The dental industry has experienced the highest peaks and the lowest valleys within the past two years. As most of us know, the pandemic created economic instability, political volatility, and tremendous uncertainty. Within the dentistry field, where one-on-one contact is essential, safety is still a primary concern.

However, as 2021 draws to a close, things are slowly returning to normal—and we’re learning what the world may look like as it moves forward. Despite staffing shortages and widespread layoffs, built-up demand is keeping the dental industry busy. To make the most of it—and to maximize your marketing budget—consider these top online dental marketing trends and their effects.

Preparing for an Uptick in Office Visits

2020 was a bleak year for most of America, with unemployment hitting all-time highs. And, as shown in a recent report, just 24% of adults believe that companies put customers’ health and safety first when making decisions. Thankfully, those beliefs haven’t stopped people from scheduling dental check-ups.

As the year goes on, new protocols and high vaccination rates have brought a resurgent demand for dental care. The worst effects of the pandemic have passed, and dental offices are looking toward their future growth.

While the world is recovering, the pandemic did expose a few vulnerabilities in the dental field—and many practitioners realized they needed more support. Dentists who were unsure about forming or joining a DSO (dental support organization) are now realizing that it may be a good idea after all. Many expect dental practice consolidation to reach its peak during 2021 or 2022.

A Focus on Improving the Customer Experience

As patients return to dental offices around the country, they’re coming back with higher expectations. From pre-visit communications to check-ins, every aspect of dental care has been affected by the events of the past two years. It’s not the patients’ job to address these issues; that’s up to the practice and its marketers.

To prepare for the next year, dental practices should assess various touchpoints on the patient journey, from entry marketing to post-appointment follow-up calls. Where it’s needed, enhance and improve these interactions so patients feel heard, empowered, and comfortable with the care they receive.

The ways dentists communicate with their patients can ensure a better customer experience. Dental marketers should focus on:

  • Scheduling and availability
  • Telehealth and in-person visits
  • Prioritizing non-elective procedures
  • New safety protocols
  • Contactless payments

It’s also important for dental practices to optimize the digital experience. For instance, updates to a website’s navigation and content structure will make it easier for patients to find important health and safety information.

Empathetic and Prompt Communication

In a world where most people’s daily routines have changed, from scheduling appointments to their expectations of what will happen once they arrive, patients still need up-to-the-minute information. And, while communication has always been an important part of dental care, it’s become more vital than ever before. People are still stressed out, and it’s up to dentists and their marketing teams to reassure them. Dentistry brands should strive to build patient relationships based on trust and empathy. After all, more than 70% of people tend to mistrust brands that put profits over people. In simple terms, a dental practice’s words and actions are more visible than they’ve ever been—and that trend shows no signs of stopping.

According to the report referenced above, almost 80% of survey respondents see doctors as credible brand spokespeople. Most patients want brands to reach out with essential information, and that puts dental professionals in a great position to reach existing and potential patients.

Bonus Trend #1: Changes in Content Marketing, PPC, and SEO Strategies

For dental practices, optimization of online marketing spend is always a priority. In the past two years, many offices shifted away from content, PPC, and SEO marketing, at least for a while. As things return to normal, though, many marketers and dentists are wondering how they can rework their budgets to give patients the support they need.

Organic traffic is still valuable and targeted pay-per-click ads can still generate appointment requests—but tactics have changed. Furthermore, valuable content is still a great way to support dental office demand generation strategies.

Bonus Trend #2: Considering the Importance of Emerging Marketing Technologies

Many dental offices have noticed significant increases in comments, concerns, and questions sent via phone and email. If there’s no way to handle these inquiries in a methodical, organized manner, dentists risk employee burnout and a diminished patient experience. Depending on a practice’s size, an owner may consider new technologies that can take on part of the burden. For instance, chatbots can answer questions at any time of the day or night, which gives patients the information they need while helping dental practices save time and money.

Bonus Trend #3: A Renewed Focus on the User Experience

One thing that online dental marketers stress to their clients is the importance of an improved user experience (UX). In a recent blog post, Google announced that its search engine will now consider UX indicators when assigning rankings. To improve those rankings, dental offices must create easy-to-use experiences for patients seeking care and information. Websites should load quickly, they should be accessible on a range of devices, and their information should be easy to find.

Patients Are Still the Top Priority

In evaluating these online dental marketing trends, the importance of patients and the user experience can’t be understated. A dental practice’s ability to advertise, communicate, and deliver empathetic service will be a key differentiator in the next year. No matter where a practice directs its efforts, UX and patient care should still be the main goal.

While demand generation is important, dentists and their marketing teams should think about how their strategies fulfill patients’ needs. If a marketer can make it in a volatile market and connect with patients in ways that bring value to the process, their practice will soon climb its way to the top. People are always going to need quality dental care, but they’re becoming more selective and media-savvy than ever. It’s up to individual practices to decide how they will position themselves to capitalize on these online dental  marketing trends during this year and beyond.

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