Make Sound a Key Part of Your Marketing Mix

Mark Williamson


Thanks to an aging population and a more health-conscious society, the dental sector is thriving in the United States. Total revenue has reached $134 billion, and the government has predicted that the number of dentists will grow by 19% through 2026.

Business may be booming, but an increasingly saturated market also brings a fresh challenge—how to attract new customers and keep them from straying to possibly cheaper competitors. 

Practice marketing has now become a lynchpin of success for savvy operators, with forward thinking dentists investing in display screens in the waiting room advertising treatments, email newsletters, customer case studies, and active social media channels. But while most dental offices understand the critical role of visual marketing to business success, far fewer take the time to consider how their practice sounds.

Though a valuable and important factor, visual marketing has become the norm, and it can often be difficult for dental practices to differentiate themselves from other offices in the same area. Audio branding, including on-hold marketing, the music and messages you hear when placed on hold or transferred, now represents another powerful tool in the modern marketeer’s armory.

Put on a Smile

While the shift to the digital age is increasing the popularity of online booking systems, the telephone remains an important tool for dental practices, used by patients to book appointments or enquire about treatments.   

Research shows that a poor telephone experience can directly lead to lost revenue. A study by PHMG found Americans are unwilling to tolerate poor call handling, with almost three-fifths saying they wouldn’t do repeat business with a company if their first phone call wasn’t satisfying.

As well as dealing with the call in a professional manner, giving their name, and speaking in a polite and friendly tone, practice staff should also smile on the phone. Research has found that smiling affects how we talk, so smiling throughout the phone call can convey a sense of warmth to callers, influencing their perception of the brand and boosting customer satisfaction levels.

Engage and Entertain

Good call handling also means managing hold time in an appropriate way.

Making a dentist’s appointment can sometimes be a laborious process for patients. If the practice is a busy one, phone lines may be busy with people making enquiries, and there could be a wait on hold before speaking to a receptionist.

During this time, it is important to keep callers entertained. Consumers can often recount a time when they had a negative on-hold experience, whether that’s being left for a long period without any interaction or being faced with repetitive “please hold” messages.

Without engagement, patients can end up feeling irritated and frustrated. By considering how callers feel when they ring the practice, the situation can be leveraged to create a positive experience and first-class service.

By offering callers something to maintain their interest, on-hold marketing has been shown to reduce caller hangups and reduce perceived waiting time.

Cut Your Teeth on On-Hold Marketing

Putting callers on hold represents a unique opportunity to communicate with a captive audience.

Rather than letting potential new customers listen to silence or uninspiring music or beeps, customized voice and music messages—known as on-hold marketing—exploit what is otherwise meaningless airtime, transforming it into an ideal space to influence customer behavior and shape perceptions of the brand.

An effective on-hold marketing script can be used to provide customers with information about the practice, the services it offers, and current treatment promotions. It is the ideal platform to cross-sell high-value services, such as the in-house orthodontist or the availability of modern, up-to-date equipment like dental lasers.

Messages can also help to reassure nervous patients. By promoting the practice’s friendly staff, the methods it uses to reduce dental anxiety, or testimonials from satisfied patients, they can result in happier callers with greater confidence in its services.

Giving tips on how to achieve a healthy, white smile and promoting cutting-edge cosmetic dental solutions like clear aligners also provides demonstrable proof that a practice is ahead of the curve, while explaining insurance plans and financing details can help to educate and convince callers on the affordability of new treatments as well.

A Refreshing Approach to Marketing

Given that dentists’ relationships with their patients are built intrinsically on trust, on-hold marketing can provide highly effective reassurance of professionalism before patients even walk through the door.

Delivering a positive telephone experience ensures dental practices don’t fall at the final hurdle, instead helping to improve service levels and brand perception while giving the practice that all-important edge over its competition. 

Mr. Williamson is CEO of PHMG, a leading audio branding agency with more than 32,000 clients in 39 countries. He has been with the company since 2004, working with clients across the globe to develop their unique sound strategy. He draws on 20 years of experience to advise businesses in every sector on the best way to incorporate audio into their wider marketing strategy, ensuring companies sound every bit as good as they look through music composition, voice artistry, and creative scriptwriting. He can be reached at

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