What Exactly is Digital Marketing?

Jackie Ulasewich-Cullen
digital marketing picture


When we first meet with a new client and ask if they are currently using digital marketing campaigns to grow their business, a lot of the time we get asked a lot of questions to clarify what we mean. Many independent dental practices still rely mostly on what we would consider traditional marketing (direct mail, billboards, print ads, word of mouth, etc.) and do not really understand what digital marketing entails. We also find that, to the majority of dentists, digital marketing means a website and a Facebook page.

While traditional marketing certainly has its place, digital marketing has become increasingly important to revenue growth, especially in the field of dentistry, and that means far more than having a website and social media account.

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Image Credit: Darwin Laganzon

Yes, digital marketing does involve websites and social media, but that is only scratching the very surface. For successful digital marketing, a practice must employ various channels, including social media, a website, email, a blog, reviews, and ad campaigns, among others.

True digital marketing is a multi-faceted approach to advertising your practice, raising awareness, and engaging your target audience through informative, interesting, and diverse digital content.

Why multiple channels?

Digital media commands an increasing amount of our attention on a daily basis. Nearly half of all consumers look for products and services by starting with a search engine query, which provides results that include not just websites, but also images, video content, social media profiles, and online reviews.

Think about how many digital devices you personally use on a daily basis — your smartphone, your computer, your tablet, your smartwatch. It is also likely that you have accounts on various messaging apps, at least one email address, as well as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts. Perhaps you listen to podcasts, read blogs, play games, and watch videos online.

If you and your team members are using digital media to search for quality local businesses to patronize, seek out interesting content to read and watch, etc, you can bet that your potential patients are doing the same, and more. Therefore, it makes sense for your practice to produce content across multiple digital channels in order to reach them.

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Image Credit: Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

What are some of the most important aspects of digital marketing?

A common misconception among dentists is that digital marketing is all about advertising, but there is more to it than that. The beauty of digital marketing is that you have the opportunity to not only reach your target audience through multiple channels, but also through a variety of content. Certainly promotional content is important, but it is not the only way to promote your practice.

Through social media, email marketing, blogging and more, your practice can engage in what is called content marketing, which is not overtly promotional, but rather promotes by educating potential patients. For example, by raising awareness about advancements in care and common dental issues, or by highlighting key team members at the practice.

The overall goal is to take a more personal approach in order to engage the target audience, creating rapport even before a person contacts the office. This type of marketing is all but impossible through traditional print media.

Only digital media is flexible and fluid enough to be used for content marketing.

One of the most well-known and yet most complex aspects of digital marketing is social media. Having a Facebook page is a great start, but it simply is not enough to be effective. A practice must absolutely create unique content for its social media pages and update it at least on a weekly basis. However, the most important part of social media marketing is infusing social elements into all digital marketing channels, in order to create as many opportunities to share content as possible.

social media image

Image Credit: Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

When patients and potential patients who follow your practice on social media are motivated to personally engage with the content you post, they are more likely to share it with their friends and family, who may be learning about your practice for the first time. Social media marketing, when done properly, is today’s digital equivalent of word-of-mouth advertising, and is therefore one of the most essential components of any practice’s digital marketing strategy.

Email is one of the most direct and reliable forms of digital communication. In 2020 alone, it is estimated that more than 306 billion emails were sent each day worldwide. By 2025, the number of email users globally is predicted to reach 4.6 billion. It is true that social media and other forms of digital communication continue to grow in popularity.

However, email is still the most common way people communicate online. Additionally, email advertising has a higher click-through rate than social media marketing. So, while some dentists may think email marketing is not effective, the statistics would say otherwise. Email is great for reaching existing patients to educate them.  With targeted email campaigns, a practice can deepen relationships and drive new business from its existing patient base. Like social media marketing, though, email campaigns require strategy and creativity.

If the content is not engaging, timely, entertaining, and useful, your patients are not likely to be very enticed. However, if the content captures their attention and is coordinated across other marketing channels (just like with social media), it is more likely to get read and shared.

The last component we are going to address here is having a comprehensive marketing strategy. Because digital marketing is a dynamic mechanism that employs various strategies across multiple channels, success is going to depend on how much of the process components can be “automated” by outsourcing them to a professional marketing agency.

Outsourcing your marketing helps you grow your business more consistently and efficiently for several reasons, not the least of which is that outsourcing frees up valuable time and resources, so that you and your team can concentrate on providing dental care rather than creating, posting, and tracking digital content.

You are also able to collect measurable and analyzable data, useful in understanding whether your efforts are paying off. Outsourcing is just as important for planning purposes, because no one runs a single marketing campaign and that’s it. Digital marketing is a continuous process that changes and progresses monthly, quarterly, annually.

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Image Credit: Wynn Pointaux from Pixabay

Therefore, to truly be able to plan and strategize beyond today, it is essential to have a process whereby your practice monitors and tracks results. The most effective way to do that is to hire a professional with proven experience in digital marketing.

It really is not surprising that many of the dentists we meet with do not understand what digital marketing involves. It’s actually quite complex. In fact, there are many other aspects that we just don’t have time to cover in this article. Suffice it to say that a website and a Facebook page just won’t cut it if you want your practice to have a real digital presence.

Yet digital marketing is essential in today’s competitive world, especially for independent dental practices that are looking for sustainable, long-term growth. Therefore, it is important that dentists have at least a fundamental understanding of what it involves, so they don’t get left behind.


With more than a decade of experience in corporate dental laboratory marketing and brand development, Ms. Ulasewich-Cullen decided to take her passion for the dental business and marketing to the next level by founding My Dental Agency. Since starting her company, she and her team have helped a wide variety of practices all over the nation focus their message, reach their target audience, and increase their sales through effective marketing campaigns. She can be reached at (800) 689-6434 or via email at jackie@mydentalagency.com.