By Misty Clark
You’ve read about it. You’ve heard about it. You’ve watched reports about it. I don’t even have to say what “it” is. You know what “it” is – the economy. Chances are, if your patients are breathing and walking, they know what “it” is as well. So what does this mean for your practice and for your marketing?
This means that your clients are as concerned as you are. They are watching their pennies and being very careful in the decisions they make. They will need more information and valid reasons for changing the appearance of their smiles or simply making their smiles as healthy as can be. Patients want and need to trust those from whom they make purchases – and that means you! Service will also be an important and precious commodity.
According to Carlson Marketing Worldwide, service trumps price as the number one reason adults purchase from one company versus the competition. In addition, they claim that only 8% of consumers see their experiences as “superior.” This is an opportunity for you to create that “wow” experience and propel yourself above the competition.
Simply because consumers are slower to act in a stressed economy doesn’t mean they aren’t paying attention.
Historically, many companies have leapfrogged to the No. 1 position in their respective industries because they consistently continued to market, knowing they would reap the rewards when the economy rebounded. Coca-Cola is perhaps the most famous company for taking advantage of a down economic time. While the industry leader, Pepsi, pulled out of marketing during World War II, Coca-Cola persisted and kept marketing at the same percentage of their overall budget. They sent Coca-Cola to the troops and to military families, making headlines and maximizing nonpaid media opportunities. Their persistent marketing paid off after the country rebounded from WWII, overthrowing Pepsi as the leading soft drink. Troops returned from war drinking Coca-Cola. It remains the leading soft drink today with possibly the world’s strongest brand image.
I have been asked what is the best advice in marketing during tough times. Here are my top strategies:
• Continue marketing. Don’t make Pepsi’s mistake of pulling out, losing name recognition, and then trying to climb back on the bandwagon when the country rebounds. Practices that marketed through 9/11 benefited when everyone wanted cosmetic dentistry due to the popular television series, Extreme Makeover. Practices that tried to take advantage after the fact missed all those people who decided they wanted cosmetic dentistry after the very first show. Those practices were too late because people wanted a practice with established name recognition and a public image. Keep your name out there. When they have money, they will remember you and call you.
• Internal marketing. Let your patients know that you are still moving along in your practice and making advancements. Give them firsthand information on new procedures and technologies. Build their trust. Ask them to spread the word.
• Service. Provide outstanding customer service. While one out of ten consumers tells friends and family about a wonderful experience, nine out of ten spread the word about a bad experience. During an economic crunch, you can’t afford NOT to “wow” your patients at every visit.
• Appreciate your patients. Tell your patients “thank you” for choosing your practice. Mail them a thank-you note or make follow-up phone calls after procedures to check on their questions and well-being.
• Build trust with new patients. A strong new-patient experience begins with building trust. Send your new patients a welcome packet, nicely written letter, and brochure to help build the rapport and trust while reducing no-shows and cancellations.
• E-mail your patients with positive messages.
• Positive practice. Avoid talking about the down economy to your patients. Remain upbeat and positive. Everyone knows that everyone else is feeling the effects of the economy. Talking about it doesn’t make it go away and certainly doesn’t build patients’ trust and reassurance.
• Testimonials. Share patient stories that depict how good dentistry has improved patients’ health and made dramatic differences in their lives. Put dates on the stories and keep them recent to show patients that others are still having dentistry completed.
• Follow up. Contact patients who did not accept treatment and send copies of the patients’ “before” intraoral photos and then a stock supply “after” photo in letters to follow up on incomplete treatment. Continue to give them information they need to support the decision to have dentistry done with you.
While the economy is up and down and on the news every day, the bottom line is to stay consistent with marketing. By keeping your name recognition, “wow” experience, and positive image, you will be far ahead of others when the market rebounds. Seek the hidden opportunities in this difficult economy. Be the Coca-Cola.
Misty Clark is VP Creative Services at Jameson Management, Inc., a comprehensive, in-office coaching firm to improve the lives of dentists worldwide. She may be reached at www.JamesonManagement.com or (877) 369-5558.
By Misty Clark