Dentists need a strategic approach to adapting how they manage their staff, talk to their patients, provide their services, and execute marketing during COVID-19.
Patients will never predict how a dental clinic will react to a big unexpected occurrence, but messaging is at the forefront of any marketing strategy during COVID-19.
During COVID-19, you must position your messaging to define how consumers view your dental clinic through marketing.
It can be difficult to make the right decision and find the correct tone particularly during this rapidly evolving environment.
Many dental clinics are under strain from COVID-19, as well as their patients. Some are practices are suited to provide tele-services during these challenging times.
Predicting how patients preferences and purchasing decisions will change is one of the largest tasks in marketing during COVID-19 for dental clinics.
Dentists shouldn’t hesitate before issues arise or their practice moves down a particular path until precautions are put in place.
Today, we outlined a four-step marketing strategy during COVID-19 to protect your practice and even grow your clinic in these challenging times.
1. Plan for this scenario
Outline the best, worst and moderate theoretical scenarios that could play out during COVID-19 from the perspective of your dental clinic, your patients, and partners.
Work with your peers to develop these different scenarios and how they apply overall to your dental practice.
Dental marketing during COVID-19 must drill down to identify the specific challenges that can be experienced in each scenario and the impact on patients in order to identify which actions to take.
For example, if the best case scenario involves ad purchases on Google or a dental conference, then a worst-case scenario in which that conference is canceled should identify alternative ways to reach customers.
2. Listen for changes in patient sentiment and behavior
Long before the coronavirus emerged, consumer trust in both government and large brands had eroded.
People now align more closely with family, friends and local businesses.
The current crisis seems poised to amplify the distrust customers have of businesses, including dental practices.
Dental practices can push against that wave by rising to the occasion to reestablish trust through customer-centric marketing strategies.
Now more than ever, it’s important to know what patients feel and do, and why.
Set voice of the customer (VoC) programs to listen for references to COVID-19 or other shifts.
Use social listening to monitor patients’ discussions about health concerns or information needs relevant to your brand.
Ask your receptionists what they hear from the front lines. Monitor patient care emails, phone calls, and service chats to understand changes in concerns or sentiment.
Marketing strategies during COVID-19 must support patients and protect these relationships while staying honest about what the dental practice can and cannot deliver at this time.
Be careful about taking actions that provide short-term stability (or gain) for the dental practice at the expense of patient trust.
3. Anticipate impact to your practice’s operations
There are an abundant amount of challenges to services and products during these times.
Dentists must adapt their marketing strategies during COVID-19 to reflect the world’s realities while staying true to the practice’s values.
Set realistic expectations about your dental services, availability, and so on.
Consider pulling ad campaigns for services you can’t be sure you can deliver at this time.
Evaluate current policies and consider rational changes — for example, allowing cancellations or extending payment terms.
Craft proactive messages to distribute via email, social media, and the web to answer common questions.
Also draft reactive scripts to help receptionists handle sensitive one-on-one interactions with patients.
Train your qualified team members in functions to help manage demand from patients that are calling or reaching out to your practice.
Promote your website and other mobile tools and services.
Ramp up ability for online transactions and digital interactions with your patients.
However, even as you enable digital options, understand that some people will always need to hear an empathetic human voice, especially now, and be prepared to offer it.
Optimize your marketing budget. Try to avoid across-the-board budget cuts.
Look instead for ways to drive efficiency and to reduce or postpone obligations that won’t bring value — and may even come off as tone-deaf — in the current environment.
4. Adapt your marketing strategy
The next three to six months will bring many societal changes that trickle down to the dental marketing strategy during COVID-19.
Use your best-, worst- and moderate-case scenarios to anticipate possible and likely changes to your dental practice and take alternative actions.
Restrictions on large gatherings are cutting into the businesses that serve these events and the marketers that theme their campaigns around them.
Develop alternative marketing ideas now for physical events planned for spring and summer.
Conference expos may move online, dental trade shows to digital streaming services, and so on.
Don’t wait until an event is canceled to develop a plan.
Learn instead from the experience of HIMSS20, a health IT conference usually held in early March: The organization canceled and promised to hold a virtual event at some point in the future; one day later, 1upHealth announced its own virtual event for the following week.
Deliver compelling content.
More people will be spending time at home over the coming months.
Dental practices can provide lighthearted and uplifting or informative and encouraging content to people looking for support.
This may also be a good time to relaunch or bring out escapist experiments such as virtual reality content, such as virtual tours through your practice.
Secure media early.
Everyone is in the same boat, and everyone is looking to secure key spots to replace lost opportunities.
In the U.S. in particular, dental practices will have to compete with the large marketing campaigns for key media placement.
Work with advertising agencies and publishers to secure spots before you’re crowded out once the pandemic ends.
We are in stressful times and any added stress for a dentist who already has a ton of their plate is not ideal. We at RAMSEY Healthcare Marketing take care of our clients and have helped a number of dental practices during COVID-19. Contact us today.