Category Archives: Communication

How your marketing message should change during the Covid-19 crisis

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:

  1. “I’m okay now, I have no dental problem, but what if…?”
  2. “Is it okay if…”
  3. “What do I do about…”
  4. “Help me now”

The way we answer those questions and the mechanisms we use e.g. social media, e-mail, websites will change accordingly.

“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.

Social media

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.

E-mail

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.

Summary

Should you be marketing during these times?

Yes.

Have the concerns and needs of your customers changed?

Yes

Should your marketing message change?

Yes

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!

Covid-19 Dental Practice Communication Advice

Latest update – 23/3/20

What follows are my findings and understanding of the best practice for communicating with patients during this crisis for dentistry in the UK.

As the situation unfolds I will add additional resources and information to this page, please ensure you visit regularly to see the latest updates.

This page will NOT focus on anything clinical, there are other resources for that.

23/3/20 – Digital communication checklist if the practice is forced to close

With more practices closing each day I thought it would be good to create a checklist for your digital marketing.

  • Stop regular social media posting – I’m not convinced that it’s appropriate to continue cosmetic dentistry or other forms of marketing whilst the crisis is in full swing.
  • Begin public service announcement social media posting – giving patients information and advice about the latest virus updates from the government.
  • Place a message about being closed on the homepage of your website.
  • Place a message about being closed on Facebook, use Canva to create an image of this. Images and text messages seem to get better views, so using both will get your message out. Once you have created this post, pin it to the top of your stream so it stays visible.
  • Create a looping message on Twitter with closure details – messages tend to decay on Twitter so the loop, once per week is fine.
  • Notify patients via e-mail, letting them know what to do in the event of an emergency.
  • Update your opening times on Facebook and Google.
  • Consider setting up a Virtual/Digital consultation, please see the post further down on this page

If you think there’s anything missing from this list, please do let me know.

20/3/20 – Creating a virtual initial consultation

With the current situation many dental practices are considering the possibility of closing their doors, having a virtual video consultation gives the ability to remain in contact with potential new patients.

In this video, I (very roughly) explain how to use Calendly and Zoom to set up a virtual video consultation for FREE.

I put this video together very quickly and am learning myself how to get this working effectively, so I reserve the right to make changes to this as the situation and learning develops and grows.

Resources:


19/3/20 – What marketing should we be doing at the moment?

Right at this moment in time, my personal thoughts are that as members of the healthcare profession we should have our patients as a primary focus (to be honest, it should always be like this).

With the current situation most people are going to be concerned about their health and what they do if they have a dental emergency, rather than looking for elective treatments.

My current recommendation is that we continue to update social media streams and create blogs in the same way that we have always done, except this time the message should be focusing around key areas.

  • what to do if you are in dental pain
  • what the practice policy is for keeping you safe if you have to visit
  • what the practice policy is for patients in the middle of treatments (for example, patients that have temporaries fitted)
  • what the emergency policy will be if the practice has to close completely

By keeping your communication streams open, it will help the local community feel less isolated, after all, isn’t that the true role of healthCARE professionals?

Client Note – if you are a client of mine, please keep ME updated with the above information and I can ensure that your communication continues to go out to your patients and local people.

17/3/20 – keep patients up-to-date

3 things to get you started.

  1. Send a communication e-mail to your patients letting them know that you are dealing with the situation. I recommend you follow Chris Barrow’s suggestion and download his example.
  2. Be clear that your advice may change to patients over time as the situation evolves.
  3. Let patients know that you are actively involved in information groups enabling you to make the best clinical decision at any given moment.

Modify Your Opening Hours

In view of the present situation with the Coronavirus (COVID-19), provide your customers with the most up-to-date information about your business:

  • If your business hours have changed, adjust your opening and closing times.
  • Update your business description with information on whether your business operations are affected by COVID-19. You can also let your customers know about extra precautions your business is taking.
  • Make sure your phone number is correct so that customers can reach you.

As the situation evolves and you need to modify your opening hours, be sure to keep all of your listings around the Internet up-to-date – especially your My Business listing on Google (previously Google maps) and your Facebook page.

Client note – If you are client of mine and I am managing your search optimisation then I will update all of the listings around the Internet in one go, please let me know of any updated opening hours so that I can keep everything in sync.


Places/people to go for support