Every day, I hear talk and read articles about the importance of advertising. I've seen – and used – multifaceted online marketing strategies, worked on fine-tuning Google and social ad campaigns, and had plenty of conversations on how to improve conversion rates.
But throughout all my years in the dental industry, do you know what's been the single most effective advertising tool I've seen? I'll give you a hint - it isn't the latest social search automation or Google Adwords optimization tool. It's plain, old-fashioned customer reviews.
Think about it. When you're trying to decide what kind of new gadget to buy, find a new doctor, or even decide where to go for dinner, you might be influenced by an ad - but how much more impactful is it to hear a positive recommendation from a friend? Even in the digital age, word of mouth is still the most powerful form of marketing. Online customer reviews are just another form of word of mouth, adapted for the online era. According to a 2016 study by BrightLocal, 84% of people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendation. It’s likely that your prospective patients have read and researched you and your office before they even pick-up the phone to make an appointment.
That's why I highly encourage every dentist in and outside the Heartland Dental network to ask patients for customer feedback and testimonials. Chances are that as a dentist, you work hard to help your patients maintain a beautiful smile and you treat your patients with care and kindness. But without patient testimonials, there's no way for prospective patients to see the work you're doing - and a happy patient will usually be more than willing to provide a brief testimonial on their experience.
While positive reviews are always gratifying, negative reviews can be harder to swallow. Don’t let the sting of a negative review upset you. While negative reviews can seem, well, negative, they may prove to be even more valuable than positive ones. They’re important because they’re straightforward. They force you to take an honest look at the feedback you’ve been given and improve upon it. If you have time to respond to reviews, both negative and positive, that’s great! However, be sure you’re especially addressing those that are negative. If you receive an unfavorable review, formulate a well thought out response to the commenter to let them know you’ve acknowledged their concern. They’ll appreciate that you care, and it will speak volumes to those reading through your comments too. With the right response, you could turn the complainer into a patient again. The reality is nobody’s perfect, and having a mix of negative and positive reviews makes your business authentic.
Getting testimonials is simple. For most patients, you can just ask and they'll be happy to provide feedback. If you want to aggregate more reviews, you can try implementing a rewards program where you give some kind of gift to patients that leave a review. Another great strategy is to set up a tablet, computer, or plain old binder in your office that lets patients leave a review on their way out. This is effective because it takes the effort out of leaving a review, and it's a great strategy for increasing the number of testimonials you have.
It's still important to make use of traditional marketing and advertising channels for your practice, and you should still list your credentials and other value propositions on your website. But more than that, patient testimonials are one of the most effective ways to assure prospective patients that you're the right choice for them. So instead of trying to hone in that new Google Adwords campaign, spend a little time this week asking patients for a testimonial. I think you'll be quite pleased with the results.