What They Didn’t Teach You in Dental School – Dental Marketing 101
Mark Hale ‐ April 27, 2015
Marketing a dental practice can be challenging. After all, it is a special animal and requires a special approach…or does it?
What kind of marketing should I do for my dental practice? How much should it cost to market my dental practice? How many new patients should I be getting to keep my practice on track? What is the best way to market to our current patients? Can I just do email marketing for my dental practice? What about web marketing, or a billboard? Ah hell!!! I need to see patients. I don’t have time for this!!!
The frustration is the same whether you’re the dentist who is an owner/operator or a practice manager who has looked at these same questions. The following are straightforward answers to these common questions.
What percent of your gross income should be invested on marketing your dental practice?
The answer to that depends on your practice and how much and how fast you want to grow. The minimum you would need to invest into marketing your dental practice would be between 6 – 7% of your practice’s gross sales. A more aggressive number for growth and expansion would be closer to 8 to 10% of your gross sales. As your practice grows, so should the amount of money you invest in marketing. Avoid getting locked into a set amount for marketing because this can lead to the stagnation of your sales. The better method is to set aside a fixed percentage of gross sales.
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But the better question is: What should the Return On Your Investment (ROI) be when marketing your dental practice? Basically, anything that generates production of 3 to 4 times the cost makes sense. Unfortunately, there is no one who can say that if you invest x-dollars on an Internet campaign or direct mail marketing campaign you will get $XX back. If you find someone who tells you this, they are lying to you. The truth is, your market area is very competitive and your prospective patients do have a lot of choices, but that is not to say you should not set goals for returns on your advertising investment. What is the best way to do that?
You have to understand when you advertise your dental practice essentially you are buying patients. To set a target, first things you need to know are:
- What an average patient is worth to your practice a year?
- How many years does a patient stay with you?
This will tell you what a new patient is worth. For example, an average new patient usually spends $800 a year and stays with the practice for 4 years. Then a new patient is worth $3200 to this practice ($800/year multiplied by 4 years). This number will obviously be different for you based on what type of practice you have.
The second part of marketing your dental practice is tracking your advertising. You have to have a way to track new patients calling in. You can ask them when they call; you can look at your invoices and see how many new patients came in; and third you can have a call tracking number. This special number records all incoming calls from a specific piece of promotion. This will let you run a sort of quality control on incoming calls, as well as accurately track the number of calls you received from the specific marketing campaign.
What is the best way to divide my marketing money between the many different forms of marketing? How do patient demographics play into this decision?
Of the money you set aside for marketing, 70% should be invested in getting new patients and 30% spent to market to your current patients. Always err on the side of spending too much on getting new patients because that is the future of your dental practice.
There are a couple things you can do to stretch your budget. The first and easiest thing to do is to market to your existing patients promoting other services and offering special incentives to them. Keep in mind that if the only thing you send your existing patients are bills and recall cards, then what kind of relationship do you expect from that?
Sending a quarterly newsletter to your existing patients keeps you in front of them between visits and also is a powerful tool to help generate affinity for your practice and helps with patient referrals. If you want to ensure high retention rates, increase unsolicited referrals, and get your patients back in for more care, you need to send out a monthly patient newsletter. This is a printed piece, not an email. Some dentists feel they can save money by sending out an email out and skip printing and mailing via hard mail altogether. Email is fine, but due to the large amount of spam being sent today has limited effectiveness.
New patient marketing should revolve around a two-part strategy. Part one, to put something in the hands of prospective new patients and part two, an aggressive patient referral program for the practice.
The most effective way we have found for part one above revolves around Every Door Direct Mail. With this program we can help you save money on postage by getting your postage rates down to .16 – .19 cents per postcard. The fact is that there is less competition in the mailbox than anywhere else. Direct mail is effective and trackable.
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We also offer patient referral programs to help you maximize your return on investment by turning every new patient into 3 new patients. When you start talking numbers like this, it makes it easy to take your dental practice to the next level.
Another thing you should be doing is either a monthly or bimonthly mail out with a special offer to your inactive patients. My clients who do this find they make more money every month by sending out inexpensive note card mailers or postcard mailers to their inactive patients.
Marketing your dental practice is easy; resist making it more complicated than it is. Many so called consultants will try to get you to try this or that, which is fine only if it’s increasing your reach out into your local community. Marketing works best if it is flowing outward.
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