Everyone needs dentistry, but let’s face it—often, people are less than eager to book an appointment. For many, just the sight of a tooth scaler produces a shiver. In fact, one study shows over 60% of adults fear going to the dentist. That makes getting patients in the chair a challenge. Tactics that may work for other types of businesses, and even other types of medical practices, may not be enough for new bookings. Dental practices need to use a variety of marketing tactics—some that will attract new patients and others that will nudge them to actually make the appointment.

Here are eight marketing tactics for dentists that move new patients through the sales funnel, from scrolling on their phones to converting into an appointment on your calendar.

1. Optimize your website for local SEO

Local search engine optimization (SEO) is perhaps the most important marketing-for-dentists tactic. When patients in your area search for “dentist” or “dental office,” you want your site to be at the top of the list. Website visits you earn this way are called “organic traffic” because people find you organically, not because you threw an ad their way. Optimizing your site for the best ranking in your locale is crucial to attracting new patients.

Though search engines like Google and Bing are highly secretive about their algorithms, some practices will help your dental site achieve a better ranking. They include:

  • Register your dental practice with Google My Business and Bing Places. This is the most important action you must take, as it ensures the search engines know the location of your practice so they can display it to people in your area. Registering creates a business profile within each service where you can add photos and a description. This is also where patients post reviews.
  • Make sure the content on your website includes the full range of dental procedures offered by your practice. Search engines will crawl your site’s content to determine its category; you want it to scream dental practice in every paragraph. That way, when people search for “dental crowns in my area,” the search engine displays your practice as a top result.
  • Update content for relevancy and freshness. Even just a short, weekly message to your visitors will tell the search engines the site is active.

Learn more about optimizing you local SEO in our eBook, Digital Marketing for Dentists: Prioritize the Patient Experience and New Appointments Will Follow.

2. Share success stories on social media

Social media is the ultimate free promotional tool, especially powerful for reaching younger audiences. It allows you to engage with current and future patients, disseminate important dental care information, broadcast a positive message, and establish a feel and energy for your practice.

A 2018 study by the International Journal of Qualitative Methods found that healthcare consumers across the board are dramatically increasing their use of social media to find and share medical information. As an engagement tool, social media is a powerful way to tap into these healthcare consumer networks and promote your practice.

The most popular social media channels for dentists are Facebook and Instagram. They all work a little differently.

Facebook

Though Facebook pages can be public, Facebook is more of a closed channel, and users are more likely to limit engagement to private networks. This means shared content has less potential to spread. But it also offers a better opportunity to build community. Whereas Twitter is great for quick tips and fun facts, Facebook is a much better medium to post a touching story about a patient.

Still not sure which ads are right for you? You can learn more about PPC ads by downloading our eBook, Digital Marketing for Dentists: Prioritize the Patient Experience and New Appointments Will Follow.

Instagram

As a photo-based medium, Instagram is perfect for expressing the energy and spirit of your practice without the effort of constructing written copy, though some organizations do make excellent use of visual storytelling combined with written content. Not sure how to set up your Instagram account? Check out our dental Instagram recommendations or this stellar example from Grand Street Dental.

3. Target potential patients with PPC ads

Pay-per-click (PPC) ads allow you to target audiences at the exact moment they’re seeking your services and/or communicate to highly specific demographics. Google can do both, but Facebook can only do the latter—though it does it much better.

You only pay for ads people click. You can track performance to fine-tune appearance and target and identify your ideal audience.

The two main players in PPC are Google Ads and Facebook Ads. They function quite differently, so it’s important to understand the distinctions.

Google Ads

Google Ads are designed to appear when people conduct searches with the Google search engine. The ads are triggered by keywords selected by you, so if someone searches for “dental practice,” for example, your ad will appear. You can also target your ad to specified demographics, such as age, sex, and location.

Facebook advertising

Facebook advertising is more precise with its demographic knowledge because most of the info has been entered by the users themselves. This makes it especially powerful for targeting specific populations—so specific, in fact, you could run an ad that displays exclusively to 23-year-old women who live in the 02115 zip code, attended Notre Dame, and listen to K-pop. Because most everyone has teeth, this kind of micro-targeting may be less useful to dental practices, but the ability to target residents of your area could be a plus. But unlike Google Ads, which appear when the user is searching for your services, Facebook Ads appear at random times.

Still not sure which ads are right for you? You can learn more about PPC ads by downloading our eBook, Digital Marketing for Dentists: Prioritize the Patient Experience and New Appointments Will Follow.

4. Include a biography, photo, and introductory video on your website

Your website is primarily an advertisement for your dental practice. In the vast majority of cases, it’s where prospective patients will decide to book an appointment—or decide to look elsewhere. A professional, modern website will suggest to visitors that you run a professional, modern dental practice. That’s why it’s best to include a bio, a great photo, and an introductory video.

In addition to professional information, your bio should include some personal details, such as what inspired you to become a dentist. Forging a personal connection is one of the most effective ways to bring in new patients. So don’t be afraid to open up and tell your story.

Naturally, your bio should include a photo. You don’t need a Hollywood headshot, but a more professional look will help. Consider searching for local photographers—some might be more affordable than you expect. And they may even need a new dentist.

When recording an introductory video, use a decent microphone in a room with minimal echo. A study from the Australian National University showed that audio quality affects believability and trust. And you don’t need to break the bank on a professional studio mic. Even something in the $50–$100 range will be worlds better than the stock mic on your computer or phone.

5. Ask patients to submit Google reviews

Testimonials are powerful ways to attract new patients. If prospective patients can’t find a referral from someone they know, they’ll immediately look for online reviews. In 2020, 87% of consumers read online reviews of local businesses.

When seeing off patients, include a printed card requesting a Google review, and include a link to your Google My Business profile. Let them know how much it matters—and maybe throw in a lollipop. Sugar-free, of course. You can also request reviews in your email communications.

If you receive any negative reviews, respond to them quickly and considerately. People understand all businesses have a few unhappy patients, and prospective patients will appreciate your attentiveness and professionalism.

6. Entice patients to refer friends and family

How much would you give for three new patients? Whatever it is, go ahead and give it. Offer incentives for patients who bring you new patients. One tried-and-true marketing-for-dentists tactic is to offer a free electric toothbrush for every three patients referred. The cost of the toothbrush will pale in comparison to the revenue generated by the patients. Through a robust online booking tool, the new patients can indicate the referral when they schedule their first appointment to help you maintain a record. Which brings us to our penultimate marketing-for-dentists tactic.

7. Make it easy for prospects to book and re-book online

The last thing you want is for prospective patients to click on your compelling Google Ad, admire the beauty and professionalism of your website, be impressed by your experience, and be reassured by the positive reviews—and then have no way to book an appointment until the next morning, when they have to call your receptionist. By then, they may have forgotten about booking an appointment or may not have the time.

In a world where people do everything online, they expect to be able to book their dentist appointments that way too. In addition to being convenient for them, it’s powerful for you. With a sophisticated online booking tool, you can manage every detail of your patients’ visits, including what room they’ll be in, what procedures they’ll need, and even what equipment will be required. You’ll also be able to collect important data about your patients that can help you serve them better and more efficiently in the future.

Not sure how to get started with an online booking tool? Check out our eBook, Digital Marketing for Dentists: Prioritize the Patient Experience and New Appointments Will Follow, for more pointers.

8. Follow up with a post-appointment email

Send a personal email after every visit to confirm the visit went well.

By caring for your patients when they’re out of the chair, you’ll ensure they’ll be back in it again.

One of the biggest marketing mistakes dentists make is focusing exclusively on booking appointments and failing to look beyond. A great dental practice will maintain a positive relationship with their patients between cleanings and procedures. Acquiring new patients can be difficult, but once you’ve established a bond, losing them will be nearly impossible.

Marketing for dentists relies on conversions

There is no one-single-marketing-for-dentists tactic that will serve all your practice’s needs. You need to get out in front of new patients and have the tools to convert them to booked appointments. Following the steps outlined in this guide will almost certainly lead to more patients and a thriving practice. But there’s so much more to say about marketing for dentists. To learn much more about converting patients, download our eBook, Digital Marketing for Dentists: Prioritize the Patient Experience and New Appointments Will Follow.

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