I was with a Dentist friend last week. He used to be happy a few years back but now, he is struggling to get new patients for his dental practice. I was surprised to know that he did not have any website for his clinic. He never promoted his practice.
Not promoting your dental practice to your target audience will eventually push you out of the competition and business.
This dental marketing guide is for my friend Joanna, and for all the dentists who need more patients for their practice.
What is dental marketing?
The techniques, practices, and methods used to promote a dental practice are known as dental marketing. When a dentist posts a video review of one of his clients on his Twitter account, he is marketing himself or his dental practice.
Anything and everything you do to gain new patients is a component of dental marketing.
Is it really important to promote your dental practice? Can’t you just sit and wait for the patients to come?
Why is it crucial to promote yourself anyway?
The simple one word answer is competition.
You’re not the only dentist in the town. Research shows that the number of dentists has increased 6x from 1950 to 2012. The competition has equally increased and will continue to increase in the future.
You can’t afford to sit in your cozy clinic and wait for patients. If you do, you will keep waiting.
You’ve got to find and connect with the patients. This is what patients expect, and this is why dental marketing should be your top priority.
Dental marketing challenges
The first step to fixing what’s not working is to finding what’s not working.
Before you run the first ad campaign to target patients, step back and ask yourself this basic question.
What are the biggest dental marketing challenges that I am facing now?
Your marketing strategy should address these challenges.
Dentists, unfortunately, face tons of marketing challenges. Let’s discuss the hardest ones:
1. Lack of marketing knowledge
Dentists are not marketers. They have minimal to no knowledge of marketing. According to a survey, 89.4% of dentists want to improve their marketing.
As a dentist, you have two options to choose from when it comes to dental marketing:
Do it yourself. Learn and practice marketing.
Hire a professional marketer to take care of the proceedings.
In any case, if you don’t have enough knowledge of marketing, especially digital marketing, you will end up losing money in different forms.
One of the biggest outcomes of poor marketing knowledge is that your marketing strategy and approach will be inconsistent. You will follow all the advice that you get from different people and this will lead you nowhere.
It’s time to familiarize yourself with basics of digital marketing so that you know what your marketing manager mean when he says ‘he is optimizing your website for search engines’ or when he says ‘the conversion rate has dropped from 5% to 3.2%’.
2. Increasing competition backed by price pressure
Since the number of dentists has increased 6x in past 60 years, this means that if one dentist was serving one family 60 years back, now the same family has six different dentists to choose from.
Your patients now have options. They have the option to choose.
They use the internet, Yellow Pages, social media, ads, and other channels to find and compare dentists.
The increase in the competition has resulted in a price war. Wholesalers, dental product manufacturers, and low-cost dentists from Asian and African countries have started a price war in Europe and the US.
Big brands and businesses that are entering the dental industry come with heavy marketing budgets.
The average dentist, on the other hand, is still unaware of these changes and is still not ready or not willing to invest in marketing.
Truth is, it’s getting hard for dentists to reach their audience and convince them because patients now have choices. As much as 40% of consumers say that information on social media affects their health decisions.
A potential patient now has access to resources, which enables her to find and compare dentists’ right from home.
3. Marketing-savvy patients
People are getting smarter and marketing-savvy.
Now, most American citizens no longer consider themselves as patients, instead they now regard themselves as healthcare consumers.
According to a Deloitte Survey of Health Care Consumers, consumers are active and they make informed decisions. They’re in a position where they prefer customized products and have the expertise to find the best quality products at lowest price.
On the other side of the picture, which is, unfortunately, not so bright, is the average dentists.
Sadly, some 66% of dental practices do not have a mobile-friendly website while another 63% do not have unique content on their websites.
Do you really think a consumer who is marketing-savvy will contact you if your website doesn’t load properly on mobile?
This is where most of the dentists go wrong because they’re still living in a pre-internet era.
4. Not measuring marketing ROI
Measuring marketing ROI is perhaps the biggest challenge. Not just dentists but marketers struggle to link marketing activities to revenue.
More than 93% of marketers say they struggle to deliver measurable ROI.
If a digital marketer tells you to invest $1000 in marketing every month for your dental practice, you will definitely ask him, what should I expect in return?
You might get an estimated figure from the marketer but in reality, marketing ROI is not simple to track and the results cannot be seen instantly.
For instance, if you plan to invest in SEO for your dental practice website, you might have to wait for at least 10 weeks to see any improvement in search engine rankings. To see a noticeable increase in traffic from search engines, you might have to wait for as much as 22 weeks or more.
This is what pushes dentists away from investing in marketing.
Most of the businesses including dental practices do not have enough resources to track and measure marketing ROI. It needs tools and apps that cost some serious money.
Without measuring ROI for your dental marketing campaign, you will not be able to see how it’s working, what is actually working, and how to scale it.
You’d be clueless.
5. Shift in technology
Advances in technology are reshaping the world. By 2020, mobile will be the primary connection tool in the world. Dental practices are not prepared for these technological changes. Unfortunately, and this is the biggest challenge of today’s dentists.
Here are a few statistics that impact your dental practice:
Seventy-one percent of teenagers use more than one social network.
Sixty-eight percent of US adults use smartphones.
Fifty-one percent of consumers use search engines to find a dentist.
Over 97% of consumers search for local businesses including dentists online.
Some 63% of consumers use online reviews as the first step when they have to find a doctor or a dentist.
Is your dental practice prepared for these changes?
Most probably not.
The analysis of dental practice websites and dental marketing techniques reveal shocking results.
It’s time that you accept these and other dental marketing challenges that you and your team are facing at this moment.
Then move onto the next step.
Creating a dental marketing plan
How should you cope with the dental marketing challenges discussed above?
Simple, create a dental marketing plan.
A dental marketing plan is a document that outlines your dental practice’s strategy for marketing. This plan will serve as the primary marketing document for your dental office, which will have all the necessary details about marketing, services to be offered, budgeting, measuring ROI, and more.
Let’s dive in.
1). Define goals: Defining the goal of your dental marketing plan is the first step.
What do you want to achieve from marketing?
Do you plan to increase the number of patients?
Are you interested in promoting a new service to your existing consumers?
Are you interested in increasing revenue per patient?
Having a clear and documented dental marketing goal will help develop a corresponding plan for it.
There are several ways to define goals that will be easier yet challenging to achieve.
Set small goals.
Use SMART goals.
Write them down.
2). Identify your dental services: Depending on the goals, you have to choose dental services that you will offer to the patients.
It’s evident that you can’t offer all types of dental services. You have to handpick a few of them that relate to your goals.
For instance, if your goal is to get 10 new patients every week, you don’t need to define a specific service for it. But if your goal is to offer teeth whitening services to gap removal patients, you will now need to focus on teeth whitening. Market this service.
- Do you have the license to offer the service?
- Do you have the necessary equipment?
- Do you have the workforce and other resources?
The selection of the service is also linked to your target audience needs and competition.
It requires market research. You might have to conduct market surveys to better understand what type of services you should promote in a specific geographical location.
3). Unique value proposition: It’s a statement that differentiates you from your competitors and how you solve the problem of your patients. Unique value proposition or unique selling proposition will help your dental practice stand out from the crowd.
It answers a simple question:
“Why should consumers buy from you?”
The answer to this question is your unique value proposition.
Better yet, it answers three questions:
What are the benefits of buying dental services from your practice?
What unique problem do you solve?
Why should a patient get that service from you instead of any other dental practice?
Mount Pleasant Dental Group has a nice unique selling proposition on their landing page.
“$149 check up and cleaning” and “SpaDent Teeth Whitening $250 for two 20min session.”
This makes it quite clear to the visitors what is special about them, why they should buy from them, and what unique problem they solve.
Have a look at the landing page of Wall Centre Dental. Unfortunately, they don’t have a USP, neither do they tell the visitors why they should choose them and what unique problem this dental will solve.
The idea is clear.
Make your USP unique, clear, and prominent.
4). Understanding target audience: How well you understand your target audience and target market is critical to your success.
Understanding your target audience includes all of the following:
Who is your primary consumer?
What is the most challenging problem they face?
How do they get information about dental services or any other information in general?
How your dental service(s) solve their problem(s)?
Who do they trust?
The more details you get about your target audience, the better.
Getting details about your target audience is challenging. You have to collect data from different sources.
Linda Schenk has identified five ways to understanding your target market and audience.
Start with the demographics (age, gender, income, profession, etc.).
Organize and analyze data.
Create buyer personas which are the fictional characters representing your target audience.
Analyze social media interactions to better understand your audience.
Collect data from blogs, forum, groups, and other sources.
The end result will be a buyer persona that will define your potential consumer in extreme detail.
5). Marketing strategy: This is the crux of the dental marketing plan. In this phase, you have to choose the marketing channels to reach your target audience.
You will define actual steps to accomplish your marketing goal(s).
The idea is to select the best marketing channels to reach your potential consumers.
Follow the steps below to create a solid dental marketing strategy:
- Create a mobile-friendly dental website
- Optimize landing page
- Blog religiously
- Use content marketing to reach your consumers
- Use social media
- Start building email list
- Get smarter with analytics
1). Create a mobile-friendly dental website
Over 62% of smartphone users have used their phone to get information about health condition in the last year. Some 44% of patients have booked an appointment with a physician or a dental practice from their phones.
Your consumers are looking for dental services on their phones. You should have a mobile-friendly website so that you do not lose them.
2). Optimize landing page
A landing page is the first page that a visitor sees after landing on your website. It is normally the homepage of the website.
A landing page is a game changer.
What a visitor will do once when they’re on your website entirely depends on the landing page. An optimized landing page will convert visitors into leads and leads into buying patients. A professionally designed landing page will increase the conversion rate of your dental practice website by 35.62%.
Not every landing page will pull consumers. Only the best and fully optimized landing pages will do the trick.
Here are some landing page optimization best practices for dentists:
The headline must be appealing.
Put CTA above the fold.
One landing page should have one and only one purpose.
Create and test multiple landing pages to compare variables.
Use a video to increase engagement and conversion rate.
Offer something free of value to the visitors such as a guide on dental health.
Use testimonials and customer reviews.
Make your unique selling proposition prominent.
Use bullets, short paragraphs, and lots of images.
3). Blog religiously
Dentists that blog regularly generate 55% more patients as compared to dentists that don’t.
Blogging lets you talk to your patients. It lets you engage with your target audience. It helps you become an authority in the industry. You can share useful tips and dental guides with your readers through your blog.
Above all, blogging improves your dental website’s search engine ranking. All the traffic from search engines goes to top 5 websites on page one. The blog helps you reach at the first page in search results and thus getting more organic traffic.
A blog is a must for your dental website.
4). Use content marketing to reach patients
Content marketing is a marketing approach where you create and distribute valuable content to gain new leads for your dental business.
Blogging is the most used content marketing type. There are several others on the list that you have to explore. These include:
Do you think it’s hard and expensive to generate so many different types of content?
You don’t have to write new content instead you can use blog posts from your own dental blog. Convert blog posts into different content types such as videos, podcasts, slides, eBooks, etc. and distribute them on the internet.
It’s an easy way to reach your target audience via different channels using the same content that’s already on your blog.
5). Use social media to Power Your Brand
Social media is your best friend.
According to a survey, 90% of people reported that they trust medical information shared on social networks.
In another study, 41% of people said that social media affect their choice of a dentist.
Social media has the power to help you reach people who are looking for a dentist. You can run an ad campaign to target people living in a specific city.
You can run an ad campaign on Facebook to the people who live in the same city where your office is.
Perhaps the best feature of social media marketing for a dentist is that it helps with collecting data and addressing people’s problems. Participate actively in groups with an intention to help people. Read comments to see what type of dental problems people are facing and then do a blog post on it.
There are unlimited ways to use a social network for reaching your target audience and achieving your dental marketing plan.
6). Start building email list
Email marketing has the highest ROI among all types of marketing. Research shows that email is the preferred communication method of healthcare professionals.
This is because your subscribers will open emails, read them, and will take necessary action. As much as 82% of people open and respond to emails they receive from businesses.
If you haven’t started building an email list of potential patients, better do it now.
According to a survey, only 20% of dentists and orthodontic use emails to engage with their patients and audience. This means if you start doing it now you will have a competitive advantage over your competitors since 41% never used email to engage with their patients.
Start building email list. Follow this 5 step process:
Create a squeeze page.
Create a killer lead magnet.
Optimize the squeeze page.
Drive traffic to the squeeze page. Use it on the blog and social networks. Use popups to generate leads.
Send emails to your list regularly.
7). Get smarter with analytics
Use analytics to monitor your marketing strategy and to see how it’s working.
Google Analytics is the most used analytics tool that will help you analyze and monitor the performance of marketing channels.
Let’s consider a few other important steps for your dental practice:
Budgeting is a crucial part of the dental marketing plan.
You can set marketing budget after devising the dental marketing strategy or you can do it before creating the strategy.
The idea is to make sure the dental marketing plan, strategy, and budget should be aligned.
The challenge here is deciding with the right budget.
How much to spend on dental marketing?
A rule of thumb is that marketing budget should be linked to the revenue. It should be between 20% and 30% of revenue.
If revenue increases, increase the marketing budget.
If it decreases, decrease the marketing budget.
The budget requires a lot of estimation and calculation such as break-even analysis, sales forecast, expenses forecast, and others.
1). Tracking and measuring performance
Since you’re creating a plan for the next year where everything is based on assumptions and past data, therefore, tracking dental marketing plan on regular intervals is crucial.
There are two things that you have to do at this stage.
First, constantly and regularly monitor the progress. It calls for comparing the forecasted progress with the actual progress of the marketing plan and tweaking it.
This has to be done at least once a month.
Second, measure marketing performance.
There are multiple metrics that can be used to measure the effectiveness of a dental marketing plan.
Unique visitors on your dental website. This can be measured using Google Analytics.
Lead generation refers to the average number of new subscribers received a day, week, or a month. This is mostly measured by looking at the number of new subscribers in your autoresponder.
The number of new patients referred as sales.
Carefully choose the most appropriate type of performance metric based on marketing objectives to measure performance and effectiveness of your campaigns.
Dental marketing ideas
A dental marketing plan is just the starting point to get more patients for your dental practice. There are hundreds of dental marketing ideas that can be used to get new patients, leads, and more.
1. Mobile call-only ads: A mobile call-only ad allows the patients to call with a single tap. These are search ads that have a ‘Call’ button with them.
According to Google, the majority of the healthcare searches are done on a smartphone, and one in twenty searches is for a health service or information. This is why mobile call-only ads will put your dental practice in your patient’s phones.
They can call you right away and rest is on your sales team.
2. Local search results: Since the majority of your potential patients use their smartphones to find a dental service, therefore, your practice should appear at the top of the local search results.
There are quite a few ways to improve the local search ranking of your dental practice but four of them are most important. These include; citations, reviews, links, and your dental website.
Build local citations for your dental practice. It’s the mention of your dental practice on the internet with its name, phone number, address, and other information. This is how Google will pick your practice with its name and address. Moz has a complete guide on creating citations like a pro.
Besides citations, reviews of your dental practice are a crucial local ranking factor. Reviews contribute 8.4% to local search rankings, according to Moz.
Make sure your dental practice is listed on the following review platforms.
Citations and reviews are the most critical local ranking factors that will push your practice high in search engine rankings for local results. Make sure you do not ignore them if you seriously want to see more patients in your office.
3. Use greeting cards: This is an interesting and somewhat unorthodox dental marketing idea. This technique doesn’t just generate new clients but it is exceptionally good for brand awareness.
You should get the list of local new homeowners every month or after a couple months from the internet or maybe buy it from a local resource. Send the new homeowners a welcome card with your dental practice logo and details.
It shouldn’t be a personal welcome card rather it must be sent from your dental practice.
Better yet, offer them a special discount on their first visit.
Or maybe, offer them a free dental checkup.
A free gum disease check up will work because half of the American adults suffer from gum disease. Share with them the statistics along with some quick tips to keep gums healthy, and offer a free checkup.
This is sure to work.
Anything that helps your target audience will help.
Make sure you do not make the card too promotional. The primary purpose is to greet them. Do not use it as your marketing tool.
4. Be on business directories: Is your dental practice listed on local and international business directories? If it isn’t, it should be.
To help you get started, here is a list of best directories for dentists.
Once you have listed your practice on the business directories, you have to ensure that these listings are updated when your business information changes.
There are two benefits of listing your dental business on business directories:
Every listing is counted as a citation, which helps in local ranking (we have already talked about it).
Every directory gives you a backlink that helps with ranking in SERPs.
In any case, you will get new patients from listings.
Moz has listed local business listing attributes for businesses so that they get most from their listings.
5. Create a referral incentive program: Research shows 18% of consumers rely on the suggestions from their friends and relatives for dentist referrals. Another research shows that 93% of consumers trust recommendations from their family and friends.
Encourage your existing patients for these recommendations.
Start a referral incentive program for your dental practice so that you can reward referrers and referees.
The referral incentive program should be simple, easy-to-understand, and easy to participate. You can use business referral cards for the program or you can create a more sophisticated online program with a tracking tool.
The referral program should incentivize everyone. It should be a win-win approach, else, it won’t work.
6. Encourage patients to leave a review: Statistics show that 13% of consumers prefer reading dentist reviews on review sites. Their decisions are based on the dentist reviews and ratings. Generally, 92% of customers read online reviews before doing business with a brand.
Yelp and HealthGrades are the two most important online review sites that your patients use to read reviews of dentists. Make sure your dental practice is listed on these two review sites.
Reviews don’t just bring new clients but they improve search engine ranking too. Reviews impact 10% of business’s search engine rankings including local search.
You should encourage your patients to leave reviews on your dental website and on other review sites where you have listed your practice. This will help you acquire more patients.
Send reminders to the patients who do not leave a review. Offer them a discount or an incentive for leaving a review.
7. Google maps ads: Whatever you do, just don’t ignore Google maps ads.
They have the potential to attract local patients to your dental practice. When a potential patient runs a query in search engine for a dentist, your dental practice ad will be shown in the search engine and on the map.
These map ads are best for attracting local patients to your practice. The chances of a patient contacting you increase significantly if your practice is available on the maps.
You can add call CTAs too with these ads. This makes them super-effective in acquiring new patients.
8. Use ZocDoc, RateMDs, and Vitals: These are the three most used review sites that consumers use to find dentists and to read reviews.
ZocDoc is a mobile app that connects patients with doctors and dentists. You should list your dental practice on ZocDoc so that potential clients can find you.
Users search dentists, book them, and leave a review after they have visited them. ZocDoc is the fifth most used review site and most trusted review site out there.
9. Participate in local events: Attend local events actively so that you can promote your dental practice in any way possible. Why not sponsor a sports league and have their shirts printed with your logo?
A dentist used a similar strategy to increase new clients by 70%. Free toothbrushes were given to local kindergartens with advice and tips for parents to improve their kid’s teeth health.
All the kids received a special discount for their visit to the dental practice. It worked and the parents switched to the new dentist.
Actively participating in events will help you drive patients. At the same time, it will help improve brand awareness.
10. Use live chat on the website: Consumers love live chat. Research shows that 79% of consumers prefer live chat as it helps them find answers to their queries. Another 46% say that it is the most effective and the best communication method.
Use live chat on your dental website to capture leads and to answer patient queries instantly.
Use a reliable live chat software to get started.
The following dental marketing case studies are undoubtedly encouraging. Every time I read them, I find a new energy in me. These case studies can refill your motivation.
1. Advanced Dentistry by Design
Advanced Dentistry by Design was unsure, like most of the dentists, as to where they should invest their marketing budget.
They contacted Productive Dentist Academy that helped them in channelizing their marketing budget. Here is what they did:
Redesigned the logo
Redesigned the website and made it mobile-friendly
Started tracking SEO and analytics
A redesign of the website resulted in a whopping increase in ROI. The patient referral had 83 to 1 ROI while redesigning the logo had 24 to 1 ROI.
At times, just a few simple tweaks do the trick.
2. Endres Gateway Dentistry
Endres Gateway Dentistry used postcards to increase the number of patients.
Postcards were distributed to 1500 homeowners as part of a campaign. The postcards offered advice and discount to the homeowners. Every homeowner received 3 mailings.
According to Dr. Endres, more patients brought the second and the third card. This shows simply sending one postcard will not work instead you have to do it consistently.
The campaign increased the number of new patients each month. The number of patients grew every month. Most of the patients used their postcard for an appointment after several months.
If you are struggling to get new patients for your dental practice, use postcards.
3. Legacy Dental
Legacy Dental used SEO to increase website traffic by 145%.
The Legacy Dental used HubSpot SEO tools to improve their website’s ranking in SERPs. The website was properly optimized for search engines, a blog was added, and links were built.
It resulted in an increase in organic traffic by 169% in two years and leads increased by 300% in last 9 months.
Do not lose hope when doing SEO. It needs time – a lot of time.
To wrap it up, America is in a dental health crisis with one in four children have cavities.
Your patients are out there waiting for you.
Despite severe competition, there is hope. Start marketing your dental practice to reach the target audience. This is the only way to get new patients in coming years.