Expertise, Orthodontic Marketing

Understanding the Customer’s Journey in Orthodontics

Understanding the customer’s journey is a key part of marketing your practice effectively and knowing how to ‘nurture’ patients, or provide them with what they need, based on their current stage of interaction with your practice’s brand.

What is the customer’s journey?

The customer’s journey, or buyer’s journey, is a concept that outlines the process a person goes through from the moment they become aware of a product, service or brand, through the moment they make a purchase decision.

In the orthodontic field, the customer’s journey involves the stages that a potential patient experiences from the moment they become aware of your practice or treatment offerings, through the moment they sign the contract to start treatment with you and become an advocate for your brand.

There are 5 key stages of the customer journey – awareness, consideration, intent, purchase, and loyalty/advocacy – and these stages have been revolutionized by the internet and the modern-day era of digital marketing.

The Internet & The Customer Journey

Today, the customer journey is much different from what it once was. Businesses have had to adapt to the changing needs of their customers and evolve in the era of a self-informed market. Here’s an example of what that means:

Let’s say someone wants to buy a washing machine in a time before the internet was around. Here’s how their customer journey was likely to look:

  • Awareness stage: The person becomes aware of their need for a washing machine.
  • Consideration stage: The person goes to Sears and asks the sales associate which type of washing machine is best. The sales associate says, “You should buy a GE washing machine. You can trust me, because I’m an expert.”
  • Purchase stage: The person says, “Sounds good!” No further research necessary. The purchase is made.

When people didn’t have as many options at their fingertips, that’s how simple the buying process was (more or less.)

Now, let’s compare the customer journey to a modern-day person who has access to the internet:

  • Awareness stage: The person becomes aware of their need for a washing machine.
  • Consideration stage: The person opens the internet on their phone or computer and searches in the Google search bar, “Best washing machine.” The person reads some articles comparing different brands, texts his or her friends or family asking if they recommend their washing machine. The person reads reviews and explores different prices online.
  • Intent stage: The person goes to the store with the intention to buy a washing machine. He or she speaks with the sales associate, “Hey, I’m here to buy this washing machine, because I did my research and I’m informed on which one is best.”
  • Purchase stage: The purchase is made.
  • Loyalty/advocacy stage: The person leaves an online review of the washing machine and maybe the store where they purchased it too. They advocate for the washing machine brand when asked by friends or family who are in the market for a washing machine, and the cycle restarts.

Nowadays, with tons of competition in the market, the customer journey has become more complex as consumers have the ability and incentive to be self-informed.

In terms of the orthodontic buying journey: Back in the day, you’d visit your dentist for a cleaning. Your dentist would say, “You need braces! Go to Dr. John; he’s the best.” That’s the only research/recommendation you’d need to choose your orthodontist.

But now, orthodontists have more direct-to-consumer relationships, which means prospective patients are doing their research, reading reviews, and considering multiple orthodontists before making their decision. Subsequently, your practice has to have the right content and strategies to meet these prospective patients’ needs each step of the way.

How to meet your patients’ needs through each stage in the customer journey

Knowing how to meet your patients where they’re at in the customer journey by providing the communication and answers they’re looking for can make a significant difference in your new patient acquisition.

Stage 1: Awareness

In the awareness stage, your prospective patients have become aware of their problem: they need orthodontic treatment.

Content like social media posts, before-and-after images, blogs, a mobile-first website, strong SEO, facebook and google ads are needed to connect with patients in the phase. All of the things that say to someone, “You have a problem? I have your solution.”

In this phase, SEO is imperative, as it puts you in the game when someone starts researching nearby orthodontists. This is how you become a contender in the consideration phase!

Overall, the focus should be on sharing content that helps inform a potential patient that you can fix the problem they recently became aware of and communicating your solutions. This appeals to their awareness as they progress from awareness to consideration.

Stage 2: Consideration

As a potential patient moves into the consideration phase, when they’re researching nearby orthodontists and weighing their options, this is when your value proposition content comes into play.

What can you offer patients to meet their needs, fix their issue, and get a leg up on your competition? Maybe you have flexible payment plans, 0% interest in-house financing, stellar 5-star patient reviews, free consultations, board-certified doctors, convenient virtual consultations, Invisalign and modern types of braces.

When considering orthodontists, prospective patients are likely to read your patient reviews on Google, visit your website, look at your before-and-after photos of other cases, and visit your doctor bio page to learn about you and your team.

Stage 3: Intent

In the intent stage, potential patients are reaching out to your practice in some way to schedule an appointment. How high or low they are in the intent section of the funnel determines how much coaxing you’ll need to do to get them to show up for their initial consultation or to start treatment.

For example, if the prospective patient reaches out by filling out your ‘schedule an appointment’ form, they’ll need more coaxing or ‘nurturing’ than a prospective patient who calls your practice. Someone who fills out a Facebook form is way up in the awareness stage, or maybe the consideration stage, while a call-in tends to be in the intent stage.

Stage 4: Purchase

When your new patient reaches the purchase stage, they’re signing the contract to start treatment with you. Yay! This is when your coaxing and nurturing throughout stages 1-4 pay off.

Stage 5: Loyalty & Advocacy

Ideally, your new patient becomes an advocate for your practice’s brand. This means they give you a great review and tell their friends and family members about you, which ultimately feeds back into the awareness stage for other prospective patients. Then, the whole cycle starts over!

Turn potential patients into new patients

We’ll help you do it. Our orthodontic marketing experts at eNox Media have a deep understanding of the customer journey in orthodontics and what it takes to turn a potential patient in stage 1 to a new patient in stage 5.

We have the solutions to help your team coax and nurture new patients, augmenting your team’s follow-up process and improving conversions by delivering highly-relevant messaging to your prospective patient at their most impressionable moments.

We use LeadSigma software to help our orthodontic partners automate as much of the lead follow-up process as possible, while still facilitating personal outreach with personalized messaging. This ensures that new patients don’t get lost or forgotten about from the intent stage to the purchase stage.

We’re here to partner with you and provide your team with the strategies necessary to secure new patients!

Find out what we can do for you by requesting your complimentary digital audit today.


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a graphic of a funnel showing the orthodontic customer journey