**Full Disclosure** We (NPI) have a product called NPI Crusader ™ which handles this aspect of our client marketing plans. What follows is not a sales pitch. We’ve just vetted all of the products on the market. We are sharing with you the pros and cons.

One of the most interesting and impactful evolutions over the past half dozen years has been the importance of online reviews. We are sure most of you are already aware of the impact of online reviews and reputation. We are not sure you are aware of how it can help or hurt all of your other internal and external promotion.

You would think a direct one-on-one referral of a new patient from a happy existing patient would be the strongest possible advertising source. The referred patient trusts and respects the advice of your existing patient. What could possibly go wrong? Let’s take a look.

Example One-on-One Referral

Imagine an existing patient, Mindy, is lying at a pool with their friend, Janice. Janice tells Mindy she’s looking for a new dental home. Mindy tells Janice her dentist is Dr. Jones and he is great. Her whole family goes to Dr. Jones. So, Mindy immediately grabs her phone and searches for Dr. Jones dentist.

What comes up on Mindy’s phone?

Look below.

Did Dr. Jones’s website appear first? Nope. It was ALL the dentists named Jones in a geographic area. OK. Where do Janice’s eyes go first? They go to the map to judge location first. Then, subconsciously, her eyes move to the listing below the map, which is closest to her home. Then she says to Mindy: “Dr. Christopher Jones, or Jones Dental Associates in Irving?” Mindy replies with Christopher.

Mind you, Janice is now questioning her friend’s judgment because her dentist doesn’t really have solid ground on his Google business page. They have VERY few reviews and not much of an online reputation to brag about. Because Janice is friends with Mindy, Janice will probably trust Mindy’s judgment and call Dr. Jones’s practice to make her first appointment. Maybe.

What if Dr. Christopher Jones had 47 online reviews, a review score of 4.8, and with further investigation, had 4 new reviews within the last 4 weeks? How might Janice’s viewpoint change if Dr. Christopher Jones was managing his online reviews and rep management properly? Janice would definitely (not maybe) call Dr. Christopher Jones to make her first appointment. And, she would be confident and excited to do so. Perception is reality.

Online Reviews & Perceived Reputation

Online reviews and perceived reputation can make or break your advertising. Online reviews and perceived reputation can persuade a referral to commit to your practice, or create a sense of doubt in their friend’s (your patient’s) opinion of your practice. Online reviews and perceived reputation are not luxuries. They are cornerstone staples of an overall successful marketing plan. In UNP-V3 we discussed the cornerstone staples of an overall marketing plan. Add this to the list.

So, how does a dentist become #1, #2, or #3 in their geographic region? Cheesy Acronym Alert! We hate cheesy acronyms as much as the next person, but here is our contribution in the cheesy acronym category. It is called ACT (Automation + Communication + Time).

Automation:

Much of the challenge in getting existing patients to leave you a review is automating the asking process. Let’s face it, if it’s not automated, it eventually ends up not getting done. You bring up the idea of asking for reviews in 117 monthly team meetings, but the practice inevitably gets busy, employees come and go, there are other more pressing matters, etc., and pretty soon – nobody is asking.

Automation is the key. Here’s what should happen. Software should read your schedule to see who came in today. It should send a text or email, or both, to the patient an hour or so after they leave, or the same evening. It should be automatic. Nobody in your office should have to remember to click anything in your practice management software.

Communication:

The very LAST thing your existing patients should hear, just before walking out your front door, is the following: “Mr. Jones, you are going to get a text from us that looks like this (front desk person has the exact same text on their cell phone to show the existing patient what the text will look like). When you click the link, it will take you to a review site of your choice, where you can leave a review of your visit today.”

That’s it! The end. No more team meetings, finger pointing, or dropped balls. With automation, this end-of-appointment communication is all that’s necessary to improve the number of Google and Facebook online reviews.

Time:

If you see 20 patients per day x 16 work days per month, that’s 320 visits. If you can get 1% of those patients to leave you an awesome Google review, in a year you will have almost 40 Google reviews. Now go look at your competition. How far do you have to go to be #1 in your local market? Now you know how the other dental offices are so popular, but which product/service/program should you choose?

Here is a very handy chart on what to look for and what to look OUT for.

What to Look For

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Good things to look for:Why?
Automatically send text/email (or both) review invitations.It will get done. You will get more and better Google reviews.
Option of sending an hour after the appointment or the same evening.Best results come from those two times.
Allow patients to opt out automatically.Because a handful of patients just like to complain.
Only sends the patient to Google, Facebook, or maybe Yelp.All the other review platforms are nearly useless.
No prospective new patient will see your review.
Your software company can hold you hostage.
Your software company can introduce competition into your listing.
30-day terms – no long-term contracts.Long-term contracts are not necessary.
You keep your reviews, even if you cancel subscription.Because they are your reviews.
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What to Look OUT For

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Bad things to be aware of:Why?
Sending your patients to obscure review sites other than Google, Facebook, Yelp, or Healthgrades.If you give patients the option of choosing a review site that requires no login information, they will be lazy and choose it. You will end up with FAR FEWER but more valuable Google reviews.

No potential new patient will find your non-Google reviews unless they are already on your website. You want your reviews visible on the search engine search results. What good are diner reviews of a pizza place, if the reviews are only visible after you’ve selected the website?

Your reviews can and likely WILL be taken away if you ever decide to cancel your subscription.

If you have a review account on an obscure platform, they can (and have, and will) introduce competition into your account, if you stop subscribing.

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Bottom line: Your goal is to be top two or three in review volume and score on GOOGLE, in your general dental market. Getting there is nearly automatic and very affordable, if done correctly.