In recent months, you may have noticed a drop in leads and a decline in patients opting for non-essential treatments. Don’t assume your marketing campaigns are in vain. In fact, it is more important than ever to invest in your clinic’s future.
In the Harvard Business Review 2010, research showed that “…companies that master the delicate balance between cutting costs to survive today and investing in growing tomorrow do well after a recession.”
Hanging on tight through the more challenging economic times will pay off in the future, especially if you have invested in the future of your practice. Steady and constant marketing campaigns can help you stay relevant, so when patients start to recover financially, you’ll be ready with open arms to receive them.
This has been seen worldwide during the pandemic, where those that invested more in marketing despite the lockdown found success during and after.
So, we know all hope isn’t lost, but it is essential to understand the current consumer changes in order to identify the reasons for the drop in new patient enquiries and conversions you may be noticing. This way, although some things are out of your hands, you can still reduce the effects of the current financial crisis on your healthcare business.
So, what’s going on with the UK economy, and why are we seeing a decline in consumer spending?
- Consumer confidence and consumer finance are at an all-time low
- Confidence in the UK economy has fallen
- UK consumer spending was set to fall throughout 2022
- In March, the inflation rate increased to 6.2%
The world has changed drastically over the last couple of years, leading to substantial consumer changes.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t increase the number of more profitable treatments or that you won’t be able to find new willing patients; it means that you have to understand your current and potential patients in order to offer them the best service.
Understanding consumers during the pandemic
During the pandemic, consumers changed considerably. While previously, word-of-mouth may have been an effective way of getting high-value patients through the door, after Covid-19 hit, consumers started becoming experts after spending so much time online.
Being stuck in lockdown meant they had time to do the research themselves, so now, they know what they want and the price they are willing to pay to get it.
Marketing tactics also changed during this time. Instead of an in-your-face pushy marketing approach, brands started to realise the importance of fulfilling customer needs instead of pushing products.
Marketing went almost totally online, which led to increased social media marketing and ads. With nearly 80% of the UK population using social media at a rate of 110 minutes per day, it is one of the most efficient marketing strategies.
Brands also started recognising that their customers wanted to be heard. They needed to be compassionate towards them and their needs.
The healthcare industry was among those affected the most by the pandemic. Patients couldn’t see their dentists or doctors, and they couldn’t start new treatments. However, as a nation, we learnt to live with the virus.
With Ignite Growth’s help, many dental practices were able to move successfully and smoothly online, providing a much-required service that had been missed during the first few months of the pandemic. This included initial online video appointments.
The video appointments were key in creating patient-practitioner bonds and allowing current and potential patients to get to know the practice, how it works and what they can expect. This trust has been essential in attracting high-value patients to practices.
Unfortunately, just as we were starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, another crisis hit Europe with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Current consumer changes
In March 2022, GfK’s Consumer Confidence Index decreased to -31. That is a five-point decline since February 2022. This shows the impact of the fastest inflation the UK has seen in 30 years, which has led to a massive increase in living costs, with fuel, food and utility prices skyrocketing.
Since March 2022, the index has dropped even further, reaching a staggering -49 in September 2022.
The 1st of October showed the energy price cap being raised again this year. Although it hasn’t been a huge increase this time compared to April 2022, once the price lock ends in April 2023, there is no guarantee it will stay at the same level.
Those that managed to save money during the pandemic due to spending less on holidays, shopping and dining out had more disposable income. These consumers were more likely to spend money on self-care, which was a prevalent new consumer trend during the pandemic. This led to an increase in those looking to invest in treatments such as Invisalign. However, with these rising living costs, potential patients are strapping in for the expected continuing inflation. Those who could have been potential clients of your business are now struggling to make ends meet. Hence you may have noticed a drop in new leads.
A trend we are seeing at Ignite is that some clinics and practices that had initially stopped their advertising campaigns to cut back on spending have decided to resume them. While initially, their outgoings decreased without spending money on marketing, they soon noticed they were receiving fewer walk-in patients and fewer new patient enquiries. They have since resumed their campaigns to get those new patients in. This further demonstrates that although cutting back may seem like the logical solution to reducing costs, this could have a negative impact on your clinic. Our advice? Hang on in there!
Hang in there!
Despite the many factors affecting prices within the UK, understanding consumers will still allow you to find the right ones for your practice. It is expected to see a dip in new leads and conversions; however, now is not the time to give up on marketing strategies.
There are several things that you can do to continue generating more leads and preparing for a prosperous future, even during this tough financial time.
As mentioned previously, compassion is key. This compassion can be put into practice with healthcare businesses understanding that many patients cannot make a large one-off payment for treatments. Instead, dentists offering payment plans can help take the financial pressure off patients, while one-to-one conversations can help to build up trust and allow patients to explore their doubts and fears.
Marketing campaigns are essential now. While you currently may not see huge growth in your business, you need to keep the momentum up, appearing to those patients who are one click away from booking a consultation. The more visibility you have, the more likely you are to find those high-value patients you are seeking. Without these campaigns, you will end up relying on what, post-pandemic, could be considered outdated marketing tactics.
Hang in there. It is a tough time for many businesses and consumers alike. If you have any questions, the experts at Ignite Growth are here to help you, and if you are looking for more information on how to grow your business, you can book a call with the growth team.