As I talk with dental practices daily, the conversation inevitably turns to securing more dental patient leads. How many are there, how qualified are they, where are the coming from, etc.
I thoroughly enjoy these conversations, but I want to change the discussion a bit. Instead of focusing on dental patient leads, I’m focusing on new patient starts with our clients and prospective clients. Leads are important for sure, but if no one starts care, then what’s been accomplished? That is why I’m directing the team at iVelocity Dental Marketing to focus on our clients’ new dental patients starts and I wanted to make sure I’m sharing our perspective with you, as someone who might be interested in working with us.
To that end, here’s what we are doing to better support the dental practices we work with as they look to start more new patients. If we worked together, you would have access to these, as well:
1. Expanding Advertising Platforms / Advertising Campaign Types. Marketing is dynamic and so are the platforms and campaigns we use to advertise. Our recent work combining search engine marketing, social media, and email campaigns for high-dollar cash procedures has been nothing short of jaw-dropping. It’s the new way to market and if you don’t have a multi-channel approach, other practices will pass you by.
2. A Dedicated Sales Coach. We have been blessed to have one of the most talented practice managers / sales coaches in the industry on the iVelocity team. Starting in 2020, Lisa Berthelsen will be 100% dedicated to helping our clients close patients on care through dedicated one-one-one support of offices and monthly trainings on phone techniques and in-office sales procedures. I am extremely excited about this new, complementary service and believe it will be transformative in how we serve our clients. Just in the few weeks since she started in this role, she’s made major impacts on a number of practices. To learn more about how exactly she helps practices close like never before, schedule some time with our head of business development, Jason Hellem.
3. A Greater Focus on Stats / Closes. At iVelocity Dental Marketing, we measure our success on our client’s ability to provide services to patients. To accomplish that, we are working with our clients to know how our efforts online are converting into patients receiving care in their practice. This helps everyone – the practice can chart their performance over weeks, months, and years and it allows us to make rapid adjustments to campaigns to ensure top performance.
4. Expansion of our proprietary Marketing Maximizer Email/Text system. Email and text messages are a great way to build rapport with potential patients. We have been building out the communication that gets sent out from our client’s practice with content created by the iVelocity team. The results have been great.
If you are hoping to make 2020 a great year for your practice, let’s talk about how all these things combine to create dramatic success in your practice in a short dental practice marketing assessment. During that time, we’ll walk through your goals and give you a little more information on how we might help.
Patient financing is one of the greatest challenges for dental implant practices. Unfortunately, there is a correlation between a patient’s need for implants and the ability to pay for care – those in greatest need often have the fewest financial resources. This is a source of consistent frustration for many offices. In fact, every day offices get to the finish line presenting treatment plans and have things stall out when numbers enter the discussion. If things go sideways when discussing finances, it’s terribly difficult to rekindle the conversation. Typically, the patient leaves without signing up for care and the office is out the time and effort it took with that patient. It’s a lose-lose situation.
But don’t lose hope. A practice can make that scenario a thing of the past through three easy steps:
Get permission for a soft credit pull early in the process.
Build the emotional buy-in.
Have the right patient financing partners.
Get permission for a soft credit pull early in the process.
There is no excuse for not requesting permission to make a soft credit pull on behalf of a patient early in the process. It is best done in the new patient paperwork, but it can also be done at other points in the process. Simply have it as a check box on an intake form with a brief explanation why it is to the benefit of the patient.
Most prospective implant patients know they’ll be paying out of pocket implants. An early credit pull does them a service by allowing the practice to have all the information available during the Report of Findings (assuming the practice uses the standard two-day sales process). Additionally, it allows the practice to present a cash option, a short-term in-office financing option (6 months or shorter), and a more traditional patient financing option during that presentation. It also allows the office to eliminate any of those options if the credit score doesn’t warrant it. Finally, it avoids surprises and embarrassing conversations if the credit score is below what the patient believes it to be.
Build the emotional buy-in.
Far too often, practices don’t spend the time really getting to the root of the motivation of a prospective patient prior to presenting a $50,000 treatment plan for two full arches. Then, they are surprised that the patient doesn’t move forward with care.
It is critical to know that patients do not explore dental implants because of the tooth or teeth that are missing. They explore dental implants because they are embarrassed to smile in pictures, because they are afraid to go out in public, because they didn’t get that job they wanted, or some other reason. Every patient has their “Golden Why.” A good patient consultation spends the time necessary to understand the patient’s Golden Why, to present a Better Future for the patient once they have implants, and paints a picture of how the patient can transition from the current state to that desirable potential future.
Why is emotional buy-in a topic in an article about patient financing? Simple. A motivated patient finds a way to get the care they need. If it means cutting luxuries, saving up, utilizing a patient financing company, or getting loans from family or friends, they’ll do it. The more the practice spends building the emotional buy-in upfront, the more engaged the patient will be in figuring out finances. If the office already has the right financing partners in place and is still consistently struggling getting patients to move forward with care, it should look into how well it is building emotional buy-in through the process.
Have the right financial partners.
There are two tiers of patient financing: Traditional and Poor Credit.
Nearly all offices will have at least one relationship with a company in the Traditional category. GreenSky, CareCredit, and LendingUSA are among the most common providers of Traditional patient financing. Typically, these lenders will all fund patients with credit scores 620 and above and have comparable interest rates. GreenSky does seem to be a preferred lender for many implant offices based on the interest rates it charges patients, ability to finance for up to 7 years (lowering the patient payment significantly), and its willingness to finance up to $65,000 for some patients. That said, it is important for an office to have at least two option in the Traditional category to ensure the best financial package for patients with good credit.
Very few practices have relationships with companies that offer patient financing for individuals with poor credit. This is a major mistake. There are a significant number of patients who need dental work but do not have the credit score to qualify with a Traditional patient financing firm. Rather than turning those patients away, savvy practices have options. While there are many options available, the two that will be highlighted are ClearGage and Denefits.
ClearGage operates like a Traditional patient financing option in that funds are remitted to the office shortly after the patient agrees to move forward with care. Anyone can be funded but the amount paid out is discounted based on the patient’s credit worthiness and the term of repayment. The firm will fund up to $7,500 in case value with some restrictions, so it is more ideal for a patient receiving a single implant or other similarly small procedure, but it’s better than not being able to move forward with care at all. It is important to note that there is a monthly charge to have a relationship with ClearGage that is waived each month that a patient is financed through the firm. Obviously, there are some characteristics to the relationship that are less desirable than a traditional option but if a practice sees a lot of low credit score patients with case values less than $7,500, it can be a good option.
The second Poor Credit option to consider is Denefits. Denefits essentially operates like a third-party guaranteed in-house financing option. Unlike Traditional patient financing options and firms like ClearGage, Denefits does not fund the care upfront. Instead, the office is paid over the course of the payment plan. The main benefit of using Denefits over just financing in-house is that Denefits will guarantee a percentage of the payment if certain criteria are met. All patients are accepted and the practice is the ultimate determiner of who will be financeable through the firm.
While not all patients will be financeable with the Poor Credit options laid out, it certainly increases the number of patients who can receive care versus simply having one or two options from the Traditional category.
In the end, there are many individuals who would benefit greatly from dental implants or other restorative procedures. These procedures are expensive and require a patient be able to pay for these elective services. All too often, practices find themselves engaging with prospective patients only to have patient finances derail the treatment. That shouldn’t be the case. While there may be a small number of patients who still cannot be served after implementing these three tips, nearly all should be. By having the right financial partners, engaging to understand credit worthiness early in the process, and really building the emotional buy-in, practices should be able to see their patient financing issues a thing of the past.
Airway dentistry is the fastest growing field in dentistry today. One of the keys to building and sustaining a successful airway practice is to create a steady stream of new patients seeking care. To do that, the practice needs to develop multiple channels of patient recruitment.
There are three types of patients that can be recruited into an airway practice. Each type of patient requires a different type of marketing and careful attention must be paid to ensure the right messaging is reaching the right patient type through the right channels.
The three types of patients include:
Existing patients – These are patients that have a pre-existing relationship with the practice. Typically, they will have been hygiene patients within the practice or have been in as a patient for restorative dentistry. There is mounting evidence that tooth grinding may be associated with airway challenges, so a practice with a heavy restorative focus may be well suited to build a successful airway practice.
The best option to connect with existing patients is during chair time. An easy screening tool like the Stop Bang screener (Found here) can help to identify current patients who may be at high risk of having sleep apnea or otherwise benefitting from airway therapy.
Unfortunately, most patients are only in the chair once every six months, which means that if a practice is only focused on using face-to-face interactions to drive current patients into airway consultations, practice growth will be stunted. To overcome that challenge, it is imperative to utilize email newsletters and targeted email campaigns to spread the word and increase interest in scheduling an appointment to explore potential sleep apnea treatments.
Common email campaigns focus on patient case studies, education on treatment options, and general awareness campaigns on the risks of airway challenges. Using an email system, a practice can automate much of the work required to successfully execute on these campaigns.
Active seekers – These are prospective patients who are aware of their need for a solution to sleep apnea / sleep-disordered breathing / snoring. They may or may not have been officially diagnosed with sleep apnea and may be using a CPAP or oral appliances and are defined by the fact that they are looking for a solution to their airway issue.
Referral patients are generally considered active seekers, since they have made the decision to find treatment for a condition from which they suffer. The other source of active seekers are the search engines, like Google and Bing.
For a practice starting into digital marketing, search engine marketing is the most obvious first step. Patients searching for airway-related keywords are doing so from an interest in finding a solution to a problem they, or a loved one, are experiencing. If a practice competes effectively on the search engines, it is possible to draw a healthy percentage of those prospective patients seeking care to their practice instead of having them move to another. These individuals tend to be farther down the decision-making journey than patients identified through other sources and can represent a fruitful source of new patient starts.
There are two ways to engage in search engine marketing. The first is pay-per-click (PPC) advertising – paying the search engines for the opportunity to advertise for certain keywords. PPC advertising is an auction, so multiple parties are competing for placement for those keywords. When performed well, PPC advertising is an incredibly effective way to connect with new patients. When performed poorly, it can result in a lot of wasted money. Proper bid strategies will ensure the results the practice is looking for.
The second way to compete on the search engines is through a process called search engine optimization. This entails tailoring the practice’s website towards targeted keywords so that the site will rank highly organically (without paying for advertising). This process is time-intensive and takes months or years to yield results but is incredibly impactful once the site ranks highly.
Engageable Afflicted – With the prevalence of sleep apnea estimated to be greater than 6% of the US population (some estimate it to be greater than 40% of adults, but that is debatable), there is a very large population of prospective patients who have a compromised airway, but are not seeking a solution for that issue. This is the largest percentage of patients in most airway practices.
The most prevalent way to connect with the Engageable Afflicted in today’s world is through social media marketing, especially on Facebook. Facebook’s ubiquity ensures that properly designed advertising strategies on its platform will reach prospective airway patients.
One of the key benefits of Facebook advertising for airway is that allows a practice to reach out proactively to targeted audiences (as opposed to needing to wait for someone to search a keyword on Google) and it allows practices to retarget individuals – serving advertisements only to people who have previously performed a certain action, like watching a certain length of a video online or visiting a certain website.
Retargeting is an incredibly powerful tool. It allows practices to educate prospective patients over weeks, months, or years. As prospective patients interact with the office’s ads on Facebook, the number of people being educated and motivated increases, yielding a higher number of patients engaging with the practice over time.
Airway dentistry is virtually exploding right now. Over the next decade, it will become more and more mainstream. The practices who will be the go-to sources for airway treatment are those who can establish a brand and a track record of success now. By leveraging a series of marketing tools, both physical and digital, a practice can build its pipeline of interested, qualified patients into a growth engine for the practice.
Marketing for dental implants on Facebook used to be so easy. Simply throw together an ad with a picture of a person missing a tooth, post it on the social platform, turn the dials to only show the ad to people with a household income high enough to afford the care, and then wait for the patients to come rolling in. And for years, that strategy worked.
Unfortunately, today’s environment is very different. In the summer of 2018, Facebook stopped allowing advertisers to target individuals based on household income (as well as several other criteria), so targeting has become more of a challenge. Whereas in the past, ads could be targeted based on income, today they are shown to people across the entire socioeconomic spectrum. The result is many practices receive large numbers of interested leads from people who won’t have the financial wherewithal to pay for the needed services. These individuals no-call/no-show at higher rates and take up valuable time in the office when they do show. Also, more dentists caught on to the fact that practices can recruit implant patients through Facebook, so the cost to acquire a patient lead has risen over the years.
So, Facebook sucks for marketing dental implants, right? Well, not exactly. While the platform has certainly gotten more complex and nuanced, it still hold tremendous promise for enterprising dentists looking for implant patients, but just as you wouldn’t use a screwdriver to hammer a nail, it’s important to understand how to use Facebook to recruit patients to the practice.
Dental implant marketing is rapidly moving to a multi-channel approach. Successful practices are using Facebook alongside Google and email marketing to create “surround sound” for their prospective patients online, and particularly savvy practices also tie their non-digital marketing, like mailer campaigns, into a comprehensive strategy to recruit implant patients to the office.
To use Facebook appropriately, it is important to understand its strengths. Facebook, and social media marketing in general, have a couple of incredibly valuable attributes to take advantage of for dental marketing.
First, Facebook allows practices to target certain demographics in a population. Through the tool, it is possible to target based on physical attributes (most commonly age, gender, and location) and on interests. For example, if a practice determines that their ideal implant patient is a woman between the ages of 50 and 65 who enjoy baking and soap operas living within 15 miles of the office, it can target people on the platform who meet those criteria. It also allows for advertisers to build unique audiences based on actions that individuals take on the Facebook platform, like watching a certain amount of a video or clicking on an ad that the practice posted, or on the practice’s website. Often, these unique groups of people are referred to as “warm” audiences. The creation of warm audiences is critically important for the next major benefit Facebook offers.
Facebook allows a practice to “retarget.” Essentially, retargeting allows the practice to serve content to individuals who have been placed into a warm audience. Through this capability, practices can focus their advertising efforts on people who have previously shown interest in dental implants.
Finally, the third key benefit of the platform is that Facebook allows practices to push content. As opposed to search engine marketing, where the practice is only able to engage with prospective patients after they have initiated the conversation, social media marketing allows a practice to proactively reach out to advertise to targeted prospects. This is valuable because it puts the office in the driver’s seat when it comes to patient recruiting.
Now that the advantages of Facebook are clear, how does a practice best use it to recruit dental implant patients?
Facebook is best as a part of a multi-channel marketing strategy. More specifically, it is the ideal tool for retargeting prospective patients who enter the practice’s funnel through a different entry point. For example, prospects who find the office’s website through Google should be retargeted on Facebook with ads to motivate them. Patient testimonials, messages from the docs, and the like will get prospective patients to schedule and show for their appointments. Additionally, the practice can also use this retargeting capability to provide special offers only to prospects who are believed to be interested in dental implants, based on their activity on the website or reaction to a mailer. Ultimately, Facebook is a great tool to integrate multiple advertising channels into one unified approach.
A second application for a tool like Facebook is as a follow-up system. The decision to move forward with implants is often a lengthy one. It may take a prospective patient months or even years to make the decision to move forward with care. It is possible to use Facebook to serve ads to patients thanking them for their interest in the practice and to educate them while they are working through the treatment decision process. These advertisements can be time-based, so that patients who have recently interacted with the practice get one set and those that were working with the practice some time ago get a different one. These targeted prospects can also be identified through their activities on Facebook, on the practice’s website, from a mailing list, or even from the practice’s existing patient database. As long as the practice can produce a list containing the user’s email address, Facebook can advertise to the members of that list.
Advertising for dental implant patients on Facebook has changed significantly over the past several years. In the past, all a practice had to do was put a simple ad up targeting financially sound individuals in the area they served and qualified patients would find their practice. When Facebook removed the ability to target patients based on income, it got more difficult to find the right patients. Add onto that the fact that more practices are using the platform for patient acquisition, driving up the cost to advertise, and you have the recipe for a platform that frustrates advertisers.
Today, Facebook sucks as a standalone advertising channel for simple, one-step marketing. If a practice is expecting great results from doing the same thing that was done three years ago, it will waste money, time, and energy and be sorely disappointed. But, if the practice changes with the times and understands Facebook’s capabilities in either a multi-channel strategy alongside Google and email marketing or as a platform that requires multiple steps to educate and motivate patients, it can see incredible success bringing patients into the practice seeking dental implant services.
Two years ago, marketing for a dental implant practice was easy. Simply put a couple of ads on Facebook, target the correct income demographics, and high-quality implant patients found your practice. Unfortunately, Facebook has changed their system so you can no longer target potential implant patients based on income. That’s made it much more difficult for dental marketers to find the right patients for a practice and it means that a practices advertising on Facebook have been flooded with prospective patients who may have a genuine need and desire for care, but don’t have the ability to afford the therapy. That can be frustrating to all parties, since the patient really wants to fix their smile and the practice really wants to provide that service, but needs to do so in a profitable manner.
So what is a growth-minded dental implant practice owner to do? Give up? Absolutely not.
While advertising online for dental implants has gotten more difficult, savvy dental marketers are using that fact to their advantage – separating themselves from the competition and connecting with the best patients online. While others are flooding their practices with “low-quality” Facebook leads who don’t show to their appointments, the best marketers are taking a multi-channel approach that consistently delivers motivated patients and educates them throughout the process.
If you are interested in growing your practice’s dental implant leads through digital marketing, here are five things you need to keep in mind:
Search Engine Marketing should be the main way patients find your practice.
For dental implant patients, motivation is the name of the game. Motivated patients show up to their appointments, they engage with the dental practice to build the right treatment plan, and they find ways to afford care. So, where do you find motivated patients online? Google. More broadly, you find motivated implant patients through search engine marketing on platforms like Google, Bing, or Yahoo.
By definition, patients who find your dental practice via a search engine are motivated to find a solution to a problem. Otherwise, why would they spend their time googling terms like “dental implants” or “how much do dental implants cost”? There are certain keywords that a prospective patient searches when they are looking to fix their smile and savvy practices are set up to connect with those patients when they search for those phrases.
There are two ways for dental practices to win in Search Engine Marketing. The first is paid advertising. Google, Bing, and Yahoo all have platforms that allow a practice to pay to show up in search results when someone looks for certain keywords. The platform is an auction between everyone willing to pay for the chance to talk with this pool of prospective patients. To win, a dental implant practice needs to spend the time building a strategy and then executing with skill to beat the competition. Done well, paid ads can provide a tremendous return on investment. Done poorly, it’s easy to lose a lot of money. The other way to connect with people searching for implants is through search engine optimization, or SEO. SEO typically takes months or years to rank for targeted keywords (especially highly competitive ones), but when done well, it positions the practice to win big in connecting with the best prospective patients.
Facebook is best used for retargeting / educating / building motivation.
One of the greatest aspects of social media marketing for dentists is a concept called retargeting. In short, once a practice identifies someone with interest in dental implants, the practice can serve Facebook ads to those people, and only to those people for as long as they would like. If a patient searches on Google for dental implants and visits your website, you can retarget them by providing educational materials, patient testimonials, messages from the doctor and staff, and special offers on Facebook to create affinity toward your practice, educating them to the implant process, and generally building excitement about the possibility of finally having that smile they are seeking.
While we would prefer that a patient searching on Google would immediately book into a consultation and move forward with care in the matter of a week or two, the reality is that making a decision to invest in dental implants can take months, or even years. Successful practices nurture prospective implant patients through retargeting for as long as is necessary to get them to come into the office – motivated and ready to move forward with care. Retargeting on Facebook is one of the two ways to do that.
You can use Facebook for first contact, but you have to be really targeted.
While Facebook did away with income targeting several years ago, there is one way to connect with quality implants patients on the platform – high-value interest targeting. So while it isn’t possible to target users on Facebook based on their income level (among several categories that were banned), practices can still target Facebook users based on certain interests that are correlated with income level. By carefully selecting those interests, and aggressively excluding others, it is possible to build an audience of desirable potential dental implant patients. Once that audience has been built, the practice can advertise to it with content that would only be relevant to those who may need implants. Over time, the practice builds a new audience on Facebook – a group of individuals who are qualified (based on your high-value interest targeting) and motivated (based on their engagement with the advertised content). Once built, this audience can be a gold mine of quality implant patients for the practice. This approach takes longer than running “cold” ads to a large population of Facebook users, but yields vastly superior results. Additionally, only the practice can specifically target this pool of desirable patients, reducing competition and increasing the ROI for Facebook marketing campaigns.
Use Email / Texts to educate potential patients throughout the process.
Motivation is a bucket with a hole in it. It is extremely common for implant patients to get cold feet and skip their appointment. How do you keep motivation high? Constant contact. Unfortunately, it is not practical to call prospective implant patients daily to check in and keep motivation high. Instead, successful practices use carefully crafted emails and text messages to automate much of the patient motivation outreach. These automations might include patient testimonials, messages from the doctor and staff, useful information about the healing process after implants are placed, or other content to address many of the questions implant patients might have. By segmenting the patient journey into steps, the practice can provide the right content at the right time. For example, the practice can show it understands what the patient is experiencing by providing a video on what to expect during the first visit delivered the day before the initial consultation. Sending a text expressing the practice’s excitement to meet on the morning of the appointment helps with show rates.
Many practices are intimidated to produce their own content for these communications, but they shouldn’t be. A 60 second welcome video shot on an iPhone is all that is necessary to build the library of content that will keep motivation high in prospective patients and increase the number of patients moving forward with care.
Use Email and Facebook to keep in touch with patients not ready to move forward yet.
As mentioned before, for many prospective implant patients the decision to move forward with implants is a lengthy one. While some patients that find the practice via a search engine are ready to receive care today, most will not.
To succeed in the long run, it is important to build an ever-expanding pool of potential patients who will eventually choose the practice for care. As mentioned before, Facebook is an excellent way to do that. Retargeting allows a practice to share content directly to this group of individuals. The other tool is email.
While many complain about being bombarded with email on a daily basis, the fact remains that email remains the most cost-effective method of marketing. Once a practice has a person’s email address, it is essentially free to send them content (assuming proper SPAM laws are being followed). With email automation systems, a practice only needs to write an email once to communicate with everyone in the database.
By taking a proactive approach and sharing relevant content that a prospective dental implant patient would care about, the practice generates a tremendous amount of goodwill and brand recognition in the eyes of the patient. Sophisticated email systems also allow for lead scoring – a system of determining who is engaging in the content in a way that warrants a phone call from the office. This ensures that the right patients are contacted by the office and that the office staff is efficient in their outreach.
The past two years have changed how dental practices use digital marketing to grow their dental implant patient base. Gone are the days of Facebook-only efforts that yield tremendous results. Now, dental implant practices must use a multi-channel approach to grow their procedure volume and by doing so, are seeing incredible growth. Incorporating the five keys to success that have been outlined is a great first step to a building a successful, sustainable, profitable digital marketing strategy for growing the practice’s dental implant procedures.