Dental Marketing Basics: Postcards Versus PPC

Lisa Harp


Every dental practice loses about 10% of patients a year through normal attrition. If your practice is in a transitional urban area, you’re likely noticing even higher attrition rates, through no fault of your own.

Obviously, replacing these patients is a must. But to grow their practices, dentists must go beyond word of mouth marketing to strategic dental marketing to actively find and recruit new patients.

Many dentists are familiar with postcard mailings, and they are perhaps the most common method of dental marketing. Pay-per-click (PPC) online ads are less familiar, but offer an affordable, strategic way to generate new patient leads online. Let’s see which vehicle (postcards or PPC) will be most beneficial to your practice.

PPC: A Brief Overview

PPC is online advertising you only pay for when someone clicks your ad. Advertisers create text ads, along with specifying geographical areas, timing, audience demographics, and keywords or phrases, in a PPC advertising platform like Google AdWords. The online ads are served up dynamically on the search engine results page when the keywords or key phrases being searched match the key phrases you’ve chosen.

When searchers click on your ad, they’re sent to a landing page that’s different from your website. With PPC, you should direct potential patients to a landing page instead of to your homepage or another page on your website because landing pages are designed specifically to encourage conversions, like appointment requests.

Websites are great for showcasing information about your practice. But they can be distracting for visitors you want to take a single action, such as requesting an appointment. Numerous studies show that sending visitors to a simplified landing page without links increases conversion rates, sometimes by more than 100%.

Now that you know a little about PPC, let’s see how it stacks up against postcards, comparing them based on four key factors: cost, timing, frequency, and tracking.


Postcards require a creative resource (a writer and designer), along with print cost, a mailing list cost, and postage. Even with every-door direct mail, which allows postcards to be distributed at a reduced postage rate and without a mailing list, each mailer can potentially cost from approximately $0.35 up to a few dollars each, depending on size and quantity.

PPC, on the other hand, is digital. There’s no print or postage, which is often 75% or more of the cost of a mailing. Instead, you set a budget and only get charged when someone clicks your ad. The cost of each conversion differs across the board based on multiple factors. However, the best way to get cost down is to ensure a skilled and strategic PPC partner who asks the right questions and sets up the campaign properly.


While postcards mail in batches and are hit-or-miss with the timing of when someone needs dental services, PPC ads are served up at the exact time someone is actively searching for a dental appointment. Most new dental patients are scheduled within 7 to 10 days of their appointment request. Timing, like anything in life, is key.


Postcards are obviously more restrictive on how frequently they can be sent. Meanwhile, PPC is a continuous marketing channel, being served throughout the month to active online searchers, as long as the monthly budget has funding left.


It’s possible to devise postcard tracking with special codes or offers, for example. This type of tracking is often manual and may not represent a new patient, unless current patients are removed from the mailing lists.

Everything online, on the other hand, can be tracked digitally. Marketers who know what they’re doing will apply tracking pixels to everything and track all the way through to conversion.

You should be able to know, instantly, how many new appointment submission forms were received for any timeframe, along with mobile dial calls and landline calls if call tracking is applied. At the same time, you should be able to see the total PPC spend for those leads and other critical data that you and your marketing team can analyze for continuously improved return on investment.

Ms. Harp is president and founder of PPC reinvented to provide fast, affordable, new patient acquisition for dentists. She brings three decades of marketing expertise to LeadWhoop after successfully building and running Harp Interactive, a full-service agency identified as among the best 20 agencies in the Chicago area. If you have questions about growing your practice, call (630) 570-0524 to speak with her or one of the other LeadWhoop team members.

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