Developing a Marketing Plan for Your Dental Practice

Whiteboard Marketing, a marketing agency based in Columbus, Ohio is an official partner of Seattle Study Club. Whiteboard Marketing recently held a one-hour webinar for Seattle Study Club dentists that focused on building a dental practice marketing plan. For reference, the dentists were provided with a workbook to follow along and document specific goals they had for their particular dental practice. This article highlights the key success factors discussed in that webinar.

Where Can I Get This Workbook?

Download the workbook right here! This workbook/planning guide is the result of several hours of strategic marketing planning sessions with the dental practice clients of Whiteboard Marketing. Together, they developed valuable insight and applied an actionable strategy that helps dental practices gain new patients, generate revenue and recalls, and more.

Identify Your Marketing Goals

When Whiteboard Marketing leads any client through their strategic marketing planning process, three main questions are considered:

  • Where does your business stand currently?
  • Where do you want it to be? 
  • How are you going to get there? 

Start by identifying your marketing goals. What do you want your marketing investment and plan to do for your dental practice? Every practice has its own unique set of goals. Below are some examples of marketing goals for a dental practice:

  • Build your brand and awareness within your local community.
  • Bring in more new patients. 
  • Increase recall patient appointments.
  • Drive referrals from current patients.
  • Increase referrals from your referring dentists or specialists.

Identifying your goals will help determine how you want your marketing efforts to benefit your practice.

Understand Your Practice

This step involves identifying the primary services you want to focus on. Think about what services generate the most revenue for your practice. Compare them to what services are the most commonly requested by your patients. Does your practice provide those popular services?

List Your Key Services

Once you have identified those services, rank them by level of importance. These are the services you will want to focus on. Going forward, your key services will help focus your messaging and determine what advertisements you will be placing.

For example, if you are a general dentist and you are looking to accept new patient appointments for dental hygiene, that’s a service you will want to include. If you’re a specialist wanting to focus on all-on-fours, you will want to include that service. These are the ads that you want to create to attract the right customers. 

Where Are Your New Patients Coming From?

Along with understanding your primary services, you should also identify where your patients are coming from. Are they coming from patient referrals? Are they coming from staff or doctor referrals? Are the majority of your patients coming from online searches? Are they looking at your Google reviews? Have they seen you on Facebook? Knowing where your patients are coming from helps you identify where you want to invest your marketing budget.

If a lot of patients are coming from online searches, you should consider investing more money in your online search marketing strategy. If you are getting a lot of current patient referrals, you should take a closer look at your patient referral program. Do you have a dedicated referral program, or should you start one? Understanding where your patients are coming from is the first step in identifying what strategies you’re going to invest in.

Who Are Your Patients?

Understanding who your patients are in the demographic sense is important as well. Are the majority of your patients female? Do you have patients between the ages of 25 to 35, or are the majority of your patients between 35 and 60? Are the majority of your patients older and in need of restorative work? Are the women the ones driving the decision making in the family, or is it the men? Here are some demographic aspects to consider:

  • What percentage are female/male? 
  • What are their ages?
  • If they have kids, how many and how old are they?
  • What is the average household income?
  • Describe the community where your practice is located.
  • In family households, who makes the medical decisions?

This is imperative to understand in order to target those specific people in your advertising efforts. If you’re going to run a Google Pay-Per-Click ad, you can target that demographic specifically. If you are running Facebook ads, you can target that demographic within a specific geographic radius of your practice.

For example, if your patients are primarily women between the ages of 45 and 60, live within three miles of your practice, and are college-educated professionals, you can target that specific group of people on Google and Facebook. 

Your Current Realities and Resources

In further analyzing your practice, consider your current standings. Whiteboard Marketing refers to these conditions as our current realities. This kind of self-awareness is important to understand the current barriers you face in achieving your goals. Here are some of the common barriers that prevent marketing success:

  • Marketing budget
  • Designated marketing person or partner
  • Knowledge of best marketing strategies for your practice
  • Marketing training

In many cases, a dental practice owner may have asked one of their hygienists, a front desk staff member, or an employee’s daughter to take on marketing responsibilities. This approach doesn’t typically allow for enough time in their weekly schedule to focus on marketing. Or, maybe that employee’s daughter went back to college. Similar approaches limit the amount of time, resources, and money that can be allocated to your marketing efforts. 

Plan Your Marketing Initiatives

Now it’s time to narrow down the specific marketing initiatives in your strategy. Ask yourself questions like:

  • What resources are you going to need?
  • Will you need money to invest in it? 
  • Will you need time to make it happen?
  • Will you need a team member or a marketing partner who can help you do it?
  • Do you need training inside your practice to make it happen? 

If someone inside your practice is going to manage parts of your marketing efforts, take great care in deciding who is going to own that effort. Ownership is imperative because it ensures everything gets done properly. Here are some marketing initiatives dental practices should consider:

  • Website Design and Update
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Dynamic Call and Form Tracking – Track where your patients are coming from
  • Local SEO/Google My Business (GMB) – Business Listings Management
  • Online Patient Reviews – Ask for, post and respond to reviews
  • Social Media – Facebook, Twitter, etc.
  • Social Media Paid Advertising
  • Google Pay-Per-Click – Digital Advertising

Modernize the Patient Experience: Increase Accessibility

We live in a society of convenience and immediacy. Patients don’t want to wait. Give them more opportunities to convert, pay their bills, and engage and interact with you. These are valuable tactics and tools your patients are looking for. Dental practices that offer these services are the most successful at finding, converting, and retaining their patients.

Live Website Chat

If you have a high traffic website, consider adding online live website chat. Some website chat providers can communicate with your patients and prospects for you 24/7. They can direct those prospective patients directly to your office to schedule an appointment with you. 

Online Scheduling

Many patient management software programs on the market offer online scheduling. It can usually integrate directly into your patient management system. Online scheduling is a great tool to have on your website. And it’s something you can promote on social media and via email.

Online Patient Forms 

Once you’ve converted that patient, either through chat or online scheduling, how are they going to fill out your forms? Especially in today’s day and age, patients appreciate the contactless approach of filling out forms online. This is contactless for your staff as well, since online forms submit straight into your practice management system.

Online Bill Pay

Online bill pay is another important convenience modernization service you should be adding to your website. Including these tools in your practice marketing strategy is important, along with advertising these conveniences on your website, email messages, and your social media posts. 

Your Marketing Budget

Dental practice owners routinely ask how much should be spent on marketing. The industry average is between three and six percent of your practice revenue. But what does that look like for your practice?

If you are a practice that wants to grow aggressively, if you’re a larger practice, or if you’re in a larger market, you may want to consider the five to six percent budget range. This number also depends on what marketing efforts you plan on executing.

Your Practice’s Website

Take a look at your website. Do you need to build a new website? Do you just need to update your website? If you need to build a new one, invest the time and money. Your website is the window to your practice’s entire online presence. 

It’s imperative your website conveys your brand effectively and converts patients. Your website can provide everything Google needs to index and crawl your site. This is what helps your practice show up on search results, and it’s called search engine optimization. Is your website conveying your brand and what you can bring to your patients? If not, consider building a new website or updating the one that you currently have.

Other Efforts to Consider

If you are a newer dentist or you’re not quite sure how you want to focus your marketing efforts, you may want to start with a lower budget. Social media management, social media advertising, Google advertising, local business listings, and Google My Business are also high priorities for your practice’s marketing strategy. These are some of the basic, foundational marketing strategies and initiatives you want to incorporate in your marketing plan. 

Track Your Marketing

The last part of any marketing strategy is tracking your marketing. Track your marketing results and your spending. Then analyze it and evolve your marketing strategy so you’re putting your money where it generates the greatest impact for you.

Many dental practices have never tracked any of their marketing before. If you’re spending a large part of your budget to bring in new patients and retain current patients, don’t you want to know that it’s working? Here are some ways to effectively track your marketing investment. 

Dynamic Call and Form Tracking

Dynamic call tracking adds trackable phone numbers to your website. When patients call these numbers, you can track exactly where that patient came from and whether they clicked on a social post or a Google search link. Form tracking works similarly, except with contact forms on your website instead of phone numbers.

Phone Call Recording and Listening

This is a strong, data-driven way of looking at where your patients are coming from. Whiteboard Marketing recommends every dentist that does dynamic call tracking also records and listens to their phone calls. This can provide a wealth of information. 

Whiteboard Marketing listens to thousands of phone calls every year. Dental practice owners use this information to identify lost opportunities or to consider providing services many patients are asking for.

Google Analytics

If you have a website, ask your website manager to add Google Analytics to the backend of your website. Monthly reports will show you how many people have visited your site each month, what pages they are landing on, and more. Google Analytics gives you insight as to how your site is being used by your patients. 

Google My Business Insights

Google My Business Insights allows you to understand how patients are locally searching for your business within a five-mile radius of your practice. With Google My Business Insights, you can learn answers to questions like:

  • What are some keywords patients are asking about? 
  • How many times did your practice show up on the Google map? 
  • How many patients called from that map listing? 
  • How many patients requested directions to your practice from that map listing?

These are very easy insights to obtain. You should have access to them and you should start looking at them.

Social Media Insights

On the backend of your social media pages, you have fantastic insights available that highlight what types of posts are driving people to engage, comment, like, and share. Social media insights can help you create similar posts that are more likely to perform well. They can also help you hone that messaging strategy, refine it, and continue posting these successful outreach efforts.

Question on Patient Forms

When developing your online new patient forms, always ask them how they heard about your practice. You’ll learn which of your marketing strategies are working best straight from the people you are reaching. You can ask this question in many different ways:

  • How did you hear about us?
  • How did you get our phone number? 
  • Where did you see our name?

It does not matter how you ask. Just make sure you make it a consistent practice to ask how your patients heard about you on your new patient forms. As you receive answers to these questions, add that information to your patient management system. That way, when you run your patient referral and tracking reports, your data reflect the full story of how your customers are finding you.

The Bottom Line

If you have not already done so, consider revisiting your practice’s marketing strategy. Plan to revisit that strategy on a quarterly basis and compare results with your goals. Are you achieving those goals? 

If you are not achieving your marketing goals, think about what may be holding you back. As mentioned earlier in this article, consider your practice’s current realities. Your marketing plan will need to be revisited and adjusted over time, and doing so will help your dental practice achieve greater marketing success.