you’re offering need to be concise and packaged neatly so that others can pass it along.
Your message needs to have a human context. The benefits of using a product, service, or experience needs to have a place in our daily lives. And we connect with other humans through stories that contain morals and lessons.
Look at your dental practice. Look at your branding and your messaging. Think about your target market (i.e. your ideal patient) and the distribution channels in which you attract them (e.g. you’d be focusing on your connectors, mavens, and salespeople if you read the previously linked blog!).
Now re-read the above 6 STEPPS… Your dental practice experience needs to be cool, different, and remarkable (social currency).
People think about going to the dentist when they are in pain or to do some active care treatment typically every 6 months; you need to focus on these and other types of triggers (e.g. wedding = teeth whitening) in your environment (triggers). By the way, are you targeting couples about to get married? They need to have their teeth fixed (e.g. perio work + teeth whitening + a crown to fix a nasty tooth?) What a great idea!
Now, you need to tie your product or service offering into an emotion. What about the fear of smiling with crooked and yellow teeth at your wedding? What about having a better chance of landing a job when you expose a beautiful set of pearly white teeth? (emotional).
Next, think about how you can encourage your patients to tell others about your practice when they show off their perfect smile (public). If it’s a wedding, there will be plenty of opportunity because of the pictures being taken, videos being recorded, and attention being paid to the lucky couple. But who else should you think of? Why not those who the wedding couple typically meet in preparation for their wedding – like photographers, wedding planners, caterers, cake makers, flourists, graphic designers (for the invitations), etc. These are all individuals who the wedding couple will typically see on their question to getting married. And if these individuals all have beautiful and nice teeth, and you’re the practice that provided those services (because you did so deliberately), then you’ll be more visible to your target market (i.e. ideal patient).
Your service offering must have value. This is probably the easiest part when it comes to pitching your offering to patients. They want exceptional service by a competent and trustworthy professional in a timely and cost-certain manner within a clean and aesthetically pleasing environment where the team members care about their interests. These are all values that patients care about (practice value). In certain unique practices, for example, the values may require further competencies (e.g. specialty practices) or further accommodations (e.g. in the dentist’s schedule for emergencies).
Finally, you need to be able to wrap everything up in a story or two. What kinds of funny jokes or interesting stories do you have that include important lessons? Are these about you, your practice, a former case, etc.? (stories). You’ve got to tie everything in with cool stories that trigger emotion, include your practice values, and which leave patients with social currency (so they feel compelled to tell others about how great you and your practice are)!
In future blogs, we’ll take a look at these 6 STEPPS in greater detail.
And by the way, you should definitely pick up your copy of “Contagious” from Amazon.
Let me be very clear upfront: I am not in the business of making money by consulting you or coaching you about how to market your dental practice effectively. I am, however, happy to share some tidbits of information for FREE to those who are interested in improving their marketing efforts. I am a big proponent of developing a marketing strategy (which includes developing a strong brand and then communicating that brand message through various marketing communications). If you fail to plan, then you’ve already planned to fail!
So, with that said, I recently attended a seminar hosted by Laurie Slater of Fortune Management at a Hilton hotel in Vaughan last Friday. Laurie and the guest speaker, the electrifying Fred Joyal (co-founder of 1800Dentist in the U.S.), gave fantastic presentations about marketing your practice. And I don’t want to steal their thunder. But I do want to point out a thing or two which I picked up along the way which made me pause for thought.
Now, first thing’s first… get this book from Amazon right now:
This is Fred Joyal’s book and it basically contains everything you need to know to get started on marketing your practice.
Now, back to what I learned by listening to Laurie and Fred.
The public’s perception of dentists and dental services isn’t very good. They don’t think there is much value. They fear going to the dentist (perhaps they’re embarrassed because they haven’t been there for a long time). They think the dentist is there to gouge them (profits > patients). They don’t want to pay the co-pay (if they have insurance). They basically are just going to the dentist to maintain their oral health. They don’t perceive going to the dentist as a health or wellness enhancer. And because of this, patients are reluctant to go to their dentist; and for those that do go, they expect to pay the least amount (nothing hopefully) of money. They perceive dentistry as a utility, not as a lifestyle enhancer. And for those things that they do perceive as lifestyle enhancers, they’re OK with paying for the best (e.g. nice suits, fancy purses, fast cars, flashy watches, etc.).
Think about it. How much is a beautiful and bright smile worth? How much would someone pay to make the pain and discomfort in their mouth go away? Dentistry is a lifestyle enhancer. And Fred and Laurie pointed this out in their presentations. So the key here is for all dentists to be on the same page and communicate this message to the public over and over again as loud as possible: dentistry makes your life better! With a better and brighter smile (with no pain), you will look better, feel better, and good things will follow (e.g. relationships, jobs, money, etc.). As Fred Joyal pointed out in his presentation, we are a society that is obsessed with looks and attractiveness. And studies show that good looking people receive better opportunities in the workplace vis-a-vis those who aren’t as attractive but who have better resumes!
In my next blog, I’ll talk about the idea of selling and packaging dentistry…
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