July is Health and Medical Services Month here on the Signpost Local Marketing Blog! We’ll be surfacing best practices and strategies specifically for marketing your practice and driving more new and repeat business. 

Not a medical professional? Don’t worry, we’ll still be sharing insights that will help  you to promote  your local business, acquire new customers, and encourage loyalty. Want your industry to be the next featured month? Drop us a line, and let us know!

Health Services Marketing

No other industry has embraced the benefits of SMS messaging quite like a majority of dental practices across the country. And with studies showing SMS reminder or “recall” messages cut down on up to 80% of missed appointments, it’s clear that this type of engagement is essential to the future of appointment scheduling. It’s also one of the best tools in your arsenal to manage and encourage retention. Whether or not you’ve already made use of this type of system for recalls, there are a variety of creative campaigns you can employ — both via text message AND email —to boost your patient retention and keep your practice top-of-mind in between visits.

It Starts With Your Lists

Historically, dental practices have been able to rely on mailers or postcards to serve as reminders for routine cleanings and procedures. Although you might feel a bit of nostalgia for these days, switching over to a digital system allows you to automate the process and save a bit of time, as well as ever-increasing postage costs. However, as you change your approach, you might also need to reflect this change in the way you collect patient info.

Make sure to request both an email address and cell phone number, so that you can send reminders, but also create a comprehensive communications plan that will keep your practice on their mind and encourage good dental hygiene throughout those six-month periods between visits. You can also hang signs with a convenient opt-in number, or simply ask existing customers if they’d like to receive text reminders when you’re processing them at the beginning or end of an appointment. Luckily, this tends to be easier in this industry, but be diligent in your approach, as it will position your subsequent efforts for success!

SMS (aka Text Message) Marketing

First, make sure you ask permission to send these reminders, and brush up on your texting etiquette so that you don’t make any of these common SMS marketing mistakes. SMS is one of the most effective marketing techniques, in fact it’s up to eight times more engaging than other tactics, which makes sense given the proliferation of mobile devices and the close proximity in which we tend to keep them at all times. The open rate is 98%, which means there’s a REALLY good chance that your messages won’t go unnoticed.

Text message marketing might play by slightly different rules than email (i.e. no images, dentists get more new and repeat businesscharacter limits, etc.), but there is some overlap in application. You can include the dentist and hygienist who will be working with them, so they know what to expect. It can have a link to their profile on your site. This promotes a sense of familiarity and ultimately, community. These types of relationship building techniques help forge a bond that leads to longterm loyalty and repeat visits. Patients want a dentist they can trust for the whole family, so anything you can do to ease nerves and fears and promote trust will make a difference in the long run.

Take care not to bombard patients with too frequent of texts, but find a good balance in between visits. Try sending out short tips that will provide subtle reminders about their dental health. Or, make it into a game, where you send out a trivia question or acknowledge an important day is dentistry history, and reward the first five patients who respond with the correct answer. This gets them involved, and helps promote a discussion.

If you have gaps in your schedule, you can either send out a blast to a waiting list who expressed an interest in getting in, or run a promotion for cosmetic services. Maybe provide a discount to motivate those patients who have been deliberating for a while, to motivate them to book that whitening session.

Don’t forget to track, monitor and evaluate your SMS marketing progress, so that you can learn what works best for your audience and develop effective strategies.

Creative Email Marketing Campaigns

Don’t be afraid to get creative! For your squeamish patients, keep them informed on the best practices for dental health. Try sending out a weekly email with a couple of tips, or dispel common misconceptions. You can spin these out on a blog or devote a section of your website to it,  sending out an email to keep patients engaged who might not be checking your site for updates as often as you’d like. For customer acquisition, you can use email to bridge the offline-to-online gap (a reverse of the typical conversion challenge).

Any mailers you send out should have your website on them (or a QR code, for mobile users) that directs them to a landing page with a form where you can collect more information, such as email address and phone number. You can then follow up with them, directly, and also add them to your list to receive updates. Oftentimes, tutorials at preschools, elementary schools, retirement communities, etc. involve the distribution of toothbrushes to the audience.Make sure these also have a call-to-action that drives them to your site, so you can capture their contact info with a site form.

You can then target them for new patient exclusive offers. These can be a free first cleaning or consultation, or welcoming them with a free gift, such as an electric toothbrush, or even a teeth whitening session for adults. Send a follow up after their appointment, asking them to provide feedback so that you can assess their satisfaction. This allows you to identify any patients who might have been frustrated or had a negative experience, so you can resolve the problem before you lose them as a patient, or worse, they post negative reviews on ZocDoc or Yelp. Making this a part of your process, or even automating it, can allow you to safeguard your practice’s online reputation and identify your advocates.

Why not create short video tutorials, reviewing techniques to help keep patients’ smiles looking their best. Whether care and maintenance, “avoid these foods that can stain teeth”, “foods or drinks that can ruin your enamel”, etc. Especially with younger audiences, these quick videos where they can quickly learn different methods are the key to keeping them engaged and healthy habits promoted all year round.

You can also send out an email to introduce new patients to your dentists, hygienists and team ahead of their appointment, so they’ll feel more comfortable when they come in for their visit. In addition to education and accreditations, don’t to forget to make yourself more accessible by including some personal info, whether about families or hobbies, so that patients can forge a connection with shared interests or experiences and have fodder to talk about during their visit.

You can also schedule periodic check-ins to make sure that your patients are keeping up good habits an answer any questions or concerns they have. This will help keep them on track, and your practice on top of their mind. Always include links to your site, links (or preferably buttons) that can direct them to your social pages so you can engage with them there as well. Don’t forget links to your Yelp, ZocDoc, and Healthgrades profiles, so they can leave you a positive review there.

You might also want to consider setting up a landing page, or page on your site where they can easily refer friends and family to your practice. Offer some incentives (again, whether a free whitening session, or credit off their next treatment). Make it as easy as possible for them to introduce your practice to their networks.

Again as with SMS, it’s crucial to analyze your email marketing efforts so that you can test, optimize and refine your techniques.

It’s important to maintain consistent communications with your patients, to keep their dental health on track, and also to improve retention in order to aid in your acquisition techniques. As a reminder, Signpost’s Mia, is a new way to better connect with patients. She engages with the right people at the right time to drive more five-star reviews, referrals and loyalty in order to keep your practice and patients healthy and happy. Find out how Mia can help keep your patients engaged by scheduling a free demo today!