THRIVING IN A SLOW ECONOMY
Surviving and Thriving in Tough Times
All ACP Members are feeling the pressures and changes in this period of turmoil. In order to help our members continue to sustain their practices and prosper in the current economic crisis, the ACP will offer tips, ideas, and resources to keep you focused on thriving in these tough times.
Take advantage of the social media phenomenon - if a marketing plan is already in place
Social media seems to be everywhere and everyone is taking advantage. But before jumping in, there are a few items to make sure are already in place in order to get results. Social media tends to be a more advanced marketing strategy that will not be effective unless you already have basic marketing strategies in place. For healthcare organizations and practices, having a good web site and a thought-out marketing plan are a couple of items that need to be accomplished before working with social media.
Utilize keywords to enhance you search engine optimization online
Did you know you could be missing out on over 80% of patients who search online? Using search engine optimization is an ideal way for practitioners to eventually get found online in the organic section for no cost. Today, it is shown that most doctors underestimate the number of potential patients that could be reached through Internet searches.
To learn more about how to use search engine optimization in the article "Search engine optimization strategies for doctors who are tired of being the "invisible man" (or woman) online" on the Healthcare Success Strategies Web site.
If Patients are Skipping Visits Increase Your Marketing Efforts
There are several inexpensive ways to increase your advertising and marketing efforts if your practice is slowing. Take advantage of the lower newspaper and broadcast rates. Send emails to customers in addition to the traditional postcards. Even create a Twitter profile to connect with current and future patients to build relationships. Go beyond being 'just the guy in a white coat with a drill in his hand.'
This tip is featured in the article "Dentists Step Up Marketing as Patients Skip Their Visits. " To read the full article visit the Wall Street Journal Web site.
Become actively involved in key professional and industry associations
Involvement in professional associations arms you with vital information on the industry and patients, as well as establishes an active, connected network. Simply attending the meetings can be a great benefit. As Patricia Quinn, business development representative from Connecticut-based Petra Construction Corporation put it, "It can take you six-weeks' worth of phone calls and visits to achieve what can be gained by attending one industry meeting." When you add to it volunteering on committees to support the organization's mission, sponsoring events, and speaking at programs, you are positioning yourself to be a thought-leader on the topic and the first one that comes to mind when such services are needed.
Shift your shifts
The 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. day may have historically worked for dental offices, but in today's economic climate, your patients are less willing, and often less able, to take time off to go to the dentist. Try closing on Mondays and opening on Saturdays. Stay open until 8 p.m. two evenings a week so that people can visit after work. Give your patients more options to make dental visits convenient. Remember to include your expanded hours on all advertising for new and existing patients.
Take time for yourself
Often during tough times, individuals decide to hunker down and not do anything for themselves. They may be reluctant to spend money on leisure, or fear that their work will suffer if you spend time away from it. Yet, if you never take time away from the business to de-stress and clear your head, you will be so immersed in it that you can't see clearly and make the best decisions. For the sake of your personal physical, mental, and emotional health you need time to refresh and recharge. Simple activities such as reading a book or taking a walk are simple inexpensive ways to de-stress and relax.
Effective Websites are crucial
Websites typically will not bring in many new patients by themselves, but your patients will refer their friends and these friends will look you up online before scheduling an appointment. Effective websites are also not only visually attractive, but contain honest, heartfelt messages about why he or she became a dentist, what he or she loves about dentistry, and what makes his/her practice unique. Websites should also be in a responsive design, meaning the website should have the capability to be viewed not only on a desktop or laptop computer, but also on smartphones and tablets. An effective and efficient website will respond based on the device used to view the information about the practice.
Email: Doing what others don't
Using email in your communication with patients can be a powerful way to differentiate yourself from the competition, increase satisfaction and patient retention, and boost office efficiency. Between 60-80% of patients prefer email interaction with practitioner offices. Some of the benefits of using email include improved administrative processes, reducing 'phone tag' for office reminders, scheduling changes and confirmation, prescription refills, and other routine and non-clinical purposes.
This tip is brought to you by Healthcare Success Strategies. To read more on this and other marketing tips visit the Healthcare Success Strategies Web site.
Focus on wants instead of needs
According to a recent article in the the Chicago Dental Society's publication, CDS Review, changing the phrasing you use with patients can sometimes be one of the best ways to thrive in a tough economy. People may not always have money for what they need, but they do seem to be more likely to find it for what they want. Changing your terminology to position your treatment plan recommendation as a fulfilled want instead of a necessity can change a patient's thinking from 'Do I need this?' to 'How can I afford this?'
Also focusing on the benefits of your recommendations instead of discussing the factual features can also change the patient's way of thinking. An example of this is teeth whitening. A feature of teeth whitening is that it leads to a brighter smile. However, the benefit of teeth whitening is renewed confidence, a more noticeable smile, and the possibility of increased personal and professional opportunities. Your patients are more likely willing to pay for the benefit of teeth whitening and you will be more likely to stay afloat in these challenging times.
Take advantage of the competitive vacuum
When others are cutting back on their marketing budgets, use this move to your benefit. Due to the slowing economy, many competitors will cut their marketing back to little or nothing. Use this time (while their practices are invisible) to grow marketing share at their expense. Advertisers who increase their cost in a soft economy increase their market share.
Offer financial options for patients
More and more patients in all areas of dentistry are beginning to feel anxious about how they will pay their dental and medical bills. Instead of continuing with the needed care, many patients are deciding to 'flee for safety' by cutting back on what they believe is non-essential in order to preserve and protect their resources until the economic crisis subsides.