Before we dive in to today’s topic, I’d like you to spend a minute recalling one of your most cherished memories. Most people don’t necessarily recall every minute detail, but their memory as a whole encompasses multiple senses. For example, a memory of one particularly magical Christmas many years ago won’t be limited to a vision of gifts piled up next to a decorated tree. It’s more likely to include, say, the smell of cinnamon and pine intermingled with the flavor of cocoa and the sound of a Yule log crackling in the fireplace, or the feel of crisp wrapping paper ripped to shreds beneath your fingers.
It’s a full sensory experience, powerful enough to conjure up the same memory in all its intensity decades later, but why?
The Impact of Sensory Branding, or 2+2=5
Now, pretend you’re a patient instead of a dental professional. You don’t eat, sleep, and breathe dentistry, and you don’t relish the exquisite touch of latex gloves in the morning. When you think of your upcoming root canal treatment, you think of the stereotypical dental experience. In sensory terms, this breaks down into:
- The sight of battered magazines dated 2010, strewn about in the waiting room
- The high-pitched whirring sound of the dental drill
- The touch of metal to sensitive teeth and the chill of subzero air conditioning
- A taste of mint and blood mixed with a hint of rubber gloves
- The smell of cleanliness (not so bad) and particles of one’s own tooth matter (beyond bad)
Although some of the sensory elements patients have come to expect cannot be addressed directly–gloves must be worn, equipment must be sterilized–you have creative license with others. If you can touch on even one of these negative sensory cues, you will have made the patient experience more distinctive and memorable than those of 95% of the dentist offices in the country. Is this not the heart and soul of branding?
Up the Ante With Sensory Cues
Jill and I love the unique touches that our clients employ to engage their patients’ senses. A few ideas that we’ve seen/heard/etc:
- An artistic-minded dentist who covers the walls of his office with artwork. Even the ceiling above patients’ heads in the treatment area features artwork.
- Chairside iPads and tablets loaded with popular movies
- Well-maintained aquariums with colorful fish and plants
- Chairside iPods preloaded with classical music and relaxing sounds, such as ocean waves, rain, and singing birds
- A pediatric dentist who lets children listen to Kidz Bop versions of their favorite pop songs
- Another who uses guided imagery and meditation to soothe anxious patients in the chair
- A dentist who offers patients their choice of complimentary paraffin hand dip or scented neck wrap
- A “dental spa” that provides foot massages during long procedures
- Plush blankets and pillows for cold-natured patients
- Cooling gel-filled eye masks to wear during treatment
- A husband-and-wife dental team whose pet dog snuggles up to anxious pediatric patients (not even kidding)
- Waiting rooms stocked with complimentary hot teas, gourmet coffee, and bottled mineral water
- Goodie bags containing toothpaste in nontraditional flavors, such as ginger, lavender, green tea, and blackberry
- Giveaways of sugarless gum with xylitol
- Dentists and hygienists who wear peppermint-scented gloves
- New patient welcome kits that contain scented body products and candles
I’m not suggesting (or am I?) that your patients will come to view root planing and scaling with the same wide-eyed wonderment that they feel around Christmastime. I’m saying that if you create a more appealing, multi-sensory environment, you will create a positive association in patients’ minds that will improve relationships, encourage compliance, and generate word-of-mouth referrals.
How do YOU incorporate the five senses into the patient experience? Share your stories in a comment, or post to our Facebook Wall.
About Jill: As the CEO and Director of Business Development for MDPM Consulting, Jill Nastasia uses her years of experience in diverse industries to generate creative, effective solutions that are as unique as our clients. To connect with Jill, call or text her at 972-781-8861, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Looks like someone needs restorative dentistry
Remember the good old days when the average dissatisfied customer or patient only told nine or so people about an unpleasant experience? It seemed like a huge deal! Nine people? Today, social media has all but blown that number out of the water. If you’ve somehow angered a Yelper, you’ll be lucky if only nine hundred people read it. Online review sites are a mixed bag–incredible publicity in a hard-to-control, slightly terrifying forum. We’ve seen some dentists who hope that perhaps online reviews as a means of communication will just fall out of fashion with patient, never to be seen again.
Online Review Sites Are Here to Stay (Sorry)
The good folks at Software Advice recently shared research from their 2013 IndustryView study, which used Google Consumer Surveys to gain insights from 4,515 adult patients in the United States. A few things stand out:
- Healthgrades is the most popular site for finding online reviews, although more patients trust Yelp!
- When searching for a new provider, most patients begin by reading online reviews.
- Patients who read online reviews are most interested in the accuracy of previous diagnoses, years of experience, and average wait times.
“She said WHAT on Yelp?!”
When you pour your heart and soul into your practice, even a single negative review amid dozens of favorable reviews can send you into a tailspin of disappointment, resentment, and even anger. In a world made increasingly transparent by social media, however, a response made in the heat of passion could spell disaster for the positive reputation you’ve worked so hard to cultivate. You need a plan of action for dealing with persnickety patient reviews. Again, I’m focusing on Yelp! reviews. The specifics for other online review sites, such as Healthgrades, Insider Pages, and Citysearch, may differ slightly.
- Verify that the review does not violate the Yelp! content guidelines. For example, a review that relays secondhand information, constitutes harassment, or contains offensive language is in violation of the site’s rules.
- Review the complaints made in the review to determine what action, if any, could have been taken by you or your staff to avoid the problem.
- If possible, determine the identity of the patient who left the review. Reach out to the patient privately to discuss these concerns and, if necessary, explain what steps you have taken to prevent similar issues from occurring in the future. Absolutely DO NOT initiate this exchange in a public forum. HIPAA violation, anyone?
- If you are unable to identify the patient, respond to the review publicly to express your regret that the patient did not have a positive experience. Invite the patient (again, no names) to contact you for further resolution.
Yelp does not allow businesses to remove unfavorable reviews, so unfortunately the complaint will still be visible to site visitors. However, the site does allow its users to edit reviews. This means that a patient who receives a satisfactory resolution to his or her problem will have the ability to update the unfavorable review even after many months.
About the author: Jill Nastasia, CEO and Director of Business Development for MDPM, began her career in the mortgage industry, but you shouldn’t hold it against her. It didn’t take long for Jill to discover that dental marketing is where it’s at, though, and she hasn’t looked back since. To connect with Jill, call her at 972-781-8861, or send an email to email@example.com. “Sure, I’ll Like you on Facebook…if the price is right.”
Everyone wants to be the “cool” dentist, the one who has hundreds of Likes and a string of followers to re-tweet their updates. You know that a strong social media presence will benefit your practice by increasing your visibility and generating word of mouth. The only problem? It’s been months since you created your Facebook page, but you still have only a handful of fans. Perhaps, you think, our lack of followers makes us seem uncool. You have two options to boost your social media presence. You can do it the right way, integrating social media and blogging into your current marketing strategy, or you can do it the Newt Gingrich way.
You Mean the Wrong Way?
Exactly. In 2011, the Gingrich PR machine decided that his paltry Twitter following was unworthy of a Presidential candidate. Instead of using social media to engage, entertain, and inform voters, someone took a shortcut and paid for nearly 1 million followers. Gingrich was left with egg on his face after a staff member alerted the press to the fact that 92% of his followers were dummy accounts-for-hire. These accounts, which you can purchase on dozens of websites, are typically generated en masse and lack user photos, valid email addresses, comments, and updates.
Is Padding Your Numbers Really That Bad?
- Social media analytics lose all functionality, because you can’t analyze an imaginary friend. You have no way to determine what works and what doesn’t.
- The number of followers has negligible influence over whether a user will subscribe to your updates. More important are the quality, frequency, and variety of your content.
- A large number of followers who don’t comment, share, Like, or post to your profile affects your rate of engagement, raising red flags in the eyes of legitimate social media users. The fact that someone “Likes” your page doesn’t automatically make it likeable.
- It’s dishonest. Period.
Social media isn’t a numbers game. I admit that I feel a surge of pride each time MDPM gains a new fan (Hint, hint), but the value of social media stems from opportunities to build long-term relationships with current and would-be patients. Quantitative data, such as what you find in Facebook Insights and Twitter Analytics, only goes so far.
About the Author: With her winsome personality and affinity for cat pictures, Jill Nastasia, CEO of MDPM Consulting, doesn’t have to worry about buying Facebook friends to look cool. Sometimes she gets tired of people offering to pay her to be their Facebook friend. She’s turned down Mark Zuckerberg at least 4 times now. That guy never gives up.
A Livonia dentist who’s near and dear to my heart recently asked Jill how his business Facebook page could like or recommend another business, or photo, or person, or anything. Her answer was, options are very limited. You’ll have a lot more opportunity doing these things as a human, but as a professional. Here’s my advice for MDPM dental website clients – and any dentist who wants to make his mark on Facebook.
Don’t Let College Joe Ruin Joseph Q. Doe, DDS’ Reputation
I’ve seen both sides of the spectrum: dentists who like to post shirtless beach photos of themselves on Facebook, and those who think Facebook is the devil. Both profiles, and dentists who fall in between, need to create a human, or personal, Facebook page, dedicated exclusively to professional interactions. So, if you don’t have a Facebook profile, create one under your professional name. If you do have a profile you use for personal stuff, create another one dedicated to the professional you.
What to Post as a Professional
Relevance. That’s what it’s all about. You must relate to your professional connections on a personal level. That’s what social networking is – sharing information as a human, and participating in the lives and ideas of others. Do not use your professional Facebook profile for ads and special offers about your practice. Leave those posts for your business page. Instead, share some of your tasteful family photos, discuss community events, the school district’s success, and congratulate specific patients on promotions, new babies, marriages, and anniversaries. Be real, but be professional.
Step By Step
- First, log out of Facebook. Read More