Philips Sonicare

How to Market Your Dental Practice for the Best Return on Investment

The purpose of marketing is to guide and direct the patient to make value based decisions that satisfy their lifestyle needs as well as improve their health. To accomplish this you need to examine what is important and most appealing to your ideal patients. Begin by knowing the demographics of your target market, their values and lifestyle needs as well as spending trends.

Each demographic group has a different set of spending trends based on their value systems and their socio-economic status. For example, many dental offices are positioned in growing areas such as new subdivisions. The population of this demographic group is generally young adults, who may be new at their jobs and starting a family. This group has a high debt level and there is a high turnover of population in these areas. People who have purchased second homes usually have improved income levels their children are either school age or college age. Although this demographic is often at their peak earning capacity, they often have other priorities for their funds, such as college tuition. The demographic group that is over 55 controls the largest percentage of the wealth in our economy. People are living longer lives in more health conscious and esthetically pleasing ways. These “empty nesters” are great candidates for long-term health care solutions and they value prevention,

Internal Marketing

Internal marketing provides you with the highest return on investment and it is the most cost effective way of marketing your practice. Before inviting new patients to your practice, you must polish and perfect your own internal systems. Acquiring a new patient costs a minimum of five times as much as it does to maintain an existing one. You will save a lot of time and money by focusing on your existing patients and increasing their loyalty to your practice. Although your marketing plan is designed to attract new patients, it is important to recognize your existing patients and encourage them to refer their friends and family to you.

Word of mouth advertising increases your referral base and cuts through the skepticism. People will pass on positive comments only if your services impress them. Asking your existing patients for referrals is not enough; you must create a patient experience where they leave your office with a positive and lasting impression satisfied in the care and attention they received.

Reward your patients for referring their friends and relatives by sending a thank-you letter along with a gift certificate for a restaurant or movie ticket. When positive behaviour is recognized and rewarded it is usually repeated. The amount of prorated revenue that is generated, by even one referral, sufficiently pays for the gestures of gratitude.

Ask for Referrals

Not all staff members are comfortable asking for referrals. If this is the case, here is some suggested verbiage you may wish to use:

“”If you have friends or family who need a dentist, we are accepting new patients.”

“If you know someone who would benefit from the same quality of care that we provided you with, we would be pleased to accept them as a new patient.”

“You have been great. I wish we had more patients like you. If you know of anyone who would be happy in our practice, please refer them to us.”

“Most of our patients have been referred to us by one of their friends, family or neighbors.”

“I’m so glad you’re happy with your smile. I think it looks great. Do you have friends or family who might appreciate our approach to dentistry? Let me give you a few of our business cards. We’ll take good care of your friends.”

Make your patients feel good and they are more likely to refer others. Some patients think that you may not be accepting new patients, so you are just offering information.

Track Referral Sources

A marketing program can only be effective if you track the results. Tracking your referral sources will provide you with the necessary information needed to find your target market and network hubs. You need to know where your referrals come from. If the referral comes from an existing patient, thank the patient immediately. Call the patient, send them a letter, flowers, gift certificate for dinner, cookies, etc.

It speaks volumes about your office if most of your new patients are being generated from internal referrals. It means that your existing patients trust you. Happy patients become your walking, talking advertising beacons who transmit positive messages about your office.

External Marketing

Your external marketing message should be simple and use language that connects with your customers. Tell them something new and interesting that they don’t already know. A newspaper advertorial is a feature article written and placed in various print media. It is a form of paid advertising and addresses frequently asked questions or interesting things about dentistry. The purpose is to inform the public while advertising your office. This creates a sense of community leadership and concern for public health.

Cross promoting to businesses that deal with image enhancement and aesthetics will help increase referrals. For example, hair salons, tanning salons, fitness clubs, photographers and cosmetic surgeons would be natural promoters.

Community outreach concerning dental health education is one way of identifying and connecting with network hubs. Get involved with the community where your service is being offered by sponsoring a local sports team or participating with local charity events. You may wish to offer sports guard clinic at the commencement of the school year. If you have more than one dental chair, you may offer to run a blood donor clinic for one day. Contact the local Red Cross and offer your services for a day. It is a generous, community minded gesture and it also attracts people to your office. While they are in the chair donating blood, they donor will be surrounded with pictures of bright happy smiles

Return on Investment – ROI

What matters most is not how much you spend, but how many new patients come to the office as a result of your marketing program. That’s why you must monitor and analyze your results in order to make accurate forecasts and projections If you find that you are spending a lot of money on a form of advertising that is not generating new patients, then you need to redirect your marketing dollars toward something that will accomplish the right purpose.

A good marketing strategy should focus on the key or primary influence points and guide their usage throughout the year. The points of influence are all the ways in which you and your patient interact. To the patient, the only things that matte are the points of influence, e.g. the telephone contact, the first impression, etc. Each point of influence represents a critical moment in the patient’s overall experience in your office. At each critical moment the patient decides whether to stay at the office and refer friends and relatives, or whether to leave. One negative interaction at any moment can undo years of positive interactions. Everything boils down to these interactions and how the patient experiences these interactions is the patient’s point of view. Being good is not enough – you have to be better.

Marketing Audit

The marketing audit is a systematic examination of every aspect of marketing, patient service, and even operations that affect patient care and service in order to determine how well and cost-effectively each element helps you to meet your overall goals. You can perform a simple audit yourself in a relatively short period of time and then develop some high-impact agenda items to improve your marketing performance based on the results of your audit.

Track your results at every step of the way to determine if the approach is working. This is a critical step in any marketing activity. If you don’t track your results, you will waste time and money. Remember to use resources wisely. Don’t ignore your strengths while working on your weaknesses, in fact, capitalize on your strengths. Don’t divert resources from areas of strength to areas of weakness unless you are sure that you will get improvements in efficiency and effectiveness as a result. Sometimes it even makes sense to strengthen your best area first, in order to generate more surplus profits, before you try to do too much to improve a weak area. If you would like to receive a sample marketing audit, please send an email to with the subject line “marketing audit”.

When it comes to marketing your dental practice, focus on giving your customers a reason to do business with you instead of your competition. You have to find out what makes your business better and then play those advantages to their fullest in this extremely competitive marketplace. You have to communicate those advantages to prospective patients, as well as earn their trust and respect. Getting the right message to the right people at the right time is the central to the focus of advertising. It is important to know why you are advertising.

About author
Sandie Baillargeon is a leading authority on how to increase the effectiveness of medical and dental business systems. Ms. Baillargeon is author of two text books, Dental Office Administration and The Canadian Dental Office Administrator, published by ITP Nelson Canada. Sandie is the owner and operator of Dental Office Consulting Services, which specializes in dental business planning, staff development, consulting and continuing education seminars. Visit her website at or contact her directly at (905) 336-7624.
1 comment on this postSubmit yours
  1. Hi,

    Very interesting article. I realize how most dental offices underestimate the power of internal marketing. We educate our clients (dental offices) to improve their patient:s dental IQ with entertaining educational solutions. An educated patient asks questions and is taking the right decisions!

Submit your comment

Please enter your name

Your name is required

Please enter a valid email address

An email address is required

Please enter your message


Blog OHJ © 2017 All Rights Reserved