To be successful in dental marketing it’s time to think beyond advertising and reviews.

It seems like online reviews have been around for decades. In reality, it only started heating up in 2012. That’s when Google, Yelp, Facebook, Trip Advisor and Foursquare (remember them?) started to compete for people’s opinions. This is when we added focus to these platforms.

When I do marketing consulting, I push practices to be great at five things:

  1. Branding
  2. Advertising
  3. Patient Experience
  4. Social Proof
  5. Referrals

Social Proof is extremely important in obtaining new patients as well as retaining existing ones.

Over the years I’ve written articles on how important online reputation management is and why platforms like Google and Yelp are so important. I even investigated the rumors about Yelp taking down bad reviews for paying advertisers (there’s no proof they did this.)

I have stressed with clients the need for Birdeye, Podium, or any other system that can help their office grow positive reviews. But now it’s time to think beyond those reviews. 

Are reviews still important?

I’m not saying reviews aren’t important. I’m consumer-driven so I always look at marketing from the consumer’s eyes more than I do the practice. For some people, online reviews for the service industry are becoming unreliable. Especially because these platforms mentioned earlier will allow people that never used the service to post reviews.

Right now, people still trust them. It’s part of their checklist as they search for a provider.

Mainly they are looking at the overall score and to see if there is a common theme among negative reviews.

They also look heavily at how the practice responds to these reviews. Respond harshly and that will cost you. There’s no doubt the best way to combat a negative review is to have numerous positive reviews. So yes, they are still very important.

What else do you need besides online reviews?

This is the danger ahead. As a society, we are more tribal than ever. We all have online places we go to talk to our tribe. If you need a good example of what I’m talking about head on over to DentalTown and check out the message boards. For a lot of dentists, it’s a great resource for getting questions answered and to get opinions on clinical and business subjects.

If you look deeper, it also has a lot of people competing for their opinion to win out. It can even get a little contentious at times. As a marketing consultant, I look at both clinical threads and business service threads to see what’s important and how dentists respond.

There are numerous occasions where a business gets mentioned and people who have never worked with that company post something negative about them.

That’s the internet and it’s something we all have to adapt to. Now think about how this might affect your practice. Where are people searching for you?

Social Media

Social Media is the obvious answer since this is where people love to get opinions. Remember several years ago when people “asked for recommendations” on Facebook? They still do but now they’re getting more specific. They don’t just want the opinion of all their friends. They have begun to trust the opinion of people they have never met on “Facebook Groups.”

When I hear my wife talk about where she found a good deal, an awesome service provider, or a great restaurant it’s from her “mommy group” on Facebook.

Just like Dentaltown, these are closed groups you have to be accepted. You need to identify the ones that are most important to your local area and get accepted.

Anyone can post anything in these groups. Imagine one of these mommy’s posting that their child was so upset after leaving your “family dental practice” and that everyone should avoid you!

Better yet, imagine someone posting that they heard that your practice isn’t good with children. They have never even been into your practice, but it won’t matter. Once this circulates the damage will be done. What can you do?

Reputation Management

I’m a firm believer that reputation management is an internal job and one that needs constant attention. To make sure you’re present in online conversations do the following:

  1. Set up a Google Alert. It won’t help with everything but it’s a good start.   
  2. Set-up a Facebook profile for the owner. It should be a personal profile and not the one they use every day. This should be the one your patients follow you on. Be sure to label it differently and to have separate Facebook profile pictures. Facebook will take down accounts they think are duplicates.
  3. Use this profile to join local groups. You don’t need to join them all just the ones local to you with a lot of members.
  4. Make it a habit for the designated person in your office to monitor these groups daily. If they do it daily it will be fairly easy to keep up with and won’t take that much time. It also allows them the opportunity to jump in when someone asks about a dentist or dental service.
  5. Set-up a Nextdoor business account. This isn’t as important, but I have seen dentists recommended on this.
  6. ASK YOUR CURRENT PATIENTS! What groups are they in? Where do they find local service providers? Ask them “Besides Google, where do you go to find a hairdresser, plumber, HVAC company, etc.?” You might discover something you didn’t even know existed. 

How do you combat the negative?

If you don’t want to lose sleep over the possibility of people talking negatively about you then be a great practice people want to talk about! One thing I have learned in researching consumer behavior is that people will defend the people they are loyal to.

Creating brand advocates builds practices organically. This means less advertising, higher practice valuations, and overall job satisfaction. But it also means you have an army of loyal followers ready to defend you if anything bad is said and ready to refer you when someone asks for a recommendation.

Being this type of practice means you have engaged leaders, engaged teams, and engaged patients that are all there to support you.

The journey to success begins with what you say to yourself and your team. Make it positive and infectious and you will build the loyal following that makes you love going to work every day!

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