The Chartered Institute of Marketing defines marketing as:
“ … the management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably.”
Nothing has changed. The role of marketing is exactly the same during this crisis as it was before, but what HAS changed is the customer’s requirements and the fact that the profitability will come at a later date, not now!
I am primarily thinking about marketing to existing patients here, rather than new patients, but the concepts I talk about work for both.
Let’s delve deeper.
The primary question any marketer should ask of their customers/patients is “What problem is this person trying to solve?”. During ‘normal’ times the problem could be straightening crooked teeth, replacing missing teeth, wanting to improve dental health or just needing somewhere to call a dental home.
… But these aren’t normal times!
The relationship between stress and time horizon
In times of increased stress our ability to think with a longer time horizon reduces.
This means that in a relatively stress free environment we are able to have a longer time horizon and think about events happening in 6 months time or even a few years time.
As stress increases the time horizon of our plans will reduce accordingly.
A person that is critically ill (highly stressed) is only focused on the next few minutes of survival, as they recover and the stress reduces, so their ability to think in hours, then days, then weeks etc increases.
What that means is, the more stressed your patients feel about the current virus crisis, the shorter the time horizon will be.
They will stop thinking about treatments happening 6 months from now e.g. implants and straightening teeth.
They will start thinking about immediate problems which may arise.
So the question is, what problem are your customers trying to solve now?
A New Type of Problem Being Solved
There are 4 classifications of problems that current patients are facing, in order of ascending severity/seriousness/immediacy:
- “I’m okay now, I have no dental problem, but what if…?”
- “Is it okay if…”
- “What do I do about…”
- “Help me now”
“I’m okay now, I have no dental problem, but what if…?”
These people have no dental problem at the moment, they may be plan membership patients with a healthy dentition that visit you for their dental health check and hygiene appointments, rarely requiring any form of additional treatment.
These patients want to feel you are still there for them in the event of a problem.
“Is it okay if…?”
The people in this category may have an issue they are concerned about, they might want to know “Is it OK if I leave this filling which needs doing for 3 months?”.
These patients may want to contact you to be reassured.
“What do I do about”
Moving along the immediacy scale is patients are likely to have some form of dental problem which needs to be solved, remember, their timeline may well be short so it’s unlikely to be about straightening crooked teeth. It’s far more likely they will want to know about some mild pain they have, a tooth that seems loose or bleeding gums etc.
These patients will want to contact you for reassurance and advice.
“Help me now”
This final group of patients have (in their eyes) a dental need which has to be fixed NOW.
Bear in mind that this is classified by the perception of the patient, not you or any form of government advice.
The reality may be that the patient doesn’t have a dental emergency (clinically) but if they believe they do, then as far as they are concerned, they do.
These patients need an immediate way to contact you to either have their mind put to rest that they don’t have a dental emergency, or for your advice and guidance on how to deal with the situation at present to them.
Engaging with these patients
You therefore need to have engagement mechanisms for:
- Patients wanting to know you are there if they need you – reassuring e-mails and social media posts that you are still working and able to help if required should be the thrust of marketing to these patients.
- Patient looking for reassurance – frequently asked questions section is on your website could be used to help answer these general questions. A simple form on your website should also be implemented to allow patients to make a general enquiry.
- Patients looking for reassurance and advice – as urgency increases a patient is unlikely to want to spend time looking through your website at frequently asked questions etc. They need some advice as they are concerned. If you have the ability to answer your practice phone during the crisis this could work, but I also strongly recommend looking at creating a video consultation.
- Patients requiring an immediate contact – at the furthest end of urgency spectrum patients need away to get in contact with you and possibly have a more detailed discussion. Either advice over the phone or a video consultation should be made simple and easy for the pension to access. Remember, the time line these people will be short, asking them to go through multiple steps and to jump through hoops to be able to contact you may put them off. A simple mechanism whereby a patient can book in a phone call or video consultation with you, when it is at the front of their mind, should be available.
I strongly suggest you use social media and bear in mind the 4 different categories of patient above in your posts. Think about the individual problems that these groups will be experiencing, ensure you have solutions for them and then talk about these solutions on social media.
Communicate with your patients letting them know you are still there, still working and still have the patient in your mind… Even though you might actually be digging the garden or helping a child with homework!
In those e-mails link to the relevant resources so that patients in each of the 4 categories can contact you in a way that is right for them.
Creating a video consultation
I strongly suggest you create a video consultation, it’s actually quite simple using Calendly (scheduling software ) and Zoom (video conferencing software). These 2 systems links seamlessly together enabling you to create a virtual video consultation with booking facility which can then be used via e-mail, on your website or on social media.
It’s also worth pointing out that this can be done for FREE using the website mentioned above.
Here is a video you may want to watch about creating a virtual video consultation.
Should you be marketing during these times?
Have the concerns and needs of your customers changed?
Should your marketing message change?
Should you stop marketing longer term treatments such as implants, veneers and orthodontics?
Yes (remember the shortened timeline)
Should you start marketing about reassurance, the fact you are still there and contactable and that you care about your patients?
Yes, yes, yes!