Expect to see these dental marketing trends throughout 2019, as practices look to differentiate themselves from an increasingly competitive market.
As we become entrenched in 2019, the field of dentistry continues to progress along its generational shift. Dentistry is currently undergoing changes that will affect the profession for many years to come, if not permanently.
According to the ADA, “the dentist workforce in the United States will actually increase through 2035 due to an influx of younger and more diverse dentists.”
There’s also the growing presence of dental service organizations (DSOs) in the marketplace. A study by Morgan Stanley found that, compared to 2017, dentists in 2018 were 9% more likely to join a group practice within the calendar year.
So what do these factors — more dentists and more DSOs — mean? Above all, they mean more options for patients to choose from. In order to keep up with the increased supply, practices will pay even greater focus to their marketing efforts in 2019.
Old tools like the phone will be treated with more reverence. Formerly niche communications like texting will become central to recall efforts. And patient education, technology, and in-office experience will propel reactivation campaigns.
Here are the dental marketing trends you can expect to see a lot of over the coming year.
Top Dental Marketing Trends for 2019
Renewed Emphasis on Mastering the Phone
Every practice has one, but not every practice uses their phone to its fullest capability. That changes in 2019, as dental practices will put a renewed emphasis on phone skills.
When wielded properly, the phone can be a practice’s greatest marketing tool. It’s not simply a way to confirm appointments, but an intensely personal means to move patients to action.
By learning to sniff out pain points, team members can turn innocuous insurance questions into fully baked treatment plans that aren’t actually impacted by insurance.
Mastery of “tell me” statements can flip price shoppers into new patients (and even advocates of your practice).
The key is to slow down on problem solving, and instead start having more meaningful conversations.
“Give patients the chance to talk,” says practice consultant Genevieve Poppe. “If we give patients a chance talk, not only will we learn more about them, they’ll feel connected because we’re listening to them.”
Another reason for this renewed investment in the phone is because of technology.
Phones have become much more sophisticated. Many will tell you, not just who is on the other line before answering, but all their pertinent contact info and treatment history.
Newer systems have taken the guesswork out of answering the phone, and enable team members to jump right into a friendly conversation.
As Front Office Rocks founder Laura Hatch says in her book Stepping Away from the Drill, “Every person who calls your office should feel important to you and your team.” With modern phones, it’s easier than ever to convey this importance.
Texting Becomes Ubiquitous
Take a second and consider your personal life. Today alone, what have you done more of: call people in your contacts list or send text messages?
Text messages took it outright, didn’t they?
There was a time when texting seemed the impersonal alternative to phone calls. That day has long passed, as text messaging is the most popular form of communication among Americans.
“Nowadays, texts are arguably more personal than phone calls,” says Kristin Black, product marketing manager at RevenueWell. “It’s not guaranteed that someone will answer the phone, but thanks to push notifications you can all but bet they’ll read something you’ve text them.”
This is why 2019 will be the year of texting in dental marketing.
It’s easy for practices. It’s convenient for patients. And most of all, it’s one more way for practices to extend a personal touch.
In order to run an effective recall campaign, practices must text with patients (as long as the patients have consented to receiving texts). Ignoring the power of text only creates one more barrier to entry, making it even harder for a patient to schedule an appointment.
Texting is no longer kitschy; it’s not earned a spot alongside postcard reminders, emails, and phone calls. In 2019, messenger systems will become a ubiquitous part of every successful practice’s marketing efforts.
Educating Patients Becomes the Go-To Marketing Tactic
As consumers, we quickly recognize when we’re in the middle of a sales pitch. And generally, as soon as we sense it, we look for the exit.
Patients have become savvy, too. With health care resembling retail more and more, patients’ sales-pitch radar is sharper than ever. An email with a subject line “Buy Whitening Sessions Today!” will find its way to the trash can quickly.
That means dental offices must change how they communicate the benefits of their new technology, like 3-D scans, laser dentistry, and digital dentures. And the key to that approach is educating patients, a tactic that Deana Zost, FAADOM, believes is long overdue.
“Education is key!” says Zost. “For so long doctors either kept news about technology purchases at bay due to a fear of not knowing how to get patients excited about the benefits. Or they made a purchase and failed to inform patients of the benefits of saving time, money, and teeth!
“But now, since practices have access to easy-to-use automated tools to educate patients, it gets done.”
Zost warns that offices can’t just dive into telling every single patient about the features of new technology. The help-rather-than-sell approach requires that you start with the patient’s need.
Social-Savvy Loyalists Get Tapped as Practice Advocates
The most effective marketer for a practice? Active patients. Surprising, right? But think about it:
When you need to make a purchase for yourself, where do often turn to for info? Usually someone we know. Maybe you send a quick text to a neighbor or run an impromptu poll on Facebook.
Research says you’re not alone: 92 percent of us trust word-of-mouth recommendations, but only 32 percent of us trust digital ads.
Health care’s trending the same way now, and forward-thinking dental offices have taken notice.
Knowing patients of all ages use their phones to snap pictures, selfies, and even video, these practices are leveraging patients’ enthusiasm to request online reviews and testimonies, including video testimonies.
And according to Zost, this type of patient-driven advocacy is uniquely powerful.
“Testimonies are more impactful than you may realize,” says Zost. “New patients want to hear from others first hand about how they overcame fear at your office, got a smile that they always wanted, or just how kind you and your team are.”
Offices will also enlist patients as advocates for another reason: to fend off the effects of a crowded newsfeed and changes to Facebook algorithm.
This means your social media followers may not see as many posts as in the past, making testimonies and selfies posted by practice advocates a critical piece of any practice’s marketing.
Offices Find Opportunity in the Pain of Paperwork
Managing $10,000 worth of paper records probably wasn’t why you joined a dental office. But that burden, coupled with complying with HIPAA, has become a major time commitment. It also affects patients’ impression of your office.
With online forms, though, these downsides to paper-based forms may be less of a problem for offices come next New Year’s Eve.
Forward-thinking practices are realizing that patients, especially the coveted millennial, want a convenient way to fill out registration forms.
“Millennials are not only looking for a website where they can make and change appointments, but they also want to…complete paperwork before an appointment,” writes Gary Radz, DDS, in Dental Economics.
With patients’ demand for more-online experiences in their health care, online forms will likely reach a tipping point as a dental marketing trend in 2019.
Learn more about how RevenueWell improves case acceptance and creates more close-knit relationships between dentists and their patients.