As a hard - working dentist, you make a real difference in your community. Still, your commitment to public health doesn't negate the fact that your practice is a business like any other: it needs committed customers to survive. Yes, they may be called “patients,” but like conventional customers or clients, they're more likely to invest in your services if your strategic marketing initiatives convince them that you can provide what they need.
Dental marketing calls for a unique blend of comfort and authority to convince would - be patients that your practice is worth visiting. After all, many prospects are deeply anxious about dental appointments. With educational plus empathetic, personality - filled outreach, however, you can ease their fears.
To help you out, we did some research and pulled together a list of the most successful dental marketing ideas that dentists use to grow their practices. Take a look through the list and identify the strategies that you think would make the most sense for you and your business.
But First: A Note About HIPAA
As you craft your own marketing strategy, keep HIPAA at the forefront of your mind. Some blurry lines sometimes emerge when you mix the marketing and healthcare worlds. Case in point: According to HIPAAJournal.com, in 2020, the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office for Civil Rights settled 19 HIPAA violation cases and issued more financial penalties than in any other year since the HHS started enforcing HIPAA compliance.
Implementing the marketing tactics mentioned within this article might require you to consider HIPAA best practices. In general, those include:
- Get express permission from all patients to be featured on your website and/or social media channels.
- Use authorization forms to ensure that they are aware of how their images and words will be used — and to verify that they’re willing to have their likenesses (whether visual or textual) shared on your social media pages.
When in doubt, you can always consult the HHS’s Health Information Privacy website.
1. Share Before and After Photos on Social Media
A good series of before and after images can do wonders for your practice. (After what you just read about HIPAA, your alarm bells may be ringing. But don’t worry: you can implement this kind of marketing strategy while still complying with HIPAA by following the tips given in the preceding section.) Before and after shots are particularly effective for attracting people who are interested in veneers or other cosmetic procedures. These types of procedures can represent a huge commitment of both time and money, so patients want to feel confident that the results will be truly transformative.
While before and after images are often highlighted on dentist websites, they should also be shared on social media. Instagram, in particular, lends itself to such visuals, which can be shared on your main page or in Stories. Images could include close - ups to show your mastery or headshots to highlight the impact of a beautiful smile on your patients' general appearance. If possible, include quotes from pictured patients to share in the caption area. This heightens the emotional impact by showing viewers that pictures don't simply reveal beautiful teeth but also the real people behind those smiles.
Some followers may prefer to see procedural information. This can have a comforting effect for those who worry about undergoing specific dental procedures. Matt Nejad, DDS, for example, accomplishes this by taking side - by - side pictures of patients before and after veneer try - ins. This provides greater insight into the process while highlighting this dentist's meticulous work.
Don't be discouraged if you struggle to take Instagram - perfect photos. While professional - quality images will certainly up your social media game, they aren’t necessary: Any images you can provide that reveal your skill as a dentist can go a long way toward establishing trust among prospective customers. Of course, you may want to consider investing in a digital camera (or even a smartphone with a high - quality camera) to help you take the sharpest pictures possible.
2. Build a Patient Referral Program
Building trust is essential for marketing in all industries, but it's particularly important in dentistry, as patients may not be willing to work with dentists based only on eye - catching social media or blog posts. Many patients continue to rely on word of mouth. Some visit only dentists recommended by friends or family members.
Make the most of the persuasive power of patient referrals by creating a streamlined protocol that draws on the power of automation. For example, use marketing emails that encourage patients to get the word out. These should highlight incentives for both the new patient and the person making the referral. Don't forget to add a "refer a friend" button to other communications, such as appointment reminders or email newsletters.
3. Ease Patient Fears With YouTube Videos About Dental Procedures
Dental anxiety keeps many potential patients from visiting your practice or scheduling much - needed procedures. Educational YouTube videos can show them exactly what to expect -- and, in many cases, that there’s nothing to fear.
Sami I. Shahhal, DDS, of Smile Influencers refers to procedure videos as "the wave of the future." In his own Youtube video on dental marketing strategies, Shahhal explains that because some patients today understand the prevalence of doctored photos, dentists should focus on transparency. He recommends taking procedure videos with help from dental microscopes and DSLR camera attachments.
The more these videos dive into details, the better. You can use voice - overs to explain what’s happening at points during the procedure. Share the names of important tools, equipment, or processes. These details will intrigue patients, who, as Shahhal claims, are "more curious than ever…[T]hey want to know what's going on." In fact, when he posts educational videos targeted at fellow dentists, he receives considerable interest from patients too.
4. Go Casual With TikTok and Instagram Reels
Short - form video content provides a world of opportunity when you want to make your practice seem more relatable. This approach brings a human element to your clinic, which is particularly important when hygiene protocol (e.g., personal protective equipment) makes it more difficult to establish a strong rapport with patients.
Don't be afraid to highlight your humorous side. Ben Winters, DDS, MS, of Wincrest Orthodontics captures the value of a good laugh with his uploads under the TikTok handle @thebentist. He uses hilarious facial expressions, relevant memes, and silly dance moves to show that he doesn't take himself too seriously. Many of his goofiest videos still hold educational value, however, by packing in details on dental calculus, palate expansion surgery, and more.
With engaging video clips, you can fulfill a key marketing essential highlighted by Shahhal: "Give an idea of who you are, what your personality is, what your values are." Feel free to take on TikTok or Instagram trends, but don't let them overshadow the qualities that set your practice apart.
5. Pay Attention to Social Media Comments
Whether you post long - form YouTube videos, short - form TikTok clips, or traditional Instagram photos, you can expect to receive helpful feedback from prospective and current patients alike. The questions they ask in the comments section could inspire future content, such as follow - up videos or detailed explanations within blog posts.
In addition to drawing on comments for inspiration, make it a priority to respond as quickly and as respectfully to them as possible. (And keep in mind that this is another place where you may want to consult with HIPAA guidelines as you navigate your way through it.) Your responses present an excellent opportunity to demonstrate your caring and compassionate approach to dentistry. Depending on who leaves comments and under what context, you might be able to send direct messages to get conversations started. Make sure to thank followers for their feedback and encourage them to call your practice directly for more information.
6. Sponsor Local Teams or Events
Demonstrate your commitment to the community by sponsoring local sports teams or special events. Ideally, you should be able to display your logo on programs or apparel tied to your sponsorship. For example, if you sponsor a local 5K charity race, consider having your name and logo featured on event flyers and the shirts provided for runners or volunteers.
Community festivals also make for great sponsorship opportunities — especially if you're able to place a booth at the event and hand out toothbrushes or other branded items.
No matter what types of organizations or events you sponsor, you can bring attention to the cause by sharing your commitment on social media or in email newsletters. Specifically, you can use Facebook updates or Instagram Stories to get patients invested. For example, for your 5K charity race sponsorship, you could direct followers to the official Facebook event page to encourage them to sign up. On the big day of the race, your photos and videos of the event could be shared on the official race page to expand your social media outreach.
7. Host Educational Events
Social media can be an excellent tool for educating patients, but often it's easier to convey your personable approach to dentistry with live, in - person interactions. These deliver an impressive emotional impact, which, in turn, increases the patient's sense of urgency and follow - through.
While many types of event marketing can bring new patients to your practice, educational opportunities are among the most effective. These demonstrate your authority within the dental industry while also showing patients why quality dentistry represents a sound investment.
Years ago, this strategy made its mark on the TV show Glee, in which a character played by John Stamos attracted high school students to his practice with an in - school presentation about dental hygiene. Today, dental health assemblies remain popular — particularly among pediatric practices, which can use interactive games and even mascots to get kids excited.
Specifically, a “call and response” format can be particularly effective in getting students engaged in your program, as evidenced by assemblies from Decatur Children's Dentistry. Representatives from the practice visited nearby Chico Elementary to give a presentation on dental health. Featuring bright visual aids and lots of input from young participants, this program was clearly a hit.
8. Expand Your Reach With Virtual Events
These days, the scope of event marketing is even greater, thanks to recent advancements in video chat and other exciting technologies. For example, dentists can film engaging programs to distribute to local schools, which, in turn, can play these exclusive clips in the classroom or for remote learning opportunities.
While in - person outreach is often the most effective, virtual events can be designed to reflect the personal touch that makes traditional marketing events so compelling. Q&A sessions are particularly valuable, as these allow you to address patient concerns directly. Live coverage of in - person events can also be helpful because those who are unable to attend in person can still feel connected.
To expand your audience, consider partnering with a local organization to get the word out. For example, Philadelphia Pediatric Dentistry's Maria Cordero-Ricardo, DMD, MS, MPH, worked with the social group Mom Crew to conduct a virtual event via Zoom. Mom Crew advertised the Q&A with a Facebook event page. During the seminar, Dr. Cordero - Ricardo covered a variety of topics of interest to her target audience, such as "teething, tongue ties, brushing, flossing, toothpaste, pacifiers, bottles, sippy cups, dental visits, tooth trauma, nutrition for healthy teeth, and more."
9. Send Appointment Confirmations and Reminders
Whether they involve new prospects or long - term patients, no - shows and last - minute cancelations limit your marketing return on investment. It doesn't matter if you initially get in touch via social media, referral programs, or in - person events; that much - needed conversion from lead to patient can occur only when the person in question gets through the door and into the dental chair.
Forgetfulness is often to blame for no - shows, but this can be avoided with simple confirmations and appointment reminders. These can take many forms. Traditionally, many practices relied on phone calls or direct mail to keep patients in the loop. These solutions can still be called upon but should also be complemented by digital options that enhance convenience and follow - through.
Automated email reminders, for example, let patients know when they've gone longer than recommended without scheduling a cleaning. Better yet: consider apps that integrate with Google Calendar to provide automatic reminders when it's time for patients to schedule or attend appointments.
From patient referrals to TikTok dance challenges, a variety of marketing techniques can show that your dental practice is both an industry authority and a source of empathetic care. Above all else, focus on showing new patients what makes your clinic special. Your efforts will improve brand awareness while ensuring that new and longtime patients alike have something to smile about.
Image courtesy of istock.com/ronstik