The Ultimate Guide to Dental Marketing

By Studio 8E8, Dentistry's Story-Driven Marketing Agency

We believe that the best marketing focuses on the long game – not overnight success tricks. Whether you’re launching a new dental practice “de novo,” or if you’ve been in business for decades, these dental marketing techniques will help you grow a healthy, successful business. If you’re ready to build a trusted brand in your community that brings in new patients year after year, and more importantly, delights and retains your existing patients, you’re in the right place!

part I:

The Foundation

Your story, brand, and budget will drive everything you do with your marketing. It can be tempting to overlook these pieces and just start advertising, but that can be a costly mistake. Just like you wouldn’t build a house before laying the foundation, you’d never want to start marketing your practice before taking the time to consider your story, brand, and budget.

In This Section:

Discover Your Story

Photo of a group dental practice team
“All marketing is about telling stories. Marketers succeed when they tell us a story that fits our worldview, a story that we intuitively embrace and then share with our friends.” – Seth Godin

Stories are powerful, and they foster human connection in a way that nothing else can. It’s critical that before you start telling others about your practice, you first stop and consider what your story is. Your practice is a direct reflection of you, so to discover your story, you need to find your “why” and connect it back to your practice.

Guide to Story Driven Marketing

Guide To Story-Driven Marketing

We want to make it easy to implement story into your marketing, so we've written a free guide to walk you through the entire process!

Get The Guide

Start With Why

If you’re not familiar with Simon Sinek’s Start With Why concept, his TED Talk and book can change the course of your business (and life)!

Get The Book
How To Tell A Story Through Your Marketing

Tell Your Story

Memorable marketing forms around a simple concept: storytelling. Learn how to tell your practice's story through your marketing.

Read Article

Discover Your Brand

Follow these three simple exercises to discover your brand.

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3 Exercises To Discover Your Brand

Build Your Brand

“Products are made in a factory but brands are created in the mind.”– Walter Landor
Photo of a dentist talking with a patient

When most new business owners think of “branding,” they think of a logo, but the truth is: that’s only the beginning. Your brand is your logo, your tagline, the language and images you use on social media and your website, but that too is just the beginning. In reality, every interaction you have with your patients (and potential patients) both online and offline, in-person and virtual, is your brand. Because your brand is how your customers feel about you. That’s why it’s so critical to stop and consider your brand at every phase of the marketing process.

While your practice’s logo isn’t everything, we do believe that it’s a very important thing to get right from the beginning. Your logo is likely the first impression that anyone will have of your practice. If your logo is poorly designed or looks dated, your patients will expect the same of your practice. Your logo is the “face” of your practice, and it’s important to put your best face forward.

Back To Basics: Branding 101

Branding 101

Learn about the importance of brand consistency, discover what good dental practice logos have in common and what branding mistakes to avoid.

Read Article

The Power of Color

Learn how your brand colors, and the colors used inside your practice, can also speak to your patients.

Read Article
The Power of Color
Photo of Janet Loos at Studio 8E8

Logos & Branding by Studio 8e8

Need some help with your practice’s branding? Learn how our team of creative experts can help you!

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Establish A Budget

“A man who stops advertising to save money is like a man who stops a clock to save time.”– Henry Ford
Photo of the Studio 8E8 dental marketing team sitting at a table

We all know the old adage, “it takes money to make money.” But before you start throwing your money into the proverbial wind, it only makes sense to take some time to consider how much you should spend and where you should spend it.

How much money should dentists spend on marketing?

The most successful practices establish a percentage-based marketing budget and stick with it year after year. Consistency is the key here, because you are creating momentum. In Jim Collins’ book, Good To Great, he equates this to pushing a heavy flywheel. At first, it takes a lot of effort to create a small amount of movement. But once positive momentum is achieved, the same amount of effort yields greater and greater results over time. Think of your marketing budget the same way. It takes larger amounts of effort (and money) in the beginning to see smaller results, but once your brand establishes positive momentum, you will see a huge return on your investment year over year!

In our experience, most dental practices without an established marketing strategy spend less than 2% of their annual revenue on marketing. We typically see successful results when practices spend between 3% and 5%. Startup practices, and practices in more competitive markets should plan on spending on the higher side of that range.

Percent of Annual Revenue Recommended For
2% Practices who want to maintain their current patient base.
3% Practices in noncompetitive markets who want to grow at a slow but steady pace.
4% Practices in low to medium competition markets with a more aggressive growth strategy.
5% Practices in highly competitive markets or with very aggressive growth goals.

Where should I spend my marketing budget?

You may have noticed that there is no shortage of marketing opportunities for dental practices. From sponsoring local sports teams and community events, to digital advertising, websites, direct mail... and the list goes on. This is where it comes in handy to discover your story first. Consider what your practice cares the most about and spend your money there. Do you want to be community-focused? Then decide how you want to connect with your community, choose a portion of your overall budget for that purpose, and freely say “yes” to the opportunities that align with your mission and budget. And more importantly, freely say “no” to the opportunities that don’t.

part II:

Digital Marketing

Gone are the days of phone book ads and billboards – digital marketing is the primary driver of new patients at most dental practices today. In the sections below, you'll learn how to build an effective, story-driven digital marketing strategy for your dental practice.

In This Section:

photography

“Photography is the story I fail to put into words.” – Destin Sparks
Photo of a photographer taking a picture of a dentist

It may seem odd to list this first – but that was no accident. When you’re advertising digitally, photography is absolutely critical. Every piece of your digital presence, from your website to ads and social media, should feature professional photos of you, your team, and your practice, so people can get to know you before they see you in person. Don’t settle for stock photos of random people with cheesy smiles – make a real connection by letting people see you and your team laughing and smiling with patients.

Visual Evidence, Why custom photography wins patients

Visual Evidence

Discover how custom photography can help new patients trust and connect with your practice before they ever set foot in the door.

Read Article
The Power of A Content Refresh

Already have some old photos of your practice? Learn why refreshing your photography library regularly can attract new patients:

Read Article
The Power of A Content Refresh
Photo of a dental team

Custom Photos by Studio 8e8

Need photos of your practice? We have a team of expert photographers that specialize in presenting dental practices in the best light.

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Video

“If a picture is worth a thousand words, what’s a video worth?”– Unknown
Photo of a videographer filming inside a dental practice

In case you’re curious, it’s 1.44 million words per minute (if you’re shooting 24p, that is 🤓)... but I digress. What better way could there be to literally tell your story than video? Videos can be used on your practice’s website, your social media channels, and even in digital ads. You can use videos to talk about your practice, explain different procedures, and even capture patient testimonials.

Telling Your Story on Camera: For The Brave and The Bashful

Telling Your Story on Camera

Brave? Bashful? Learn why video is important and how to tell your story on camera.

Read Article
Cell Phone Video Tips

They say the best camera is the camera you already have. Learn some ways to make great videos with your cell phone.

Read Article
Cell Phone Video: The Good. The Bad. The Ugly.
Photo of a video camera and headphones
Video Production by Studio 8E8

Ready to tell your practice’s story with professional video production? We’d love to help!

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Social Media

“Social Media is about the people! Not about your business. Provide for the people and the people will provide for you.”– Matt Goulart
Photo of a hand holding a phone

With the average American spending over 1,300 hours on social media each year, it’s clear that social media has our attention. As a marketer, it’s your job to make sure your business is visible in the places that have the attention of your potential customers. Think of being on social media as essentially just beingwhere your patients are. But being on social media is just the beginning. Social media done well will not only build an audience of followers, but will then convert those followers into raving fans who can’t wait to tell their friends about how great your practice is. How do we do that? By sharing timely, relevant content, engaging with people personally, and backing that up with a fantastic patient experience.

Shattering social media excuses for dental startups

Social Media Content Calendar

Having trouble finding the motivation to get started with social media? Get ready to have your excuses shattered – plus a 30-day example content calendar!

Read Article
Spring Clean Your Social Media

Ready to start? Following these 6 actionable steps will make social media work for you.

Read Article
Spring Clean Your Social Media
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Social Media Management by Studio 8E8

Need some help? We can work with your team to gather content and help you create a feed you’ll be proud of!

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Website

“Your website is the center of your digital ecosystem. Like a brick and mortar location, the experience matters once a customer enters, just as much as the perception they have of you before they walk through the door.”– Leland Dieno
Photo of a Studio 8E8 team member looking at a dental website on a computer

We like to say it like this: your practice’s website is the hub of your digital marketing strategy. Everything else – Facebook, Instagram, Google, Yelp, you name it – points patients back to it. If your website isn’t representing you well, you could be losing potential patients before they ever have the chance to meet you.

Good Design Means Good Business: Why good design is important to your business.

Web Design Tips

The best dental websites are the perfect blend between art and science. Learn why both are important.

Read Article
Writing a Dental Website

Most doctors find it very difficult to talk about themselves on their website. Here are some tips from our lead writer on how to write a website that connects with your ideal patients.

Read Article
Winning The Patient Dating Game (A.K.A. Writing a Dental Website)
5 Reasons Dental Websites Fail: 5 Flaws Dental Websites are Making and How To Correct Them

Why Websites Fail

Is your website not bringing patients in? In this article, we explain the 5 most common reasons that dental websites fail.

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Dental Website Examples

Need some inspiration? Check out this list of our favorite dental websites:

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The 20 Best Dental Websites of 2021
A photo of Dr. Joves looking at her dental practice's website on a laptop
StorySites by S8E8

If you’re ready to build a beautiful, custom, story-driven website for your practice, we’d love to help!

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SEO

“Successful SEO is not about tricking Google. It’s about partnering with Google to provide the best search results for Google’s users.”– Phil Frost
Photo of a dentist using a computer

Dental practice SEO is all about three things:

  1. Let Google know who you are, where you are, and what you do.
    Your website should be optimized in a way that makes it abundantly clear that you are a real business, in a real place, with a team of real people. But don’t overdo it – spammy techniques like “keyword stuffing” can result in lower search rankings and a loss of patient trust.
  2. Build third-party credibility and trust.
    Make sure that your business listings on Google My Business, Yelp, Facebook, and similar sites provide complete and accurate information. Build a following on these platforms by posting content and getting positive reviews.
  3. Provide quality content that Google’s users are looking for.
    Create pages for the services that people are looking for and write articles that answer frequently asked questions about dentistry and specific procedures.
5 Ways to Improve Your Local SEO: How Dentists Can Optimize

5 Ways To Improve Your Local SEO

Learn how to increase website traffic by optimizing your local listings.

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Page 9?!

Learn the basics of SEO and get your practice found on Google.

Read Article
Page 9?! How to get your practice found on Google
SEO for Growth: The ultimate guide for marketers, web designers, and entrpreneurs

SEO For Growth

There’s so much to know about good SEO strategy, you could write a book about it. In fact, someone did just that! We’re huge fans of the principles and strategies in this book.

Read Article
SEO by Studio 8E8

Are you already an S8E8 client? Learn about the SEO services that you can add onto your StorySite.

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Close up photo of hands using a computer

Digital Ads

“Nobody reads ads. People read what interests them. Sometimes, it’s an ad.”– Howard Gossage
Photo of a dentist and pateint

Digital ads should be viewed as a compliment to your overall marketing strategy. Often, they’re an effective way to boost your online presence by taking up additional digital “real estate,” and they’re generally seen as a more direct-response approach to marketing.

Google Ads allow you to “pay to play” and get to the top of search results, meeting the demand of searchers and directing them to your website for a conversion. Facebook Ads allow you to engage with your target audience directly, cultivating brand reputation, name recognition, and ultimately demand for your practice, all while using compelling images and storytelling that helps your practice shine among the rest.

The Why and How behind digital Ads

Learn all about digital ad strategies for dentists.

Read Article
Ad Writing Tips for Dentists

Follow these tips to craft a creative, high-converting ad for your practice.

Read Article
Ads aren't bad. Bad ads are bad.
Photo of a dentist talking with a patient and team member.
Digital Ads by Studio 8E8

Need help setting up a digital ad campaign for your practice?

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Online Reviews

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”– Warren Buffett
Photo of the Studio 8E8 dental marketing team sitting at a table

A solid online review strategy can boost the visibility of your online presence on search engines and social media. More importantly, positive reviews increase patient trust. Reviews are also a way to gain a deeper understanding of your customers’ experience so you can serve them better and convert them into raving fans who just can’t wait to tell their friends about you!

Photo of Dr. Len Tau, The Reviews Doctor

The Reviews Doctor

Dr. Len Tau is the foremost expert on reputation marketing in the dental space. We highly recommend watching his talks and subscribing to “The Raving Fans Podcast”.

Meet Dr. Tau
Handling Negative Reviews

Learn how to handle negative reviews on this episode of the 8E8 Show.

Listen Now
Automated Review Collection with Swell

Want to put your review strategy on autopilot? Swell offers a really great solution to automagically collect patient reviews.

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Analytics & Tracking

“I know that half of my advertising dollars are wasted… I just don’t know which half.”– John Wanamaker
Photo of a man using an iPad

While modern analytics tools make it easier than ever to avoid wasting money on direct-response ads, we’ve found that sometimes they only tell part of the story. For example, you can set-up call tracking phone numbers to know who called your practice after clicking on one of your Facebook ads. However, what you can’t know is how many people saw your ad, remembered it, and then thought of you months later when they were looking for a dentist. While these tools don’t tell the entire story, they are still very helpful to get an overall picture of how effectively your various marketing campaigns are performing.

Here are a few of our favorite analytics tools to use on both digital and traditional ad campaigns:

  • WhatConverts – Since most dentists connect with customers over the phone, a call tracking service like WhatConverts can give you a deeper understanding of which marketing efforts are driving phone calls. Another thing we love about WhatConverts is that it can also be set up to track form submissions, chat widgets, online schedulers, and even Facebook “lead ads.”
  • Google Analytics – When set-up correctly, Google Analytics can tell you which digital sources are bringing in the most new patients. WhatConverts also offers an integration to connect the two platforms together, so you can see the same conversion data in both places.
  • Google Search Console – This tool from Google gives you visibility into your search rankings and allows you to see what people are searching for when they find you. It can be linked with Google Analytics to provide insight into your SEO performance.
  • Google My Business – While not specifically an analytics tool, GMB does offer some very helpful insights into how many people are searching for your practice and how many people are “discovering” your business listing.
  • We also offer our clients access to a custom analytics dashboard that brings data in from these (and other) sources and displays all of the critical metrics in one place.
part III:

Offline Marketing

Offline Marketing might not be as “sexy” as Digital Marketing, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t effective. It may take a bit more work, but when done correctly, these strategies can bring many patients to your practice and make you stand out in the community for a minimal financial investment.

In This Section:

Patient Referrals

Photo of a group dental practice team
“One customer, well taken care of, could be more valuable than $10,000 worth of advertising.” – Jim Rohn

People influence people, and nothing influences us more than a recommendation from a trusted friend. In fact, most existing practices could see more benefit from a well-executed patient referral strategy than from all of their other marketing efforts combined! Every patient referral strategy should focus on two things: providing an exceptional patient care experience that patients can’t wait to share and offering a clear, simple path for patients to refer their friends.

Photo of two dentists talking with a patient

Best Ways To Create New Pateient Referrals

The best ways to create a patient referral system for your practice. (DentistryIQ.com)

Read Article

Internal Marketing

The cost to keep a patient is much lower than the cost to acquire a new one.
Photo of a dentist talking with a patient

These internal marketing strategies will help you keep your current patients happy, coming back, and open to more comprehensive treatment plans.

  • Create an amazing patient experience.
    Nothing keeps customers happy like an over-the-top awesome experience! Provide this, and your customers will happily come back again.
  • Remind customers about upcoming hygiene visits.
    Use a tool like Solutionreach or YAPI to send text and email notifications when your patients are due for a visit.
  • Advertise other services inside the office.
    Use wall posters, screensaver slideshows, and your lobby TV as an opportunity to tell new patients about the other services you offer.
  • Provide offers for existing customers.
    Rotate your offer every six months, and instruct team members to mention the offer to every patient who visits. It’s a great way to ask patients if they’d like in-office whitening or Invisalign without making things awkward.

Ground Marketing

“Ground marketing is a people-to-people approach using unconventional strategies and tactics designed to attract, engage, and invite your community to your practice.” – Michael Arias
Photo of two people looking at an iPad

If you would like to make your practice a cornerstone in your community and consistently bring in new patients, Ground Marketing is the perfect strategy. While the financial investment is low, the time investment is high, so be prepared to spend a considerable amount of time out in the community meeting new people and building relationships. For this reason, we typically recommend these strategies for startup doctors who may have more availability with their schedule, or for established practices who can dedicate staff resources to relationship building and being present at community events.

The Dental Marketer logo

Featured Resource: Michael Arias

Learn all about ground marketing and sign up for an online course from Michael Arias.

Learn More

Direct Mail

In the age of digital marketing, direct mail has gotten kind of a bad rap. It’s hard to justify sending thousands of postcards to entire neighborhoods when digital ads can be targeted much more granularly for less money. However, when done correctly, under the right circumstances, direct mail can be a very effective strategy for dental practices. We’ve found that direct mail is best used to introduce a new practice to the community or to present a particular offer. Due to its direct-response, offer-based approach, direct mail works especially well for insurance-driven practices who have mass market appeal. These same reasons make it a poor fit for fee-for-service practices and specialists who would not benefit from an offer-driven approach.

  • Learn what common direct mail mistakes you should avoid making.
  • Check out these podcast episodes to hear about direct mail strategies and how the process worked for other practice owners.
  • Want to send direct mail? MVP Mailhouse provides an excellent platform for sending and tracking direct mail for dental practices.

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