Evidence-based marketing for your practice

Ashley Latter explains that providing evidence for your message can be as important as the message itself

In a previous article (Ireland’s Dental magazine, March/April 2013) I wrote about the importance of using the correct language when you are presenting treatment plans. In the article, I wrote about the importance of communicating features and benefits when presenting to your patients and not to talk too technical.

Although the correct language is important, that just might not be enough to influence your patients. Another thing that might help, however, is evidence.

So what is evidence? Evidence is anything we can use to back up what we say when presenting our treatment options. Let me give you an example of why it is so important. A few weeks ago, I decided to go for a run. I had the evening planned, I was going to come back to a hot bath and then settle down to watch some TV. As I left the house, my wife Graziella was on the computer reading customer feedback on a couple of vacuum cleaners that she was interested in buying. When I came back about an hour later, guess what, she was still on the computer reading these reviews, and she stayed on for a further 20 minutes.

Three things really hit home to me. These were:

1. People read customer feedback before making a decision on purchasing something. 2. The power of evidence and the importance of having good feedback from your clients. 3. People will spend a long time reading and researching before making a decision to buy something – my wife spent the best part of two hours researching to make a £250 purchase.

My gut feeling is that some people take longer. I also know that a lot of people, including my wife, will carefully read reviews from websites such as Trip Advisor before booking a holiday, or hotel. I believe that we are all becoming more investigative and doing our research before we make a purchase, this is mainly due to this prolonged recession that we are currently experiencing.

The one thing that you need to be aware of is that people’s buying habits have changed, probably forever. They are still spending, but there is another barrier in the way before they will get their credit cards out. They need more reassurance and convincing – evidence can play a large part in this.

With this in mind, if people are influenced by reviews and testimonials, how can we take this concept and apply it to our dental practices? In this article, I am going to look at two types of evidence and these are video and testimonial letters.

A good place to start is your website and the most important page, which is the front page.

When people are seeking out services of any kind and they are doing this on the web, they are in fact surfing and not actually buying at this stage. So, after looking at your website, if you have not got them switched on and excited after about 10 seconds, they will most likely leave and go surfing somewhere else. I could fill several articles on this topic and I will for future articles, but let’s get back to the evidence and how it plays an important part on your front page.

I would strongly recommend a short video on the front page. This could feature a short tour of your practice, a short background on yourself and your team as well as the philosophy you and your team abides by. I would also include live testimonials from some of your patients explaining the real benefits and get them to share their experiences by using your services.

I believe there is nothing better than third party references and this will make your video very powerful. Many of my clients have now got a video on the front page of their website and they have reported an increase in new opportunities. I have one on my website http://www.ashleylatter.com and, over the past few months, I have been amazed at how many people have watched the video and commented on how much they like it.

When you are filming the video, I would get your patients to talk about the tangible benefits they have seen since using your services and on how pleased they have been using your practice. In addition, if you think about the top three objections, or reservations, your patients share with you on a weekly basis, then if you can somehow get your patients to overcome some of these themselves verbally in your video, it will go a long way to inspiring your potential clients to make contact with you, which is ideally what you want them to do.

For example, if potential patients are worried about the cost of a treatment, in the video you can get one of your current patients explaining the real benefits and that the treatment was a great investment of time and money. This will not only increase the volume of calls to your practice, but it will help increase your treatment acceptance.

Another advantage of using video is that it can help promote your services and create new sales. Let’s say, for example, you are an orthodontist specialising in providing treatment for children, if you feature a couple of testimonials from adult patients, it should encourage more enquiries and sales of adult orthodontics.

Testimonial letters can form another part of your evidence and these are extremely powerful. In short, these are letters from your patients explaining the benefits they have gained by using your services and having the treatment carried out at your practice. In the same way as video, they should address the major benefits they have gained by using your services and, if possible, address any objections your clients may have.

Once you have obtained several letters, then I strongly suggest that you place them in a nice leather folder, or something similar, place it in the reception area and, of course, have one handy in the surgery. By placing them in a nice folder, it will give them more meaning. Of course, you would need to have your patient’s permission to use these, but if you do an outstanding job for your patients,on the whole they will want to help you.

I cannot stress the importance of obtaining this type of evidence. As I stated before, we are living in increasingly challenging times and having third-party evidence to show to your potential and current patients is one of the best ways to improve the number of calls to your practice and also increase treatment plan acceptance.