Dental Practice Marketing And The Covid-19 Challenge

Recommendations for the present and the future to help keep your business on track

Marketing under Covid-19 lock-downIt’s maybe a cliche already but these certainly are unprecedented times. As Coronavirus builds momentum and we are about to enter a grim period in the UK where hospitals and resources are tested to the extreme, at the same time many businesses are taking stock and working out the best way to survive the crisis and emerge stronger at the other side.

Of course this includes dentists who have arguably been hit as hard if not harder than many small businesses. Many dental business owners are in a situation where none of the government aid and grants apply to them and they really are having to be self-sufficient. This is similar for many thousands of us and we’re all working hard to plan the best way forward. Whilst clearly the health of our families and employees is priority at the moment, we still have to use our time wisely to work on our businesses. This includes what to do about our marketing, both now and in the future, as hopefully some semblance of normality returns.

There is no certain template for how we should be positioning marketing for our dental businesses, but here are some early thoughts regarding key things you should already be considering. I’ll split my thoughts into what needs to be considered at the present time, plus some ideas for ensuring a strong start again in the future.

The Present – Marketing Do’s and Don’ts

PPC and Facebook Ads – although there are a few examples of dentists ploughing their own furrows, the collective wisdom at the moment is to pause any marketing using pay-per-click (Google Ads) and Facebook. The time just isn’t right to be placing happy, smiley Facebook ads for Invisalign etc on people’s social media streams. Indeed I’ve already seen adverse comments from the public on ads such as these. There is an argument that says people are stuck at home spending hours on social media and that you should be actively marketing to them. But I think it goes quite a lot deeper than that.

People are still in “isolation shock” and coming to terms with the thought that it could continue for six months or more – many of them simply don’t want to see your adverts when they’re still working out how to get their groceries safely. Some of the less fortunate ones will also be working out how they are going to pay the bills. It only takes a few people like those mentioned above, to start calling you out on your Facebook comments, and damage is already done. Hold fire and don’t risk it for the time being. The time to start those campaigns again hopefully isn’t too far away, but more of that in a moment.

SEO – when it comes to Google optimisation, many of you will have worked hard and invested quite a lot of money to gain those precious, prominent Google positions. If you are close to SEO, you will know that work goes on regularly to ensure that ranking positions don’t fall. It’s all about maintaining the authority and “freshness” of websites so that Google sees them as most relevant and hence promotes them in the ranking results. When this work stops, then it’s very easy to lose positions quite quickly. However, it’s far harder to regain them because other websites will continue to optimise, overtake you and then increase their lead.

Whilst we recognise that you will be evaluating priorities, it is important to remember that a steady stream of new patients will be extremely important as practices try to get back on their feet in future. Where possible, we strongly advise that SEO is maintained as one of those business priorities.

Patient communication – like SEO, this aspect is also very important. We are all hunkering down to some extent but it’s also critical to make sure that your brand awareness is preserved. Using tools like MailChimp, you can send reasonably frequent updates to your patient base to keep them appraised. There is actually a wealth of new and useful information that you can provide, for example, oral healthcare tips at home, as well as appraising them of the current situation with regard to dental services. At the appropriate time, you can also start to introduce new offers as we start to see the light at the other side of the crisis.

If you haven’t used this type of communication previously, now is a great time to start. If you need help setting up, please give the Dental Media team a call.

Video consultation and triage services – I covered this recently in our blog here, and it’s a technique which is moving from being rather novel, to the mainstream. Whilst such systems are useful for advisory functionality right now, in future they can be re-purposed to provide complete on-line consultation facilities. This will be very important as we start to come out of the lock-down scenario but where some restrictions still apply. Please call our team and we’ll help you get set up.

The Future – When and How To Get Your Dental Marketing Moving Again

Whilst this period of uncertainty is set to continue for some time yet, we will eventually emerge at the other side. This is not a time for mothballing everything and savvy dental business owners will be re-positioning and planning, ready to get moving again.

As we noted above, the time to use targeted Facebook and Google Ads is not now. However, in the coming weeks, and as the news from the Government hopefully improves, it is time to turn thoughts to re-launching advertising campaigns ready to re-stock the treatment pipeline. Even if you can’t see patients for face-to-face consultations, using a video consultation system of the type mentioned above will allow you to get the process moving. At this stage you will need a suitable website page or landing page to explain the service and to describe the patient journey. Clear communication will be even more important than ever.

Make no mistake that many dentists will be positioning in exactly the same way and so two things will be essential. The first is timing – go too soon and you could see the adverse brand effects noted above i.e. people won’t be ready. Go too late and the marketplace will become very crowded very quickly. The second thing is to be prepared in advance, so ensuring that your new campaigns can be deployed very quickly. Give your marketing partner time to do this as no doubt they will also be heavily in demand once the “catch-up” starts.

Summary

Whilst the coronavirus has been a body blow to the industry, it’s important to keep focused and keep the wheels of the business turning as much as possible. Whilst the clear priority is personal health, that of the team, family and patients, it is also essential to have all of the pieces in places ready for when business ramps up again. It is also very important to ensure that anything which could be damaging to the brand is paused for the time-being, for example overt Facebook advertising which could attract negative comments.

Now is the time to maintain your brand presence but in the correct ways, for example providing useful information via regular newsletters and also via your practice blog. You want people to remember you for the positive things you do, rather than what they perceive to be negative and badly timed.

As we progress through the crisis, the team here at Dental Media will be working with clients to adjust their practice marketing accordingly. If you need help, please get in touch on 01332 672548 and we’ll be pleased to help. In the interim, please keep safe as we progress into the most testing phase of the crisis so far.