There are many ways to market your dental practice. By now you’ve probably tried a lot of them and settled on a program that works for your practice, your market and your patients. But marketing for sleep is different than for traditional dental procedures. Why? Most patients don’t know there is something wrong with their sleep. If they do, they don’t think they can do anything about it. They probably think “I’m just not a good sleeper”. And most of all, your patients are probably not aware their dentist can treat sleep. Sure, they know you are the person to see for cleaning, filling a cavity, whitening, braces, etc. but sleep? Why a dentist?
To market sleep to your existing patients and to the area around you, you need to do a few things:
- Raise awareness about sleep-related breathing disorders: the symptoms, dangers and treatment options
- Educate about the importance of sleep to total wellness: mood, immune benefits, heart health, diabetes
- Show them they can get help from a dentist, the choice is not just “CPAP or nothing”
To succeed you need to break through preconceptions. Disrupt. Shake things up. After all, it’s not traditional dental care; there is no aching tooth to treat. The patient needs to understand a problem they may not have been aware of. They need to grasp the gravity and urgency of the situation. And they need to take action to change their life.
Conversations, not Advertisements
Big ideas take time to permeate the consciousness. To change attitudes, you need to start a conversation about sleep, health and wellness. Over time you can build on this conversation, show your expertise and when the time is right, screen, test and propose an intervention.
You can start the sleep conversation in all of the traditional media you already use: postcards, print, radio and website. Introduce the idea that a dentist can help with your sleep problems. This plants the seed. But traditional media offers limited space to truly educate patients on sleep-related breathing disorders.
Social media is a natural medium for this kind of conversation. You can demonstrate your expertise in sleep, and the benefits of dental sleep medicine through thoughtful posting of content over time. As your audience reacts to your posts, you can answer their questions, provide follow up information, even schedule appointments.
Connecting with Patients
The key to breaking through is to show how common symptoms of sleep-related breathing disorders affect everyday life. Since nearly 1 in 5 Americans suffer from some form of sleep-related breathing disorder— and 1 in 15 suffer from a moderate to severe case – symptoms like daytime sleepiness, forgetfulness, headaches in the morning, and of course snoring, are alarmingly common. People with these symptoms need to be screened – they could be living with a dangerous condition!
The good news is that because these symptoms are so common, many people easily relate to messaging that targets these symptoms. As marketers, we can reach them in disruptive, unexpected ways – through humor, informative science reporting and personal stories. To make a difference, we must educate people about what is at risk. Connect with humor and shared experiences, but close with the sobering truth about the dangers. While it may be common to wake up tired – it is NOT normal!
Doing It Right
To be effective, you need to devote enough time and energy to truly join the global conversation about sleep. That means assigning a member of your team to curating a steady series of the latest studies, articles and events about sleep for your audience. Once you’ve mastered this, you can begin creating original content like articles, images, case studies and even surveys to further engage your audience.
Creating a Routine
In the beginning, you should devote at least one hour per day to keeping the conversation moving across your social media profiles. As your audience develops and engages with your message, you’ll l need to devote more time to answering questions, making suggestions and yes, scheduling appointments.
Like gardening, all of this hard work will pay off in the end. The climate is right, the patients are there, but without hard work the seeds won’t grow to their full potential. If you provide engaging content, and truly connect with your audience, your early adopters will be empowered with knowledge and facts about sleep-related breathing disorders. As they experience the benefits of dental sleep medicine, they will pass on that knowledge, carrying your message to new audiences, extending your reach and leading to new referrals.
Brett Brocki is the founder and CEO of N3Sleep and DreamSleep.
Originally published in Dental Sleep Insider, July 2017