How to Create an
Awesome Dental Marketing Plan
Every small business owner tends to struggle with creating their first
marketing plan. I think the main reason for this is that most business owners
tend to focus on the outcome and end campaigns, while often overlooking the
strategy, planning and execution phases. Unless you’ve gone to school for
marketing or business, you probably haven’t been trained to create a strong
marketing plan. Doctor’s that we work with here at Elevate DDS have many
years of school under their belts, but not many of them studied any sort of
marketing during their time in college. This is why we thought it would be a
good idea to outline what a dental marketing plan should look like, from
inception to campaign completion.
Getting Started on
Your Marketing Plan
Each dental office or dental practitioner should have many marketing
plans for different campaigns. For an overall “general office marketing
plan” we recommend taking a look at the resources from the American Dental
Association here. This will help
you establish appointment setting systems and things like a CRM or Client
Relationship Management program. These are basic general office needs for
creating appointments and managing client relationships.
For this article, we are going to assume you have these systems in place
and are ready to move on to more advanced marketing plans. So without further
ado, we’ll jump right into creating your first (more advanced) dental marketing
plan and campaign(s).
Define Your Goal –
The first step in creating a marketing plan or campaign is to define
what the end goal will be. Are you seeking general new patient acquisition or
are you looking to sell a specific service such as invisalign? How much revenue
are you looking to generate from starting a new campaign? Are you looking to
educate existing patients for an “up-sell” or are you looking to
acquire all new patients with a specific service? These are some of the
questions that should be answered when determining your goal.
Services to Market –
When creating a marketing plan or individual marketing campaigns, it’s
definitely a good idea to start by picking a service on which to focus.
Campaigns can definitely be more general if the overall goal is say, new
patient acquisition for general dentistry. However, if you can narrow a
campaign down to focus on something more specific, the outcomes will generally
be more successful. The strategies and demographics will vary drastically by
service, so you will want to create a separate plan, strategy and campaigns for
each service or end goal.
Establish a Unique
Value Proposition –
After you’ve mapped out your goals and which services you want to
market, you should identify your Unique Value (or Selling) Proposition.
You need to understand what separates your dental practice from your
competitors. Is it friendly service or location options? Years of unique
experience? Maybe it’s a combination of a knowledgeable and friendly staff,
pricing and payment options? If you’re having trouble identifying what your
unique value proposition is, try asking your patients why they prefer coming to
your practice over others in your area. Once identified, this should be the
focal point of your marketing efforts moving forward.
& Target Market –
Demographics is the term that generally describes things like age group,
gender, income level, geographic location and education level to name a few.
Obviously the demographics and target market of your campaign will vary by which
services you are choosing to market. Marketing dentures to a younger audience
would not have quite the same impact as they would on a much older demographic.
The same could possibly be said for dental implants, where this procedure might
appeal more to an older male audience. Identifying a target market for each
campaign will be critical for online marketing success, and targeting potential
patients in social media marketing campaigns or pay per click advertising.
Set a Budget –
Once you have everything in place, you can set a monthly or yearly
budget that your practice can afford. It’s good to have a monthly budget in
mind, then read through the following strategies. After you’ve read through all
the marketing strategies, revisit your budget to make sure that all goals,
budget and strategies align.
Marketing Campaign Strategy
The next step in fulfilling your marketing plan is to determine the
strategies or types of marketing you will use to complete your goals. There are
a large number of marketing strategies you can use in each campaign. Learning
more about each strategy and determining which methods are best to use for
hitting your goals is critical to success.
In-Office Flyers –
Internal or in-office marketing is one of the oldest, easiest and
probably cheapest way to market your practice and services. The only problem
with this method, is you first have to have the existing patients to market to.
If you have a large patient base that comes in for regular check-ups and cleanings,
you can always create handouts that focus on cosmetic dental services. Most
patients might not know how easy it is to straighten their teeth with
Invisalign® or brighten their smile with in-office whitening. The best part
about flyers and handouts, is companies like Invisalign®, Lumineers®, Zoom®,
etc. usually have these flyers available for you to use for free! Getting these
in front of existing patients is a great way to up-sell cosmetic dentistry
Direct Mail –
Direct mail campaigns can be hit or miss depending on execution. But
when direct mail works well, it can really change your practice. One thing to
consider with direct mail however, is that it can be extremely hard to measure
results. This varies drastically from online marketing, in which you can track
nearly every action.
There are a few different approaches that practices can take with direct
mail. Postcards should have a very specific message to them that addresses your
practices value proposition. It is extremely rare that anyone would actually
call a practice solely from a piece of direct mail in today’s internet savvy
world. Most people who take any action will usually check out your reviews and
online reputation. So rather than focusing your call to action (CTA) on a
telephone number or email address, focus your CTA on a custom website landing
page that is tailored to your campaign. Not only can you focus this page around
your value proposition, you can also measure the results by the number of web
hits received. Also consider buying a short domain (URL) to act as a
“vanity URL” that is very easy to type into a mobile phone or tablet.
This vanity URL would then redirect to the landing page on your dental website.
Print Advertising –
Much like direct mail pieces, print advertisements should be well
thought out and executed. Print ads can be extremely hit or miss and can be
pretty expensive depending on the publication. In my opinion, if you have the
money to invest in print advertising, then make it big. Don’t settle for a small
square somewhere in the middle of the publication.
In my experience, advertisements that have run on the front page of
newspapers and publications are the only ads worth running. Occasionally I have
found a full back page ad to be semi successful, but the content of that ad has
to be really spectacular. Focusing your ads content on an emotional reaction
from your audience will generally grab a bigger response rate.
Overall however, I would shy away from print advertising as a dental
practitioner unless your creative is extremely good. For the amount of money
you could spend here, other online marketing tactics will usually produce 3x
Email Marketing –
Email marketing is a tactic that has been completely over used and executed
poorly by most industries. Think about how many newsletters you actually read
and why you actually read them. For me, I might read 1-2 a week about the
marketing & dental industries because that is how I make my living. Rarely
would I ever read email newsletters from publications outside of my interests.
Patients are not going to waste the time reading stock or canned email
newsletters anymore. If you want your email newsletter’s to be effective, then
they will have to include valuable content that was given serious thought.
Personalization is key to email marketing, just as it is key to your website
presence as a whole. Including promotions and specials will also help make your
newsletters more effective. This is one tactic that is tough to take shortcuts
with. If you want it to be effective, you will probably have to roll up your
sleeves and invest the time in creating them personally.
Radio Advertising –
In my opinion, radio advertising in the dental field is a huge waste of
money. It’s rare that anyone who hears a 30 second spot on the radio will
retain the information long enough to take any action. It may help to improve
awareness of a certain dental product or service in your area, but will prove
extremely tough to brand your practice without boat loads of money to throw at
it. The problem with radio is that most listening occurs in the car. People
can’t visit a website while driving so the only good call to action is a phone
number. It can be tough to get people to make a phone call without some really
good creative advertising.
Much like TV, typical radio advertising comes with bigger price tag and
longer time commitments that don’t prove effective.
If there is one positive aspect about both radio and television ads, it
is that you can create awareness in areas outside of your local reach. Meaning
that if your practice is based in a rural area, but close to an urban
population, you can extend your potential patient reach with TV and radio. By
running ads on the urban or city networks, you can create some brand awareness
for your practice in a nearby town. This may be one of the only positives
however, as TV ads are also very expensive. And the longer your TV spot (90–120
seconds) the more the cost goes up.
Using TV advertising to get your message across is generally not
effective. But if you can invest the money in longer ads that invoke an
emotional response from the viewer, it may work better than shorter 15-30