Recession-proofing Your Dental Business Marketing Strategy in 2023

There’s an assumption that dental practices, like grocery stores, are immune to recessions. After all, people need to eat. And they still need to take care of basic health issues.

Yet a landmark study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association confirmed what dental professionals who have been through economic downturns already know: patients put off dental appointments and oral care treatments in recessionary times.

An analysis of dental visits in the US between 2003 and 2015 by Albert Guay and Andrew Blatz revealed a noticeable decline in dentist visits during the Great Recession (December 2007- June 2009). Only 38.4% of the American population during this time visited a dentist, a remarkable decline. Visits to orthodontists among working adults aged 19+ dropped from 1.1% in 2008 to 0.7% in 2010 as the recession was ending.

With rumblings of a possible downturn on the horizon, the question is, what can dentists and orthodontists do to recession-proof their business?

Marketing is one area where there are strategic opportunities to set a practice up to succeed… through good times and bad.

We spoke with Dan Bergeron, President of Everbrave Branding Group. As an authority on dental marketing, Dan shares four suggestions for dental practice owners.

1. Focus on improving your web content so you rank higher in online search.

“In today’s digital age, no matter your business, you can be sure that your target customers will be doing their research online.”

According to Bergeron, a recession is an excellent time to pursue low-cost/ high-return strategies that increase your odds of being found online.

He shares a few easy wins that will improve your content – and help increase your website’s search rankings.

a. Expand your web page content:

Does your website have pages with just a paragraph of text? Did you know that web pages rank higher when they have more information than less?

The more educational information and helpful advice you share, the more Google will consider you a subject authority, which helps improve your Google ranking,” Bergeron says. It’s also important to avoid reusing or copying content from other sources. Website content should be uniquely written for your website, or at a minimum, edited to be in your brand’s tone of voice. 

Dan’s Pro Tip: “I recommend web pages have a minimum word count of 500+ words. Break longer text into shorter, easily digestible sections.

b. Add a Q&A section to your website:

When people use search engines, they’re seeking answers to their questions. Q&A sections are a smart way to draw traffic to your website. If you can provide the solutions, you’ll increase the chances of coming up in their search queries.

c. Keep new content coming:

Search engines reward sites that regularly post new information. Blogs provide a great way to achieve this. There are endless topics to choose from (like an article answering FAQs). Just be sure to keep it simple for patients to understand.

Want more tips for marketing your office? Download the free guide to learn more tips for helping with your online presence.

marketing guide download

2. Encourage patients to post online reviews.

“For years, the bulk of new business has come from patient referrals. But today, people aren’t simply asking friends and neighbors. They’re seeking recommendations from credible sources like Google Reviews,” Bergeron reveals.

“The more patients you can convince to give you a glowing review on these platforms, the better. Many of your best patients will be glad to share their positive experiences. If you want to show appreciation and encourage patients to participate, you might consider giving a small incentive… like a $5 coffee gift card.”

3. Invest in memorable patient experiences that set your practice apart.

“Whether it’s a vacation or visit to the mall, people are looking for experiences,” Bergeron says. “Businesses that do things to set themselves apart tend to thrive.”

In the dental world, he gives the example of pediatric practices that invest in creating cool, interactive spaces that put smiles on the faces of young patients.

“A lobby that creates an immersive underwater world with mermaids, pirates, and sea creatures really stands out and gets talked about. They’re good for business and a fantastic way to put patients at ease. Nowadays, we’re even seeing this approach extend into adult practices as well.”

While this approach involves a more considerable investment, Bergeron says it can provide invaluable exposure and measurable ROI. This is most often realized through a higher rate of patient referrals as well as improved retention.

While investing in a renovation may seem like a good idea when the economy is booming, Bergeron points out that when the market cools, construction costs tend to go down – contractors have less demand for their work, and materials drop in prices, making a recession is a good time to renovate and build.

“If you have available capital, a downturn is a good time to invest in the future.”

4. Turn down the pressure and focus on prevention vs. treatment.

As a dentist, you’ve worked hard to build relationships with your patients. But according to Bergeron, dentists and orthodontists should show empathy and understanding in uncertain economic times.

“People are anxious. Money is tight. If a patient feels unduly pressured into a treatment that an insurer doesn’t cover, you may risk scaring them off,” Bergeron says.

Instead, Bergeron recommends turning the conversation toward prevention strategies and sharing tips to stop the problem from getting worse.

“It shows patients that their health is your top priority and that you understand their reality. Consider it an investment in your long-term relationship – and a recession-smart business strategy for your dental practice.”

Recession-proofing a dental business involves regular brushing!

Bergeron says that recession-proofing a dental practice through enhanced marketing efforts doesn’t start with the first forecast of an economic downturn. It requires a consistent and persistent effort at every stage of your patient relationship.

“The more work you put into growing and delighting your patient base, the harder it will be for them to leave you. And the better shape you’ll be in to weather a financial storm.”

Check out these related resources for improving your marketing efforts:

Why You Should Have a Blog on Your Dental Website

How to Get Online Reviews for Your Dental Office

The Importance of a Website for Promoting Your Dental Practice

Contact Imagination Design Studios (IDS) to get started transforming your office from a mundane to magical patient experience.

Want more tips for marketing your office? Download the free guide to learn more tips for helping with your online presence.

marketing guide download
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