Editor’s intro: Reaching out to millennial patients and parents takes a different mindset and approach to social media. Julie Yoemans shows how.
Marketing consultant Julie Yeomans discusses how to reach out to a growing market or prospective patients
In the September/October 2018 issue of Orthodontic Practice US, I shared important insight from author Maria Bailey and her excellent book Millennial Moms: 202 Facts Marketers Need to Know to Build Brands and Drive Sales (available on Amazon). Millennials (born between 1980–2000) became the largest consumer group in 2015. As a patient, their decision-making process is completely different from what you have previously experienced, as is their ability to pay for treatment. Also, they perceive value, trust, and financial decisions differently than any other prior generation. Traditional marketing won’t reach this group, so you have to think creatively as well.
In a changing landscape of consumer demands, what are some important social media themes to address in your marketing strategy? In this article, I will also address the “elephant in the room” — strategies to counteract the current treatment option available for patients at home.
The recent growth in the last 2 years in at-home aligner treatment shows that over 250,000 patients have chosen one company to start treatment. But on a positive note, there are some takeaways we can learn as an orthodontic industry. Beyond price, why do patients feel this is a good choice? And how do you make a consumer take pause when choosing between DIY options and a licensed orthodontic professional? One main answer is that potential patients are not receiving education on the importance of choosing an orthodontist as they are searching for information on social media and Google. To give these potential patients the facts and information they need, you want not only to integrate education posts with treatment result posts, but also to share some core values of your practice that will make it an easier decision for patients to make the right choice to have their treatment done by an orthodontist.
Further insights from Bailey’s book suggest promoting benefits that are already offered in your practice on your social media. Don’t forget to broadcast this news also on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. These sites are important to the “Millennial Moms” and probably to your entire social media community.
Here are some important aspects of your practice to weave into your social media.
No. 1 — Affordability, benefits, and financing
With the rising financial college costs incurred by millennials upon graduation, student loan debt is a huge financial burden.
Millennials are saddled with college debt that pushes them to seek low-cost options for their orthodontic needs. U.S. News and World Report recently published 20 years (1998-2018) of tuition cost increases by the 300 top ranked national universities in its 2019 Best National Universities rankings report.1 Here’s a quick breakdown:
- The average tuition and fees at private national universities have jumped 168% since 1998.
- Out-of-state tuition and fees at public national universities have risen 200%.
- In-state tuition and fees at public national universities have grown the most, increasing 243%.
A recent article on CNBC.com noted, “The average monthly student loan payment for borrowers in their 20s is $351, and the median monthly payment is $203. That means that Americans in their 20s with student loan debt each have an average balance of about $22,135. Millennials in their 30s may have been dealt the worst hand of all. Twelve million people between the ages of 30 and 39 hold a whopping total of $408.4 billion dollars in debt. So while fewer 30-year-olds still hold debt, those who do have even more to handle.”2 This record-level financial college tuition debt will affect millennials’ decision for treatment.
It’s easy to see why a less expensive and convenient option to orthodontic treatment is intriguing to this millennial patient base that wants to improve their appearance and fit the treatment in their monthly budget. Of course, you cannot compete on the DIY price, but with potential insurance benefits and financing, patients may realize your fee is more affordable than they perceived. Share frequently on your social media untapped orthodontic insurance benefits that can be applied in your practice and affordable financing options for the balance of treatment. Sharing local employer benefits on Facebook and Instagram may also be a good strategy as well as contacting HR departments on specials for their employees.
For the typical consumer, understanding insurance coverage is frustrating and overwhelming. Your treatment coordinator and financial manager sharing those little pieces of knowledge will be enlightening and positive for your community. Share it on your YouTube Channel, occasional Facebook and Instagram posts, and tag the corporation if appropriate (their followers will see your post), and extend the offer to research their benefits for them.
No. 2 — Educate why it’s important to choose an orthodontist
In a February 2018 blog post for Delta Dental of Washington, Dr. Kyle Dosch, DDS, Dental Director, wrote the following in an article titled “At-Home Invisible Aligners and Your Dental Coverage”: “The statistics around DIY invisible aligner treatments don’t lie. In 2017, the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) found that 39% of orthodontists who reported seeing patients after an attempt at DIY therapy had to provide some form of corrective dental treatment to address problems caused by patients trying to straighten their own teeth.
“It’s for these reasons that DIY treatments, orthodontic or otherwise, are not a covered benefit. As a dental benefit carrier, we have an obligation to help protect you. That’s why our dental benefit plans only cover treatment provided and completed by a licensed dental professional. Please keep this in mind when planning orthodontic treatment for yourself and your family.”3
Your office knowledge with your regional insurance providers on their coverage of at home orthodontics would be invaluable with your online followers and dental community.
It’s important to share why your experience and education makes your office the best choice for orthodontic treatment in the online space outside of your website. Educate, educate, educate — it’s easier than ever and almost free on social media. The more “un-produced” a video is, the more authentic it is perceived.
The AAO is taking a more active and aggressive role in educating the public on safety of treatment with an orthodontic professional, but it’s also important that you help the cause. For regional patients, it’s more likely your videos, posts, and blogs will come up in a local organic search. YouTube thumbnails with engaging titles such as “Orthodontics is not a safe DIY treatment,” and a 2-3 minute video will serve your practice well. Share your team’s expertise on insurance research and affordability of treatment with a specialist. Doing so will plant the seeds for when the patient is ready to get started.
One way to educate and to introduce yourself to potential patients is by making a video, which is not such a difficult process. Recording video at a close distance with good sound (no echo) and good lighting is important and easy. Coach Glitter (Instagram @CoachGlitter Facebook pages CoachGlitter1 and website coachglitter.com) has easy tips to record effective live videos. Dr. Dovi Prero (Instagram @PreroOrthodontics — website PreroOrthodontics.com) has one of the most popular orthodontic Instagram accounts with very active engagement. His posts, “likes,” and “comments” are very impressive — you can check out his social media and get some pointers on how you may want to approach your own videos.
Both Coach Glitter and Dr. Prero are great teachers to study from in social media strategy and entertaining video shots. It’s not hard to put your practice on the “live” social media map, and you actually may enjoy your inner celebrity.
Another key to good videos is good lighting and sound. Stellar Lighting Systems out of Los Angeles (stellarlightingsystems.com) has a high quality “go live” kit with an adjustable clip light for your phone and desktop tripod that will make a difference in your videos for $23.99. There are cheaper versions on Amazon, but this is the best light I’ve seen to “up” the quality of your video educating your community. Lumee.com also has a great phone case with lighting built in for selfies on the go both forward facing and on the back of the case for $69.99. Be authentic, educate effectively, and have fun being your true self.
It is also critical to plan a monthly social media and YouTube schedule and rotate topics. Posts should include, but not be limited to, education, treatment success, affordability, philanthropy, experience, office personality, humor, love of patients, family, and community — rinse and repeat. You can also pre-schedule when these posts go live, so it is all done at once, and you are ready for the month. The online free site Canva allows you to create posts in a matter of minutes, and be sure to add your logo to the image (watermark app), so it stays with your page. Also, be sure to reply to comments daily in connecting with your community.
No. 3 — Report advances in your dental technology and how this will benefit your millennial patients
Author Bailey notes that millennials “want it now and want it fast” as well as wanting instant gratification. Orthodontic treatment can’t be as fast as an Amazon package at the doorstep, but technology advances put you in the running to promote convenience and efficiencies.
Ease of scheduling and communication: Millennials do not want to make phone calls but prefer online scheduling and text. Invisalign® has a local store in San Jose that offers an online service to schedule appointments much like the OpenTable.com experience on the website for an initial consultation.
Hopefully online patient-facing systems will allow this trend to integrate into your current website and scheduling programs to streamline the new patient process. Ask your providers where they are going with these tools to meet the trends in convenience to the millennial population. In the meantime, consider a dedicated number a patient can text to schedule appointments or ask questions versus email. This saves a lot of time for the Millennial Moms, and they will most likely make an appointment right away. Promote this ease of scheduling and communication in your social media platforms.
- Explain how easy and fast the initial consultation has become because of technology in your practice. Ensure the benefits of your new iTero® scanner and the quality of information it produces (versus sending selfies and impression material in patient records to at-home treatment companies), and the importance of full records for evaluation. Preview how long the process will take, and you will make it easy for millennials to understand their treatment plan and financial cost.
- Share cutting-edge technologies that make treatment more convenient, comfortable, and faster. Some orthodontists are choosing to differentiate their practice through accelerated orthodontics (including MOPs, vibration, or low light level therapy) or lingual brace technologies like SureSmile® and InBrace. Figure 5 is one example of how Dr. Todd Dickerson in Phoenix, Arizona, promotes acceleration on his Facebook page to his patients and referring practices. Dr. Dovi Prero in Figure 6 highlights innovations of InBrace customized lingual brackets to his Instagram audience as another efficient esthetic treatment option.
Ease of scheduling, records and treatment modalities present a huge opportunity to promote on your website, to your referrals, and social media community — and to point out that these innovations are only available with a licensed provider. Technology has changed the landscape completely, and it’s exciting.
Whatever you integrate that benefits the patient experience, convenience, and treatment outcome — promote it and promote it often. Educate your patients as to why specialist orthodontists are important, show your technologies and successful treatment results, and you will have millennials entrusting their smiles to you in the years ahead.
- Boyington B. See 20 Years of Tuition Growth at National Universities. September 13, 2018. https://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/paying-for-college/articles/ 2017-09-20/see-20-years-of-tuition-growth-at-national-universities. Accessed December 27, 2018.
- Hess A. Here’s how much the average American in their 20s has in student debt. CNBC. June 14, 2017. https://www.cnbc.com/2017/06/14/heres-how-much-the-average-american-in-their-20s-has-in-student-debt.html. Accessed December 28, 2018.
- Dosch K. At-home invisible aligners and your dental coverage. Delta Dental website. February 12, 2018. https://www.deltadentalwa.com/blog/entry/2018/02/at-home-invisible-aligners-and-your-dental-coverage. Accessed December 28, 2018.