Marketing Your Dental Practice During COVID-19: What You Need to Know
Due to the effects of COVID-19, many dental practices are struggling to retain patients and attract new ones. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), patient volume at U.S. practices fell to 7 percent of pre-COVID-19 levels in April of 2020. Since then, the dental economy has somewhat rebounded, but as of June 1, patient volume has only reached 53 percent of pre-COVID-19 levels.
In this new and challenging environment, you may be wondering how to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on your practice. Perhaps you’re planning to increase your digital marketing budget and start making more dental social media posts.
But how do you get started? What kind of dental social media posts will actually deliver new patients? Most importantly, which platforms are the most cost-effective for dentists?
Social Media: The New Word-of-Mouth Marketing
Traditionally, dentists have always relied on word-of-mouth marketing to grow their practices.
However, in the age of social distancing, you need a marketing strategy that allows these valuable referrals to take place online, rather than in person.
Social media provides that opportunity, offering you the ability to build trust and community with current and prospective patients without leaving your office. Such connections have benefits that extend beyond this particular crisis. A study on patient preferences found that, when choosing a dentist, prospective patients see a recommendation from someone they know as being only slightly less relevant than a dentist’s competence—and as slightly more relevant than the overall quality of service provided.
The same study found that the levels of patience and respect displayed by dentists are also a major priority for patients—more so than even the quality of equipment in their offices.
You can apply these insights to your dentist social media marketing plan in two ways:
1. By focusing on social media platforms that provide your practice with highly credible reviews and recommendations, and;
2. By embracing marketing tactics that demonstrate your kindness, calm personality, and empathy to prospective patients.
Action Item #1: Create a Nextdoor Business Page
For businesses that sell in-person services, there’s no platform more useful than Nextdoor. Nextdoor doesn’t allow members to join the community for a neighborhood unless they can prove that they really live there.
As a result, Nextdoor provides a number of advantages for dental practices, including:
- Hyperlocal connections – Most Nextdoor neighborhoods contain only 750 to 1,000 households, which means you can geotarget potential patients far more accurately on Nextdoor than you can on other platforms. For reasons of convenience, locals who live close to your practice are more likely to choose you as their dental care provider. In other words, they’re your target demographic.
- A built-in audience – Unlike social media platforms, Nextdoor doesn’t require you to find your own followers. After your dental practice joins Nextdoor, your posts are given instant distribution to everyone in your neighborhood. Marketing for dentists doesn’t get much easier than that!
- Authentic recommendations – Because members aren’t allowed to use fake names, every recommendation your practice receives on Nextdoor will be from a verified buyer. In an era when consumers are highly skeptical of anonymous reviews, that’s significant. 70% of Nextdoor members turn to word of mouth from family, friends, and neighbors as their most trusted source to discover new businesses in their neighborhoods, giving these referrals a high value.
Optimizing Your Nextdoor Business Page
Setting up your Nextdoor Business Page is a simple (and free) process. Here’s how to take it to the next level:
- Personalize it – After signing up and creating your Business Page, customize it with your practice’s story, as well as images of your staff, office, and satisfied patients. Don’t use stock photos for this purpose. Real pictures will help potential patients make more personal connections to your practice.
- Add descriptions of your services – Let locals know what you have to offer. You may also want to explain how your office is taking precautions to deliver safe patient experiences during COVID-19.
- Gather neighbor recommendations – Once your Business Page is complete, ask enthusiastic past or present patients to leave you a recommendation. This will increase your visibility within neighborhood search results while also enhancing your local reputation.
- Take advantage of free Business Posts – Free Business Posts are a great way to keep in touch with your patients and neighbors. Use them to share positive community news, inform locals of COVID-19-related changes to your hours, and update people about important events (such as your grand re-opening).
Action Item #2: Target Your Ads Locally
Corporate dentistry chains can afford to go big with their advertising budgets, but social media marketing for dentists with smaller practices necessitates a more precise approach. If you’re interested in stretching your advertising dollars, consider employing microtargeted social media ads.
Designed to appeal to a business’s most likely leads, microtargeted ads are aimed at narrow audiences. Microtargeting criteria can include:
- Certain locations (such as a particular city, region, or ZIP code)
- Hobbies or behaviors (such as being a homeowner, pet owner, or online shopper)
- Identity markers (such as age, gender, number of children, or income)
Popular platforms for microtargeted ads include:
- Nextdoor’s Local Deals – Nextdoor’s Local Deals option allows you to directly run promotions. Its user-friendly interface makes it easy for you to entice locals with short-term offers, such as 30% off teeth whitening or free first exams for kids.
- Facebook Ads – While Facebook has some geotargeting options, as well as tools that help you define audiences by age and gender, Facebook Ads Manager can be difficult to use. And, because Facebook users aren’t verified, your ads may be shown to prospects who aren’t actually high-quality leads. When correctly designed, Facebook ads do convert, but they may not be the most economical form of social media marketing for dentists.
Action Item #3: Create Social Proof
When it comes to building trust, a key goal for dentists, the slickest marketing materials in the world are far less powerful than personal video testimonials. Why?
- They trigger emotions
- They’re memorable
- They grab viewers’ attention
- They’re seen as being truthful
In other words, video testimonials work very similarly to word-of-mouth marketing. The difference is that a good video testimonial can convince dozens of people to contact you, while an in-person recommendation may only persuade a single person.
There are multiple ways to utilize video testimonials on behalf of your dental practice. You can:
- Ask long-term patients to describe how you’ve cared for them over the years
- Take prospective patients on a tour of your offices and introduce them to your staff
- Create before-and-after videos with patients who have had significant cosmetic work (and aren’t afraid to show it off)
This content can be used on your website as well as for dental social media posts on other platforms, such as YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. Videos under 60 seconds can be shared on TikTok and Snapchat.
COVID-19 video tip: To reassure anxious patients, consider doing an Instagram Live video where you show viewers all the safety measures your practice uses to keep your offices virus-free. Make sure to prominently feature your staff’s masks, face shields, and cleaning supplies.
Action Item #4: Offer Free 15-minute “Getting to Know You” Chats on Zoom
Even in the best of times, many people steer clear of the dentist’s office. Although most Americans know that they need regular dental maintenance in order to be healthy and boast an attractive smile, they often defer routine cleanings until pain drives them to make an appointment.
A 2014 study found that dental fear affects 36% of the population, while 12% of the population suffers from extreme dental fear. With public anxiety high due to the ongoing pandemic, patients may be avoiding the dentist even more than normal.
How can you use social media to convince these potential patients to visit your practice? The answer is simple: talk to them, using some platforms that are different from the usual dentist social media channels.
Thanks to the COVID-19-driven popularity of Zoom and Skype, more people know how to use video-conferencing tools than ever before. Furthermore, research has shown that a good patient-dentist rapport is crucial for managing patients’ anxiety. You can make yourself seem less intimidating to prospective patients by offering them a free video consultation.
During these calls, you can:
- Give prospective patients general advice about their dental situation
- Tell them about your hobbies or interests (thus making yourself seem less like a frightening authority figure)
- Answer any questions they might have about how dentistry works
Of course, not every free consultation will lead to an appointment, but this dentist social media tactic may go a long way toward reassuring prospective patients that you’re a trustworthy healthcare provider.
When It Comes to Dentists’ Social Media, Connection is King
At the end of the day, good social media marketing for dentists doesn’t mean being wildly popular on every single social media platform. Instead, it’s more cost-effective to focus on the platforms that will deliver you the most new patients.
While pediatric dentists may want to familiarize themselves with TikTok, and cosmetic dentists should consider putting before-and-after dental social media posts on Instagram, the most important audiences for dentists to connect with online are local audiences. After all, it doesn’t matter how many followers you have if they live too far away to take advantage of your services.
To ensure your practice increases its patient volume and weathers COVID-19’s influence on the dental economy, prioritize community ties. Create a Nextdoor Business Page, launch microtargeted ads, make friendly dental social media posts, and use modern video technology to get to know your neighbors.
Investing in your community now will strengthen your practice for years to come.
American Dental Association. Modeling the Impact of COVID-19 on U.S. Dental Spending. https://www.ada.org/~/media/ADA/Science%20and%20Research/HPI/Files/HPIBrief_0620_1.pdf?la=en
Prosites.com. The State of Dental Practice Marketing. https://www.prosites.com/dental-marketing-wisdom/2016/11/new-benchmark-report-now-available-the-state-of-dental-practice-marketing/
National Center for Biotechnology Information. What Do Patients Take into Account When They Choose Their Dentist? https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4669916/
Dentistry IQ. Social Media: An Extension of Your Dental Office. https://www.dentistryiq.com/practice-management/marketing/article/16349482/social-media-an-extension-of-your-dental-office
Uscreen. 7 Reasons Video Testimonials Are the Highest Converting Tools of 2019. https://www.uscreen.tv/blog/7-reasons-video-testimonials-are-the-highest-converting-tools-of-2018/
National Center for Biotechnology Information. Why Are People Afraid of the Dentist? Observations and Explanations. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5586885/
National Center for Biotechnology Information. Strategies to Manage Patients with Dental Anxiety and Dental Phobia: Literature Review. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4790493/
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