In the first of a three-part series, Chris Baker considers how you can reach out to patients and potential patients in these unusual times.
Predicting the future is a mug’s game. Watch an episode of Tomorrow’s World from the 70s or 80s. You’ll see just how wrong one can get it.
Indeed, when I was deciding what to call my company back in 2006, ‘Corona’ seemed a good name. It’s short, easy to pronounce, near the beginning of the alphabet and also is Latin for crown. What could possibly go wrong? Well, we are we are – what can we do about it?
Where are we?
Whatever wonderful plans you had for the practice at the start of 2020 probably went out of the window quite quickly. You will have had a myriad of concerns over the last few months – how to pay your team, Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme, how to pay suppliers – the list goes on.
As I write this, we are back in lockdown. Since last March, for the majority of the time, we have restricted our movements. What has that meant for consumer behaviour? Well, people are spending even more time online, and on social networks.
When we get through this, and we will get through it, people will remember how brands, businesses and their communication made them feel. Many people are feeling sad, alone, and somewhat anxious.
How you communicated with your audiences across the various touchpoints during this pandemic will have a big effect on how quickly your practice comes out of it and gets back to normal.
At the risk of this article sounding like a ‘I told you so’, we need to go back to the start of the lockdown. We need to look at what you should have been doing in regard to patient communication.
Marketing of your practice in 2020 was, rightly, way down the list. Marketing the fabulous teeth whitening you do, the no doubt impressive 3D scanner, or eulogising about how dental implants can enhance your patients’ lives hasn’t been the right thing to do in the last few months. However, pretending that your marketing is irrelevant in the current situation would be a big mistake too.
Communication with your patient base has never been more important. So, what should you (and your team) have done?
Ensure your website was up-to-date with all the pertinent information in terms of emergency points of contact, advice and so on. This should be easy to find – a pop-up on the homepage that is clear and unavoidable.
You sent your existing patient base a ‘keep in touch’ email every month.
Obviously, ‘selling’ posts on social media were out (we would argue that they don’t work anyway). However, that didn’t mean you couldn’t engage with your patients while they were sat at home looking for inspiration. You had a captive audience so I hope that you made the most of it!
Again, lockdown has been a time to be authentic. As we return to some kind of normal, the public is going to be able to make choices again. You can’t feel particularly connected to a building or indeed a scanner, but you can feel connected to a person or a team.
Here and now
If you’ve done all that, pandemic or no pandemic, you will have a group of patients that knows what you’ve been doing and why you’ve being doing it.
They won’t be wondering about the care on offer or even if you have closed down! An engaged audience is of huge value.
In the next article, I will look at the new tactics that you should be embracing to reach out to your engaged audience.
This article first appeared on Irish Dentistry magazine. You can read the latest issue here.