No matter where I travel in Canada, the one thing most dental clinics I visit have in common is the desire to expand their service by reaching new patients.
According to Statistics Canada, only 75% of Canadians visited a dentist at some point in 2018 – which means that at least 25% of Canadians either don’t have a regular dentist, or don’t see their dentist annually.
While this might seem like a significant pool of potential patients for dental clinics to draw on, the same study reported that 22% of Canadians said they didn’t go to the dentist because of the cost (many Canadians are without insurance due to part-time employment, self employment or retirement.
In practical terms, this means that clinics are either competing for that narrow percentage of Canadians who can afford regular dental care but who don’t have a regular provider, or are trying to make the case that they can provide better care than their competitors. No wonder dental clinics are working so hard to attract new patients!
Patient acquisition under these circumstances can be difficult, and requires a strategic, targeted approach based on patient satisfaction and playing on your strengths. If you want to grow your clinic, here are four of the most effective ways you can distinguish yourself from the competition.
In the age of Yelp, patient reviews – and reputation management more generally – are the most essential tool a dental clinic has for attracting new patients.
In 2019, the vast majority of new patients used dental reviews as one of their primary ways of deciding which clinic to visit, and according to at least one study, for nearly a third of these people the star rating was the most important aspect of the review.
Here are just a few of the main benefits of growing your reputation:
- Increased Revenue: Companies with a higher rating and better reviews will attract more business
- Higher Trust: People trust brands and services (especially those in medicine and dentistry) that have the best reputations
- Better Talent: Dental clinics with strong, positive reputations attract better staff
Clinics that take the time to develop and manage a strong reputation are trusted more because people tend to follow crowds. The more they see others leaning toward one option, the more likely they are to do the same.
You can call it the herd mentality or the “broken window” theory of customer choice. The fact is that 83% of people automatically trust brand recommendations that come from friends or loved ones, and almost 70% of people put more stock in the opinions of fellow consumers than traditional advertising campaigns.
A well-managed reputation enables your clinic to dictate the first impression it sets for prospective patients. It also highlights the strengths of your business and can counter any negative impressions. Finally, a solid online reputation solidifies your business as a thought leader and a go-to source for problem-solving within your industry, elevating you above the competition.
If you want to acquire new patients, you need to make sure that your practice is being reviewed positively online.
Social media should be a core component of any modern advertising campaign, but using social media effectively is about more than just starting up a corporate Instagram account and Facebook page – social media is a ubiquitous part of people’s lives and leveraging it for maximal impact requires creativity.
If there are particular demographics you want to tap into – new parents, college students, or seniors, for example – you should consider using targeted advertising tools to make sure your ads reach the patients you want to impress.
One of the biggest challenges that any clinic faces is turning first-time and occasional visitors into loyal patients. Many Canadians in their twenties and thirties don’t book regular, annual appointments, but only visit the dentist when they notice a problem.
It is difficult to form a strong relationship with patients that you see less than once a year. The longer any patient is away from your practice, the more likely it is that they will try another dental clinic when they need care.
For this reason, improving follow-through using modern dental software that helps you keep track of the people who come through your clinic is key if you want to turn these one-time visitors into long-term valued patients. Contact management tools available in dental software can also help you stay in touch with patients using their preferred methods.
Sometimes, to reach new people you need to change the way you operate. In the twenty-first century, when a growing number of people (and especially young people) are working irregular hours, healthcare providers who want to attract younger patients may need to adjust when they provide care.
For example, offering appointments in the early morning, evening, or weekend may be all you need to do in order to appeal to a new demographic of workers who don’t have the freedom to take time during for a dental appointment during the day.
It is no secret that dentistry in Canada is an increasingly competitive marketplace. If you want to grow your clinic’s patient base or reach new demographics, you will need to be strategic about your approach to patient acquisition.
In my experience, the clinics best able to do this are the ones that utilize a number of different strategies.
A coordinated campaign that advertises the quality of care you provide and emphasizes the value you can offer patients will usually yield the strongest results. That’s why you should use a mix of digital strategy, cutting-edge software, reputation management, and accommodate the real-world needs of the patients you want to attract.