Let me take you on a trip down memory lane.
It’s the early 1980s, and you’re at the dentist’s with your mum. She’s gone to check in at reception, and you’re sitting in a musty waiting room, surrounded by stacks of mouldy old Good Housekeeping magazines. A TV in the corner is playing a daytime soap. An elderly gentleman is snoring in the chair next to you, while a toddler charges around looking for something sharp or toxic to put in its mouth.
It’s hardly a fond memory, is it? And yet many dental practices still seem to be pulling out all the stops to recreate this classic experience for their current patients, complete with period-authentic furniture and magazines. The only choices on offer are boredom or anxiety. I don’t know about you, but this is one part of my childhood I’d rather not revisit.
A boring waiting room is a missed opportunity
Retro waiting rooms not only make for a terrible patient experience, but they also represent a huge missed opportunity. After all, a waiting room contains every marketer’s biggest dream: a captive audience!
As a practice owner, this is your chance to connect with your patients, whether that means offering useful information about their upcoming treatment, informing them about various products and services they might purchase, or simply creating a more reassuring and welcoming environment for them to spend time in. With a small investment, you can boost product sales while making your patients feel valued and engaged – and in this blog, I’m going to show you how!
My waiting room marketing journey
I’m happy to admit that I worked for years as a practice manager without giving much thought to waiting room marketing. My eureka moment came when I was on the treadmill at my local gym. Like most gyms, the proprietors had set up a bank of TV screens opposite the equipment, and as well as news and sports, they were showing ads for restaurants, car dealerships and so on.
It hit me in an instant: if the gym was taking this opportunity to market to its members, why couldn’t my practice do the same? As soon as I got back to my desk, I started researching AV equipment.
My first strategy was to fill a USB drive with the images I wanted to display – special offers, testimonials, team bios and so on – and plug it into a digital monitor which played them on a loop. This worked well enough to begin with, but we soon ran into issues.
For instance, to keep things fresh and up-to-date, new content had to be created and uploaded onto the USB stick at regular intervals. This turned out to be quite time-consuming, and my reception staff were reluctant to take on the extra work.
It was at this point that I came across XOGO Digital Signage – a platform that allows businesses to wirelessly broadcast content to screens across their premises. With XOGO, you can upload images or video to your monitors from any networked computer, making it much quicker and easier to keep the new content flowing.
A better way to do waiting room marketing
Using XOGO it’s easy to create custom playlists of video and images from a blend of different content: special offers, seasonal greetings, news about the practice, and so on. I typically set up a loop of around sixty minutes, which ensures that patients won’t end up seeing the same material over and over.
The system is simple to pick up, and once I’d mastered it, I was able to delegate the work to my front-of-house team, who absolutely love using the software. It’s produced great results for us over the past couple of years.
Let me explain…
During the pandemic, I tuned into a webinar with a dental business coach who was interviewing a marketer about a new bespoke service they were offering to dental practices. For a monthly fee, the marketing company creates promotional content according to your specifications as well as providing a set-top box to broadcast it in your waiting room.
This was the first time I realised that this kind of service was available, and it sounded like an excellent product. However, when I saw what they were charging I realised what a big win it was for us to have set up our own marketing system. As well as saving on fees, we have complete control over our own messaging, allowing us to show our patients what we want, and where and when we want it and for a fraction of the cost of done for you paid service.
Uses for waiting room marketing
There are all sorts of different things you can do with waiting room marketing – here are just a few ideas to get you up and running!
If you know you’ve got private patient leads coming in to talk to your treatment coordinator about a product like Invisalign, you can prime them for this meeting by showing them informational content while they wait.
Companies like Invisalign usually have videos available for you to use for free, so it’s simply a case of slotting them into your regular playlist. This will help pique your patient’s interest, setting them up to get the most out of their meeting and increasing the likelihood that they will sign up for the procedure.
One of the best uses for waiting room marketing is to advertise consumables available for purchase in your practice’s shop. This raises patient awareness of your products and supports your staff in meeting their upselling targets. We’ve had great results marketing products like OrthoDots and Curaprox, bringing in thousands in extra revenue per month for the practice.
At East Midlands Orthodontics, we’re delighted to count many young children amongst our regular patients, and our usual policy is to encourage them to go in and see the dentist by themselves (this helps manage the number of bodies in the treatment room – an especially important priority in a post-Covid environment). Sometimes, this can cause anxiety and distress both for the patient and their parents.
More often than not, the real problem here is uncertainty. The child is scared because they don’t know what’s going to happen in the treatment room, and the parent feels unable to reassure them because they don’t know either!
To tackle this, we’ve put together short videos explaining how different procedures work, how long they take, what they feel like, and other common questions. This has really helped reduce fear and uncertainty amongst patients of all ages and created a noticeable drop in the amount of distress and worry in our waiting room.
Shaping the patient experience
Ultimately, waiting room marketing is your chance to shape the atmosphere in your practice by taking control of the image you’re sending out to your staff and patients. How you use this opportunity is up to you! You might want to give your patients a bit of background on the practice and your staff; to wish them a happy Easter, Christmas, or Diwali; or to remind them that you’re always open to hearing feedback about their experience.
No matter what messages you decide to send, having a slick waiting room marketing system will help project the image of a practice that’s ready to push the envelope by experimenting with new technologies to provide the best experience for its patients, instead of being stuck in the 1980s with the soaps and the Good Housekeeping magazines.
The strategies I’ve just described can be applied by any healthcare practitioner, so please feel free to share them with any doctors, podiatrists, or physiotherapists you might know! And sign up to my mailing list to receive my new articles as they are released each week.