May 6, 2020
by Christie Simon
A global pandemic that’s keeping all of us in our homes – it’s beyond fair to say that these are unprecedented times. Though marketing might not be high on your list of priorities right now, it may be more important now than ever to carefully consider messaging.
There are a number of industries that have a choice in how they market during this pandemic. They can opt either to address the pandemic directly, to address things that are tangentially related to the pandemic without directly addressing it, or they can opt to avoid talking about the pandemic as much as possible.
In dentistry, the choice is more clear-cut. There’s no choice but to address the pandemic – it’s affecting everyone’s ability to operate. Most dental associations have strongly recommended against performing routine procedures; this means most clinics are closed for all non-emergency procedures.
Dentists are essential to good health. As trusted health professionals, your patients will expect to be informed of any changes in your clinic’s operations. In light of that, we’re going to evaluate a few of the key changes you should make to your marketing to address the coronavirus:
In times of uncertainty, people want to be reassured. They want consistency. They want to understand exactly what to expect. While you can’t tell them when the pandemic is going to end, or when and if things will go back to normal, you can let them know how changes have affected your clinic.
There are a few ways of accomplishing this. First, you should create an alert on your home page. You can use a banner – a thin, red banner at the top of websites has been quite popular. Write a brief sentence – something along the lines of “Important information about COVID-19 and routine procedures – click here”. You can also create a pop-up alert that provides patients with information as they enter your website. For best results, you could consider combining the two, or creating a prominent graphic on your homepage to alert clients.
When describing operational changes, be as detailed as possible. Most clinics are still checking through voicemails and emails for emergency procedures, and if that is your process, tell patients exactly how they can get ahold of you and what your usual turnaround time is. Those of you who are suspending operations during this time should refer emergency patients to another clinic. Check out the blurb on the website for WestSide Dental Group for a great example of this – their notification is empathetic, succinct, full of information, and prominently displayed on their website.
Emails are another great way to keep your patients informed. Send out email blasts any time you predict changes in operation. For example, some locations recently unveiled its plan to begin relaxing restrictions on certain businesses; some dental clinics are anticipating being able to open in the near future. A quick email keeps patients in the loop.
One of the most important questions in marketing: where is your advertising budget going? In other words, are you spending money in ways that will actually reach your clients? Right now, one of the best ways of reaching people is through social media – many of us are spending a lot of time at home browsing the internet.
People are bored. They want informative, entertaining content to get them through one of the strangest times they’ve ever experienced. At the top of this article, we briefly discussed the tightrope you have to walk when addressing coronavirus – too much and you’ll bring people down, too little and people will think you’re tone deaf.
One of the best tactics may be to peripherally address the coronavirus. You can, for example, create a tutorial on at-home oral health care. This can involve tips and tricks on how to make sure you’ve brushed for two minutes (the best songs to sing in your head while you brush your teeth) or advice on proper flossing techniques. Anything at-home is quite in vogue right now.
A lot of people might be skeptical about visiting a dental clinic during a pandemic. After all, dentists are moving between the mouths of different patients – if you’re not aware of the measures and precautions dentists take to avoid the spread of infection, you might be a little leery about visiting.
Your messaging on the subject, on your website and/or on social media, should be consistent. You should stress how dental practices are already incredibly well set-up to handle infection. Articles detailing sterilization techniques and the hygienic practices in clinics are popular right now. Let your clients know about how you disinfect each chair after every patient. Go over how tools are sterilized; now is a great time to post a video of your autoclave on Instagram. In other words, help patients feel safe, secure, and cared for – now, and whenever they’re feeling stressed.
Many dentists are well-versed in sedation techniques and a lot of patients might be feeling a lot of anxiety right now . You might talk about at-home relaxation techniques, from progressive muscle relaxation to breathing exercises. Discuss these things on your blog or on social media. Breathing exercises are a great topic for those of you who want to make videos.
The current circumstances serve to emphasize something that’s been true for a long time – patients look to medical professionals for reassurance when they’re stressed. Focus on the positives. Don’t focus on what can’t be done – focus on the ways you can still help your patients, even if you can’t physically see them. Consider video conferencing for patients who are stressed, so they can talk you through whatever is on their mind. Be open to new possibilities. At the end of this pandemic, people will remember those who were there for them in their times of need.
About the Author
Christie Simon is a writer based in Winnipeg, Manitoba. She writes articles with a focus on marketing and social media for a variety of businesses. Some of her dentistry-focused work has been featured on the Bonasso & Kime website.