How To Restart Your Dental Practice When COVID-19 Restrictions Have Been Removed
As the impacts of the COVID-19 panic have begun to manifest themselves on a large scale, uncertainty has become the next big hurdle that local dental practice owners will have to deal with. We don’t know what the future holds, but we do know that we will have to keep going as best we can, and try to make the most out of a bad situation by being prepared to take on the major challenge of our time.
COVID-19 and your dental practice
Uncertainty is affecting everyone right now, but perhaps none more so than local business owners, including owners of dental practices. We’ve already seen what a difficult road ahead it will be for industries such as hospitality and luxury retail, but the silver lining in the cloud for you is that people will still require dental care as a part of the new normal. There will be changes in the attitudes of patients; some may be more reluctant to come into a public space in the near future, and changes in insurance coverage will affect some patients as well, but one of the best things you can do right now is to focus on the opportunities that are tied to these circumstances.
It’s important to remember that just because dental care is not the same kind of product as a pair of designer shoes, that doesn’t mean you can just sit back and wait for your patients to come streaming back through your office doors. Getting your practice back to a state that is as normal as possible right now is going to take flexibility, proactivity, and a strategic marketing plan that allows you to make the most of your strengths as a business.
Prepare as much as possible in advance
The best tool you have in your arsenal right now is preparation. If you are in an area where it is not advisable to reopen yet, or if you have reopened but are serving a reduced number of patients, use your extra time to make sure that your practice is ready to roll out an effective marketing plan that lets patients know you are ready to serve them as soon as you are able.
The first step in your preparations is to stay abreast of your state and local ordinances regarding when you can reopen and what regulations must be followed when you do. This situation is changing rapidly everywhere, and the information you get in the morning may be outdated by the afternoon.
After that, you can focus on how you will announce your reopening to your patients and your prospects. This is one reason why you need to understand the potential restrictions surrounding your opening because you need to address them with your patients as soon as possible. The three crucial elements your announcement needs is that it should be accurate, informative, and broadly dispersed. Make sure the details are correct, and put your announcement out on as many channels as you can, including an email marketing blast, social media posts (with promoted content if it makes sense for your practice), and a press release sent to local news entities and blogs.
Your website is another channel you need to consider, and hopefully, you have already updated it with verbiage concerning your COVID-19 closure and a list of resources for patients. Obviously your website text will need to be reworked, but it’s also a good idea to place a distillation of your reopening announcement on a popup banner for your website to increase the chances that current and new patients see the information.
Begin by reaching out to scheduled patients
While your instinct may be to pursue new leads as soon as your practice is open, it’s a good idea to reach out to your existing scheduled patients first. If they had an appointment that was canceled due to the COVID-19 closure, make an effort to get them rescheduled as soon as possible. If they already have an appointment on the books for the period after you will be reopened, contact them to remind them that you are going to be reopening and alleviate any concerns they have about safety procedures.
Make whatever schedule adjustments you need to make if you are operating at reduced capacity, but be proactive in letting patients know about changes. Get your team together and have them make calls whenever you can. If your patients have opted in to text messaging service, you can contact them that way as well. This is a simple, cost-effective way to get your practice back on your patients’ minds and set yourself up for success upon reopening.
We need to address the fact that many people’s financial situations have changed due to the pandemic, and not everyone is going to be in a position where they can reschedule an appointment immediately. That’s okay, and you aren’t asking your staff to perform hard sell tactics here. Some people will hedge, and plenty of others will be eager to rebook as soon as possible; the important thing is you let them know early and often that you are ready to provide quality care for them.
Follow up by contacting leads
Once you’ve done your due diligence with your current patients, then you can begin to target new leads. How you relaunch your marketing effort will determine how quickly your practice is able to rebound, and the crisis actually presents you with a unique opportunity to convert new patients who are searching for services. Something you have to consider, however, is that your competitors have the same opportunity, increasing the need for immediate action on your part.
You may think that marketing expenditure to reach new leads isn’t something you can afford right now, but you need to consider that you most likely have leads from your pre-pandemic marketing that you weren’t able to contact because you weren’t sure when you could provide service to them. Now that you (hopefully) have a little more clarity on your situation, following up with leads from the early part of the year is a simple and cost-effective way to find prospective patients who haven’t visited your practice yet but have already expressed an interest in it.
Tailor your marketing effort
When it comes to relaunching your ad campaigns, flexibility becomes paramount. You’re reopening your practice, but it’s not opening to the same world that it was just a few months ago. That’s not meant to be negative, it’s just a way to acknowledge the new reality and to let you know that it would be unwise to simply pick up exactly where you left off with your ads.
The new economic situation is causing waves in the ocean of consumer behavior, and some opportunities have dried up where others have appeared out of nowhere. The best way to ensure that you are delivering targeted messaging with your post-COVID ad campaigns is to start doing research as soon as you can. Check the recent action (going back about two months) on Google for various search terms to see how terms that have done well for you in the past are performing now, and look for any changes in terms you had considered before but were deemed to be unprofitable. You may find significant differences in what your patients were searching for two to three months ago compared to now. If you are unsure of how to take on this type of research, speak with your marketing team. They should be able to help you find valuable search trends that can help your practice.
Automate marketing tasks whenever possible
Competition is going to be fierce once you and your competitors open your doors again, and one of the best ways to win an advantage over other practices is with speed. Often when other important variables are equal, the practice that gets its marketing message in front of prospects first is the one to win the patient.
Marketing automation is the key to maintaining the quality of your messaging while improving your speed, and it is about to become more important than ever. Look for ways to automate as many of your marketing tasks as possible, from your email marketing to blog posts and social media. Then you’ll have more time to focus on the aspects of marketing that require more manual work, such as creating engaging new messaging and interacting with leads and patients on a personal level.
Track your results consistently
Even in leaner times you still have to spend some money on marketing in order to attract patients, but that doesn’t mean it has to be a spending free-for-all. By diligently tracking your results and finding ways to tweak your marketing performance, you can be assured that every penny you invest in your campaigns has a recognized value for the practice.
Ideally, you already had mechanisms in place for tracking results, testing solutions, and optimizing your processes before the pandemic hit. If so, then it’s time to double-down on your effort to monitor every facet of your strategy and ensure you are getting as much value out of it as possible. If you were lax in this area before, you absolutely can’t afford to be now.
Maintain your commitment to patient value
Things are going to be different in the wake of COVID-19, and all of us will have to adapt to new circumstances in order to succeed. However, you also need to remember that the core function of marketing remains the same no matter what changes in the world: finding effective ways to convey the value of your practice to your patients. Actions and strategies will have to be updated, but as long as every function is tied to that central focus, you can be sure you are on the right track. This is also the time when you need to partner with experts who can help you hit the ground running with a customized marketing plan that makes sense for you and your patients.
At Connect The Doc, we are dedicated to creating automated, actionable, and high-value marketing plans for private dental practices throughout the country. Get in touch with one of our representatives today to learn how you can reopen your doors with a stronger marketing presence than ever, and be better prepared to find and engage your target patients now and in the future.