DIGITAL MARKETING | 20 Min Read

The Ultimate GuideTo Dental Marketing

Dentists often find dental marketing
challenging to get right.

‘I spent a small fortune buying and setting up a boutique practice in Royston and tried for many years to increase revenue and turnover in a sleepy Hertfordshire town.”

– Raj Wadhwani, Clinical Director
Antwerp Dental Group

As much as you might want to improve your marketing, it can be an uphill
struggle getting the results you really want from it.

Sticking to the old, tried and tested ways of promoting your dental practice
can often feel a lot simpler.

But with consumer spending on dental services increasing by almost 300 percent since 2005, there are significant opportunities to use marketing to boost your new patient numbers. 

We’ve put together this guide for dentists who want to know how to get better results from dental marketing.

What Sleep Business Leaders Want From Digital Marketing

Here are some of the challenges that you might want digital marketing to solve:

  • Retain market share in the face of increasing competition.
  • Become more patient-centric by engaging with patients directly.
  • Build awareness around your new sleep devices, treatments and/or products.
  • Quickly grow your presence in new markets and with new audiences.
  • Get higher quality leads for a lower price.
  • Prevent revenue from declining.


01. BENEFITS OF DENTAL MARKETING

Here are some of the reasons why you might want to improve your marketing:

  •  To increase the number of new patients you receive each month.
  • To gain an edge over your local competitors.
  • To perform more high value treatments.
  • To retain patients for longer.
  • To attract and retain high quality employees.
  • To shape or change patient attitudes to your practice and treatments.
  • To inform patients about new treatments that you have on offer.
  • To promote a dental practice that you’ve purchased.
  • To position your practice and treatments more effectively in the 
  • marketplace.
  • To develop a ‘practice brand’ that distinguishes your practice from its competitors. 

 

To attract patients needing emergency treatment.

02. YOUR DENTAL MARKETING PLAN

Your marketing plan is a granular look at where your practice and competitors are positioned in the local marketplace compared to other practices. It takes points of difference into consideration, such treatments, pricing, practice size, standards of care, and reputation.

Your plan also considers your goals, such as the reach you want to achieve and type of practice you want to become.

You might be tempted to skip creating a marketing plan, particularly if you’ve been practicing in your local area for some years. But if you do, you’ll be missing out on gaining highly valuable commercial insights that you can use to market your practice.

As the saying goes, “you can’t be what you can’t see”. A marketing plan is your roadmap for navigating future success.

Creating one is an iterative process that you continually add to as new information comes to hand. It doesn’t have to be complicated. To write one that doesn’t gather dust, but actually helps to grow your practice, you need to consider these points:

Your marketing objectives

What goals do you have for your practice? Focus on three or four outcomes and make them quantifiable. These could be about the number of new patients you see each month, profit you want to make, the number of specific treatments you want to carry out in a month.

Knowing what you’re aiming for now will help you determine later on in your plan how much budget you need to allocate, the time it will take to reach your goals, the marketing channels you’ll use and how you’ll measure success.

Dental market research

“Did you know the dental practice down the road has started doing direct-to-patient marketing and SEO? Their website is getting 52 percent more traffic than it did a year ago.” – Anonymous Dentist

The ‘practice down the road’ was in this case Moira Wong Orthodontics. This is how much her practice grew in the space of a year, perhaps leaving her local competitors in Kensington, London, wondering why they were seeing fewer new patients. (You can read more about how Dr Wong did it in this case study.)

Do you know how fast your competitor’s are growing? How about how much your competitors charge for the same treatments that you provide? What about the type of customer service they offer? What do and don’t they do well? And how does your practice stack up in comparison to theirs?

You might think your practice, say, offers the best patient care in the area, but until you take a detailed look at what your competitors are offering it’s impossible to say this with accuracy.

Their customer experience policy might involve offering patients Uber rides to the practice. It’s not as far fetched as it might sound. 

Doing a competitor analysis will determine where your practice sits in the local marketplace in comparison with others. You’ll be able to: 

  • See what makes your practice unique.
  • Use it to create a keyword strategy for SEO (more on this later).
  • Use it to create a point of difference in your marketing.

A competitor analysis can also highlight opportunities that may exist for services that other practices don’t offer, but you possibly could. 

To help you get started we’ve created a competitor analysis template. You can download it by clicking here. [Insert link to download competitor analysis template]

Understanding your best customers 

To understand who to target your marketing at, you need to first know who your highest value patients are.

Every time a patient comes in for a clean; for an implant or a filling, over the years it obviously adds up. Knowing your Lifetime Customer Value (LCV) can help your team realise that they aren’t just performing a £20 check-up, but potentially acquiring a £6,300 patient.

This is a formula you can use to work out your LCV:

Lifetime value = the average sale x the number of repeat visits x the expected retention time x profit margin.

So, for example, Anne Smith spends on average £450 every visit x the 2 visits she makes in a year x the 7 years she’s with your practice x 25 percent profit margin = £1,575.

Your high value patients are likely to be a small portion of your overall patient numbers. Identifying their characteristics will help you target more people like them.

The best way to do this is by interviewing your highest value patients or asking them to complete a survey. You can do this using platforms such as SurveyMonkey or Typeform.

What you’re looking for is common traits that identify them as high value customers. What websites do they visit the most and why, for example? How do they choose a dental practice? How do they decide to go ahead with a treatment?

By tailoring your marketing to attracting your highest value patients, every pound you invest will return significantly more value.

Next up, we’ll look at how you can use LCV for targeting, which is where patient personas come in.

Creating patient personas

Now you know the characteristics of your highest value patients, you can develop personas to target them more effectively.

Personas are fictitious examples of what you already know about your patients. It includes information such as their age, income bracket, post code, their reading habits and whether they’re digitally savvy or not.

Personas help you build a picture of the type of person you’re aiming your marketing at. They’re also invaluable for tracking how many of these new patients are visiting your practice every month.

Your best implant patient might typically be a 60-year-old woman who reads the Daily Mail Online and gets her local news updates from Facebook (according to your dental market research). Creating a persona about her, that includes this level of detail, will help you know which channels to use (ie, Facebook) to reach more people like her.

By tracking new patients by their persona, you can see how many high value patients you’re treating each month and compare this monthly, quarterly and annually. If numbers stagnate you can use your dental market research to refine your targeting for this group or to launch new marketing strategies to attract them.

TIP: Personas are also useful for sharing with employees during onboarding and with agencies that you outsource work to. They ensure that both inside and outside your practice there is a unified view of the type of patients you treat.

[Insert a link to download a persona template now]

How to engage your ideal customer

Now you have your personas, greater knowledge of your competitors; you know what makes your practice unique and understand what makes your best customers tick.

You can use this information to start developing educational material – such as content on your website – that’s tailored specifically to their buyer’s journey. This is the steps they might take enroute to eventually booking an appointment with you.

Here’s an example of a new patient buyer’s journey for implants:

Awareness stage

A 55-year-old man has lost a tooth and he’s worried about the gap in his mouth. He’s been reading educational material online to find out what happened and why.

Consideration stage

Having carried out a considerable amount of research, he now knows what may have caused the problem and what’s it’s called (ie, gum disease). He’s now considering all the available options to treat and fix it.

Decision stage

He’s decided what he’ll do and he’s shortlisting dental practices so he can find the best one to visit.

Each stage is an opportunity to create educational content that answers a prospective patient’s questions, identifies their problem, empathises with them and builds trust.

At the end of one stage, you can also create ways to help prospective patients move on to the next stage, and to eventually book an appointment with you. These are called calls-to-action or CTAs. Here’s an example of one we use in this article:

Your executive summary

Your executive summary completes your marketing plan. It’s a short explanation of what your practice is and its purpose or reason for existing. It gives it an identity and can provide your employees with a focus and vision for the work they’re doing. It also helps to align everyone working in your practice to a similar goal and set of values.

With your goals determined, personas written, buyer’s journey worked out, it’s time to create the scope. This involves deciding on a budget to allocate to marketing and listing out the work that needs to be completed to deliver the outcome you want.

If you’re using an agency to carry out this work and ongoing marketing campaigns – such as website management, Pay-Per-Click and SEO – they should provide you with a scope of works (SOW) before they start. This will include details about the deliverables, deadlines and costs.

Preparing your dental team

When you’re ready to launch your marketing campaigns, the key question you need to consider is, ‘who will handle the increase in patient enquiries (or ‘leads’ as they’re referred to in sales and marketing speak) that are created?’

Do you have a system in place to manage these as they come in? And does your team know how to respond appropriately to these enquiries?

Managing the volume of new patient enquiries that marketing generates can be challenging. This is especially true if it’s the first time you’ve carried out a significant marketing program.

These are the key points to remember:

1 When marketing is done well it generates high volumes of enquiries.

So, it pays to be prepared, with systems and processes in place before your campaigns launch.

2 When the enquiriets start coming, they will be tentative, as opposed to patients who are ready to book an appointment

As the buyer’s journey above shows, prospective patients can be at different stages in the decision-making process. Their enquiries could come as phone calls, through your website or by email. It’s important that your reception team doesn’t lose interest in someone who isn’t interested in booking an appointment immediately. Questions are a prerequisite to booking an appointment, so every enquiry is of value to your practice.

3The nature of the enquiries will be different than your team is used to.

The way your team responds to enquiries is important if they’re to have the best chance of making a good impression. If sales is an area where your team needs help, a specialist dental agency should be able to provide training for your reception teams to learn how to do this effectively.

4Your team needs the time and resources to follow-up with enquiries.

If someone has left a phone message or sent an email, your practice team needs to respond quickly. The chance of you turning a ‘lead’ into a patient diminishes the longer they leave it. Their lead response time should be within five minutes. It might sound fast, but research points to the fact that even waiting an hour significantly reduces your chances of success. People will quickly lose interest if your team isn’t quick enough, and you won’t get as many patient appointments booked from the leads that are generated.

5 You’ll need a system in place for ‘nurturing’ new
patient leads.

(Again, your agency should be able to help). ‘Nurturing leads’ is the process of building relationships with people who enquire. It’s about listening to their questions and providing them with the answers they need.

Once a potential patient has had some kind of contact with a practice, many dental teams don’t keep in contact with them after the first few attempts or the first few communications. There’s a huge opportunity to get bookings longer term by adding people to remarketing campaigns (more on this in 04. Dental Practice Marketing ), adding them to newsletters and keeping in contact with them over the following months.

“Some people will take months before they decide to embark on getting dental implants or their orthodontic work done – or even choosing a new dentist. If you stop engaging with those potential patients after the first few communications, it’s going to significantly reduce the chance of them considering you, because you’re not maintaining any presence in their mind.”

Loran Simon

Founder of Somnowell Marketing

You can download best practice on how your reception team can increase new patient leads over the phone by clicking here.

With the first version of your marketing plan now finished, you can use the findings to focus on defining and refining your practice branding.

03. YOUR DENTAL PRACTICE BRAND

Your brand is your point of view on dentistry, your treatments and standard of customer care. It’s what you stand for and how you push or promote that point of view.

Thinking of your dental practice as a brand can give it an identity in a crowded marketplace. It can make your practice memorable in the minds of patients. This can make your marketing have more impact and greater recognition (or ‘brand awareness’ as marketers call it).

Having a ‘practice brand’ can also help you clearly see how your practice is positioned in the market in comparison to others. And what you need to do to strengthen that position.

It’s more than the logo and design that people see when they visit your website or your dental practice. It’s also the experience people have when they come into contact with your point of view. That could be at your practice or in any situation ­– whether it’s online, in print, on the radio, on the phone with your receptionist, and in your dental chair.

When you have a strong ‘practice brand’ patients know what to expect when they visit your marketing channels.

You might wonder how you go about creating an experience that is memorable and makes your point of view stand out from your competitors’. Where do you start? It’s actually consistency that counts.

Consistency is the way your practice speaks to people (called your ‘brand tone of voice’) on Instagram, Twitter and all of your other marketing channels. Consistency also pertains to the way your logo is displayed. An example is the London Underground logo. Every time you see it – whether it’s in a tube station, on TV, online, on a poster – it’s always the same. The colours, shape, imagery and words don’t change. Your branding needs to be consistent, too.

Creating a design style guide

To achieve consistency in your dental brand, it pays to develop a ‘single source of truth’ about every aspect of your branding. This is your design style guide. It includes the colours, font, font sizes, font spacing, links to different versions of your logo and any design elements that make up your brand.

For example, you may have chosen to use Montserrat font in all your communications and advertising, because it’s clear and easy for patients to read online and in print. Likewise, you may want all emails to be in 10pt, and all headings to be in 12pt and bold.

Your colour palette might be identifiable as three or four main colours, which you specify by their HEX numbers so there’s no confusion about which blue or shade of white that you mean.

Tone of voice

Your brand tone of voice is one of the most important elements of your branding. And it can be challenging to get right.

For example, you may decide that your brand tone of voice is caring, attentive, professional and informative. You might talk to patients this way when they’re in the chair, but is it the same on your marketing channels such as Facebook and Instagram? Are you team all using the same tone of voice with patients?

If your practice Instagram page is full of personal comments from your staff and friends, it will be more challenging to establish a brand identity (or the personality of your business) in the minds of patients. They’ll be left wondering, ‘What’s in this for me?’ You really don’t want their answer to be, ‘Not much’.

That’s because ultimately, the patient needs to be at the centre of all your marketing. How patients perceive and experience your practice brand (known as its ‘brand equity’), reflects on its commercial value and impacts how much you can charge for your treatments.

The process of managing this consistency (known as ‘brand management’) is a constant process. But by ensuring everyone involved with your practice stays true to the style guide and tone of voice, you can start to build brand recognition that prospective patients recognise and trust.

04. DENTAL MARKETING TACTICS

Your dental marketing plan will have highlighted who your high value patients are and the marketing channels you can use to find people in similar demographics. There’s a huge range of marketing options available to you. A specialist dental marketing agency can advise you about which ones will be the most effective for the patients you’re trying to reach.

Let’s take a look at the options:

Patient referral marketing for dentists

Word of mouth has long been the best way for dentists to attract new patients. Nowadays, many dentists are making the most of Google Reviews, Facebook and other review platforms to build trust among patients and to promote their high standards of customer care.

Almost all (91 percent) 18 to 34-year-olds consider online reviews as valuable as a personal recommendation, according to research. But asking for a patient to review your treatment or your practice can be awkward.

And tracking where your referrals come from can also be challenging. But for dentists who can get on top of these metrics, it can be hugely beneficial. According to research from Software of Excellence, these dentists report their patient numbers have “increased or increased substantially” in the past few years.

Here are 4 ways you can generate referrals and use them to generate more business:

Create a referral process: 

Asking for a referral when a patient is in front of you – rather than by email or a website form – is more personable and likely to produce the best results. If your reception team isn’t used to asking patients for reviews, you can give them a short script like the one below that shows them how. The best time to ask is when a patient is arriving for the last appointment in their treatment plan. Avoid asking when they’re paying, as your patient could misinterpret this as rudeness.

Always encourage your team to use the patient’s name so they make the most of every opportunity to build a relationship with them.

“Hi… (say the patient’s name). Dr… (say their dentist’s name) said they’re really pleased with how your treatment turned out. We’re always trying to communicate the benefits of … (say the treatment you provide) to patients.We’re asking all our patients if they’d be happy to visit our website and write a review. We’d really appreciate it if you could leave a comment about your treatment. It’s very easy to do… (hand the patient a business card). The website address is here… (point to the website URL). You just go online and … (explain how to leave an online review).”

Your brand advocates

Your best patients are likely to be brand advocates. These are people who are extremely happy with the results of their treatment and likely to tell others about how successful it has been.

These patients could provide a quote for your website (also known as a testimonial) or even appear in a video that promotes a treatment they’ve undergone.

 You could also ask to add their name to a ‘happy to refer’ list. This is usually a small group of patients who are happy to be phoned by prospective patients to discuss their experience undergoing treatment. This works for high value treatments or for nervous patients, where the decision to go ahead with a procedure can involve a longer decision-making process.

 You could incentivise your ‘happy to refer’ patients by offering a treatment voucher or discount. Before you get started though, check this information about GDPR to know what is and isn’t possible regarding the sharing of personal data.

‘Refer a friend’ programs:

Many dentists ask patients to refer others through their website. Sometimes these are as simple as offering a £20 gift voucher to a patient who successfully completes a treatment or making a donation to their nominated charity.

Other times, tiered systems are offered to reward patients who refer more than one patient. These can range from 50 percent off check-ups to offering electric toothbrushes for successful referrals.

Again, make sure you’re compliant with GDPR before asking your patients to provide their friends and family’s details through your website.

Joint venture referrals:

Partnering with a local doctor’s practice, allied health practitioner or local business to promote each other’s services is known as joint venture referrals. It can benefit your practice by driving more traffic to your website, creating a source of new patients and building awareness, and trust among patients.

The key is to make sure the practice or business you partner with has a large client base for you to promote to. Their patients should be similar to the types of patients you treat. This ensures that you can both benefit from sending patients to each other. And it’s important that you share similar values. After all, you don’t want to refer your patients to another business or practice that doesn’t uphold the same standards of care that you do.

There are many ways you can partner with businesses. Here are just a few:

  • Promote their offers in a newsletter to patients.
  • Highlight their practice or offers on your waiting room TV.
  • Write a blog for their website (this is called ‘guest blogging’) that includes details about your practice. Then promote this on social media.
  • Jointly sponsor an event as part of National Smile Month or Mouth Cancer Action Month. Promote your support for this event by working together with a PR agency.
  • Feature them as a speaker at one of your events.
  • Produce co-branded flyers to distribute at healthcare events.

Dental website design

Your dental website is likely to be the first experience that a new patient has with your practice. It’s where they will first encounter your point of view on your chosen specialties, patient care and the customer experience you offer.

Research shows that patients form an opinion about your website in just 50 milliseconds. So, it’s table stakes that it’s responsive (which means it displays well on all devices), is easy to navigate, and the pages load in two seconds. (You can check your page loading speeds on Google’s PageSpeed Insights.) Any slower than two seconds are you risk patients clicking away to your local competitor’s website ­– and then they may never return.

Your unique selling point (USP)

Understanding what’s unique about your brand (your unique selling point or ‘USP’) or what distinguishes it from local competitors, is key to your dental website design. If you’re the only practice in your local area to offer ‘Smile In A Day’ then it goes without saying that you highlight this point of difference.

Or if you’re the only all-woman dental practice within a five-mile radius then this is also part of what makes your brand unique. Your USP, combined with the personality of your brand is what will make it memorable in the eyes of patients. You can reflect your deep understanding about your patients in your brand personality, in the images you choose for your website, the types of content you serve up to patients, and your brand’s tone of voice.

Responding to patients’ emotional states

When patients land on your site because they’re interested in the Smile In A Day procedure, what they see needs to immediately resonate with their emotional needs. They may need help, because they’re having trouble eating. Or they may need reassurance that the cost won’t be high. Your website design (ie, the images, headings and the way the information is presented) needs to answer their questions and put their mind at rest.

On the other hand, patients who have landed on your site because they want to visit an all-women led practice, may be looking for reassurance and to be impressed by the customer experience you offer. Again, your dental website design needs to reflect this.

Providing online appointment booking 

We live in a convenience-driven age where we’re used to getting what we want on-demand – whether it’s an Uber, a movie on Netflix or a food delivery. If your website doesn’t allow for online booking you also risk losing patients to a site that does. This is especially true if a patient is trying to make an appointment after hours and your practice is closed. 

Listing your dental fees 

Your pricing needs to be transparent, so there’s no ambiguity about what a treatment is going to cost. Comparing costs is part of every buying process. If your competitor is upfront about dental fees, but you don’t state it on your website, it may disadvantage your practice. 

You may think that not stating prices encourages prospective patients to book an appointment with you to discuss a procedure. Or that every case is different so it’s not possible to provide a definitive price. But unless you can back this up with data that shows undisclosed pricing isn’t a deterrent, then you can’t know for sure.   

In this case, you could A/B split test landing pages to see which options generate the best results. A specialist dental marketing agency should be able to help you do this.

Digital marketing for dentists

Digital marketing can deliver predictable and sustainable revenue for your dental practice. It allows dentists to track each click and each visitor to their website, and each enquiry that comes into their practice.

From those enquiries, you’re able to see which ones turn into additional revenue for your practice.

“You can assign a certain level of budget and you can estimate very quickly how much additional website traffic and inquiries and telephone calls you can expect to receive from that advertising spend,” says Loran Simon, Somnowell Marketing’s Managing Director.

“One of the best things about digital marketing is just how trackable and predictable it is,” he says.

Digital marketing includes a broad range of services, from digital advertising and SEO to Google Maps and Facebook Messenger Marketing.

Let’s see what’s included:

Digital advertising

Digital advertising or online advertising is an umbrella term used to describe all online marketing channels that present advertising opportunities. This includes search engines, email, chatbots, voice search, video, artificial intelligence, social media channels, and more.

Digital advertising also describes the tools you use to receive real-time analytics to track and manage the results, generate reports and improve your outcomes.

If you’ve created a marketing plan, then you will have worked out your goals and researched the channels where your patients spend most of their time. Your goal may be to make more people locally aware of your practice and treatments (called ‘demand generation’). Or it might be to generate more new patient enquiries (called ‘lead generation’).

You may have discovered that your Millennial patients check their Facebook feeds as soon as they wake up. Or than your Baby Boomer audience prefers to be contacted by email.

You can use this information now to decide where to focus your digital advertising spend. In this case, it might be to place Facebook ads in news feeds that appear in the morning for Millennials. And an email marketing campaign for Baby Boomers.

Social media marketing

Your social media strategy will focus on promoting your dental practice using paid social and/or organic social media.

Paid social is the process of paying for ads to appear before videos on YouTube and in patients’ newsfeeds on platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. You can target by demographic and location, so you can be specific about details such as age, income bracket and the location of the patients you want to attract.

Organic social is the free process of posting on your social pages. These posts attract increasingly more attention as more people engage with them. It’s harder to attract attention with organic posts than with paid posts, but organic social is still extremely important. Patients are likely to visit your social channels to review your dental practice and find information about your practice and the treatments you offer. Seeing your organic posts helps to boost credibility and trust in your brand.

Here’s an example of a Facebook organic social post from Facebook for Kalyani Dental Lounge in Glasgow:

Facebook Chatbots

A Facebook Chatbot sits on your website and is integrated with your Facebook page. When a prospective patient goes on to your website, it greets them and asks them if it can help. Chatbots are great for patients who are short of time and close to booking an appointment, but just need a few questions answered.

When they engage with the chatbot, the prospective patient becomes a subscriber of your Facebook page. You’re then able to send them targeted ads using Facebook Messenger Marketing (more on this below).

Facebook Messenger Marketing

Facebook Messenger Marketing is the process of using Facebook Messenger to market to your prospective patients. Why would you do this? Because the top four messaging apps – Whatsapp, Facebook, WeChat and Viber – are now more popular in terms of usage than the social media platforms Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn. On Facebook Messenger, two billion messages each month ‘move’ between businesses and people.

 

There are three types of ads that you can place on Messenger: Sponsored Messenger ads, Messenger ads or Click-to-Messenger ads. These appear either in Messenger or – in the case of Click-to-Messenger – in ads on Facebook, Instagram or in Messenger that click through to the app.

Dental SEO

When a dental patient searches online, ideally your practice should appear in the top results that they see on the search results page.

Dental SEO is the process of making continual improvements to your website to improve where it ranks on the page. A range of on-page and off-page tactics optimize your website and how patients find it online. SEO is a slow burn that produces compounding results over time.

 One of the key skills needed to achieve a top page ranking is knowing exactly what patients are searching for. This is called ‘targeting’. The better your specialist dental marketing agency is – and the more years of experience they have – at knowing the words and phrases that patients use during their online searches, the more successful your dental SEO strategy will be at generating results for your practice.

How SEO and PR work together

PR has become a crucial part of your off-page SEO strategy. The attention that PR can generate through the media helps to build links to your website. This increases your Domain Authority (the score that predicts how well your website will rank in SERPs, the search engine results pages). And this in turn can improve your Google ranking and increase the amount of traffic your site receives – all of which can drive a greater return on investment. 

PR can also have other more traditional benefits. It can promote your practice brand and give you a voice in the local marketplace. It can create greater awareness of your practice and treatments, keep your practice top of mind, and position you as a thought leader. 

PR experts can help you do this many ways, such as doing a tie-in with a local radio station to discuss topical subjects such as dental anxiety and cosmetic dentistry.

Local SEO

Local SEO makes your practice visible to prospective patients during their online searches for local information. According to Google, four in every five consumers find local information by using search engines. This makes Local SEO essential for dental practices. 

Your Google My Business account is where you can verify your practice information to improve your chances of appearing in the Google My Business sidebar (find out more below). It’s also where you can create a Google Phone Ad and Google ad campaigns, locate your practice on Google Maps, and appear in the local finder. 

Like all SEO tactics, Local SEO isn’t a ‘set and forget’ strategy. Your Google My Business profile needs to be continually managed and improved if it’s to deliver the best results.

Let’s unpack each of the features: 

How to appear in Google My Business sidebar

By verifying your practice information, you have a chance of being shown in the sidebar of Google during searches.


Here is an example of Google My Business sidebar for Antwerp House Dentistry’s Cambridge practice.


The sidebar is where information about your practice is displayed in one place. Essentially, it’s an extension of the homepage on your website – and a powerful, FREE way to promote your practice. It provides prospective patients with quickly accessible details such as your phone number, website address, videos, business hours, Google reviews and much more.

For dentists, it can benefit them by:

  • Increasing awareness of your dental practice.
  • Increasing the number of enquiries you receive.
  • Improving traffic to your website.
  • Providing searchers with a great user experience.

Not all practices are featured in the sidebar. Your success is dependent on a number of search ranking factors, such as how good your website is at answering searchers’ questions. This is where a specialist dental marketing agency can really come in handy. Their SEO experts should be able to use tactics such as on-page SEO to optimize your website and maximise your chances of appearing in the sidebar.

Google AdWords

Google AdWords is one of the sharpest tools in your marketing toolbox for generating results quickly. Also known as Google ads, paid search, Pay-Per-Click and PPC – these are the paid ads that you see at the top of search engines like Google or Bing. 

With a click-through rate of eight percent, Google ads can help you create new patients for any treatment. It can also increase traffic to your website where people can find out more about your practice and self-educate about a treatment that you offer. Ultimately, both of these can help to increase trust in your dental brand. 

Google ads work by allowing you to bid on keywords you want to use in your ad. When prospective patients use these keywords in their search, your ad is displayed. But you only pay when they click on the ad. 

Even if you’re not investing in Google ads, it pays to keep an eye on your competitors, who might well be using your ‘branded keywords’ in their ads. This can result in prospective patients clicking through to their site instead of yours.

Here’s an example of a dental practice whose website has been forced down the page by a competitor’s ad:

Timing your Google ads

When you were researching personas for your marketing plan you may have uncovered information about the times of the day your prospective customers are online. You can use this information when you place your ads, giving yourself the best opportunity to reach potential patients when they’re searching for a practice or treatment.

Remarketing

If you’ve ever been ‘followed’ from one website to another by ads from sites you’ve already visited, then you’ve experienced remarketing (also known as retargeting). 

It works by placing a cookie or pixel on to your browser when you visit a social media page, website or landing page. It’s designed to recapture attention and bring searchers back to your website. 

Remarketing can have a significant impact on your conversion rates (visitors who clicked on remarketing ads to reach your website are 70 percent more likely to convert when they get there). Dentists need to exercise caution though, because it can’t be used for all treatments. It pays to ask a dental marketing agency for advice before you get started.

Content marketing

Providing educational content on your website – in the form of blog articles and video – can have significant benefits for your practice. It builds trust with prospective patients, which is an important step towards them booking an appointment with you. 

When patients are at the beginning of their search for, say, implants, serving up educational content that deals specifically with implants can create awareness of your practice and put it front and centre in a prospective patient’s mind. 

When they’ve finished reading, you can offer them the opportunity to come to an event at your practice where they could talk to you and find out more. Or you can offer them a free consultation.

These vital ‘next steps’ are called calls-to-action or CTAs. They direct patients to conversion points which, for most dental practices, is booking an appointment.

Educational content is a vital piece of the marketing puzzle. This research points to the fact that consumers are 131 percent more likely to purchase from the brand straight after reading a piece of educational content compared than those that don’t read any content.

How to tell if your content is working 

Once you’ve created content, it’s time to put it to work by promoting it. You can link to it in organic social posts, ask your staff to share it on their social profiles, and you can feature it in your Google ads. By optimising it using SEO tactics, it can also rise up search engine results pages (SERPs), bringing more people into contact with it and your website in general. 

Like all marketing tactics, you can track and measure the success of a piece of the content on your website. Google Analytics lets you see a vast range of metrics, including how many people are viewing your content and where they’re coming from to find it (ie, from your Facebook page). 

You can also see all-important ‘time of page’ metrics to find out how long people are staying on a piece of content. Heat mapping software such as Hotjar can tell you how far down the page they’re reading. You can also track your CTAs, to see how many click-throughs you’re ‘next step’ is receiving. 

If your educational content is video and it’s hosted on YouTube, you can see insights about viewing data. This information can help you to decide if you need to make changes to your content to make it more ‘sticky’ (aka engaging) or – if it’s getting ‘traction’ or good viewing data – promote it on your other marketing channels.

Advertising your practice

By the time you arrive at advertising, you will no doubt have already written a marketing plan, decided on your marketing goals and allocated a budget to achieving these. To advertise your practice, the next step is to approach either: 

  • An advertising agency.
  • A media buyer; or
  • Deal directly to the business where you want to advertise. 


Advertising agencies and media buyers can help you decide on the type of media you need (such as a radio ad) and where to advertise (which radio station to advertise on) to get maximum exposure for your budget. 

Advertising agencies can take care of everything from the strategy and creative through to production and viewing or listening figures.

Media buyers on the other hand specialise in buying ad space, but many can offer targeted strategies for placing ads and can even do the creative work for you – often at much cheaper rates than ad agencies.

“Media buyers can offer great value for money if you’re an average-sized dental practice that doesn’t have a lot to spend on advertising. For dental groups with a larger spend, advertising agencies offer strategic creative and polished results.”

– Ivan Davies, an executive creative director at Arc Worldwide

The third option – and generally the most affordable route – is to approach an advertiser directly – whether they’re a bus company, shopping centre or cinema. You can then either have the creative work produced by a member of your own team or go through the advertiser’s media company to create and place the ads for you.

Some local advertising options include:

  • Radio.
  • Cinema.
  • Local press.
  • Pull-out inserts in local press.
  • Inside buses and at bus shelters.
  • Digital displays in local shopping centres.
  • Direct mail drops.
  • Posters in local stores.

Event marketing

Holding free events in your practice so prospective patients can learn more about treatments is a great way to generate new patients. It’s also a great way to convince others to book appointments with you. 

You might, say, be running digital marketing campaigns about implants. When prospective patients call with questions you could invite them and a friend to a free event about implants, like this one, at your practice. 

This gives you an opportunity to discuss the treatment with them and someone new, while they’re all in one room – rather than as individuals. This could save you and your team valuable time. 

It also gives you the chance to build a relationship with them, establish trust, answer their questions, book in their consultation and even offer them a discount if they book during the event.

How to ticket your events

Eventbrite is a website that you can use to issue tickets to your patient events. If your event is free of charge for your invitees, then it’s free to use through the Eventbrite site.

If you want to have the ticket process embedded on your website, rather than your prospective patients clicking away to Eventbrite, you can use one of their paid options.

Ticketing your events is a good idea because it gives you an indication of how many people might be interested in attending your event before it goes ahead. This helps with planning the room size you require, seating, catering, and the possible return on investment.

Post-event follow-up

As people arrive, ask them to sign in and provide their email address, so you can follow up with them later. Sending an email out that covers everything discussed during the event will also help them take the next step to booking an appointment. You can make your communication personalised to their dental requirements, showing the standard of patient care they’ll receive when they visit your practice.

05. WORKING WITH DENTAL MARKETING AGENCIES

The skill and time involved in getting digital marketing right means it’s cheaper for many dental practices to simply outsource it. In doing so, you can potentially gain access to a fully integrated marketing team with years of experience who can work on a wide range of digital tasks for you.

When you’re hiring a marketing agency, it’s important to be clear in your own mind that the agency satisfies these 4 criteria:

  • Experience: the agency has years of industry experience working with practices just like yours.
  • Resources: they have sufficient resources available to deliver the results you need.
  • Skills: they have the right skills within its team to produce the return on investment that you require.
  • Expectations: you and the agency have a shared understanding about the results the agency will deliver.

Questions to ask marketing agencies

Knowing exactly what to ask agencies can help you decide if their services will work for your dental practice. These questions include:

  • What channels will work best for our practice and treatments?
  • How can my practice appear at the top of Google search for our 
  • treatments?
  • How quickly will I see results starting to come through?
  • How long before I’ll see an impact from the SEO changes that your team makes?
  • How much will I need to spend on ads?
  • What is the cost of sale likely to be?
  • What’s the fee structure and do you offer a success-fee model?
  • What is the length of the agreement and is there a break clause?
  • When will my campaigns go live?
  • How quickly will I see a return on investment?
  • Can I see the results on a dashboard in real-time?
  • How often will we speak with a dedicated account manager and when 
  • will they update us with results?
  • What happens if the campaigns don’t perform well?
  • What do you know about the dental industry?
  • What other companies or types of products do you work with?
  • Do you work with any of my competitors?
  • Can we have an exclusivity clause in our agreement?
  • How can we leverage dental networks that exist in the market?
  • Why shouldn’t we do digital marketing ourselves in-house?

Questions to ask marketing agencies

This may sound obvious, but your agency team should be highly skilled and experienced in digital marketing. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case, so it pays to do your due diligence and check their credentials before you consider hiring them.

A high performing agency should have an in-depth understanding of your dental practice and the type of patient enquiries you’re generating. Agencies that specialise in the dental industry will have better insights into this than others, because they will have honed their skills in this area. If you’re considering hiring an agency that serves a broad range of industries, make sure they have enough resources to go to the level of depth required to get the results you need.

You and your agency should have a shared view of what can realistically be achieved with your existing budget. Expecting more than they can deliver could leave you incredibly frustrated, so have a clear understanding from the outset about your goals and how these will be achieved.

Your agency should provide you with a main point of contact (your account manager) who has a good overview of everything the agency is doing for you. You should receive weekly and monthly reports from them that show, for example:

  • The progress that’s been made with search engine rankings and Local SEO rankings.
  • The increases in traffic coming through to your website.
  • The number of new patient enquiries and phone calls you’ve received from the advertising across the different types of campaigns that you’re running.

 

TIP: If your digital marketing agency is tasked with delivering patient leads or enquiries, it may rest with you and your team to turn these into new patients. Be clear with them about the amount of time and the level of skill required to achieve this. If your practice needs help to train your reception team, some agencies will provide this. Drop us a line [insert link for Luke’s emails address] if you’d like us to make some recommendations.

06. TRACKING YOUR RETURN ON INVESTMENT

Tracking your marketing spend is essential for understanding the return on investment. 

You might judge your marketing ROI on the increase in new patients that it immediately generates. But the impact of marketing can offer both short-term and long-term gains. This is why marketing agencies often suggest dentists commit to a year of working with them. 

While marketing tactics such as Google ads might deliver fast results, other forms of marketing such as SEO and content marketing are long-term strategies. Educational content on your website can take three months before it starts generating traffic. 

Changes to your SEO can generate results quite quickly, if your website hasn’t been optimized effectively. But if you’re in a competitive field of dentistry, it can take longer. (A website audit can give you an indication of what needs to be improved.)

Because of this, it’s essential to track your ROI monthly, quarterly and annually. By comparing results against previous periods, you can start to notice trends in the data. These data insights can empower you to make better decisions about how and where you spend your marketing budget to get the best results possible.

According to research from Software of Excellence, a staggering 50 percent of UK dental practices don’t know how much they’re spending on marketing. Unfortunately, this makes them virtually powerless to make decisions that create better marketing outcomes. You don’t want to be one of these.

There’s never a better time than now

Digital marketing is the core of your practice’s promotional activity and we hope that this information has given you a framework for getting started and making improvements. 

 

At Somnowell Marketing, we accelerate the growth of dental practices by using customer-centric, data-driven digital marketing services that dramatically increase new patient numbers. We’ve been in business for a decade and we’re a fully integrated part of the sleep device company Somnowell. This makes us uniquely positioned to leverage knowledge accrued from years of working with dentists and in the sleep industry.

Somnowell Marketing’s end-to-end digital marketing services and solutions include: 

  • Digital advertising
  • Search engine optimization
  • Social media
  • Messenger Marketing
  • Website Design and Build
  • Website Management

If you’re interested in discussing your digital marketing requirements, please get in touch with us below.

Luke Clarkson

Director of Business Development

15+ years of management and business development experience.