Over the past decade, the way we search for and consume information has changed completely. The World Wide Web, social networks, cellular communications, sophisticated search engines, and even digital advertising entered our lives starting from the mid-1990s, but only during the past decade did the information revolution go into high gear. Access to information, once the domain of a few, has become a commodity. One of its signs is the low price of a smartphone, the basic models of which are priced starting from $ 50.

Indeed, it seems that the World Wide Web is increasingly touch-screen-based. The year 2015 marked the turning point when Google announced that more than half of its search engine requests came from mobile phones. In 2017, it even began to proactively lower the ranking of sites that are not mobile-friendly – with the goal of “educating” the website owners’ community and further expanding the transition from computers and keyboards to touch screens.

This means the end of the “consumer content revolution” that began in the late 1990s, and the transformation of the average web user from an active creator of significant content – for example, a personal blog – into a passive consumer who uses the touch screen to search, watch, stare and purchase, while sometimes sharing a photo or a video. A content creator needs a keyboard, while a consumer does not.

Who are these consumers? Until recently, it was thought that the search for everything on the Web was the domain of the younger generations – the millennials and the centennials, generations Y and Z, born after 1980. Thousands of articles and millions of words have described the Millennials as the greatest threat to the 21st century labor market … Until one day we woke up and realized that some of these “youngsters” had already crossed the age of 35, and they currently comprise the world’s largest workforce, as well as its key current purchasing power.

And as millennials mature and occupy key positions in households, workplaces and public institutions, the general public undergoes a process of “rejuvenation.” Consumer trends that characterized the younger generations in the not so distant past are now invading older generations as well. This is a natural process, because the technological literacy of the young retirees, aged 60 and 70, who worked with computers in their workplaces, is significantly higher than in the past. We are not surprised to see seniors booking flights and vacations via the Internet without the help of an agent, and a 90-year-old grandmother with an active Facebook account is no longer a rare sight.

It is therefore clear that the information revolution has a profound and comprehensive impact on the labour market and services. Certain professions are about to be destroyed, and whole employment sectors are undergoing far-reaching changes to adapt themselves to the digital world. The world of dentistry also undergoes changes to adapt itself to the global economy and to the demands of our patients, who have become accustomed to the availability of endless information and immediate satisfaction of all their needs. Therefore, “single visit dentistry” has become a token marketing advantage of many doctors who use CAD/CAM systems in their clinics, and those who are still engaged in multi-visit dental surgery, are sending lab work to giant Chinese laboratories, taking advantage of the global economy to decrease day to day costs.

It is from the understanding that we live in a new, dynamic and changing consumer reality that we can offer the dental clinic a number of simple and easy to implement solutions that will restore some of the control over the recruitment and retention of patients in the practice.

Web and Social Media Presence

All online publishers compete for the user’s attention, which splits between two main platform types: the “free” internet, comprised of numerous different websites and more-or-less completely regulated by Google search; and social media platforms, closed systems providing excellent and quite targeted exposure due to an enormous number of users. These two platform types do not care how we spend our time, as long as we spend it in their domain. They do, however, take every step possible to offer more segmented and efficient advertising, and tempt the users with convenient applications where they can manage all of their communication needs without ever leaving the platform. Anyone who tried to link a YouTube video (owned by Google) in a Facebook newsfeed must have noticed that the video link was posted on his “wall”, but the number of views, likes and comments it has is close to zero. Facebook prefers not to show its users the way to another platform, belonging to its big competitor; In fact, it prefers that we not get out of it at all, and if one has a video to share – he can use Facebook’s tools to share it to Facebook users.

The conclusion is that a business willing to increase its exposure must maintain presence on both platforms – a website or a landing page searchable by Google and a business page on Facebook.  The good news is that creating a business page on Facebook does not take much time, and a simple web site of a page or two will do the same job, if not better, than large, multi-page sites or “dental encyclopedias” that many doctors maintain in their sites for almost no-one to read.

Why is no one reading our great articles?

Most internet users looking for a dentist or hygienist do not want to read about tooth decay, periodontal disease, or how is an open sinus lifting performed. First and foremost, they need usable information – where the clinic is, what days and hours it operates, what treatments are provided, and how to schedule an appointment. These details should appear prominently on every page of the site so that they catch the eye during the first second of viewing. Many users do not devote more than a few seconds to the site, and if they do not find what they want – a convenient and efficient way to contact your business – their attention will likely be diverted, and they may even forget what they initially came for. Be sure to always highlight the way to contact you – by phone, Facebook messenger, or using an online form. Don’t worry, you will be able to elaborate as much as you want on the causes of periodontal disease when they show up in your clinic…

Direct digital access to the patient

Even before the patient first came to your clinic, and certainly when he gets in and fills a personal information form, the two most important details on the form are his cell phone number and e-mail address. These two, more than anything else, will allow you to maintain constant contact with the patient and establish a stable digital relationship. You can send text messages with small, simple reminders to his mobile phone, while the e-mail address will receive longer – but not too long – messages, maybe hosting some of the “dental encyclopediae” you initially wanted to share with patients. An up-to-date e-mail address also allows us to send the patient information about his next appointment. The calendar appointment will be conveniently displayed on the patient’s mobile phone, with a link to travel directions, and the patient will be able to easily confirm his arrival. From that moment on, the phone and the online calendar will send automatic reminders to the patient and even tell him when he should leave his house in order to arrive on time.

The email address and phone number also allow us to contact our patients on the social network. Using fairly simple tools, Facebook can find our patients by e-mail addresses and mobile phone numbers, enabling us to target specific patient groups or find new patients who are similar in their socio-economic profile to the list of patients we have uploaded. Remember, though, that patients with advanced Facebook skills will be able to see that you have included them in your uploaded audience and opt out of it.

Control your business visibility and patient reviews

Consumer studies from recent years show that consumers, including patients, like to rely on reviews by other consumers when they choose a particular service provider, be it a cable network, hotel, restaurant, or a dental clinic. Most platforms, including Google and Facebook, now offer the opportunity to leave comments and rank businesses, and it is very important to take control of these tools and know how to respond when needed – to thank a patient for a pleasant review or to respond politely to a bad or offensive review and try to minimize its damage.

In addition, currently available systems like the Israeli startup MedReviews allow the clinic to send a unique link to every patient and enable them to leave a response, thus preventing the possibility of negative reviews by competitors or patients who have left the clinic with hard feelings. Other review aggregators like Yelp or the Google My Business platform allow everyone to rank. It is important, therefore, to take control of your business profile on these platforms, which is sometimes created automatically or by customers, and properly respond to reviews, both positive and negative ones.  

Sponsored Advertising – Yes or No?

Some argue that paid advertising can help dental clinics recruit new patients. However, many doctors paying as much as $2,000/month in digital advertising fees complain that they burn money and do not see results that justify the investment. The truth is, as usual, in the middle. Limited advertising can help the clinic increase its exposure and reach new audiences – but if your content is boring or redundant, unsuitable for your audience, unattractive and impulsive, it will be a waste of money.

Remember that a sponsored social media message has two goals:

1. To reach a new customer audience and motivate it to act; and

2. Make that audience share your message among their friends and make it “viral.”

In well-planned digital advertising campaigns, “organic” distribution (by shares and “likes”) is much greater than the subsidized distribution. And most importantly – you don’t pay a penny for viral distribution. If your content is good, the users will share it of their own free will, and the results obtained will be significantly better than in paid distribution alone.

Conclusion: Love your neighbor, be clear and concise

We can sum up by saying that we live in the digital age – indeed, a confusing era full of changes and innovations. There is no single good way to deal with the confusion and information overload we experience every day, but it is best to keep our finger on the pulse and keep track of the market. We should also listen to patients and ask them how they got to the clinic. The information gained will help you understand what your patients are looking for and where they found you and highlight your unique attractivity factors to recruit more patients.

At the same time, do not forget – the patients (the “consumers”) are as confused by the information overload as we are. No sane person can digest all the information he or she is exposed to on an average day in 2019, and this thought alone makes most of us panic. We should, therefore, help our loved ones (patients included) by relieving them of information overload and providing some clarity to their daily lives.

Therefore, if we succeed in being one step ahead of our consumer-patients, enlighten them and dispel some of the confusion through accurate, informative, unobtrusive and pleasant digital marketing, we will become a clear and stable source of information for them, attracting them to our medical businesses. And this is the whole Torah on one foot.

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