Technology Boomerang Does Information Circle Back to You with a Patient on Its Tail?
The world has shifted so that people?s lives are busier than ever before. People are multi-tasking most of the time and see themselves as too busy for traditional forms of research and information gathering. Digital tools help people do more.
That?s your patient looking at mobile devices at stoplights. That?s your patient scheduling appointments while driving to the next engagement or walking to the car for lunch-hour errands. According to the American Dental Association, one of the main reasons people do not go to the dentist is lack of time.
Build a Better Boomerang
All of these realities scream the same truth: dental practices need to use digital tools to make it easier for people to see the dentist. Change your paradigm so you can see your marketing and patient education as a boomerang. How can you toss it out most effectively so that it comes back to you with a pre-qualified patient riding along? We already ask a lot of our patients to schedule appointment time out of their day from work, errand running, taking care of their family, and so much more. That?s unavoidable and we do all we can to help them understand the value of that appointment.
Let?s explore what other systems we can refine to honor the new ?I?m too busy? perception of today?s decision makers. For example, we leave a message on their home answering machines asking them to call the office and confirm an appointment. Some people may not get home until late and are then too tired to listen to the messages. If they do get the message, we are asking them to yet again go out of their way to call during the office?s business hours to confirm an appointment. This is inconvenient for most people.
Practices must make going to the dentist as convenient as possible. Revisit all of your business systems to consider how you can embrace this challenge.
More and more technology companies are incorporating software that allows dental practices to easily communicate with patients in a variety of ways. For example, SmileReminder, Dentrix eServices, Patterson Dental?s EagleSoft, Lighthouse PLZ (soon to be Lighthouse 360), and CurveDental all allow patients to automatically confirm appointments via text message or email. In addition, some software allows patients to pay bills online and view their upcoming appointments.
Patients can fit this this kind of communication and interaction into their day more easily, which improves their overall impression of the hassle-free communication they have with you. Small differences like this are how to make your prospective patients into forever patients.
Dentrix eServices also has features that allow patients to complete forms online or on an iPad and automatically populate that information into your database. Everyone benefits from this convenience. This kind of technology makes it clear that you and your practice are tech-savvy, and it?s a great way to get people talking about you, ultimately increasing new patient referrals.
Digital Photography? More Than Patient Education
Digital photography is a great way to educate your patients about dentistry, but it can also enhance your marketing. With the patient?s permission, you can image the photos to show what he or she can look like with and without cosmetic dentistry. Put the photos into a customized presentation that matches your branding and walks your conversation through an effective summary of the appointment in layman?s terms. This animated presentation can be sent home with the patient so he or she can show other decision makers and influencers. The result is increased case acceptance, reduced buyer?s remorse, as well as increased new patients.
With the patient?s permission, you also can use before and after pictures on the Internet, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, etc. to promote your practice. Via email, let the patient know you have featured him or her as Patient of the Month. The patient will then send the email to friends who will send it on to their friends. You have just provided your patients with the tools to talk about you and your practice.
Other ways to use digital photography of actual patients for marketing purposes include enlarging the photos and printing them to hang on your office walls, incorporating them into advertisements, and featuring patient testimonials in e-newsletters.
Connect and Refer
Social media is another way to help your patients become connected and refer friends and family. A website is the minimum requirement for running a business today. To really have an impact, you must incorporate social media. This is where the discussions are.
According to a popular book by Erik Qualman, Socialnomics (Wiley 2010), people are no longer going out looking for services and news?it is finding them! That means you have to be socially active on the web to get your message delivered to your prospective patients. Be where they are having conversations. Make yourself accessible. Give patients an opportunity to ask questions and be heard.
Social media also can help you personalize your practice. For too long, dentists were perceived as unapproachable professionals. Through social media, dentists and their practices are being humanized; barriers are being broken down. Give your patients and prospective patients someone to whom they can relate by maximizing social network utilities.
Social media is taking referrals to the next level. New patients sent to you by existing patient referrals have been considered the best source for ideal new patients. Now, with social media, it is easier for people to refer.
Be That Dentist
Stretch your previous way of doing business to better integrate technology that engages patients to keep them coming back. From social media, texting and instant messaging to email, e-news, and website forms, it?s time to realize that even if the dentist doesn?t see the value of technology, patients do. These patients will find the dentist who will make life easy and commit their family and referrals to that dentist. Be that technology-boomerang master!
Find Misty Absher Clark and Jameson Management, Inc., on Facebook and Twitter and more by visiting www.JamesonManagement.com where you can register for a free webinar and email newsletter. Misty is Vice President of Jameson Creative Services for Jameson Management, Inc., the dental practice management firm offering in-office coaching to dental professionals worldwide.