Developing the conversations
In recent months, we have all experienced the importance of good, clear communication. What we say and how we say it has never been so essential, especially given the amount of conflicting and sometimes controversial information currently circulating the UK. As the dental profession prepares to go back to practice with non-emergency care, it’s crucial that communication with both patients and staff remains relevant, honest and reassuring.
Marketing is integral to the short- and long-term success of every dental practice, so it makes sense that promotional activities should resume as practices re-open. However, it is vital that you re-introduce marketing with a degree of caution. Ensure that you have the capacity to service new enquiries and the patient throughput that enables you to see new patients quickly. Critically, you also need to consider the cost per patient of procurement. If the average cost of procuring one patient is £60 and they spend an average of £150, you’ll be running at a loss. Under normal circumstances, this is a necessary evil as it helps to build up the long-term stability of your patient base of the practice, but right now, profit is likely to be more important to help pay staff and cover overheads after the financial deficit of the past few months. Your target audience may have changed recently too. You may therefore need to adjust your messaging to attract more people who don’t require AGPs (Aerosol-Generating Procedures). This might involve focusing promotions on specific treatments or marketing in different places. Starting slow and developing activities as business picks up is the key.
Like all areas of the business, you will likely be looking to minimise inefficiencies right now in order to optimise finances. In marketing, it can be advantageous to start with the basic and often more cost-effective channels. Your Google listing may need updating to reflect your new opening times, for instance. Social media can be utilised to re-engage with patients and announce your re-opening plans. The practice website will also need to be reviewed as you might consider adding a section on the COVID-19 pandemic and what you will be doing differently in the practice when you re-open. Tell your patients when you will open the doors again and let them know what they can expect. Something simple like a patient e-newsletter costs next to nothing to produce and distribute. Inform them if appointment times will be longer, if they need to call ahead of their appointment for pre-screening or visit the practice on their own.
Many patients will need reassurance of the steps you’re taking to protect them, so give them as much confidence as possible in your safety standards. Just make sure to work with your website/SEO company when making changes to your content to ensure that you don’t negatively impact your ranking by removing high impact keywords. In addition, give patients plenty of warning about their role with regards to social distancing and remind them of the protocols with all communications to keep them and staff safe.
Another area to consider with regards to marketing is how to promote to the local community. Among all the anxiety and concern, the COVID-19 pandemic has created a greater sense of community across the world. Many people are also more motivated than ever to support local businesses. Use your practice marketing to show what makes you a local business and how you are proud to be part of your community. There might even be an opportunity to collaborate with another local company or organisation to strengthen your involvement with the community and help them get back on their feet at the same time. Whatever you do, keep the messages constructive. It is best to avoid sharing opinions on how well Government initiatives have supported the dental profession – everyone has had their challenges and you don’t want to detract from your positive communication with local patients.
Don’t forget the team
It’s important to remember that, just like some patients, some of your staff may be apprehensive about returning to the practice. Help to put them at ease by providing the information that they need. Explain what PPE you have made available and why, using statistics and science to support your reasoning. Reinstall the team spirit and encourage everyone to work together to get through this challenging time. This should also be a conversation, a two-way street. Explain to your team why you have new SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) in place, but give them a chance to ask questions and share their suggestions too. They might come up with ideas you hadn’t thought of that could help to further reassure them and your patients.
Use the support available
At a time like this, it’s important to have a positive outlook. People will always need dental care, so dental practices will come back from this – if you do it right, you could come back stronger and more prepared for the future. Use the support that is available to you, whether that is a loan from the Government, recruitment support from a team like Dental Elite or a friend who is happy to listen to your worries. It’s important to keep the conversations going if you are to communicate the right messages to the right people. Keep talking to your patients, your staff and the experts and you will get through this.