Marketing in Healthcare - December 10, 2021
The term marketing is now also established in dental practices. Currently, however, it is mostly understood concerning the acquisition of new patients. But does this alone make sense? Shouldn't the target group "existing patients" also play an important role in the marketing and communication process? This question is also important in designing a practice's website. After all, practice websites are now the linchpin of a modern communication strategy.
The role of the practice homepage in referral marketing
Most dental practice websites are primarily aimed to attract new patients. But how do new patients become aware of a dental practice's website? Often through recommendations from family, friends and acquaintances, friends and acquaintances - in other words, thanks to existing patients!
In recent years, original referral marketing (word-of-mouth) has gained a whole new dynamic through the internet. This is because the incredibly high penetration of smartphones means that any recommendation information is looked up on the internet. This confirms or rejects it. Consequently, it is not surprising that more than 90 percent of referral patients have visited the website before the first contact with the practice.
Practice tip | If a patient who is willing to change asks in private, he or she will usually receive more than one recommendation, as often more than one trusted person is asked. The website is then the (!) decision point for or against a dental practice. The patient makes his or her decision depending on how professional and sympathetic the practice's website looks. How else should a patient decide between two or three very positive recommendations from friends, etc.?
The new patient makes only one decision: "Is this the right practice for me? The internet thus dissolves the so-called "black box" of the recommendation ("Who or what can I expect in the practice?") and enables the user to get a picture of the practice. New patients are strongly influenced visually and make the decision for or against a practice based on an assumption of quality and competence.
Here, the professionalism of the external presentation is particularly important.
The objective must therefore be to confirm the expectations of the new patient-generated by the recommendation through the website. A basis of trust must be created that serves both primary and secondary needs (see diagram).
A qualitative assessment of medical services is only made based on "substitute associations". After all, the patient is usually not a specialist, i.e. dentist. Therefore, it is particularly important to enhance professionalism and competence on the website. This can be achieved through the integration of professional aesthetic photos, which show both the everyday working life as well as the practice equipment and the individual characteristics.
Practical advice | The first level of a website should not contain too much detailed information. The patient wants to get an overview in the shortest time and make a decision quickly. Important: The visual impression of the website plays a major role - it should reflect the professional competence of the dentist.
Especially for new patients, the following contents are important on the website:
- Team: Introduction of the treating dentists as well as the team.
- Practice and service overview: Philosophy, equipment, and technology, a listing of special features and unique selling points
- Monthly News: Current news from the practice signal: "Our practice is up to date!"
- Contact details: Location including a link with interactive route planner, opening hours, online appointment calendar as an additional point of contact outside opening hours
- Services - but only concerning special problems or interests of the patient. Against the background of a decision for or against a practice, a few details are usually sufficient - unless the patient is looking for a specialist and has corresponding previous experience.
As a rule, a potential new patient spends only 60 to 90 seconds on the website of a practice website for only 60 to 90 seconds. This is usually enough for them to gain confidence in the performance of the practice - or not. Based on this circumstance, the conclusion could therefore be drawn that patients are only offered content on the website for 60 to 90 seconds. After all, this covers his "normal" need for information. But wouldn't it make sense to offer more here?
Interests and needs of an existing patient
The interesting question now is: What are the interests of existing patients - i.e. patients who, after their first visit to the practice, have decided to make further or have been consulting the practice regularly for a long time?
When a new patient becomes an existing patient, his or her information needs to change. The trust decision for or against a practice is now replaced by the need to obtain information on possible treatment options. This need results from the basic assumption that a patient can only decide for or against treatment when it is clear to him that it is necessary. In the decision-making process, the patient is confronted with the following questions:
- Where can I get comprehensive information?
- What treatment options are there?
- What benefits or advantages does the treatment option have for me?
- What does the treatment process look like?
However, this decision often requires a density of information that goes beyond the consultation in the practice. In the rarest cases, for example, a comprehensive therapy decision is made directly in the practice. But in the discussion situation at home - in the family or private environment, how can the patient reproduce the counseling information if he is given no further materials to him apart from the treatment plan?
Against this background, it seems to make a lot of sense to provide the patient with the necessary documents on the course of treatment as well as detailed explanations. Why not do this in particular via the practice website? However, the brief information described above, which primarily serves the needs of the "new patient" target group, is no longer sufficient here. Rather, more detailed information in the form of text, pictures, images, and animations, including explanatory videos are useful, so that the patient can look up the information that is relevant and important to him - and in a way that he understands.
Practice Note | The need for information always depends on only two factors: Importance and urgency. And health is always an important topic for patients. How else would the millions of clicks per month on health portals be otherwise explained, where a patient can only obtain factual information?
Develop practice communication for all types of patients
Depending on how the patient is "wired", he or she will need
- more or less information,
- ask more or fewer questions,
- do a lot of research or only superficially,
- decide quickly or slowly.
Therefore, it is important to align practice communication with the different patient needs and to use all channels to optimally pick up a patient and make him or her fit for an informed decision.
A professional and informative practice website - if designed appropriately - meets the needs of new patients and (!) existing patients.
At first glance, a practice website conveys the most important information, which can be supplemented as needed (e.g. by links with more information) and - if desired - show the entire spectrum of dentistry. This is another valuable building block for patient retention and the professionalization of the consultation.
Before an appointment to discuss implants, the practice refers to the website, where detailed information (text, images, animations) on the treatment and its alternatives can be found. The patient can now prepare for the consultation session. If he does so (or even looks through all the information again after the consultation), the consultation will be different in terms of content - more efficient because it may even save counseling time.
Ultimately, this type of communication increases sustainable patient loyalty and strengthens referral marketing. Important: From an economic point of view, the money for communication should be distributed to the channels from which most new patients come. Existing patients play a very important role: more than 50 percent of new patients come through them!