One of our top dentist clients called us this past September with a big problem. After experiencing steady patient flow for quite some time, his new patient cases suddenly slowed down, way down. He was understandably concerned and needed some help. So, my team dug in to do some research. What could possibly cause potential new patients to suddenly decide not to choose him when looking for a dentist? We were very perplexed so we dug deep into the depths of the Internet and finally, we found the culprit. On July 18th, a disgruntled patient left a negative review of her experience with the dentist on Yelp.com. And what do you know…that was exactly when his new patient flow began to decrease. The case was solved and we came to one very strong conclusion. Dentists can’t afford to ignore online patient reviews. Why? Because people read them.
Bad reviews can cost you good referrals
Our client was in shock that just one unsatisfied patient could impact his practice in such a big way. But he shouldn’t be. Consider these statistics:
- One negative review on a social media website can cost a business 30 new customers. (Convergys, March 2012)
- 84% of Americans say online customer reviews have an influence on their decision to purchase a product or service. (Opinion Research Corporation, April 2009)
Today’s customers are conditioned to read reviews before they decide to buy. We can thank the proliferation of Internet use for that. In other words, your potential patients want to know what others have to say about you before they book a first appointment. If they read just one negative review, they will likely move on to the next dentist. What’s more is these patients have no point of reference when it comes to the validity of a negative review, they simply have no other choice than to believe what they read on reputable review and recommendations websites like Yelp or social media like Facebook or Twitter.
By now you might be thinking, “But I’m a dentist, people are usually referred to me by another medical professional, a close friend or a family member.” That’s still true, but with one added caveat. A recent HubSpot survey found that 51% of customers think user-generated content (which includes online customer reviews) is more important than the opinions of their friends and family. The bottom line? Whether a potential patient found you through a referral, directory listing or a billboard ad, they are still going to Google you before they make an appointment. Plain and simple.
Protect your rep (and your marketing budget)
Leaving your online reputation defenseless is much like leaving the front door to your practice unlocked, it’s just not something you can afford to do. You’ve worked hard to create a thriving dental practice, so why leave your success up to the judgment of one negative online review from a patient, ex-employee or an overzealous competitor?
We believe that a great offense is the best defense. A solid reputation management plan is the foundation to any great marketing campaign because without it, any online or offline marketing initiative you invest in will be ineffective if negative online reviews are undermining it.
If a client finds you via a referral or traditional advertisement, they will at the very least need to use Google to find your address and phone number to make an appointment. And what will come up in the Google search? That’s right…any positive or negative reviews from past or current patients and employees. So, even if your marketing campaign worked and got them to consider choosing you, in the end, poor reputation management from negative online reviews will end up costing you that new patient.
So what can you do? You can take control and “protect your rep” by following these simple steps:
- Check Yourself Out – Google yourself and your practice name. Is what you see positive or negative? Getting a good feel for your online presence is the first thing you should do.
- No News isn’t Always Good News – Don’t see any negative reviews? Kudos! But, it shouldn’t deter you from putting a proactive reputation management strategy into place, so if any negative reviews are posted about you, you will know immediately and can proactively address it.
- Take Control – Focus on controlling as much of the content on the first two pages of a Google search as possible. There are definite steps you can take to try to push any negative information down in search rankings. How? By creating positive content through fresh blog posts and making sure you have profiles in all local directory listings and social media websites.
- Think Positive – Ask your best patients for positive online reviews. Make it easy for them and have your staff remind your patients to give positive reviews immediately after an appointment. You can do this as they are checking out at the front desk.
- Turn Lemons into Lemonade – If you get a negative review, respond to it, preferably right away. A shocking number of businesses choose to ignore negative reviews, so you will set yourself apart by even addressing the issue. In some instances, you can turn an unsatisfied customer into a brand advocate for your practice!
Our research team at BullseyeMedia just released our latest eBook on the subject, “4 Essential Online Dental Marketing Strategies.” If you want some instant strategies and specific recommendations on how to proactively protect your online integrity, you can download it for free at https://onlinedentalmarketing.com/4-essential-online-dental-marketing-strategies/.