Dental Advertising Now
This is an interesting time for dentistry. It’s a time of change. But there is one thing that will never change, and that’s the need to advertise your dental practice to keep your schedule full. You might be on cruise control right now, but eventually, every dental practice will want a predictable new patient acquisition strategy. In this article, we’ll discuss many different types of dental advertising options available to you today. Some remain outdated and may even be dangerous to your business if used incorrectly.
Dental magazines are a great way to advertise your dental practice to the top ten to twenty percent of local households. Remember, whenever you mail ANYTHING to dental consumers, you must segment the market into different target groups. Dental magazines give you the opportunity to reach your target audience, have the space to really communicate the benefits of today’s dentistry, and get your name out there as a leader in the dental field – all within driving distance of the target. You would be surprised, there really are patients out there looking for the BEST dentist and not just the cheapest dentist.
Here are the plusses with dental magazines:
- They will always generate the highest return on investment/response.
- Responders are pre-sold.
- Treatment acceptance will rise.
- Administrative overhead will go down.
- Tend to get much bigger cases.
Here are the minuses with dental magazines:
- Two to three times the cost/piece when compared to a dental postcard.
- Lowest number of initial phone calls when compared to dental postcard and dental brochure campaigns.
- Low number of new patients. Since each new patient could represent $30k to $50k in work, you don’t need very many to make a magazine campaign pay off big time. But you also would not use dental magazine campaigns to fill large voids in your schedule.
Dental postcards are a great way to initially get the word out about your practice and get new patients in the door. Postcards allow you to reach people within your target market who may not have seen or heard about you before, thanks to their ability to be mailed on a mass scale. The downside to postcards is size. You really do not have the room/space on a postcard to introduce or brag about the many benefits of the dentistry you provide. The post office gets one-half of one whole side for the bulk mail indicia and an address. That leaves you about one and a half sides of a postcard to give the recipient a reason or multiple reasons to choose you.
You need space for your name, logo, a tagline, and a map of your location is always a good idea.
The limitation in space on a dental postcard usually leads the designer (in some cases the dentist) to use the space to communicate an offer or deal of some kind. Some dental postcards have multiple offers/deals on them.
Here are the plusses with dental postcards:
- They can be a cost-effective part of an overall marketing plan if targeted and deployed properly! If you’re looking for an affordable way to advertise your practice locally, it is difficult to beat the cost per impression on dental postcards. But remember, DO NOT mail them to everyone. Choose the middle 30% to 40% of the population for your postcards.
- Their size makes them easy to store in a takeout menu drawer for later action.
- They tend to generate higher volumes of phone calls and higher number of new patients when the marketing spend is measured against other forms of direct mail advertising.
- Use dental postcards when the practice needs a short-term boost in patient volume. Good examples might be a startup or when a one-dentist practice adds a second full-time dentist. Any time you need a large volume of new patients in a short period of time.
Here are the minuses with dental postcards:
- They tend to attract shoppers. Because you only have room to highlight a reduced-price offer or multiple reduced offers, the people who respond to these will NOT produce longer-term exponential ROI like (as an example) the brochure type or magazine type dental ads produce.
- For every patient who responds to these, your total available market shrinks. It is not uncommon at all for a postcard campaign to run great for one year, but then show fewer and fewer responses as time passes. This means spending the same money for less result.
- Because you are attracting shoppers, fewer treatment plans will be accepted and more time/energy will have to be spent by your business team, to get them to come back for their next professional cleaning appointment.
Dental brochure-type mailers find the middle between postcards and magazines, very well. The dental brochure-type mailers should be delivered to the top forty to fifty percent of the available local households. Just like postcards and magazines, you never deliver any of these options to
everyone. Target segmentation is a very important part of being successful long-term with your direct mail advertising.
Here are the plusses with dental brochure type mailers:
- They have the room to brag about the services, amenities, technology, conveniences, and public relations assets you possess – WITHOUT the higher cost of a magazine.
- They tend to attract new patients who are looking for a quality dental home, as opposed to the cheapest dentist in town.
- When compared to postcard responders, lifetime ROI is eleven times greater.
- Long-term admin costs will be lower than dental postcards, as these people are not choosing you because of an offer.
- Use dental brochure type mail when the practice needs an additional handful of really good new patients each month. You can use dental brochure-type mailers in conjunction with dental postcard mailers and dental magazine mailers. But you can only use each effectively if you follow the proper market segmentation and targeting criteria.
Here are the minuses with dental brochure type mailers:
- Because they must be folded, glued, sorted, and delivered to bulk mail facilities differently than postcards, the lettershop labor is higher than postcards but lower than magazines.
Digital Dental Ads
Digital dental ads are a great way to reach dental consumers who are actively, currently (as in right now) searching the internet near you, for dental services. If you want to learn what it takes to properly manage a digital dental ad campaign, click here for a supporting guide.
Digital dental ads tend to generate a high volume of new patient phone calls. The quality of those calls’ ranges from the lowest low to the highest high. Most are low/middle. The conversion rate of calls (getting a caller into the practice) is lower than all forms of direct dental advertising.
Here are the plusses with digital dental ads:
- Call volume, volume, volume! In the right market and situation, getting the phone to ring by people actively looking for dental services is usually not a problem.
- Controlled budget.
- More accurate marketing attribution (measuring where new patients are finding you).
- Speed. In two weeks or less, a digital campaign can be set up and running.
- Targeting by service offering. If you just want new Invisalign ™ (or other dental niche service) patients, a campaign can be set up specifically for the type of patient you are looking for.
- Targeting by geo
Here are the minuses with digital dental ads:
- Ad placement is a bidding environment. Other dentists (or those they pay to manage their campaigns) can pay more for ad placement than you are. So, while your budget can remain stable, competition can erode the results of a stable budget.
- Shoppers: It is VERY common for a patient to visit their dentist, get a treatment plan, be overwhelmed with the quoted price, leave that dental office, sit in the parking lot, and use their phone to “shop” for cheaper local alternatives.
- There is literally ZERO qualification targeting using digital dental ads. You can target geographically. You can target people on their phone. But you don’t know where they live, what their income is, or what strata they are in when it comes to credit score. So, you will get people who can afford your services, and you will get people who cannot afford your dental services.
Dental Social Media Ads
First, let us define Facebook as the 900-pound gorilla for dental social media ads. Yes, you can advertise on IG and other social media, but let’s focus on the big one.
Second, we have to create a distinction between dental social media ads, and dental social media posts/engagement.
Posts/engagement = good. If you have someone in your practice who wants to and might even be excited by the idea of promoting your dental practice on Facebook – go for it! A good friend of ours, Rita Zamora, wrote a guide on this topic. You can find that guide here.
Facebook can be the world’s largest, and for the most part free, public relations tool. If you have someone in your office who wants to engage with local people on Facebook for the purpose of eventually attracting them to your practice, we would be giving you high fives. We know dentists who have consistently used social media posts and engagement to drive new patients into their practice. Many of these patients are really good new patients too! We would suggest joining local Facebook groups run by women. Many revolve around elementary, middle, and high school moms. There are also many general community groups, yard sale groups, etc.
The idea is to join the group, participate in non-dental discussion, provide some value to the group – then when the opportunity arises, let them know where you work. The inquiries will just naturally flow from there. Don’t spam groups with dental advertising or obvious promotion. You will get kicked out.
Dental social media ads – maybe good but probably not. Dental social media ads are different than posts and engagement. Ads just show up in your timeline. You basically pay Facebook to interrupt someone’s timeline with an ad. Like a TV ad interrupts programming.
Digital ad platforms require truth in data. For YEARS professional marketing people from all industries (not just dentistry) have scoffed at FaceBook’s targeting engine and FaceBook’s reporting engine. To a professional digital marketing person – data is everything!
Facebook was unable to back up its targeting numbers of users, number of impressions, and number of “clicks” to advertisers. So, marketing firms eventually soured on the idea of using their client ad dollars to promote on a platform which was not telling the truth.
In testimony before Congress, a representative of FaceBook openly admitted that FaceBook doesn’t really know how their targeting and reporting engine works.
So, why would a professional marketing firm use their platform on behalf of a client? Good question.
Does that mean we will not manage Facebook ads for dental social media ad clients? We will. But we will be very cautious with spending and very deliberate in tracking the outcome of the spending. Dental social media ads do work for some dentists, but they are not consistent market to market.
Outdated Dental Ads
Dental Commercials on TV
You might see one or two, but they are fading. The first and foremost reason why television commercials should be eliminated as an initial marketing strategy is because they’re still expensive even though their audience is more and more fragmented.
Remember back to the good old days, when you had about 5 decent over the air TV channels? That means people had about 5 choices on what to watch. How many choices to have right now? You’ve got over the air, cable, Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, the distribution points are endless and the channels and subchannels count up in the thousands! We went from 5 channels to thousands of channels in one generation.
Yet TV ad rates are still out of the reach of 98% of dentists out there. TV ads “might be” something to look at if you have a small to medium size DSO with offices surrounding a fairly large city. In that scenario you might be able to justify taking a piece of your marketing budget from let’s say 20 dental offices, to try over the air TV ads.
If you do find TV to be a viable alternative, be sure to run a series of different dental commercials on TV. Back in the day when we did many television ads for dentists, one thing we did was rotate five or six different ad topics into the paid airtime. You never want the public to think you only do one thing (implants, cosmetics, Invisalign, sedation, etc.) So, you create an ad for each and rotate your ads within the airtime.
More than anything, unlike print or digital marketing campaigns that focus on specific audiences based on demographics and interests (and can often be targeted by zip code and even income and credit worthiness), TV ads have no such targeting capabilities. Instead, they rely on broad audiences (which are shrinking) that may not match up well with your target market at all—or worse yet—may even reach people who might not be a great match for your type of practice.
Dental Radio Ads
Radio dental advertising is very similar to TV ads. You hear a few from dentists, but they are fading. We used to manage many. Like TV ads, dental radio ads would likely work best for someone who has multiple dental practices in a close geographic range (like a 30-mile radius for instance). Also similar to dental TV ads, you wouldn’t run just one ad continually. What you want to do is rotate a series of single topic ads. Maybe one on dentistry for the whole family, another on Invisalign, another on dental implants, maybe one on sedation, and one on cosmetic dentistry. You would want to rotate those ads through your airtime to get the best results.
Dental Print Ads
The days of print ads in newspapers and magazines are long gone, but they’re still a popular choice for many dentists. In fact, Google recently reported that there were more than 10 billion paper ads viewed by consumers in the U.S. last year alone. While this might sound impressive at first glance, it’s important to consider some facts about these types of advertisements:
Dental Yellow Page Ads
Google is now the yellow pages. The billions each year formally collected by the yellow pages, is now collected by Google. The yellow pages have been dead for a decade. Is there a dentist or two out there who invests and does well in the yellow page directory? Probably.
Your Dental Marketing Strategy
When it comes to your dental marketing, you must invest in the most effective mediums available, or risk being left behind. If your marketing budget is stretched thin and you’re not sure where to start, simply eliminating these outdated methods will save you money and give you a baseline of modern options to consider. Once you have a better idea of how much money is available for advertising, it will be easier for you to narrow down which strategies are best for your practice’s needs.
We hope this analysis has helped you understand which types of dental ads will be most effective in the future. We know dental advertising can be difficult, with so many different options to consider and the ever-changing landscape of technology. However, we firmly believe the right type of ad, targeting, and delivery to the right local consumers can make all the difference in the world for practices looking to stand out from the crowd, and we hope these insights have given you a clearer idea about how to do just that!