How To Improve Your Dental Marketing Strategy and Get More Patients
This post was originally published July 27, 2015, and then extensively updated with new content, additional strategies, and more on October 3, 2016.
Advertising your dental practice successfully requires a rock-solid internet dental marketing strategy. If you want to attract new patients, simply having a functional website and placing a few ads here and there just won’t cut it. Even if you’re a great dentist, you will fall behind your competitors who know how to play the game.
With a targeted, focused, diverse dental marketing campaign, you could pull in upwards of 50 new patients per month (granted, this is quite optimistic, but doable). And fortunately, the digital advertising strategies that make up a successful marketing campaign are quite simple and easy to deploy as long as you make a plan and stick to it. With just a little time and dedication, these can’t-lose online dental marketing ideas will propel your practice to the next level.
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First things first:
Before you get started with these dental marketing tips, you'll first need to have a couple essential things in place.
1. A competitive advantage (Unique Selling Proposition) that sets your practice apart
2. A great, user-friendly website
Let’s briefly touch upon how to get both of these things in place prior to implementing these marketing strategies for your dental office.
Why should patients choose your practice?
It may take a little bit of careful thought and consideration to pin down exactly what your competitive advantage is, but you can start by thinking along the lines of your location, specialties, services, and responsiveness.
If you don’t think you have anything that makes you unique, how can you start being special? Can you promise to respond to dental emergency calls, any time of day or night? Can you begin offering a new dental technology that none of the other dentists in town have?
Even something simple like letting customers watch Netflix from an iPad during treatments can make you unique. And odds are, you are already special in some way. Once you identify your Unique Selling Proposition (USP), you can use this to entice new patients in all of your dental advertising endeavors.
Is your website up to par?
A great website for dental practices is a high-converting, user-friendly website. This is a website that turns visitors into patients because it delivers what people want, in a digestible, no-hassle format. There are numerous important elements to a high-converting dental website, but here are the main ones:
- Easy to navigate
- Uncluttered design
- Loads quickly
- Has a blog
- Describes your services
- Describes your USP
- Prominently displays your contact information
- Has photos and bios of the dentists at your practice
- Has reviews/testimonials
- Behind-the-scenes page elements (meta-tags) are optimized with on-page SEO
- Clear call-to-action
- Is updated frequently
One of the most important aspects of a great dental office website is user experience.
Let's first define what user experience is (Commonly referred to as UX).
Outside of marketing professionals, few service providers realize what an impact their website’s user experience (UX) can have on their conversions.
If your site or content creates difficulties for visitors to get the information they’re looking for, they'll likely leave.
How Can You Provide a Better User Experience?
We could go on for hours about the things you should or shouldn't do with your website. For now, we'll review three different things you need to look at when considering the user experience on your website.
Having a website that’s mobile compatible is a marketing necessity at this point. Mobile search is on the rise and here’s the kicker:
What does a mobile site look like?
From Google's developer guidelines, see the image below:
People are 5x more likely to abandon a website if it isn’t optimized for mobile.
Google has also added mobile compatibility as a ranking factor, meaning that it can affect whether or not you appear in search results when a user performs a search from their mobile phone.
Luckily, at this point, making your website mobile friendly isn't as terribly complex as it was years ago. Hopefully, you have hired a professional website design company that knows what they’re doing and is following design and user experience best practices. If so, they should be able to ensure your website is responsive, which according to Google, is the preferred method.
Society has changed us.
It's changed me.
It's changed you.
It's changed nearly everyone.
In what way?
People don't like waiting and get more impatient than they did previously.
Remember the encyclopedia?
What did we do if we wanted to find something?
Well, if we were lucky enough to have a full set of encyclopedias, we'd go grab the book with the appropriate letter, and turn through the pages to find it, and hopefully we could find the information we wanted.
Most of us search on our phone or computer and have the exact information within seconds.
Here, let me show you.
What state do you think has the most amount of gold? Alaska? Nevada? Let's see.
So, when we are able to get information that fast, we just kinda expect it in other areas of our life.
This is why people want your website to load fast when they visit it.
In fact, even a 2-second delay in page load time can cause up to 87% of visitors to abandon a site.
You can make sure your pages load quickly with the help of Google’s PageSpeed Tools. It even identifies ways you can make your site faster, so you can start improving your page speed now.
If you have a few 404 redirects (Page Not Found) on your site, it won't necessarily hurt your rankings (at least not directly). However, your website visitors who are trying to navigate your site often won’t be as forgiving.
Make sure there are no barriers to navigation throughout your website, including broken links and 404 redirects.
You can use a broken link checker service and online site crawling tools to do this for you.
Google Search Console also gives you a report of your 404 errors.
To learn more about effective website design and user experience, listen to The 10 Minute Healthcare Marketing Podcast, Episode 26 that I've added below.
Most likely, you will hire an outside web design agency to create your dental practice website. However, keep in mind that this is not a one-and-done job; you need to keep the information on your website up to date and post new content on a regular basis. An easy way to keep a fresh stream of content going is by updating your onsite blog regularly.
Create relevant content
You also need to draw in your audience by providing them with the helpful information they’re looking for and building their trust in the process.
A blog is a great way to build trust and a relationship with your visitors, though not the only way.
You could create an online video show.
You could create a podcast.
There's a lot of ways to create content.
Your content shouldn’t focus on overtly promoting your practice (that’s what paid advertising is for). Instead, it should concentrate on addressing common concerns of potential patients, such as:
- The best diet for healthy teeth.
- What could bad breath mean for your dental health?
- What is the best option to replace missing teeth?
And don’t stop at a blog.
Creating content such as this and sharing it with your community is just the start.
You could create a whole content marketing strategy that can truly transform your online presence and reputation.
Build links for off-page SEO
Link-building is a type of off-page SEO. Rather than tinkering around with the keywords and other elements of your website (on-page SEO), off-page SEO includes activities to generate traffic to your website from elsewhere on the web. Link-building is a pretty darn effective off-page SEO strategy and one that can have a pretty dramatic impact on your rankings in the search results.
Think of link-building as rounding up “votes.” With every link to your website that appears online, you get a vote. With enough votes, your dental practice can increase its rankings to the top of the search engine results page (SERP), where more people will click on it and ultimately become new patients.
Here are some ways you can build links to dominate the SERP.
- Creating awesome content with viral potential — how-to guides, infographics, videos, etc.
- Guest-blogging for reputable blogs
- Claiming all of your local search listings (and third-party review sites)
- Participating in relevant local business associations and community events
For more great ideas on how dentists can get links, check out this Dentistry IQ article.
Optimize For local search
Google has updated its search ranking algorithms frequently over the years, which has made it necessary for a business owner who is marketing their practice on their own, or for the marketing agency to stay on top of these changes.
While most changes impact 'organic' results more than local, because the two different types of search results are tied together, changes can impact both.
Here are some important things to consider when looking to improve your rankings in local search:
Utilize Location Specific Keywords
When it comes time to research keywords to rank for, you can use Google’s Keyword Planner to find the ones most relevant to your business.
However ranking for highly competitive keywords like “dental practice” is going to be really difficult, and also isn’t very necessary for local search.
Here’s what you should do instead:
Come up with location-specific keywords that include descriptors related to your area, such as city and state, zip code, neighborhoods, or colloquial terms locals use to describe your town or parts of it.
Combine these with your relevant “dental practice” keywords, and incorporate them into your content and dental advertising:
- Title tag
- H1 heading
- Content body
Get Set Up With Google My Business
If you haven’t already, you should fill out your dental practice’s information on Google My Business. Use your location specific keywords in your business description and make sure your name, address and phone number (NAP) listed on the site are correct.
Next, go to other major third party review sites where your NAP may be listed (such as Yelp!) and ensure your listings there match the NAP you have on Google.
With our clients, we run a local citation audit to see where the problems may lie.
Here's an example of a local citation audit:
This step is critical because Google is going to refer to these other listings of your business to determine your dental practice’s authenticity. Even minor discrepancies in your NAP across platforms can negatively affect search rank.
But here’s the cool part:
If you do this part right, it significantly increases the chances that you will rank well in local search, and your practice can appear in the Google local 3-pack when someone makes location-based searches:
This is prime search real estate, exactly where you want to show up.
Come up with a compelling offer
Getting people to visit your website is important. However, traffic isn’t everything — you need to make an attractive offer to get the potential patient to take action. You can use an offer to “land the sale” (get someone to become a paying patient) or even just to collect useful information. For example, you can use an offer to:
- Get people from social media to visit your website
- Get website visitors to make an appointment
- Collect valuable contact information from people on your email list
- … or just about anything else!
So what should your offer be? Here are some compelling offer ideas for dentists:
- Free X-Rays/teeth-whitening/etc. for first-time patients
- Free $50 Visa gift card for new patients
- iPad giveaway drawing (in exchange for entering email address)
- Coupon for 50% off any dental service for first 100 people to follow your new Twitter account
- Visit our website to get a free download (visitors will be asked to fill out a form to get the download)
Start by focusing on a single, time-sensitive offer for new patients. If that one doesn’t do well, try testing out a more valuable offer or a lower-risk offer — for example, where the person only has to give you their email address or “like” your page to receive something free.
Step up Your Social Media Marketing
Social media marketing goes hand in hand with the off-page SEO. Social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, Google +, YouTube, Instagram, Quora, and others are useful dental marketing tools in a number of ways. But social media is about so much more than SEO — it’s about shaping your brand’s online image. You can use social media to:
- Distribute your content across the web
- Promote your offers/discounts/giveaways/etc.
- Get backlinks to your website
- Get new “fans” by posting fun and useful content
- Network with other industry professionals
- Engage in the online conversation about your dental brand
- Set up targeted ads on Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, etc.
- Take appointments and collect reviews right from your social media profiles
You can let patients make appointments right from your Facebook page.
Social media marketing goes hand in hand with the off-page SEO.
Select your platforms and set up business profiles
Facebook and Twitter are usually the main social networks that dentists use to reach their target audience. You might also consider working with Pinterest, Google+, or LinkedIn.
If you like LinkedIn, be sure to read the post I wrote about getting more patients by using LinkedIn.
And here’s the deal:
No profile may actually be better than an abandoned one.
I'm still on the fence about this one.
With an abandoned profile, there's still some benefit from a reputation management perspective (another web property/search result that can potentially push down a negative site or review).
But, what does an abandoned profile do?
Well, it mainly frustrates the visitor.
Today I did a search for a business, and I clicked on their Facebook page in the search results, because I thought their Facebook page would have the most recent and updated information.
Unfortunately, the page hadn't been updated in over 6 months.
I'd recommend focusing on a few different social networks you can commit to and update on those and interact on those, and learn them inside and out before going to another platform.
Of course, it goes without saying, time is money, so you may want to consider using a platform to help you decrease the amount of time you have to spend doing the 'busy' work.
Setup complete profiles for your dental practice, and try to make them uniform across platforms.
Have the same style of background images, share the same type of content, etc.
That said, social media isn’t all about sharing your content. If you want people to pay attention to the things you post, you should also share interesting or entertaining content related to your industry as well.
Also, take social media as an opportunity to display social proof.
Recruit your staff to participate in the conversation and endorse your brand, and highlight positive customer experiences on the platform.
Engage with your audience
Next, you should make efforts to engage with your audience. The most important way to do this is by responding to their comments on your posts. But you can also enter into different social conversations on your own to broaden your brand reach.
Here’s the deal:
Social media has become a platform for customers to endorse or complain about their business experiences. In some ways, keeping up with what your audience is saying on social media is a kind of customer service.
If a patient tweets at you about a bad experience, make efforts to fix the problem publicly on the platform. This will put your business in a positive light for everyone else who’s watching.
To really get the most from social media marketing, you need a solid social media strategy that includes a social media calendar to plan out the timing and content of your posts. Learn more about ways you can get new patients with social media by reading our blog post on social media for dentists.
Advertise Your Dental Practice with Direct Mail
Direct mail, or postcard mailers sent to a targeted group of prospects, is a surefire way to get more patients. Direct mail has an estimated response rate of 24% and an average return of $16.39 per name mailed, according to a HubSpot study.
Tyler Brown, Marketing Specialist at DentalMarketing.net, says he typically targets neighborhoods near a dental practice’s locations and sends out professional-looking postcards with an incentive/promotion to get people to call. Brown says that of every 5,000 postcards he sends, he gets an average of 35 calls, resulting in about 7 new patients.
OK, so direct mail isn’t 100 percent online like the rest of these strategies, though it coordinates nicely with digital dental marketing strategies. According to digital marketing expert Richard Rushing, as quoted by Direct Marketing News, companies that have a compelling direct mail offer or message that they link with their online ads can expect “a 10 to 30 percent uplift in conversion…when combining the two channels.”
One way to combine digital marketing with direct mail is simply to follow up with an email to the people you send mailers to.
So, how can you get started with direct mail? Easy — buy a list of new homeowners in your area and send them offers using direct mail (postcards are best) and email follow-up. Learn more about dental postcard marketing.
Get Smart With Your PPC
A lot of dental practices use pay-per-click or other online ads without seeing much in the way of returns. But that’s because they’re not being smart about their paid ads. For online ads to work, you need to be targeted with your efforts. When done right, PPC and retargeting are excellent ways to get your online ads seen by the right people — your target audience.
Retargeting is a method of delivering ads based on prior engagement, effectively “following” your audience all over the web. Some of the most common retargeting types include:
- Site-based retargeting – Serving ads to people who have previously visited your website
- Email retargeting – Serving ads to people who open your emails
- Search retargeting – Serving ads to people who search for one of your keywords.
As for PPC, my blog post 8 Ways for Dentists to Maximize the Effectiveness of Their Paid Search Campaigns outlines the main things you need to do when designing a pay-per-click campaign. Geotargeting, paying attention to what your competitors are doing, and carefully selecting and testing your keywords are the main ways you can get smarter with your dental PPC campaigns.
Ask Your Patients for Reviews
Google reviews are quite literally changing the way patients choose dentists. And if you’re not being proactive in your approach to getting online reviews for your dental practice, your online reputation will suffer.
Providing good service is, of course, the most important way to garner positive reviews for your practice, but it is not enough by itself. You also need to make it easy for patients to leave you reviews.
One way to do this is to give patients a handout or business card with step-by-step instructions on how to leave you a review on Google (which carry a little more weight in search compared to Yelp reviews). Be sure to let them know it will only take a few minutes.
Alternatively, you can have iPads in your waiting room setup to make it easy for patients to leave you reviews. You should also have a large image link on your website allowing patients to leave you a review on Google.
Make it easy for patients to review you on Google by providing a link and instructions on your website.
Finally, while it is important to also be active on Yelp and other online review sites, you should know that Yelp has slightly stricter policies regarding asking customers/patients for reviews — that is, you’re not allowed to do it. With Google, you can ask for reviews, as long as you don’t “solicit” them.
Quantify Your Efforts
An important step that many beginning marketers forget about is finding a way to measure their success. There are two essential components of doing this well, one you should adopt before you start your dental marketing plan, and one you’ll start using after you begin.
Before you launch a concerted marketing campaign, you need to have a clear, quantifiable understanding of what you hope to achieve with it.
Improving your bottom line is a goal, but there are a lot of component tasks that you can work towards to make that happen, such as:
- Increasing customer referrals
- Decreasing acquisition costs
- Improving customer retention
- Building brand awareness
Whatever objectives you have, you should make them specific and measurable. For example, you could plan to:
- Increase customer referrals by 10% this year
- Decrease acquisition costs by 3% this quarter
- Increase web traffic by 30% this month
- Gain 40 new blog subscribers this quarter
Set goals that are achievable for your size practice, and know you can always adjust them down the road.
Track the ROI of Your Dental Marketing Plan
The main components to figuring out your ROI are to keep track of new patients, new leads (prospective patients), and revenue.
If potential patients don’t convert, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your marketing strategy failed.
But it can be a good indicator that something’s not working.
For example, a new lead may have seen your ad on Facebook and made initial contact with your office. However, one of your front desk staff members may have been underperforming (perhaps didn't have a phone script to go off of, or didn't follow the phone script) and as a result, a potential patient didn’t convert.
This makes it vital to keep an eye on new leads that don’t convert and find out why they didn’t (and fix the problem). Resolving these issues can, in turn, enhance patient experience and retention.
You must know as much information as possible about why they didn't convert.
Was it because:
1. The attitude/skills/knowledge of the person answering the phone?
2. A mismatch in your ad message and what you are actually offering?
3. Of price?
Whatever it is, your team that answers your phone needs to be tracking these leads and why they didn't convert (at least their best guess based on the information they have).
Use Analytics Tools
Once you have your goals and are beginning to implement your marketing plan, you need to have the dental marketing tools in place to see how well your efforts are paying off.
Google Analytics is a must-use tool for any business hoping to market online.
Get your website set up with it, and start getting detailed insights into your marketing efforts, such as your website’s:
- Bounce rate
- Click through rate
- Overall traffic
- Time on page
- And a lot more
How do You Calculate Your Internet Dental Marketing Return on Investment?
The standard formula to calculate ROI is as follows:
Net Profit – Campaign Costs
_______________________ = Campaign ROI
This is straightforward, however, when it comes to timing and inputs concerning net profits, things can get tricky. So how do you overcome this hurdle? The best way to resolve this issue is to set up a Customer Retention Management (CRM) System.
Further, to avoid human error and time wasting, it’s best to automate it. It’s quite difficult to accurately enter data and manage it on a spreadsheet, so investing in a good CRM system can help your practice.
A good CRM system will provide consistent ROI methodology and revenue attribution. The factors also can be configured based on service line characteristics. Further, you can also keep information like email threads, social media threads, and patient data all on a single platform. What’s even better is that you can figure out direct and indirect revenue in a practical manner.
With the right CRM software for your practice, patient relations and marketing activities can be significantly enhanced.
What should you consider when setting up a CRM system?
First, you have to consider it as an investment and focus more on the long-term benefits than just cost. You also have to look at how the cost of training your staff to use the system efficiently. You might also need to consider how well it’s going to integrate with systems you’re already using at your dental practice.
There are all sorts of options these days from CRM Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) to software that integrates into your phone system and social media platforms.
A good way to make a decision is to take an in-depth look at your practice and ask your employees what they need and compare that to your bottom line. This should help you develop a good idea about what kind of CRM system will suit your dental office.
It’s also good to note that CRM software isn’t automatically all-encompassing. So you have to do your homework to ensure that your staff isn’t wasting time manually entering information from one platform to another. It has to be set up in a way that it automatically captures the data you’re your interactions with patients regardless of the platform (email, telephone, or social media).
Automation and security are the best part of CRM software and mobile apps, but not all offer it. So you have to look into that aspect as well when choosing the right CRM solution for your practice.
According to PCMag, the best CRM solutions are as follows:
- Apptivo CRM
- com Sales Cloud Professional
- Zoho CRM Professional Edition
Tracking the ROI of Social Media for Dental Practices
Marketing ideas for dental offices are usually focused on a digital platform these days, so strategies involving tools like pay-per-click (PPC) and social media come up often. When engaging in promoting your dental practice on a social media platform, your strategy needs to have two main components:
1. Stay connected to existing patients.
2. What patients experience at your practice needs to match the culture of your social media posts.
Without engaging with your patients, there is no real way to calculate the costs and benefits of your social media campaign. Further, you won’t be able to have a clear idea about patient retention, reviews, and referrals.
The best way to get the most out of your social media campaign is to maintain a dental office culture that actively posts and promotes on social media. However, it’s essential that your employees are aware of the rules when it comes to staying compliant.
To get the maximum ROI, dentists need to be engaging, consistent, and remember to focus on providing value. Some tips to keep your social media platform active are as follows:
- Staff check-in
- Sharing of (relevant) dental health related information
- Dental hygiene tips
- Patient Check In (Yelp, Facebook)
- Calls to action
Further, consider if your posts are something that your patients would want to share, or want to 'like.' Getting 'shares' or 'likes' helps you get noticed by more people, which means better brand exposure, and more potential patients.
You can also dig deep into the effectiveness of your social media efforts with analytics tools. Social media automation platforms like Buffer, for example, will micro-analyze your every tweet or post engagement, shares, etc., in addition to scheduling posts to go out at optimum times.
To have a successful dental marketing plan, you’ll need to establish operations for a lot of unique strategies and follow marketing best practices.
Still, marketing a dental office can be an overwhelming undertaking.
Though, when you do it right, it is extremely rewarding!
What is the ROI on SEO for dental practices?
Search Engine Optimization or SEO is important to make your visible in local searches. So if you engage in an SEO campaign, you can help your practice show up on the first search page and improve your search ranking. Further, you will also be visible on more patient review websites.
To achieve the online visibility you want you will need the following components in your SEO campaign:
- Become an online authority (build influence online by getting featured on authoritative sites)
- Create Content
- Optimize your website in a way that makes it easy for search engines to understand
- Claim your local profiles
There’s always going to be competition and new dentists entering the marketplace, so you have to have an ongoing campaign to stake your claim on the digital real estate. As a result, you should stake your claim on local listings and work on removing duplicate profiles.
You can also encourage your patients to leave reviews on these sites and manage it regularly. This can be done by the dentist during consultations or by office staff.
What is the ROI on Pay Per Click for Dental Practices?
A holistic dental marketing strategy also entails pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns. PPC is a paid search advertisement that appears when someone searches on a platform like Google, Yelp, or Facebook.
It can significantly enhance your search visibility and get new patients in the door. As a result, if your goal is to increase patient leads, a PPC campaign can be one of the best ways for you to achieve it.
The benefits and costs can be calculated as follows:
Approximate value of new patient – Cost of acquisition
_______________________ = ROI
To get the most out of your PPC campaign, you also have to keep track of every patient lead call. You also have to keep tabs on any online scheduling form that’s filled out.
One thing to note when engaging in PPC is that time defines the success of your campaign. Each time a prospective patient clicks your ad, calls your dental office, and schedules and appointment, it has to happen quite quickly, or you have the potential to lose that lead.
So PPC alone isn’t enough to get the maximum ROI. You will need to use other internet marketing strategies we've discussed in this post.
For example, when a prospective patient contacts your office after seeing your advertisement, you need a well-trained individual at the other end of the phone with a knack for closing the deal and confirming an appointment.
The ad copy should also be enticing to make the prospective patient click it. Further, the ad should use keywords and location targeting accurately (or you’ll be wasting a lot of money).
You might also want to consider device-specific landing pages to ensure that you don’t miss out on the mobile audience, or better yet, use call only ads with Google AdWords.
Further, make it easier for them to call you directly after visiting your website with a call to action.
Call recording and tracking can also help to see what keywords and times are driving calls. However, if you decide to record the calls for quality assurance, please make sure that your patients and prospective patients are made aware that the conversation is being recorded.
Here's what call tracking for dentists can look like:
When it comes to digital marketing for dental offices, the touch points need to tell a convincing story. By consistently engaging, monitoring, and if appropriate, tweaking your dental marketing strategies and tracking your results you have the potential to reap the highest benefit (or your end goal of getting more patients in through the door).
How much should you spend on marketing? There is no set amount, however, if you are trying to attract new patients, we recommend spending between 20 and 30% of your gross revenue on marketing. Please check out this article and listen to the podcast below for more information.
Once you get started with all of these dental marketing techniques, you will watch your new patient numbers start to grow, maybe steadily, but probably in fits and spurts, at least initially. It is good to do a combination of short-running campaigns (i.e., direct mail, time-sensitive promotional offers, PPC), along with continuous online marketing strategies (writing content for link building, staying active on social media, email marketing, etc.).
Be sure to pay attention to your web analytics so you can note which keywords and offers work best and refine your strategies as needed.
Do you need help with your dental marketing strategy? Not sure if you are doing what you should? Not sure of the results to expect? Let's get you an analysis. Just click the button below and we'll get you set up with a website and SEO analysis.
To learn more, check out our podcast episode called 8 Internet Marketing Mistakes Dentists Make. You can just click on the link below to listen.