When lockdown orders are lifted in your state, the orthodontists who use this time to build relationships with patients are the ones who will see increased business.
The COVID-19 climate that we are currently living in calls for a fresh perspective on a marketing campaign strategy with a long-term, brand-building approach that banks on patients who will remember and trust your orthodontic practice when life returns to normal. In a survey recently conducted by Scorpion, 25% of respondents said they are putting off dental procedures until after the pandemic ends.
If you live in a state that has yet to reopen from shelter-in-place, it’s understandable to think that in times like these, you should begin pulling your advertising campaigns as an effective short-term cost-cutting measure. However, if you suspend advertising, you lose mindshare among potential patients and hamstring the effectiveness of your future marketing campaigns.
Here are 9 tips to keep building your practice until you and your staff can return to work at full capacity:
TIP #1: MAINTAIN YOUR MARKETING CAMPAIGNS
Instead of dropping your advertising messaging, shift the campaign focus to accommodate for the changes and stay-at-home orders that are still taking place in your state.
TIP #2: GET AHEAD OF COMPETITORS DURING THE DOWN TIME
The good news is that when other orthodontists stop their campaigns, it will cost you less to advertise and you face less competition online. Combine reduced costs with most Americans spending huge amounts of time online, and you can start to see why the immediate future presents a strong opportunity for orthodontists to increase their visibility and capture mindshare with potential patients.
TIP #3: REACH OUT TO YOUR PATIENTS
When they are unable to attend in-office visits, maintaining a connection with your patients is extremely important. Continue to explore creative ways to communicate with your patients to give them a sense that their treatment is ongoing.
Make sure your website’s contact information and Google My Business page are updated with any changes caused by COVID-19. Also add a page to your website that details whether your office is open for emergency services, what current patients should do while you’re closed, and any other information visitors should know about your practice’s COVID-19 response.
TIP #4: BUILD CONTENT
Once you have a system in place to be sure your patients are informed, start using content to foster engagement and build trust. Given the amount of time people are spending at home, screen time has spiked. Now is the time to develop a social media strategy. According to the survey, social media platforms get a significant share of this increase in traffic, with a 53% increase in Facebook usage and 42% when it comes to Instagram.
Start by creating a business page on Facebook and making sure your hours, contact information, biography, and other details are accurate. But don’t stop there. Just like you wouldn’t want your website to be empty, start creating relevant, helpful content on a consistent schedule. To make a splash and capitalize on increased engagement, try promoting your first few posts or use a Page Like ad to accrue an audience.
TIP #5: FIND THE RIGHT PLATFORMS
Consider where your target audience tends to spend time and conduct research. Which social media platforms do they spend the most time on? What are they likely to search on Google if they’re looking for an orthodontist? Would they rather read an article or watch a video? No matter how great your practice or your content is, your ideal patients can’t set up an appointment if they don’t know you exist.
It sounds obvious, but it’s imperative to post your content in the places it’s most likely to be seen by the people you’re focused on. In general, Scorpion has found that adults are most likely to conduct research with Google searches, ask friends for referrals on Facebook, and watch videos on YouTube. When it comes to teens, Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube are the best bets.
TIP #6: ENGAGE IN INTERESTING TOPICS
In addition to being placed where your target audience spends the most time, the content you create should also cover topics relevant to them. Teenagers, their parents, and adults who need orthodontic services have vastly different questions and concerns regarding what they are looking for in an orthodontist—put yourself in your ideal patient’s shoes and ask yourself what information they might need from you.
TIP #7: OFFER AND PROMOTE VIRTUAL CHECK-UPS
With the rise in telehealth services, now is the time to get ahead of the curve. Strive to complete as many video check-ups as possible. Let your patients know you are willing to innovate to care for them, then create detailed content to promote new services. If they can book a telehealth appointment online, be sure to make that clear.
TIP #8: SET UP A DELIVERY SERVICE
Explore whether you are able to deliver clear aligners, bands, or other products you offer to your patients. Show your prospective and existing patients that you’re willing to go the extra mile to get them the care and answers they need in stressful times. Consciously or otherwise, people who need an orthodontist down the line will remember who was there to help them.
TIP #9: CAN’T AFFORD A MARKETING AGENCY? DO IT YOURSELF
There are a few steps you can take to get your promotional plan off the ground while budgets are a little tighter than usual. Updating your website content with locally focused content (eg, “Visit Smile Orthodontist in Denver, CO”) is an effective, simple way to boost search rankings that most orthodontists should be able to take care of on their own. You should also check whether your page speed could be optimized and whether your site is responsive. These best practices are only some of the building blocks of an SEO strategy—anything more intensive or specific to your practice would likely require specialized knowledge or a marketing partner to implement.
In the long run, though, it’s likely that orthodontists who don’t work with digital marketing companies will be drowned out by those who do. Consumers are exposed to between 5,000 and 10,000 marketing messages every day, and breaking through all that noise is no easy task. When you consider what is required to stay up to date on Google’s search algorithms, concepting and creating valuable content, maintaining access to prospective patients, and all other aspects of a successful marketing strategy, orthodontists who run their own campaigns are essentially working two full-time jobs.
More than anything, it’s vital to maintain an online presence and stay in communication with your patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. Disappearing at this time willingly hands potential patients to your competitors and will hamper your practice’s future success. When they are ready to schedule an appointment, patients will want to have a level of trust and comfort with the orthodontist they choose, and reminding them that you are there gives you a clear advantage. Create content that touches on popular topics, but stands out from the crowd. Explore solutions that help patients understand that you are still there for them, answer their questions, and provide them with ongoing treatment if at all possible.
The inability to schedule appointments has not caused prospective patients’ orthodontic needs to disappear. People are still conducting research online—in fact, much more as of late—and when lockdown orders are lifted in your state, the orthodontists who use this time to build relationships with them are the ones who will see increased business.
These are certainly unprecedented times, and the situation is changing by the day. But by committing to helping current and potential patients in any way you can, you can stand out and above the competition and put your practice in a strong position to succeed once the pandemic subsides. OP
Andrea De La Cerda is the director of vertical marketing at Scorpion. De La Cerda leads Scorpion’s strategy for the medical industry and enjoys educating practice owners about digital marketing solutions to grow their businesses. She brings more than 20 years of award-winning national and international marketing expertise to the Scorpion team.