Dental Hygienists as Decision Influencers

The frank Agency Branding
Winter 2018

The role hygienists play is only becoming more integral to many companies' sales. From the trusted relationships they have with patients to assessing needs and beyond, dental hygienists are key players when it comes to building and maintaining practice efficiency. And, as the role of RDH has evolved and expanded, so has their role in purchasing decisions.

A recent survey in RDH Magazine showed dental hygienists often hold influence over the supplies and equipment purchased within the dental practice – whether directly or indirectly. In fact, in the case of handheld instruments, 46% of those surveyed said they made the final decision on the purchase, though they didn’t purchase directly.

Some industry experts even recommend that hygienists who aren’t currently involved in purchase decisions should jump in, especially if they see a need that can be met through specific equipment. After all, who better to weigh in than the people who will be using the equipment most regularly? With this progression has come some unique implications for dental suppliers from both a sales and marketing perspective.

Yet, there is a second trend in motion that adds more complexity for the sales team trying to gain a foothold in practices: while in some practices hygienists hold heavy influence over purchase decisions, in other practices, they are a target unto themselves.

An Independent Target

It’s become increasingly common for hygienists to work part-time for multiple practices, rather than full-time for a single practice. A survey by Dentistry IQ estimates that about 47% of hygienists work part-time for more than one employer, creating a scenario where hygienists may choose to buy their own supplies and hand instruments.

Dental Doctor

This benefits hygienists, as they have control over what they buy, and especially where dental tools are concerned, this ensures a good ergonomic fit and more comfortable use. There’s also the added benefit that hygienists gain tax writeoffs from their work purchases, upping the incentive for them to buy. Thus, whether hygienists are full-time influencers or part-time independent purchasers, marketing to them on a personal level – as a unique market segment – has become much more important.

The average registered dental hygienist reads upwards of 10 articles online about products during their decision making process.

A Divided Track, A United Goal

We can see that there are two parallel tracks of hygienists occurring in the dental sphere. In some practices, they are influencers, while in others, they are the buyers. But despite their divided roles, it’s apparent that hygienists are significant players in dental equipment purchases, and that marketing and sales tactics must change to connect with this unique audience.

The first step should be creating more information that is specifically targeted to hygienists. Peer-reviewed journal articles coupled, obviously, with patient benefit is the most influential element in connecting with hygienists. Just under that, though, is product education. In-person training sessions and education on products and methods is critical for hygienists as they, like GPs and specialists themselves, struggle to keep up with technological changes in the industry. But you can’t be everywhere all the time. For this reason, disseminating in-depth information regarding products and uses, especially in the form of digital content, will be an important method for marketers and sales teams alike as the average RDH will read upwards of 10 articles online about a particular product during their decision-making process, depending on the complexity and expense of the product.

Additionally, this type of content needs to make use of messaging that is directly tailored to hygienists. Hygienists are looking for products that will streamline their jobs – but that isn’t the only trait they’re looking for.

Hygienists spend most of their days one-on-one with patients. They develop relationships with the patients, make recommendations for elective treatments, and encourage follow-ups. So when a hygienist is looking at products, they’re searching for something that will enhance patient experiences overall. Emphasizing patient experiences and patient care in your messaging will go much further with this audience than other messaging strategies.

Amping up Social Engagement

dental-hygienist-fieldCoupled with this is something companies are discovering: the need for a strong social media presence. Dental hygienists’ largest demographic group is women between the ages of 30 and 49, corresponding almost exactly to the highest and most engaged user demographic on Facebook, as well as one of the top two user demographic groups for Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest, according to a recent study by Sprout Social.

With a unique voice and a variety of content forms like video and other media, your social presence can become an insightful industry authority and build awareness of your brand. And, by responding to comments, questions and messages, you engage your audience on a personal level and create confidence that you will be an attentive and helpful resource during the purchasing process.

An Expanding Target Means More Opportunities

Dental hygiene as a field has been projected to grow at a rate of 20% between 2016 and 2026 (Bureau of Labor Statistics). Whether purchasing on their own behalf or helping influence practice decision purchases, there’s no mistaking that hygienists are becoming an important target for dental manufacturers and suppliers to reach. And as the market only continues to expand, campaigns that methodically target hygienists will make inroads in practices now – but also secure a valuable audience and build long-term loyal customers for the future.

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