Phase 1 of the Consumer Decision Process (Need Recognition) Explained

 In Clinic Growth

If you have read some of my other blog posts you’ll know that I am a big proponent of the consumer decision process. Understanding the SEQUENCE in which consumers make decisions allows us to know the SEQUENCE in which we market.

The 5 Stages of the Consumer Decision Process

  1. Need Recognition: “I don’t like the alignment of my teeth” – In this stage the consumer acknowledges some kind of problem.
  2. Information Search: “what are my options for straightening my teeth” – In this stage customers seek out information or methods that will straighten their teeth. Some people may talk to their friends or read up online about the pros and cons of traditional braces, veneers, Invisalign® etc.
  3. Evaluation of Alternatives: “I’ve decided on Invisalign®, which dentist should I see” – In this phase of the buying process the customer has decided to use Invisalign® to straighten their teeth, and focuses on WHICH dentist to go see. The customer will have a set of buying criteria to determine who to go see. Subconsciously most people have a few criteria that are really important and others that aren’t so much. Buying criteria may include price, proximity to their home, ease of access, whether their insurance is accepted, perceived quality, etc. Often patients get information by asking their friends or researching nearby dentists online.
  4. Purchase Decision: “I choose this office” – In this stage of the buying process the consumer decides which office they are going to go see. Typically this decision is made as a result of a direct referral, a conversion optimized website, a rock-star receptionist who answers any questions (objections) and closes a consultation, and finally a good sales pitch by the dentist.
  5. Post Purchase Evaluation­: “I love my new smile” – The last phase of the buying process is deciding if they made the right decision. If the customer is happy you should be able to leverage them with rebooking’s, referrals, and reviews. If they had a bad experience they may write a negative review or tell their friends not to visit you.

In what sequence should I focus my time and money?

When it comes to investing your money, it is really important to flip the funnel upside down and focus accordingly.

  1. Post Purchase Evaluation – Before you spend any money driving traffic to your website, you need to make sure your patients have an awesome experience. Otherwise they won’t refer their friends and rebook and we spent a bunch of money getting a patient through the door who isn’t going to help us grow our business. Little things like greeting a patient when they walk in, hanging their coat, bringing them tea, etc. can go a long way. I always think about how much more I like flying first class compared to economy – As far as the treatment goes, pretend you are the consumer – you would want clear communication, honest feedback, and an emphasis on care. Don’t be afraid to invest in technology, equipment, and staff that can take your service experience to the next level.
  2. Purchase Decision – You need to make sure that your website is doing its job and converting clicks into calls and that your front end is doing their job converting calls into appointments or consultations (for bigger sales). Make sure both emphasize why your office is better than your competitors. Address buying criteria and use proof points to clearly communicate WHY someone should choose you. Invest money into training your team and have a bonus structure in place so that they are motivated to do the best they can. As far as converting website traffic, look no further, that’s my job! Book a complimentary call with me and we can go over how to optimize your site.
  3. Evaluation of Alternatives – People research online, mostly on Google and often from a phone. Make sure you are coming up when people search for relevant keywords and that your site is optimized for mobile devices you’re your business provides a great experience, it’s time to give me a call and let me work my magic.
  4. Information Search – If you are doing the above 3 things well, the next thing you have to do is have a good content strategy for blogging (which helps your SEO and social media). Blogging is the best way to publish content on your website for when people are just searching around for information. Not only will blogging boost your SEO, it might even get you some new patients through the door with “longer tail” keywords.
  5. Need Recognition – In this stage of the buying process you have to convince (or remind) someone they have a need. As a general rule, this is the most expensive and least effective way to get a new patient through the door, so make sure you only invest time and money with this phase of the marketing after the above methods have been prioritized.

Breaking Down Need Recognition

Also known as a branding campaign, marketing for awareness is extremely expensive for small and medium sized businesses. You are basically hoping that your message gets in front of someone who is looking for your product or service but has not yet made a decision. Alternatively, you are hoping that your message can CREATE a need for the product.

Let’s examine the 2 different types of messages used in an awareness campaign:

Message 1 – General Message where you are hoping someone who hears the ad is actually looking for a dentist (imagine this being said on the radio or TV)

“Are you looking for a new dentist? Come in today and receive a new patient exam and cleaning for $99”

Message 2 – focused message where your aim is to create a need

“Did you know that having a great smile leads to better wages, more fulfilled relationships, and more confidence? Come in to ABC Dental to learn how we can change your life by changing your smile!”

Now in both of these examples you might get new patients through the door, what we have to focus on is HOW MUCH MONEY will it cost to do so.

Awareness Marketing Concepts in Action

Here are a few definitions:

Reach – The number of people who have the potential to see or hear your ad

Engagement – the number of people who actually see or hear your ad

CPM – Your cost to reach 1000 people.

Frequency – the number of times an advertisement is played (tv and radio)

Spot – the creative or advertisement ( you might buy a 30 second spot for tv advertising)

What marketing companies don’t think about is the actual size of your target market. Let’s use an example to better explain this. I’ll do my best to make up realistic numbers.

Suppose you are a dentist in San Francisco and “Star Radio” comes to you telling you advertising on the radio is an amazing way to grow your business. Let’s make up some numbers:

Reach – 300,000 people listen to Star Radio

Frequency – Your 30 second ad will be played once a day for 6 months

Cost – $50/ 30 second spot

Term: 6 months

So $50/ ad * 1 / day * 180 days = $9000

At this point you are probably thinking, wow only $9000 to be on the radio for 6 months. But here are some things to strongly consider….

  • Of the 300,000 people your reach, how many of them are actually LOOKING for a new dentist? Using Google’s keyword tool, we can see approximately 5000 people search for a dentist in San Francisco each month.
  • Of the 5000 people who are actually looking for a dentist, how many of them are within a 15 minute commute to your office? Let’s say 1000 people.
  • Of the 1000 people, how many of them can afford to pay out of pocket for your services, or have insurance that you accept? Let’s say 250

So really you are spending $9000 to market to 250 QUALIFIED customers. It get’s worse. Think of when we listen to the radio. Almost exclusively in the car while driving or at work. All of the people at work are PASSIVELY listening, so even if your ad comes on during work, there is a good chance your target customer isn’t engaged. As far as driving goes, (assuming the person doesn’t change stations during advertisements), even if someone hears your ad, chances are they forget the name of the business or can’t write it down because they are driving.

This type of logic can be used for radio, tv, newspaper, billboards, etc. The point is, it doesn’t really make sense to pay thousands of dollars getting your ad in front of people who don’t actively want your service.

It’s SIGNIFICANTLY cheaper and more effective to invest money online to get in front of people ACTIVELY looking for a new dentist.

Not sure if you are wasting money with some of your marketing initiatives? Schedule a free call with my and I’m happy to give you a free assessment of your marketing initiatives!

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