Since the late 1990’s games have been growing at an amazing rate on the Internet. I'm not talking computer-based, multi-player games like Black OPS – Call of Duty™ (I’m not a gamer, but I do enjoy battling my 21 year-old son on COD!) or graphic role-playing games World of Warcraft™, but games as ads and games that increase User engagement as part of a rapidly morphing web marketing strategy to promote brands online. We've watched these games evolve from simple (and very annoying) pop-ups offering virtual golf and bowling to social networking apps that draw in millions of users each month.
Brands are employing Growth Hacking’s hottest strategy "Gamification" and enjoying record gains in customer retention, average $ amount per transaction as well as generating referral rates that are off the charts. Gamification quite simply is the process of incorporating games into digital technology in order to make it more interactive - because of its ability to engage consumers.
Brands (and our Dentist clients) that employ the Growth Hacking strategy of Gamification enjoy increased (and extended) exposure, which in turn can provide a dramatic boost in brand recall and even brand affinity. In 2014, Gamification is quickly becoming the hottest path to attracting quality new patients from the Internet. Studies show that the individuals who are considered “gamers” (men and women who are attracted to and participate in online games offered by brands) are a valuable bunch. If you’re foolish enough to ignore the rapidly changing face of dental marketing then you probably won’t be impressed with the fact that seventy-nine percent of gamers have a college degree or higher; forty-four percent earn over $80,000 per year. While you’re sending out lame postcards to residents, your competition (my clients) are getting ready to eat your lunch. But I digress…
Some brands have gone the route of opting to pay for banner ads in games like Farmville and/or Mafia Wars versus investing in having a custom game built for their site. While in-game advertising can be effective, custom games provide a more in-depth brand experience and as a result provide a more effective opportunity to educate (and attract) quality new patient prospects to your practice.
It's the difference between trying to attract new patients with a sign on the side of your building, and getting a new patient in your office and into your circle of influence. One does a good job of letting people know that your dental practice is there. The other shows the prospective patient exactly what you offer, who you are and why they should proceed with treatment.
Games that attract the most attention for our dentist clients include Facebook-based trivia games. The questions incorporate video and photo content that gives the user a sneak peek at what they would look like after cosmetic dentistry, teeth whitening and/or implants as an example. Players spend an average of 10 minutes with the game, and half of all players return to play again.
Regardless of the niche(s) your targeting with your gamification strategy, we can create an online game for you that creates traffic, increases engagement and generates more quality new patient traffic for your practice.
If you're thinking of making gamification a part of your 2014 dental marketing strategy (and you should be), here are a few best practices to keep in mind.
- Make it fun first. The prospective new patients you’re targeting will only engage with a branded game if it holds their attention. The overarching goal is to obviously promote your practice and generate new patient traffic from it, but if you lose sight of the entertainment factor you will end up with a game no one wants to play. Make that mistake and you’ll have paid for the creation of an online game that doesn’t produce.
- Give your game a purpose. “Creating a stronger online presence” in and of itself (as a campaign goal) falls short. Get specific with your objective, and make sure it translates into a meaningful (and effective) call-to-action. If you're hoping to increase your dental implant new patient traffic or increase the number of new Invisalign™ patients you see each month, offer a coupon (that has some value to it) to those who complete the game. If you're eager to enhance awareness of your practice and/or a new service offering, make your game experience dependent on social media shares. (This strategy is one of my personal favorites).
- Be visible. Both within your game and without. Make it obvious to prospective patients that you (your practice) is behind the gaming experience, and make it easy for them to find the game online. A featured position on your practice website home page and a place of honor on your Facebook page and in your Twitter feed are a must for ensuring exposure.
- Gamification in Employee Engagement and Training: Columbus Ohio Family Dentist Terry L. Hughes DDS is set to implement Gamification strategies into his team training. Stats are clear that Gamifying your employee training/engagement programs are a sure-fire way to improve performance, attitude and as a result your patients will notice and you'll make more money.
Employing the Growth Hacking strategy of gamification to your dental web marketing strategy can also encourage good oral health habits while discouraging or stopping bad or addictive habits, based on behavioral change theories that recommend engagement with timely, positive feedback loops to reinforce good behavioral changes.
Gamification strategies leverage cloud-based platforms and mobile apps to achieve the greatest possible reach. The benefits for Dentists who employ Gamification strategies include improvements to brand perception, explanations of dental services (such as Oral and IV dental sedation), increases in new patient traffic, production and profit and incentivizing referrals.
Adoption of tablets and smartphones continues to increase, and in the case of tablets, the increase has been dramatic with approximately two-thirds of U.S. broadband households owning at least one.
The Growth Hacking strategy of Gamification is not simply the newest dental marketing gimmick but rather has the ability to inject new life into your dental practice by serving as a premier source of quality new patient traffic now and long into the foreseeable future as well as to broaden the appeal of many new and existing treatments and services you offer.
As you begin to do your due diligence and research gamification you are sure to find critiques of gamification as a methodology which almost always boils down to a single point— a belief that the business is deriving value while the participants are getting “meaningless points and badges.”
As with any endeavor that is done incorrectly, gamification that is haphazardly constructed and done poorly (as in “designed to benefit the business – almost exclusively) will ultimately fail. Whenever you, or I (or most importantly – your existing and/or prospective patients) engage with any system, we all, either explicitly or implicitly, ask, WIIFM - “What’s in it for me?”
If there’s not a good, compelling answer to this question then engagement is going to be either short-lived or not at all. The key to a successful gamification strategy, then, is to provide something of meaningful value to the end user (i.e., “existing and/or prospective new patients, employees, joint venture partners, etc.) for participating.
The majority of Dentists and Dental professionals I speak with often interpret meaningful value as “cash or cash-value” rewards. Without question those types of rewards do have their place, but they are NOT the only kind of reward or necessarily the most motivating.
Users (especially employees) value status (almost as much as money), as is clearly indicated by job titles at work and (even more glaringly obvious) by rank in the military. Can you imagine walking up to the senior vice president of Henry Schein Dental and telling him that you were leaving every aspect of his job the same— his salary, direct reports, responsibility, and so on but just taking the senior out of his job title?
Do you think his reaction to that would be positive and accepting? We are after all, only talking about something that has no tangible value - a word on a business card? NOT A CHANCE - because that insignificant little word is loaded with meaning and context in both his company and throughout the dental profession. This is a point that begs your attention… “Recognition and appreciation are simple rewards that can have a profound impact, whether or not they have any monetary value associated with them.”
As I mentioned earlier, critics of gamification (i.e., “the clueless ones”) argue that there’s an unfair value exchange between the business and the user, (a rather cynical belief that your patients and employees are dumb and can be taken advantage of indefinitely).
It seems to me that if anyone is truly dumb it’s the critic who believes himself to be smarter than those poor “dumb” patients (and employees) who are being duped. The vast majority of your patients, employees (as well as you and I) will engage with anything for a little while, if for no other reason than that it’s shiny and new, but if we fail to derive meaningful value from our engagement, we’ll disconnect and walk away – in short order.
So it’s imperative, when you’re thinking about how to apply gamification to your dental marketing, patient retention and referral programs and/or employee training program, that you understand what’s in it for your end users and what meaningful value you’re providing to them.
In any new and exciting field that captures the collective imagination like gamification has, you will undoubtedly run across a Dental marketing and/or Practice Management Company driven by the novelty and hype, copying what they see others doing, doing it poorly, and as a result – their client(s) fail to see results. The leading cause of failure is poor gamification design, which comes from a lack of understanding, experience, and a proven process. You can see an example of gamification strategy on a client's website (it'll be completed by August 1st, 2014) by visiting My Paducah Dentist Blog - here.
You can read more about how adding Gamification to your Dental Marketing Strategy can Deliver Exceptional Results to Your Bottom Line by clicking the link above.
If you have questions about Gamification I’d love to hear them, or if you’ve had success adding this strategy to your dental web marketing program I’d love to hear that too. You can contact me at Growth Hacker Central here with your questions and or comments.
If you’d love to know more about the benefits of Growth Hacking Your Dental Practice you can download the Definitive Guide to Growth Hacking Your Dental Practice Marketing here.