As Patients Cut Back, Dentists Must Market More

Posted on August 31, 2011 in Dental Marketing

Are you feeling the crunch in your dental business?¬† With the economy showing no signs of losing its sluggishness and the unemployment rate continuing its gradual rise, it’s no wonder everyone in the business sector is feeling the painful pinch.

DentistAs a dentist, you might assume you’d be spared from feeling the effects of the economic slowdown. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Gone are the days when being a dentist simply meant being a medical practitioner and dealing with teeth. Nowadays, dentists have to wear a different hat if they want to keep their practice up and running.

People (that means your patients) are cutting back on their regular spending and dental care is no longer seen as a “necessity. As more and more patients are putting off their regular dental check ups, it’s time for dentists to look at their business in a different light. No longer can you be “just a dentist” – you now must be a marketer, too.

In July, the American Dental Association announced the results of a survey of 1,275 dentists. More than half of these dentists reported a decrease in their net incomes. As if this wasn’t enough, the number of unbooked appointments has climbed up in the first quarter.

When you were in dental school, you probably learned that location and excellent personnel are the keys to having a thriving dental practice, but this no longer rings true in these present times. Dentists need to think of their dental practice as a real business if they want their practice to remain afloat in these challenging circumstances.

As patients cut back, dentists must market more. Unfortunatelyyou‚Äôre your patients cut back, your marketing budget is probably shrinking. So you’ll need to look for a few cost effective marketing strategies.

One budget-friendly but very effective marketing strategy is social media marketing. Chances are, your current patients are already using social media sites, so these tools make it very easy for you to reach out to them – and to have them help you spread your message. Facebook and Twitter are the more popular social media sites used by entrepreneurs. As a dentist, you can simply post announcements, promos, news, and other offers on your social media accounts, and your patients can be made aware of them instantly. No need for high-cost printing, no postage, and no waiting!

Another marketing strategy I’ve seen dentists use effectively is to join local forums and become a contributor. Forum marketing is a bit tricky – you don’t want to come right out and market directly. You want to become a “member of the community”, someone who is seen as a trusted advisor.

This works extremely well if you have a specific dental niche. For instance, if you’re a pediatric dentist, you’d want to find local forums that deal with kids’ issues. You might want to comment on threads about sporting events, and teach the parents how to protect their children’s teeth when they’re playing contact sports. After you’ve made several posts to the forum, other members will begin recognizing your name and realizing your expertise.

Other dentists have taken their personal connection to their patients a notch higher by mailing newsletters and catalogues, calling patients themselves for booking appointments, and offering a per-installment payment scheme for patients who have recently become unemployed. The personal touch is just as important as the marketing strategies because patients like it when they feel their dentist cares about them. Going the extra mile makes a big difference for dentists who would like to prevent their patient rate from going downhill.

Sometimes all it takes is a gentle reminder to your patients about how important regular dental care is – and how it actually saves money in the long run. You can use all of these cost effective strategies to spread that message and keep your dental practice afloat.

Photo by HerryLawford

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