Word of mouth has always been the best marketing strategy for dental practices – in a 2015 survey 88.3% of dentists surveyed named word of mouth as their top source of new patients.
Is that still the reality? I talk with hundreds of dentists every year, and recently I’ve heard that referrals are in decline. I’d guess that 80% of the dentists I speak to still rely on referrals, but worry that this tried and true source of new patients is threatened by new technology. The majority of people looking for a local service like dentistry now go online to search for a dentist. Doesn’t that mean that word of mouth is no longer the powerhouse it used to be?
Technology changes, but people don’t. Your patients may still share their opinions at the school drop off area or the coffee shop, and their friends still trust their recommendations more than they will an ad. The difference is, word of mouth has expanded from the physical world into social media.Word of mouth has expanded from the physical world into social media.
Social Media: The New Word Of Mouth
Instead of relying on a handful of friends or family members, people needing a new dentist look to a larger network of influencers. Facebook friends are trusted advisers, and seeing a friend Like the Facebook page of your dental practice can be enough to inspire a visit.
But working on social media may not be the best use of your time. Taking selfies in the office or creating content to post might not be your style. For many busy dentists, just thinking about developing and implementing a social media strategy is discouraging. A time consuming new activity is the last thing you need.
Those concerns may come from what you hear about social media marketing. But that’s not the word of mouth part of social media. You don’t have to be a Facebook star to benefit from social media.
“You just need to set up a mechanism that helps your patients do the work for you!”
It’s all about the check in
When you visit your Facebook page, you have the option of sharing a photo, typing in some thoughts, or posting a link to your favourite cat video. But you can also check in – tell your friends where you are. It just requires a click on the map pin icon below the “What’s on your mind?” prompt on your wall.
Imagine you are a new dentist in Bundoora; when a patient checks in, the name of your practice, along with a map and a link to your Facebook page, appears on their wall. This means that hundreds of your patients’ Facebook friends see your information. Since your patient shared this information, it’s an endorsement from someone they know and trust – the strongest kind of marketing there is.
Imagine Brian, who has just moved into your town. He needs a new dentist. When he sees check-ins from a couple of his Facebook friends in town, he will naturally notice you and put you on his list of dentists to consider. What’s more, his friends who check in will get a message from Facebook asking them to leave a review of the place where they checked in, so Brian may click through to your Facebook page and see their positive reviews as well.
How can you get your patients to check in at your practice? Ask them. Here are five easy ways to encourage check-ins:
- #1: Use Facebook stickers or table tents to encourage the check-in without your saying a word. Facebook’s PDF file is set up so you can print it on cardstock and cut out table tent signs, or print it on sticker paper and cut out the individual images to apply to your wall, clipboard, or anywhere else your patients will see it.
- #2: Train your receptionist to suggest that patients check in. 15 million Australians use Facebook, so chances are good that many of the people in your waiting room would be visiting their Facebook pages anyway. Checking in is a fun way for them to connect with their friends – and they’ll be endorsing your practice to those friends at the same time.
- #3: Encourage team members to check in occasionally. Not only will this reach your team members’ Facebook friends, but patients who see the check-ins will be inspired to check in, too.
- #4: Post a message on your website asking your patients to check in. For many of your patients, it just takes a reminder.
- #5: Offer exclusive deals to people who check in. You can find a list of check-ins at your Facebook business page and add these people to a list in your patient database to keep this easy. Or offer a discount at time of check out to people who show on their phones that they’ve checked in.
Facebook allows you to offer a prize, gift, or discount to people who check in, but social media rules change frequently. Make sure that you aren’t breaking the rules of any social media platform you use, or you could end up losing your account.
Apart from making sure that you follow the rules of the social media platform you’re using, you can be creative about encouraging check-ins. Once you get your mechanism in place, your patients will do the work for you.
“Social media extends word of mouth and gives it an even greater reach than it had in the past.”
Take advantage of this one simple tactic and get the most out of the new word of mouth.