Marketing has changed dramatically since the outbreak of the COVID-19 crisis. What looked like excellent marketing prior to the crisis can come across as insensitive and misplaced at this time. Orthodontists can certainly still find marketing companies who will sell them various marketing programs, but it is important to make sure they send the right message, at the correct time.
As we enter this recovery, marketing in orthodontics will be different, for a while. It should rely first on communicating with patients, staying in touch with them, and letting them know how much you care. Communication is a form of marketing. Patients are going to want to know two things. First, how will you keep them safe when they come back to the practice. Second, are there other options for their payments, due to their financial challenges. Not every patient will ask that second question, but many will.
You need to develop scripting about safety, that is shared with all patients when contacting them to reschedule. Be sure to reference what steps the practice is taking, that the practice is in line with all major safety recommendations and guidelines, and mention ADA, CDC, and OSHA for credibility. And, if by the time this is published, the American Association of Orthodontists releases a public statement that is safe for patients to go back to practices, that should be included.
Second, reevaluate financial options. Payment plans may have to be extended. Some payments may have to be reduced for patients to make down payments or monthly payments. This is not only for new patients, many of the current active patients, as well. Rethink financial options and communicate those options to patients. Many will be able to continue with their regular payments, but some will simply not be able to come back if other arrangements are not made.
We know this doesn't sound a lot like traditional marketing. We will gradually return to that. Social media, advertising, and the normal marketing delivery vehicles will re-emerge. But be careful to go at the right pace. Take care of the patients' core needs first (safety and security), before embarking on marketing designed to appeal at a higher level.
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Levin Group is the leading ortho practice management and marketing consulting firm in dentistry. Their mission is to improve the lives of dentists.
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