Focus On: Marketing in the Modern Dental Era

Roger P. Levin, DDS


Roger P. Levin, DDS, discusses what it takes to build an effective marketing campaign for your practice.

Q: What do you do if your marketing plan is still one from the Stone Age?

A: If so, it’s time for it enter the modern dental era! Marketing in dentistry is now as fast paced and ever changing as most businesses are, and the days of simply relying on postcards, newspaper ads, or, worse, tooth magnets are over. Today’s effective dental marketing campaign requires a variety of traditional (eg, print, radio, etc) and contemporary (eg, online and social media) marketing vehicles to promote your brand and bring patients to your office door.

Q: Is marketing really that important?

A: There was a time when dentists were able to see continual growth from new patients without marketing. Even if they lost patients, the number of new patients counterbalanced the number of lost patients to ensure a comfortable amount of yearly growth until a satisfying plateau was achieved. They could then remain at that plateau with slight growth for the remainder of their careers, experiencing increased yearly revenue throughout their practice histories. However, these days, the number of new patients available to practices has diminished, the competition for these patients has increased, and reaching them through marketing is more important than ever before. Because of this, all dental practices must have a comprehensive marketing campaign.

Q: What is the best way to develop a marketing plan?

A: While the number of new patients has decreased, the opportunities for marketing have increased greatly, and practices that build effective marketing campaigns can continue to see growth. However, building an effective plan can be arduous and time consuming. Many dentists find marketing success by working with outside marketing experts. The key is to properly assess these companies to determine if they have the right methodology for your specific practice. Any company that you choose should have a multitude of marketing options, proven strategies, and well-documented follow-up systems. If you choose to outsource part or all of your marketing efforts, be sure to meet with the marketing company regularly to ensure that the recommended strategies are effectively bringing new patients to your practice.

Whether self created or outsourced, your marketing plan should account for multiple audiences by using various messaging and marketing vehicles. Simply look at the difference between how baby boomers and millennials behave. Baby boomers grew up with newspapers, network television, and phones that only made phone calls. Millennials have been using the Internet, cell/smartphones, and social media for a large percentage of their lives. Of course, there are anomalies in which baby boomers behave like millennials and millennials behave like baby boomers, but, overall, these groups each access information and respond to marketing in different ways, and every marketing campaign must account for this. Even if the marketing campaign has a singular focus, such as increasing dental implants or cosmetic dentistry, it needs to reach different people in different ways.

Marketing campaigns can also be targeted. For example, the practice can promote free oral cancer exams for anyone in the community. Once a patient comes in for a cancer examination, they can then be educated about preventive dentistry, and then a discussion about restorative, cosmetic, or implant dentistry can take place. The key is to have certain targeted messaging that is sent to the right populations to create interest in a specific treatment or service.

Keep in mind that it is not as simple as putting marketing messages out into the universe and getting great leads; you must also follow up. Making contact by phone, email, or even snail mail can further interest and help make the case for your practice. Once you have a prospective patient in the office, you must seal the deal with an excellent case presentation.

Q: What is the best way to use online marketing and social media?

A: The emergence of the Internet and social media has changed the marketing game completely. For many patients, their first contact with your office will be online, and many people will judge your practice (at least initially) by search engine results and your website. Your first step is to make sure your practice information is correctly listed with all search engines, particularly Google. If your search engine profiles are incomplete or contain outdated information, patients will have a difficult and frustrating time finding you.

Additionally, every practice needs to have a professionally designed website with easy-to-access information, including your treatment philosophy; services; hours of operation; doctor’s bio; email contact; and links to Facebook, Twitter, and other social media pages. If your site looks unsophisticated, functions poorly, or contains outdated information, it will create a bad impression and may turn away referrals and prospective patients.

Social media should be used to inform and entertain patients, not just as an excuse to talk about your practice. While a tweet or a Facebook post can publicize important practice announcements, you should also share stories about oral health, nutrition, and other subjects that patients may find interesting. And, if you haven’t tried Facebook ads yet, do so now! These promotions are easy to create, inexpensive, and often highly effective. You can target your ads based on location, age, interests, and other characteristics. And, unlike traditional marketing, you can track the effectiveness of your campaigns by seeing how many potential patients clicked on your ads.

Q: Any closing advice?

A: There is no one-size-fits-all marketing methodology. Marketing must be managed, tracked, and changed on a regular basis in order to be effective. It may be hard or even a bit scary to leave some of your old marketing strategies behind, but, if you follow this advice, you will be poised to enter the modern dental era.

Dr. Roger Levin is a third-generation general dentist and the chairman and CEO of Levin Group, Inc, a leading dental management and marketing consulting firm. To learn more about the company’s training and consulting services, visit

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