Small touches throughout your practice can calm and reassure customers, and make your hospital welcoming.
By Margaret Littman
Our brains are complicated. Data from all of our senses can have a powerful, if subconscious, impact on our purchases.
Aradhna Krishna, head of the Sensory Marketing Laboratory at the University of Michigan, defines “sensory marketing” as something that “engages consumers’ senses and affects their perception, judgment and behavior.”
Here’s a look at how sensory marketing works, and how you can add small touches to make your practice more welcoming.
Nobel Prize-winning scientists Richard Axel and Linda Buck suggest that smell is considered the “most emotional” of the senses. Lavender is said to be soothing, citrus is a mood-booster, and pine can alleviate stress. In human medical settings (such as in an MRI machine, where some people feel claustrophobic), scents have been used to relax anxious patients.
In your practice: Jennifer Dublino, owner of thinksensory marketing firm, suggests using cold diffused oils through your HVAC system. Control the output by using oils with only micro particles of scents, so that the aroma is not overpowering. If you want to start smaller, using a scented pencil at the reception desk can disperse similar results, says Luca Cian, assistant professor of marketing at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business in Charlottesville.
You know a well-placed hand on the shoulder or even a well-considered hug can help a distraught client. But tactile marketing can be subtler. In one study, Cian says, people judged faces in photographs as friendlier if they were holding a warm cup of coffee while they looked at the images.
In your practice: Offer free coffee, tea, or hot chocolate in the reception area to help position your practice as friendly and welcoming.
Some reactions to color are personal. You may like orange and dislike purple. But research shows that there are marketing patterns associated
with specific colors. For example, red tends to energize, while greys and blues can be calming.
In your practice: Think about the colors in your reception area and exam rooms. Don’t feel like you have to go all in and paint four walls blue to soothe clients’ souls. A series of blue picture frames around photos of healthy patients or blue chairs in the reception area may be sufficient.
We’ve all experienced the mood-altering power of music. Public transit stations in Toronto and London saw loitering and crime decrease once they started piping in classical music. On the other end of the spectrum, retailers use loud, high-energy music to encourage consumers to buy.
In your practice: Think about what you want your brand to say. Music may be a good fit. Or a white-noise machine with outdoor sounds may work to counteract barking and other sounds without creating too much noise.