From dentophobia, to competing corporate chains, and pandemic shutdowns, the modern independent dental practice faces many challenges to keep schedules booked. With ambitious revenue targets, patient population growth goals, or pushing ahead of the competition, dental marketing strategy is your faithful ally to keep patients in your dental chairs.
But before you throw any money at this feat, you must understand the components of dental marketing to make informed choices on which marketing channels to use and how. Dental marketing is an investment, so the goal is to spend your budget dollars wisely.
Get everything you need to assemble a practical and cost-effective dental marketing plan here.
Importance of Dental Marketing: Why Do You Need It?
Too many people do not make dental care a priority, or outright avoid it. So, it is all the more important for a dental practice to be found online at the moment a patient is motivated to tend to their dental needs.
Dental marketing strategies outline how you will maintain the health of your online presence. It creates a blueprint to maximize the opportunities for patients to find your practice when they are ready to act with urgency.
Dental marketing also nurtures and preserves your practice brand. Your brand is how the public perceives you, and your online presence needs to be consistent and continuously cultivated to help sustain your practice and help It thrive.
Digital marketing tools can also help retain existing patients by reminding them they are due back for a visit, thus maintaining patient engagement.
What Is Dental Digital Marketing?
At some point you have probably used print marketing by way of mailers, newspaper ads, or local events. While this is great for brand awareness or spreading the word about promotions, “traditional” dental marketing strategy doesn’t get you in front of those who are ready to book services on the spot.
But know that digital marketing (like “traditional” marketing) also builds brand awareness. For example, social media use is already at a crescendo with 82% of Americans engaging with popular platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, etc.). Also, social media tools allow you to get in front of a very specific target audience.
Because the digital audience is highly engaged and is actively looking into care options, having digital marketing activated puts your practice in front of them at that critical moment.
“Americans put off dental work, so having digital marketing activated ensures that they find your practice when they are finally ready to take care of their dental health.”
Dental Marketing Tips and Tools
As a dental practice, you probably get plenty of solicitations from marketing services promising this and that, but before you jump into anything, you need to confirm what tools and services are right for your practice. Choosing the first thing that comes along, or the one that seems easiest can end up being a complete waste of resources.
It is also imperative that you have a firm grasp of what your practice has to offer and what you want to accomplish through investing in dental digital marketing, as this will shape your dental marketing strategy.
Why Should They Choose You?
As mentioned earlier, your dental brand is how the public perceives you. Committing to a mission, a name, a logo, and a voice (the personality) is fundamental to establishing your public persona. Dental branding strategy is also built upon what makes your practice distinct from the others, and to have effective marketing, you really need to know intimately what that is.
Some practices will offer a more comprehensive list of services, while others will be narrowed or niche. Either way, it needs to be made clear exactly what kind of practice yours is. You may even include a brief descriptor alongside your logo or practice name to consistently communicate what it is you do.
- What do you want to be known for?
- What makes your dental practice different from the one down the street?
- What are you doing those other local practices are not doing?
- What do consumers in your market want most, and how are you delivering it?
If you are having a hard time identifying what makes your practice unique, don’t despair. Marketing experts can work with you to uncover what makes your practice exceptional. From there, they can come up with dental marketing strategies that will best position your dental practice in the public eye.
Ways to differentiate your dental practice:
- Avoid generic-looking logos and brand colors that are too similar to your competitors.
- Express your practice’s personality with a bold logo, and peppy messaging.
- Make it known what awards, accolades or other distinguished honors are held by the practice or professionals in your office.
- Share what you have done to help the community.
- Carry out your mission consistently. For example, if your practice mission is to provide the most comfortable experience, demonstrate how this is done on your website and other digital marketing (such as a video on social media). Keep this promise so that positive online reviews will confirm your claims.
- Discuss interesting topics that other dentists aren’t talking about on your blog and social media accounts.
“Tip: Be sure your website conveys how your dental practice is different from the rest, shares all you have to offer, how you help the community, and content that humanizes the dentists and staff (written bios).”
Facing Facts: Many Don’t Want to Go to the Dentist
Around 60% of American adults are afraid of going to the dentist. Why?
- Anticipation of a painful procedure, other discomfort, or a long recovery time.
- Trust issues related to negative past experiences with a dentist.
- High costs (even compound) that would make necessary dental work out of one’s reach.
- Embarrassed by how far gone their situation is now (rotten, broken, or missing teeth).
Because this is so common, your practice probably has experience working with patients who are hesitant or nervous about going forward with dental treatments. How you handle this is a dental marketing strategy opportunity.
Patients may be well aware of how badly they need to go to the dentist, but for whatever reason, they continue to stall. Address these qualms head on to weaken these common objections with online content such as:
- Video content: Make an introduction video. When a patient can see what it is like to visit your practice, this helps them know exactly what to expect so that they feel more at ease. Show what you do to make the visit more comfortable.
- Patient testimonials: Do you have an exceptionally brave patient who has worked with you to get through the discomfort of dental work? Ask them if they would be willing to do a video or written testimonial. Ideally, the testimonial should say specifically what your practice did to make the patient more comfortable.
- Destigmatize teeth in poor condition: Shame over past inability to afford or mentally cope with dental care is felt by those who are quite aware that their teeth are now in very bad condition, some teeth even broken or lost from rotting.
Compassionate messaging in social media posts, paid ads, and other digital marketing vehicles, tells reluctant patients that your practice is the one they can trust to be understanding about their situation. This would be especially important for practices offering implants or dentures.
- Outline what you can offer: Do you provide sedation? Do you let the patient watch movies during a procedure? Do you have ambient enhancements like aromatherapy or calming music? Do you offer discounts or interest free payment plans for those on a tight budget? Be clear about what you are prepared to do to help patients cross that bridge.
“Fear and shame are experienced by many when it comes to going in for dental care. Chances are you have helped patients overcome these emotional obstacles. Making your efforts known will be a comforting beacon to patients with those same challenges.”
Build The Best Dental Website and Maximize Online Visibility with Dental Practice SEO
We like to call the website the “anchor piece” of your dental practice marketing strategy because it truly is the center of your online presence, and with other marketing elements orbiting it. Your digital advertising, whether it be Google Ads or Facebook ads, will link to your website.
Patients expect a website to have all the information they need to engage with a dental practice. Clear answers to their many questions should be easy to find such as what services are provided, how to become a new patient, and dental patient education resources. It should include everything a patient would want to know, including what insurance you take.
Your dental practice website is also instrumental for SEO, or search engine optimization (being found on page one of search results). If Google detects your website is one that provides a great user experience, it rewards it with a higher search rank.
It can take months or even a year to work your way up from page five to page one, but to ever get there, you must be consistent in maintaining website quality. Dental practice SEO checklist items are:
- Page speed: How fast does your page load? People have very short attention spans, and with internet speed being faster than ever, they will be quick to leave a slow-loading site and hop to another. Google can tell if your site speed is slow and if people frequently leave the site abruptly.
- Crawler-friendly: If we compare websites to homes, think of Google’s crawl bots being home inspectors – doing a sweep to make sure everything is where it belongs and up to code. If your page structure is not organized in the way Google expects it to be, it will not register it as “up to spec.” This can either downgrade your site or miss opportunities to rank better for elements that signal page quality.
- Content: Your patients may not read every last word of your website, but Google does. Google bots consume the entire content of your pages right down to the code while sifting for keyword phrases.
- Keywords: From your website content, Google learns what your practice is about, where it is located, the services it provides, and more so it knows who your website content is relevant to. It will match your pages to specific search terms such as “sedation dentist in Boston.”
- Blog content: Google is also likely to consider your website to be helpful to the public if it publishes regular quality content. Blog content also shows site visitors you are here to be a resource to help them make informed choices.
- Backlinks: When another quality website links to yours, this tells Google that another has vouched for yours as one of quality. The more backlinks you can get, the better. Citations are mentions of your practice in online directories, and having these mentions also helps Google identify your practice as well-established.
Beware of what is called “black hat” SEO where you force too many keywords into your website content or cheat to get backlinks. The number one rule to SEO is to focus on quality and not cut corners. Insist on “white hat” SEO that respects Google’s mission to deliver a quality experience for search engine users.
Google finds where people are taking shortcuts that undermine the user experience and will downrank websites for doing so. Google can tell when the quality of the content has been sacrificed to rank for a particular keyword, and also notices that dubious websites are linking to yours.
“Dental website goal: Provide the best user experience possible for both prospective and existing patients. “
Get on the List
Is your dental practice on all the major listing sites, for both business and dental? Many patients will turn to online directories that allow them to customize a search, so be sure that you’re registered on all the major dental sites such as the American Dental Association, American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, 1-800-DENTIST, Delta Dental, etc.
Being listed in multiple places helps your SEO visibility.
Optimize Google My Business and Leverage Dental Reputation Management
If you were to compare the appearance of search results between a decade ago versus now, you would see clear differences in how things are arranged on the screen. The Google user experience formats search results according to the user’s intent.
So, if Google detects that a user is seeking dental care, the search engine will automatically deliver localized results. So, what does that mean for your digital dental marketing strategy?
As a local service, your dental practice must have a Google My Business (GMB) profile. Local search primarily displays GMB listings, so yours needs to be there when people are searching for dental services. Setting up a profile is free, but you must fill it out completely and accurately, so patients always get the right information.
The reviews attached to the GMB profiles is another helpful user feature for localized search. Google reviews are a prime opportunity to establish your online visibility in Google search and a key component for dental reputation management.
Dental practices with high star ratings will be seen first in what is called the “local pack” which only has room for three businesses (however, a user is able to expand to see the whole list). The better your rating is, the more likely your practice will be seen first in search results (which is what most users see). You need plenty of positive reviews to have a high rating.
Reviews are the Gold Standard in Digital Dental Marketing
Consider the patient who compares one dental practice 10 miles away with a handful of positive reviews versus one a mile away with no reviews. They would naturally trust the one with the reviews and are likely to choose that one, even though it is farther away.
The typical dental patient has many options, and plenty more when they live in a highly populated area, so they tend to use reviews to narrow down a decision. Patient reviews also help other patients know what to expect as a new patient, putting patients at ease. You should ask patients to leave a review of your practice on Google and any other online reputation platforms that would be relevant to your audience.
Dental Practice Reputation Management Tips:
- Monitor your online reviews and respond to them promptly and with decorum. It helps your online image to respond professionally and compassionately to reviews whether they are negative or positive.
- With negative reviews, push those resolution conversations to a private channel to protect patient privacy. Also, refrain from asking patients to take down a negative review. It is just more honest and professional that you allow the review to stay up.
- Ask moderators to take reviews down that are inappropriate, for the wrong dentist, or contain sensitive personal information as needed.
- If you resolve the patient’s issue to their satisfaction, they may take the review down of their own accord.
“Reviews are pure gold for your dental marketing. The public trusts reviews more than any other resource, including direct referrals. Great reviews win new dental patients.”
Use PPC Ads to Advertise Your Dental Office
SEO and localized search through Google My Business are not the only ways to be found in search! When done wisely, paid search (also called pay-per-click or PPC) can help you gain Google search visibility faster. Pay-per-click for dentists is ideal for practices who have a larger budget and are up against steep competition, but some smaller budgets may be able to use this tool if they go about it in a conservative way.
How Does Dental PPC Work? Can I Do It Myself?
If you have ever searched for a local service and have seen several links with promotional language taking up space on the page, these are paid search placements, indicated with the word “Ad” off to the side.
With paid search, you can bid for specific keywords your prospective patients enter into search. This is also the perfect way to promote any specials or discounts you may be running
While this option might be the most appealing for someone looking for the best way to get in front of dental patients, bear in mind that pay per click means that you pay for every click regardless of whether the visitor becomes a new patient. You will pay more for in-demand search terms. This can add up quickly and catch you off guard if you don’t know how it all works.
But keep in mind that paid search campaigns can be difficult to figure out for a beginner. While your practice staff may be able to tackle some of your marketing tasks, pay per click is one of those marketing channels that are best handled by those with experience. PPC marketing specialists will know how to plan your campaigns for better use of your budget.
Build a Fanbase with Dental Practice Social Media Marketing
Social media can be overlooked as a worthwhile marketing channel because it doesn’t seem to promise much in the way of revenue. Social media allows you to more intimately engage with a select audience. This builds relationships with your existing patients while making an impression on prospective patients.
Like online reviews, social media captures patient sentiment and uses it to boost your practice’s image online. Patient engagement on social media confirms that patients are so pleased with your practice that they choose to interact with your content on their own personal time.
However, gaining followers and building engagement doesn’t happen on its own. With consistent social media management, you reap the rewards. To build engagement try:
- Optimized profile: You want to have a complete social media account to communicate your brand and to display competency. Savvy social media users will notice when something is off on your page from having no hours listed, no website address shared, no contact information, logos and header images that are low quality and inconsistent with the rest of your accounts or branding seen elsewhere, etc. Be sure to set up your profiles fully and upload images that best reflect the brand and are consistent with whatever else a patient finds online.
- Asking patients to follow you: Put up signage in the reception area or have reception staff ask patients to follow you on Facebook. If you have a newsletter, you can also ask for followers in every issue.
- Post a blend of fun and informative content: While you need to be professional on your social media, this does not mean you cannot post fun things. Social media is engaging because it is fun. Serious content is needed to support the patient journey, while fun content nurtures your brand by showing your practice’s personality. Contests, staff spotlight, memes, games, etc. can all encourage engagement.
- Friendly, familiar faces: Posts with pictures or videos of your dentists and staff are more likely to get high engagement. When a patient sees such posts, they stop scrolling to see what it is about.
- Consistency: Large gaps between posts and posting the same generic content over and over not only hurts your engagement but hinders users from taking you seriously. A full content calendar ensures you have something ready to post throughout the month and can help you maintain a balance of content types.
- Explore social media features: At the end of the day, social media is built for promoting business equipped with tools to help you track and build engagement. Examples:
- You can see which posts are performing better and deliver more of that kind of content.
- If a non-follower interacts with your Facebook content, you can invite them to follow your page.
- Boosted posts are not free, but they are relatively cheap and can be applied to select content that is oriented toward drawing in an audience.
- You can set up automatic responses to direct messages.
- Post video content: From what we have seen from TikTok, video content is King and is here to stay. If you have an important message to impart or want to make your social media page more appealing, you should most certainly create and post video content.
- Video content on social media is also great to explain services and can be reposted many times over. Again, consider featuring a familiar face so that scrollers are more likely to stop and watch.
- Respond to your followers: When you start to get comments or inbox messages, be sure to respond to those promptly. Adding replies will increase your engagement and help your post be seen by more people. This creates a conversation that helps build connection with followers, while also showing onlookers what kind of relationship your practice has with patients.
Want More? Check Out the Essential Guide to Dental Practice Social Media Marketing
While you may not get many direct leads from social media, having this presence is essential for any dental practice marketing strategy in the modern age. It shows that you care about how you appear online, keeps your practice top of mind with existing patients, and reinforces your brand message.
How Social Media Can Affect Your SEO
Social media linking to your website counts as a backlink. Also keep in mind that sometimes your social media accounts (like Facebook) will show up on the first page of search results when people search for your practice by name. This is even more likely when you are still in the beginning phases of building your online visibility.
When patients narrow down their options, they may look up one practice name at a time to see what comes up. If your Facebook page naturally shows up, what you don’t want them to do is to click the link and see a neglected page.
Savvy social media users notice when a profile is not complete, is missing key elements, or lacks engagement. This can be off-putting for patients who are trying to find out more about your practice.
“Engaging with patients on Facebook not only maintains relationships, but it also signals to prospects that local citizens just like them found a dentist to be loyal to.”
Perfecting Your Dental Digital Marketing Strategy – Analyze and Improve over Time
Dental practices that are trying to stay afloat, profitable, or both, need to be sure that they are getting something from the money, time and other resources put into marketing.
If not careful, marketing expense can end up being rather wasteful. Marketing performance tracking is necessary to ensure that the marketing investment is yielding results.
Dental Marketing KPIs by Channel
So, when you are trying to determine if your dental marketing strategies are working at all, what should you be looking at? This is a very basic list of key performance indicators (KPIs) to keep track of.
- How many visitors are you getting per month?
- What content are they looking at?
- How many are first time visitors?
- How long do they stick around?
- Are most visitors coming from your local area?
- Are any of your website pages ranking better than they were before?
- What keywords are your competitors ranking for that you are not?
- How many site visitors are coming directly from organic search (versus paid search)?
- Most important, are any new patient appointment requests being generated?
- Who is clicking on your ads and where are they located?
- Do they leave the site immediately or do they look around the website for a bit?
- Are new patient appointment requests being generated?
- How much money did you spend and how many appointment completions resulted from paid search?
- How are you doing compared to competitors?
- Has your star rating improved on Google or Yelp reviews since you last checked?
- Do you have any new reviews anywhere?
- Social Media
- How many new followers?
- How much engagement are the posts getting?
- Which posts got the most engagement?
- How many website clicks are coming from social media posts or accounts?
- Keep in mind that social media doesn’t generate many leads, but it also doesn’t cost as much.
This is only a cursory list of metrics to track. You may not track all, or you may track more of these depending on your specific dental marketing goals.
Check in at least once a month to see where progress is being made. Dismal performance means changes are in order. And with costly channels like pay per click, you may need to turn campaigns off until you come up with a better dental ad strategy.
Dental Marketing Strategies Recap
- Address objections: You know why people avoid the dentist. Make it known how you meet patients in the middle so that they overcome apprehension.
- Have a great website: Make a great first impression, provide the information patients want, and play by Google’s rules.
- Listings: Don’t be left out! Get on all the major directory sites.
- Online reviews: Reviews carry so much weight when patients are looking for a new dentist, so do what you can to build a great rating with plenty of positive reviews.
- Pay-per-click: Paid search is crucial for dental practices in highly competitive markets, however working with experienced PPC specialists is highly recommended.
- Bold presence on social media: While not the best revenue generator, social media captures positive patient sentiment and amplifies your practice brand.
- Regular check-ins: Marketing is an investment, so you need to track performance for returns.
Need More Guidance with Your Dental Marketing Strategy? iHealthSpot Has Your Back
Our mission is to help dental practices see real growth year after year. From building a dental website design patients love, to making sure patients can find you wherever they are looking, our award-winning web design and multi-channel marketing expertise helps the right patients find you.
Our dental marketing experts can also help you with dental logo design, automated listings management, online reputation management, social media management – everything you need to build and maintain a formidable brand in your market. We also offer website design for orthodontists.
Contact us today for a no-obligation consultation about how your dental practice can thrive with experienced industry experts at your side!