The impact of 2020 on the dental industry is undeniable. From declining patient visits and revenue to increased personal protective equipment (PPE) costs caused by the pandemic, 2020 radically impacted this field of medicine.
According to a recent edition of Oral Health, 46% of dentists say the most significant impact of COVID-19 was the loss in revenue. Another 19% believe the greatest effect was the increase in PPE expenses. Eighty-six percent of dentists say their income was lower from April to September 2020 compared to the same time in 2019.
What’s even more unfortunate is many dentists think there’s little hope for improvement, at least in the immediate future. Half of dentists believe revenues will remain at 2020 levels throughout 2021. And as a dental practice, you’re already in for an uphill battle. Studies show that three out of five Americans have some form of dental fear.
But the news isn’t all bad. A quarter of dentists expect to produce more in 2021 than they did in 2020. Furthermore, 22% of dentists think new opportunities have emerged as a result of the pandemic. So there is hope for 2021 and beyond. You just need the tools.
Gaining new dental patients is the primary goal of practice marketing. As it should be! Under normal conditions, the typical practice sees 30 new patients every month. Each new patient, on average, generates around $1,200 for the practice during their first year with the office.
Most practices convert about 23% of their new patient leads. But this year, you might need to convert more than that to make up for the shortfalls of 2020. That may seem impossible, but you can significantly boost your conversion rates with the right marketing strategy.
Invest in your staff
The people who work for you—the hygienists, office managers and receptionists—are your greatest asset. Throughout the course of your career, you’ll spend more on them than any piece of equipment, facility, or even your education. Treat them with the value they deserve by making sure you’re hiring the right people in the right job and providing comprehensive training.
Hire the right employees
Hiring quality employees seems obvious, but staffing is so often a challenge. Don’t make the mistake of not properly vetting a candidate just because you’re hiring them for a receptionist or other entry-level position. Keep in mind, 41% of hiring agents say filling entry-level positions is one of their biggest challenges.
Take every hire seriously, do your homework, check references and aim to find people who are not only qualified, but also the right fit for your practice’s culture.
Hire enough staff
The importance of hiring the right people can’t be understated. But you also need enough of them. You could have the best front office team in the world, but if they’re bogged down by a constant stream of phone calls and online inquiries, how can they make every patient who walks through the door feel important, valued and safe?
Understaffing plagues many businesses, including dental practices. The effects, which include damaging the business’ reputation, stressed employees, high turnover rates, and—you guessed it—decreased conversion, could be catastrophic for your practice.
Train your team
When a new patient calls your practice, does the front office staff use a script? Do they have basic dental knowledge? Do they have a list and description of the products and services you provide? They should.
Equip your team with the information they need to conduct helpful, informative conversations with the public. Start with creating that script. Ninety-three percent of dental practices say a script directly benefits their bottom line. Ensure your front office staff is knowledgeable about your services and products and comfortable talking to patients about what you offer. You may also want to come up with a list of common questions and answers so a potential customer’s first experience with your business signals competence.
Pay Attention to SEO
The first five search results on a Google search results page get 76.6% of the clicks. Is your practice one of the top five search results when people are looking for dentists in your area? If not, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is how you get there.
SEO is the process of getting your website to the top of Google’s results pages. When people look at search engine results for dentists, 18.4% will select the practice with the number one ranked page.
Manage Your Reputation
Reputation has always been important for dentists. But with so many online review platforms and ease of access to testimonials, the public’s opinion has never mattered so much.
Seventy-seven percent of patients look at online reviews before selecting a new healthcare provider. Even more fascinating is the public’s willingness to trust these testimonials. Eighty-seven percent of people believe online reviews offer credible recommendations about dentists. Only 1% of people think reviews aren’t reliable.
And these reviews don’t just have the power to change minds. They have the power to convert. When patients read positive reviews, 60% of them are willing to visit the dental practice for an exam.
So pay attention to your Google, Yelp and Facebook reviews. Respond to as many reviews as you can, even if just to write, “Thanks for your positive review!” And do what you can to resolve negative reviews as quickly as possible. If you need help managing your reviews, hire a reputation management company to do the hard work for you. With the right amount of new patient conversions, this year could be your best yet.