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Debbie Seidel-Bittke, RDH, BS is known as a top dental consultant by Dentistry Today.

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What Does The #Icebucketchallenge Have to Do With Your Dental Practice and Profitability?

By: Debbie Seidel-Bittke, RDH, BS

September 11, 2014

Over the past month you have probably notice a lot of videos of people dumping buckets of ice and water over their heads. This is NOT the result of global warming but a viral phenomenon which brings awareness to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. You may wonder “What does the #Icebucketchallenge have to do with your dental practice and profitability? And WHY would I write about this in a dental blog?!

The idea of dumping ice water on your head because of a cause is really not new or innovative, and in fact it was not originally associated with ALS. How did this movement lead to a record number of donations to ALS research over such a short period of time? AND what can we learn from the ice bucket challenge that can benefit your dental practice?

There are a few ideas that I have to bring in overdue dental hygiene patients as well as gain new patients. Halloween is around the corner and why not participate in the Halloween Candy Buy-Back Program? Invite parents to come by your office with their children and drop off their Halloween Candy. The children will receive $1.00 for every pound of candy these bring to your office and in return you can donate to the armed forces or replace with something healthy. Possibly you will choose to donate fruit or healthy food to a hospital or food bank in your area.

The holidays are around the corner so maybe an open house for patients. They come to your open house as a CELEBRATION and “THANK YOU for Being a Patient at Our Office!” Think of this as a patient appreciation event. Offer prizes on the hour for those who do come to your event. Now is the time to get the word out to your patients and get your idea to go “viral before the holidays are here and gone.”

These are just of the ideas that came to mind when I thought about what we can learn from the Ice Bucket Challenge.

How you can use this Ice Bucket Challenge to promote patients New and Patient of Record, come to your dental office?  Here are some suggestions you can expand upon to bring back patients and get new patients coming to your dental office:

  • Target an audience where you know your patients will be and make certain that even potential new patients will discover your innovative ideas that ultimately attract them to your dental office. Most people are communicating on their smart phone and social media accounts so make sure to take advantage of communication via these methods.

Do you have access to send out a newsletter to your patients? Let your patients know what special events you have going on at your office. Tell your patients specific dates and time to come by the office and participate in your event. Invite your patients to bring their friends and neighbors with them. Have a raffle or hourly give away during your event. Most people want to know WIIFM (What’s in it for me).

If you are making a donation for a cause, let people know about this when you promote your event. Most people feel good knowing they are doing something for a worthy cause. If you are donating the candy or if you will exchange Halloween Candy and bring fruit to a community food bank, let your patients know about this plan.

  • If you are making a donation let your patients know how they can also personally make a donation instead of this be all about your office making the donation. Let your patients participate at any and every level possible. Provide a website in your communication where they can participate if they prefer to just make a donation.
  • Provide a specific time and date that you will have your office “challenge,” open-house or Halloween Candy Buy Back event, etc. Post the date and time in your newsletter, on your website, and your social media pages, etc.
  • This is a perfect time of year to promote an event for your patients. Many dental offices believe that September is a slow month, why not make time to plan something big for the end of year to bring in your patients and gain more New Patients? Why wait until January 2015 to get a plan in place that will increase your dental practice profits? When you know it is going to possibly be a slow month, create a plan for success. Be proactive not reactive to a slow month.
  • You may not have realized it but the Ice Bucket Challenge started as a generic summer charity challenge and ALS- focused campaign in late July 2014, when members of the Boston College community and Boston College Alums, Team Frate Train, adopted this practice as a creative way to raise awareness in the Boston area. These groups overlapped and created a domino effect that quickly spread throughout the New England area and then led to national exposure.

This may seem like a pure stroke of luck; the involvement early in the challenge of several high-profile sports and entertainment celebrities who were associated with each of these communities had established social media followers, and they also contributed to this huge momentum.

Do you want to know how to help gain exposure for your dental practice? Use the hashtag with all of your social media postings. In our SEO-driven world, your campaign will spread more effectively when you remember the hashtag. Possibly use your dental office name with the hashtag in front of it to create more SEO exposure for your office. Example: #HarborCoveDental

The hashtags will make it extremely easy for people to search and learn more about your efforts. Create some videos; take pictures about your event just using team member smart phones and post on social media, on your website and in your newsletter, when you send out your event information.  And when you have your event also post pictures and videos of the event in the same ways that you promoted it.

Fast-moving campaigns like this will start to  gain traction and notoriety; frequent users of social media, i.e. your patients, naturally want to get on the bandwagon to show they are part of the in-crowd. Instead of waiting to get challenged, you may want to post your own videos from your dental practice proactively. People in general, think it’s cool to be involved!

In the case of the Ice Bucket Challenge, some people have gone to great lengths not just to participate, but to  stand out from the rest of the submissions, creating more buzz–and interest in getting involved. The downside of these types of viral campaigns is that they tend to go from “white hot” to “ice cold” quicker than you can fill a bucket with a bag of ice.

When members of Team FrateTrain issued the Ice Bucket Challenge to their base, they did not set out to make it a huge viral hit, nor did they have a large fundraising goal in mind. They simply wanted to raise awareness about ALS and Pete’s fight among as many people as they could. By focusing and executing this goal all by itself, the rest of this exposure happened organically.

Whether you are running a small dental office or a large group dental practice, creating the next world-changing event, or promoting  a new service in your dental practice (Such as just INVISALIGN, a new whitening service, etc,) for your existing patients, understanding how to leverage social media effectively to gain awareness and traction for your efforts is crucial.

Good business marketers already know this, but even the best have a hard time actually getting it right. By incorporating some of lessons we have learned from the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, and setting reasonable expectations for success, you can give your next marketing campaign a better chance to gain traction and provide a boost to your growing dental practice and get patients coming to your dental office. Now… consider yourself challenged!

Did you glean any great ideas to get patients coming back to your dental office? If so, I’d like to hear about them in the comments section below. Please do tell.