MARKETING YOUR PRACTICE
DURING & AFTER COVID-19
An open letter to the dental community regarding COVID-19
We started Rise for our own practices in Michigan around 3 years ago out of frustration that we couldn’t find any marketing companies that were able to give us the results we were looking for, or conduct themselves in an ethical and truthful manner. What started as a somewhat of a research project ended up taking my partners Dr. Mazin Kizy, Nick Kizy, and myself down a rabbit hole that led us to many new discoveries, and ended up birthing what is now Rise DDS.
After creating a number of successful marketing campaigns and technology solutions for the dental industry, we received significant demand from our friends and colleagues who were also desperately seeking these solutions for their own practices.
Fast forward 3 years, and we are now recognized as one of the leaders in the space by Google, Facebook, organizations like the Private Dental Alliance, and more – proudly serving over 150 practices throughout the country.
One of the things that originally inspired me about the dental industry was that it is one of the last medical specialties where owning and operating one’s own practice is the norm, not the exception. I remember how exciting that was for me, because in my mind it meant that the entrepreneurial spirit was alive and well in dental. To me it meant there was more freedom to innovate, to discover and apply new things, and to have the sovereignty to create an environment of our choosing for our patients, our staff, and ourselves.
That said, we’re all also aware of the “dark side” that comes with being a business owner… The stress that sometimes seems disproportionate to our colleagues in other fields. The over-thinking, compromised sleep schedules, the looming fear that something might go wrong and we’re not going to be equipped for it. What about corporate consolidation- how exactly is it going to affect the future of our businesses and families? Almost every dentist I speak with has their fair share of stories, but the thing that I really believe unites us is our shared sense of optimism, determination, and confidence in our collective abilities to make it all worth it at the end of the day. I think I speak for the vast majority of us when I say that it undoubtedly is.
It’s easy to get caught up in fear in all of this. Coronavirus has obviously created an unprecedented situation not only in the dental industry but the world at large, and I think the best response to this situation is to share with you the top strategies that are working for us- some of which we’ve obtained from data collected in our own offices and those of our clients, and some suggested to us by others in the industry. It’s through this spirit of community and transparency that I think will leave us surprised as to how far we can go when we have a willingness to help each other out.
All the best,
For the past few weeks our team has been diligently working to find the best practical solutions to not just “get by” but remain as profitable as possible during and after this time. We are constantly learning new things and receiving many helpful updates from the community that have proven very useful for us and our clients, and I want to return the favor by sharing the top things that we are seeing can make your practice as profitable as possible during and after Coronavirus.
Given the ADA recommendation to solely accept emergency cases, the single best thing you can be doing right now is going/calling around to all the local hospitals, ERs, and emergency clinics in your community, find the owner/operator/CEO/head of the hospital, and telling them you’re taking on emergencies and want to help, and to have them send those patients to you. Right now, these centers are getting a ton of emergency dental cases (depending on the city/community) and don’t have the ability to give them proper care. Much of the public assumes that dental offices near them are either closed, or they view them as somewhat risky in terms of sanitation, when in fact statistically the opposite is true. Your local ER centers and hospitals can easily be persuaded to send those patients to your practice for emergency care.
Speaking of accepting emergency cases- we have a few strategies you can use to assert yourself and your office’s brand as the primary emergency practice in your community. This is something you very much want to do your best to achieve- making sure that your practice is known right now and going forward as THE best place for emergency dental care. We’ve done studies on this at our own offices, and dollar-per-dollar you will make more from emergency cases, even when considering lifetime patient value, than you will from hygiene- if you are providing a great patient experience. Why? It’s on average 3x cheaper to acquire an emergency patient than it is a hygiene patient. Almost all markets are saturated with messages from dental offices wanting you to go there for your hygiene treatment. If you can add to that branding that you specialize in emergency care (bonus points if you have weekend or extended hours) you will most likely see a big jump in new patient volume. Furthermore, if you provide a great experience we typically see about half of these patients come back themselves as long-term hygiene patients, or provide some sort of referral. I hear the stigma often that emergency cases are “one-hit wonders” but from statistically speaking this is actually not the case, and they can be the single most lucrative kind of patient you will see.
The data is clear that over 80% of all people looking for emergency care are primarily using Google to find the right practice, and this behavior is especially true now that everyone is in quarantine. Screen time on mobile phones has shot way up, as has desktop use as people look to the internet for essentially everything. Here’s how you can take advantage of this.
Thinking as a potential patient for a moment, if you chip or crack your tooth, you’re most likely not going to take the time to call around to friends and family for a good dental recommendation. Even if you did, you’d still want information on location and office hours. In short, you’d do what most everyone does – you’d Google it. That said, it’s incredibly important to make sure your Google My Business (GMB for short) profile is up-to-date with your current hours and contact information, and I highly recommend writing out a message speaking to the fact that you are exceeding all sanitation guidelines set by the state and federal government, and your office is fully equipped to handle whatever dental emergency need a patient may have. This is also a message you can turn into a post on Google My Business, very similar to how you would post on Facebook or another social media platform. You can access and update your GMB profile at business.google.com
That said, the single most lucrative thing you can be doing right now is running an inexpensive Google ads campaign targeting emergency patients. This is the #1 thing we are doing right now for our offices that is allowing us to remain profitable. When you Google “Emergency Dentist” or anything for that matter – the top 3-4 results are ADS! They are not “organic” results. Why is this so important? Because even if your website is in the top spot organically on Google for these search terms (meaning it’s the best it can possibly be without running ads) the highest it can ever be is position 4.
Given that the vast majority of searches take place on a phone, you actually have to SCROLL DOWN before you get past all the ads. Most people obviously don’t do this and end up clicking on the first, second, or third listing (I like to put ads in the second slot because a lot of people avoid the first slot thinking it’s an ad and click the second, not realizing it is also an ad) – Running Google ads is not easy, and you need to make sure you have the right partner running them for you, but they are the single most lucrative thing you can be doing right now outside of communicating with your local ER centers and hospitals. I am happy to help point anyone in the right direction when it comes to either finding a partner to run these ads, or learning how to run them yourself.
You also want to update the messaging on your website. You should talk to your current web company/marketing provider to make sure your hours are updated on every relevant page on your site, and that you have a clear and concise statement as to how patients should communicate with your office (Should they still call the same number, or your cell phone? Can they still message you through the Contact for on your site? etc.) You’ve probably spoken to your phone provider by now and updated the message on your voicemail, but ensure that all of the profiles with that phone number are updated everywhere they appear on the web (Facebook page, Google My Business Page, Twitter, Linkedin, etc.) I recommend having a pop-up or top banner that appears when you first visit your website that has a statement similar to the following:
At Anderson Family Dental, we are fully committed to your health at this time, and are taking every possible measure to ensure the safety of you and your families. Our office is exceeding all safety measures put forth by the WHO and government authorities.
We will continue to treat emergency patients at this time, and are here to help if you feel you need any manner of emergency dental treatment. Please do not visit the emergency room for dental-related cases, as they do not have the proper staff or equipment to handle them at this time.
You may call our office at any time for up-to-date hours. We look forward to continuing to serve you and your family.
Best, Dr. Anderson
Speaking of Google My Business, It is also extremely beneficial right now to practice generating as many 5-star Google reviews as possible. However, it’s important you understand what Google’s policy is on generating reviews right now. Because most of Google’s staff won’t be in-office again until quarantine ends, new reviews will not appear for the time being. I recommend instead focusing on generating Facebook and Yelp reviews during this time. You don’t need expensive software or tools to do this. We can show you and your staff the best ways to generate these reviews for free for the time being.
Leverage your existing patient email lists! I see many offices not properly taking advantage of their existing email lists of current patients. I highly recommend sending out an email to everyone with similar messaging to the above, letting them know that you are still accepting emergency patients and are exceeding all safety standards to create the safest possible environment (much safer than that of a hospital or ER center, in fact) and best possible patient experience. I have several templates for this that I can share that set the proper tone.
Make Facebook videos and turn them into video ads that everyone in your community will see very, very inexpensively! I recommend making 1-5 minute videos explaining many of the things in the above paragraphs talking about how you are here and available to take emergency patients, your office is extremely safe and sterile and you are here to help. Then, post that video on Facebook and turn it into an ad (NOT a boosted post – there is a big difference) targeting the 5,10, or 20 mile radius around your office. For a few hundred dollars you can ensure almost everyone in your community on Facebook sees this video! That is about 10x less the cost of achieving the same effect with print mail or other traditional forms of advertising!
Lastly, please take this time to fully understand where your marketing dollars are going, and assess whether or not these channels are actually making you money right now. Many forms of advertising are either not going to work as well during thime, or your messaging is going to have to be altered to attract emergency patients. this is a good time to monitor how much you’re spending on marketing and where it’s going. You need to ensure you have proper marketing attribution in place. Dental marketing attribution is the single most important thing that we can assist with in my view, as there is no excuse for a marketing company not to be able to tell you exactly where your marketing dollars are going in 2020. If they are not able to do this, it is probably because they don’t want to, and I am here to tell you and show you there is a much better way.
Once the quarantine is lifted, there will be an extremely high volume of hygiene (and high ticket) patients who will still be afraid to come into the office. Operators need to understand the best ways to articulate the fact that their practices are extremely hygienic and convince patients that they should not be afraid to come in for their scheduled appointments. This alone is going to have a massive impact on your new patient volume, production and collections in the 2-3 month period following the lifted quarantine.
Work with a trusted vendor to install booking software on your website and relevant social media pages so patients can automatically book their appointments online. The 2 industry-leading vendors for this are Local Med and NexHealth. NexHealth is our preferring solution because in addition to your website it allows patients to book on social media like Facebook and allows patients to book with certain doctors, and we have preferred relationships with these vendors and can get you reduced rates. They also offer full tele-dentistry solutions, which will be an ever-growing theme moving forward here.
Consider purchasing an air filter like Surgically Clean Air that is able to kill Coronavirus and other pathogens through an air filtration system. This will be a great piece to include in your advertising going forward as well.
Generate more 5-star Google reviews! The research is very clear that over half of all patients will make their decision on who to go to solely based on Google reviews. Again, you do not need fancy or expensive software to send review requests – it can actually backfire on you. There is a way to create and share a free link that you can send to patients for them to leave a 5-star review. The more positive Google reviews you have, the higher your maps profile ranks online, the higher your actual website ranks, and the more new patients you’ll get. It’s that simple.