For any entrepreneur, growing your business and retaining customers is always the most significant challenge. As you continue to address the all-important question “How do I grow my dental practice?” you should think seriously about implementing a sustainable marketing plan.
New business rarely stumbles into your office unless you give it a push, and that push necessitates strategic and targeted messaging. A marketing plan can best be described as an applied communication strategy. Using different platforms, like social media and traditional advertising, you paint a picture of your business to those new patients.
When you win an industry recognition or have some other brag-worthy stats from your practice, your future patients won’t know about it until you tell them. Leveraging different media platforms informs new patients about why they should come to you, where you’re located, and how they can contact you.
The points below will serve as guideposts as you determine the best methods to market your dental practice.
Creating a Marketing Plan for Dental Practice Growth
A plan for marketing your dental practice has a stated objective and is far more involved than merely making a long to-do list.
Start with your objectives. It’s hard to measure what works, and what doesn’t, if you don’t know what you can reasonably expect in terms of dental practice growth. Working with a mentor or a dental support organization (DSO) can give you some idea of what is possible, and what is achievable.
For example, your objective could be to increase word-of-mouth referrals by 20%, increase overall income by 8% year over year, grow your teeth whitening business by 15%, and so on. Once you and your marketing team have established your growth parameters, then you determine how you’re going to achieve them.
How much you spend can impact how quickly you grow. Yes, you will have to take some risk, but that risk needs to be measured against potential income. Below are some of the most common and cost-effective methods for growing your dental practice through marketing.
How to Grow My Dental Practice with Advertising
Today, there are several different advertising and marketing venues and actions that will reach new customers with the right, targeted message. (Though, before trying any one method, refer to your individual state's advertising regulations for any potential restrictions or requirements.)
A local SEO strategy leverages a mixture of keywords and location services to push people to your office. When you’re doing your keyword research, look for strings that include your location like “Find a dental office near me” or “Dentist near (your actual location).”
Also, and this is very important: Update your Google My Business page so you show up on local searches. This is both easy and simple to do and is one of the fastest ways for new patients to discover you.
As the list of social media apps grows, it’s likely overwhelming to decide if you’re going to have a presence on some or all of them.
Your social media marketing plan should take the demographics of your ideal new patients into account (age, gender, income, location). For example: Making the decision of finding a new dentist rarely falls to a child, so you probably don’t need a strong presence on a youth-oriented platform.
Managing a Facebook profile is an excellent way to promote your business to local moms and parents, for example. Young professionals are likely to engage with you if you promote posts on Instagram. A YouTube channel with videos about dental hygiene, demonstrating new equipment, and important conversations about health screenings will help reach millennials.
Doing a monthly or quarterly direct mail campaign is still one of the most impactful ways to grow your dental practice. A reputable mail broker has the resources to build a targeted mailing list, design a mailer or a postcard, and handle the mailing itself.
For example, an experienced mail broker can generate lists of people who have just moved into your neighborhood. Even if you’re sending only a batch of 100 to 150 postcards per mailing, it’s that kind of leveraged targeting that is both cost-effective and generates results.Email and newsletters are an excellent opportunity to have a direct conversation with your patients. Newsletters can highlight new services that longtime patients may not know about. You could also include brief profiles about new staff, as well as special promotions.
Remarketing email campaigns target messages to existing patients. Schedule regular campaigns to patients who have missed appointments or who are due for cleanings. Those touchpoints are the cheapest way you have to contact and reach out to patients who haven’t heard from you in a while.
Beyond Advertising: Referral Marketing
Referrals are always an easy way to expand your patient base. So reward your current patients for referring new ones—for example, by offering coupons and discounts for services. Just be aware that every state has its own advertising regulations, so be sure that your offer conforms to these, as it will also be considered a kind of advertising.
Outside of such regulations, be generous and experiment. Not all of your patients are going to be motivated by the same things, so maybe try offering gift certificates to businesses near your office, like restaurants and boutiques (if allowed by your state).
Also: Is there a small business near you that would exchange referrals with you? All entrepreneurs thrive from referrals. Consider building a local networking exchange with one or two other small business owners close to your office. Those businesses are likely looking to attract the exact same type of customers you are.
Referral partners could include
Local hair salons
Home and auto insurance brokers
Real estate agents
Content marketing is the use of articles and eBooks (usually posted to your own website) to encourage patients to visit your website, join your email list, and eventually come to your office for an appointment.
Many dental offices use content marketing (along with social media) to show off their expertise. This is not a bad idea overall, but 1) it takes a lot of work and patience, and 2) the “market” for dental health content is saturated, so to speak.
Think of it this way: Say you start posting articles on your website about gum disease, teeth whitening, Invisalign, etc. What are the chances that your articles will be different from those already published by organizations like the ADA, the Dental Health Society, and the NDA? How are you going to get those pages “ranked” and appearing in Google, when there are literally hundreds of offices doing the same thing?
This isn’t to say you can’t use content marketing. It works for some practices. But a better strategy might be to work with a content marketing agency, or a DSO with strong content marketing experience, so that your home-grown content can get some traction.
Marketing Your Practice: Frequency and Consistency Make All the Difference
You wouldn’t ever advise a patient with gum disease to floss once a month and expect to see any measured improvement. A personal trainer would never tell a client that they’ll lose weight and get healthier if they only work out when the mood strikes.
In order for your marketing plan to be a success, it needs to be consistent. Without a schedule, you can’t successfully measure what is, or isn’t, working.
For this, you need a partner. No small business owner—no dentist, no lawyer, no solo-preneur of any kind—has the bandwidth or resources to formulate an impactful marketing strategy, let alone execute it.
If you’re ready to take your growth seriously, as well as maintain that growth, a dental support organization (DSO) has the staff and resources you need to market your dental practice.
An experienced marketing team has the resources you need to execute graphic design, strategize and manage the right advertising inventory, develop a PR strategy, and more. A DSO will match your practice with a marketing professional who is an expert in your industry and has the tools and experience you need to define and execute your marketing strategy.