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10 Bulletproof Dental Patient Marketing Ideas to Overcome the 5 Big Challenges of 2021

Aug 2020
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Dental patient marketing is constantly evolving. Are you keeping up?

In 2021, the dental industry is facing 5 Big Challenges that are threatening to hurt the future of your practice. Traditional dental marketing tactics won’t produce (big enough) results. If you want to stay competitive and get new patients through your door, you must change the way you market your practice.

Learn 10 modern and effective dental patient marketing ideas to do just that.

The 5 Big Dental Patient Marketing Challenges of 2021

1. Heightened competition

The dental workforce is projected to grow 19% from 2016 to 2026 — much faster than the average growth rate for other industries. The American Dental Association (ADA) Health Policy Institute contributes this growth to an influx of younger and more diverse dentists, something they predict will continue through 2035. Not to mention that more and more dentists are waiting even longer to retire.

The result is a marketplace saturated with qualified dentists.

But most dentists don’t need research and statistics to know that competition is fierce — they’re feeling it in the day-to-day challenge of attracting new patients. 

Our dental marketing company works with dentists of all sizes throughout the US and they all face a similar challenge: attracting their ideal patient and growing their patient base. Private practices are feeling this pinch more than others, but in the years ahead everybody will have to fight a little harder for NPOs.

The good news is that despite this increase in competition, the overall demand for dental services remains strong.

As the population ages, and with mounting awareness of the importance of dental hygiene, the key will be creating an effective and forward-thinking dental patient marketing plan.

2. The rise of DSOs

The number of dentists may be increasing, but the specifics about how these dentists are operating is evolving. The biggest change? Fewer solo practitioners and more dentists participating in DSOs.

According to Modern Dental Network, solo practices are shrinking at about 7% per year. Meanwhile, the ADA reports that 7.4% of dentists are currently part of a DSO, and this number jumps to 16.3% for dentists ages 21-34. 

This corporate dentistry model is seen as an alluring alternative for those who don’t want to deal with the headaches of owning a business — especially considering the touted bottom-line benefits.

This shift will no doubt make an impact on the race for NPOs. With DSOs slated to continue taking a big piece of the dental marketplace (up to 30% by 2021!), it will become even more difficult for solo practitioners to stand out and gain market share.

This is particularly true if practices continue using worn out dental patient marketing tactics.

3. Decline of traditional advertising

Traditional dental marketing is becoming a thing of the past — particularly when relied upon as a primary source of attracting new patients. What is traditional dental marketing?

  • TV and radio ads
  • Yellowbook listings
  • Mass print mailers
  • Billboards

Though these “old-school” marketing methods can be effective when used to complement other tactics, remaining successful and competitive today requires an online dental marketing strategy.

Interesting Fact: 97% of consumers use the internet to find local businesses to the tune of more than 5 billion searches per month!

Compared to online dental marketing, traditional advertising…

  • Lacks transparent tracking of results and effectiveness
  • Cannot achieve the same level of targeting
  • Costs more with a lower ROI

With this in mind, it’s easy to understand why traditional marketing is no longer the sole marketing approach of successful dental practices. And in light of heightened competition and big-budget DSOs, a strong online presence and strategy is more important than ever.
Today, taking a strategic approach to your dental patient marketing (starting with an online strategy) will produce better results and a better ROI.

4. Increase in fly-by-night online dental marketing agencies

Most practices don’t have a full-time digital dental marketing specialist on their team. And with a successful strategy requiring up-to-the-minute industry knowledge, the majority of dental practices choose to partner with a dental marketing agency.

Unfortunately, unqualified “marketers” have become wise to this opportunity. Over the last year or so, there’s been an increase in fly-by-night agencies just waiting to take advantage of dental practices. 

What are some common characteristics of this type of shady, fly-by-night agency?

  • Guaranteeing specific results within a short period of time
  • Throwing around marketing buzzwords and technical jargon without further explanation
  • Using a content library (what we like to call “copy and paste” content)
  • Inability to put you in contact with current or past clients for a reference
  • Small team comprised of just 1-3 people (or reliance on subcontractors)

This type of agency likely won’t be disappearing anytime soon. Especially in the current climate, it’s incredibly important to verify that you’re working with a trusted dental patient marketing agency that can help deliver high-value patients.

How do you spot a shady agency? Read the 9 questions every dentist should ask when researching a dental patient marketing company.

5. COVID-19 pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic has been devastating for so many industries, and dentistry is included. Dentists throughout the country had to shut down for many weeks, and new safety measures had to be organized and implemented upon return. And although the vaccine paints a hopeful future, who knows what else the year ahead holds.

Even if you set aside the hassle of opening and closing your doors, complying with new regulations, and implementing new policies, there’s an even bigger challenge to face. When people’s finances are affected, dental checkups and other care gets pushed to the backburner. It may be harder than ever to get new patients through the door — and keep them there!

In the midst of a shifting market and uncertainty over the future, one thing is sure — as the market changes, your practice needs to change with it. There has never been a better time to capitalize on the changes and position your practice as a leader in your community.

If you don’t, one of your competitors will, and you’ll be left behind.

How To Overcome the Challenges

Take out your phone and load your website. Without pinching, zooming, or squinting, answer these questions:

  • Can you easily navigate the site?
  • Can you see your office phone number?
  • Can you easily fill out your contact form?

If you answer no to any one of those questions, you have a problem. Over 50% of web browsing happens on mobile devices. All your dental marketing online strategies are worthless if, once a patient gets to your site, they can’t navigate it easily. If your website doesn’t accommodate mobile users, you are turning patients away.

A mobile-first website meets these basic requirements:

  • Responsive design that adapts to the device it’s viewed on — phone, tablet, or computer
  • Most important information first (like phone numbers, contact buttons, and info about your practice)
  • Limiting clutter, visual noise, or confusion — keep it simple

Creating a mobile-friendly website has a lot to do with the design platform your website is built on. The best dental websites are built with WordPress. WordPress sites are flexible, scaleable, and look and perform just as perfectly on mobile as they do on a desktop.

2. Make sure your website passes the grunt test

What would a caveman say about your website?

This isn’t a trick question. It’s called the Grunt Test. Here’s how it works: If you showed a caveman your website, would he be able to understand and communicate what you do?

Try it yourself:

  • Open your website on your laptop — or even better, on your phone
  • Show it to someone who’s never seen it before for 5 seconds
  • Ask them what you do

Is their answer simple, clear, and accurate? If not, you’ve failed the Grunt Test. To help your practice’s website pass the Grunt Test, make sure it answers these questions:

  • What do you offer?
  • How will it make your patients’ lives better?
  • What should someone do to make an appointment?

So why does this matter? When a patient is looking for a new dentist, your website must be memorable, engaging, and convincing. In our experience, dentists whose websites that pass the Grunt Test book 65% more new patient appointments than those who don’t.

3. Adopt the StoryBrand framework

Most dentists who try the Grunt Test realize their website is failing when it comes to clearly communicating their services and value. A straightforward way to solve this problem and get more patients through your door is to adopt the StoryBrand framework.

Outlined in the book Building a StoryBrand by Donald Miller, StoryBrand helps dentists (and businesses of all kinds) clarify their marketing message. This concept relies on a 7-part framework that leverages the power of story and goes something like this…

  • A hero who wants something and …
  • Encounters a problem (villain) before they can get it
  • A guide steps into their lives…
  • Who gives the hero a plan…
  • And calls them to action
  • That action helps the hero avoid failure…
  • And ends in success

By focusing your marketing messaging on this framework, your website will demonstrate the value of your services and provide clarity. And clarity is the key to producing a flood of new patients for your practice.

4. Original, keyword-optimized content

When done right, the words on your website will help you rank higher in search engines, communicate what makes your practice unique, and get new patients through your door.

But finding the right words is tricky. At :Delmain, we’ve reviewed and analyzed thousands of dental websites from across the US. We see the same 2 costly mistakes repeated over and over again:

1. Copy and paste content

If Google visits your website and finds copy that’s nearly identical to another site, you’ll be penalized. Be original — no copy and pasting from other sites. 

2. No keyword research

You must tailor your website’s content to relevant keywords to help potential patients find your website. But too many keywords can have the opposite effect on your rankings. Strike a balance.

5. Create a local SEO strategy

So you’ve spent a bunch of time learning how to do keyword research and ensuring your website ranks highly for certain keywords. But all that goes to waste if the people finding your site aren’t even located in your city. That’s where a local SEO patient marketing strategy comes in. 

Local SEO optimizes your online presence with the goal of attracting local patients at the exact time they’re looking for a dentist online. Local SEO includes the following tactics:

  • Claiming your Google My Business account and adding your practice to Google Maps
  • Making sure your practice is listed on citation sites and online business directories (like ZocDoc and Yelp)
  • Responding to positive reviews and requesting removal of reviews that don’t meet Google’s guidelines (more on this soon!)
  • Building High-quality links to your site from other relevant websites (called backlinks)

PPC (pay-per-click) ads are a powerful advertising tool and are only growing more important as the market shifts. A Google Ads campaign is a great place to start and offers a variety of PPC options to choose from:

  • Ads that appear within Google search when someone searches for certain keywords
  • Ads that help you re-engage people who’ve previously visited your site (called remarketing campaigns)

Setting up effective PPC dental marketing campaigns takes time, skill, and experience. If you’re new to PPC, partner with an expert to maximize your budget and get the best results. 

Learn how to create a winning PPC strategy

7. Online reviews

Building a collection of positive patient reviews will give your practice a major competitive advantage and is a critical part of a modern dental website.

Consider these stats:

  • 90% of dental patients consult reviews before booking an appointment
  • 70% of patients say reviews are as important as a dentist’s credentials
  • 84% of people trust reviews as much as a personal recommendation
  • When someone sees a positive review of your practice, they are 58% more likely to convert

Patient reviews back up the claims you make in your marketing messaging. They build credibility with potential patients and make current patients feel good about their choice. Plus, they signal to Google that you’re trustworthy and help improve your rankings.

How do you get more 5-star reviews for your practice? A reputation management software can help

8. Invest in videography & photography

Professional images and videography are vital to your website design and can improve conversions by 40%!

Conversely, a website or social media accounts with non-original images and videos often hurt your marketing efforts by…

  • Turning away potential clients
  • Looking sloppy and hurting your brand
  • Slowing down your site
  • Hurting your SEO efforts

Investing in professional photos or videos is a great dental marketing idea because…

  • The shoot planning process will encourage a strategic approach
  • They provide flexibility in website design & other marketing materials
  • You’ll engage better with your audience and improve conversions

Bonus tip: Patient video testimonials are an excellent strategy and can be used in your paid ads on social and elsewhere. Solicit a video testimonial from patients who have left good reviews. Produce a professional video, shoot the testimonial yourself, or ask your clients to record a video on their phone.

9. Consider adding virtual services

In response to the coronavirus, dentists across the country implemented virtual services. But once things started to reopen, many dentists realized that virtual appointments could be a valuable long-term addition to their online marketing strategy. They’re right!

This low cost, high return service is convenient for patients and gives you a competitive advantage over practices who aren’t adopting teledentistry options. A few best practices for implementing virtual services:

1. Choose the right platform for your industry Choose a telehealth option that ensures HIPAA compliance, like SmileSnap.

2. Create easy scheduling — Give visitors the option to schedule their virtual appointment with a click of a button or by completing a form. It’s convenient for everyone. A website chat widget is another way to offer quick answers or help with scheduling.

3. Iron out the details — Who will manage this new service? Finalize details like the cost of the consultation (can you bill it to insurance?), length of time, who conducts it, and what it includes. Plan for every outcome, including a poor Internet connection. 

4. Promote your virtual appointments — Let website visitors know about your virtual services through a website banner or pop-up and other copy on your website. Make sure your paid advertising campaigns reflect this service and update your social media accounts and GMB listing as well.

5. Track results and feedback — Pay attention to the number of scheduled virtual appointments. Remember to get feedback from your team on their experience with the service. You’ll know within a couple of months whether or not virtual appointments are providing value.

Has your practice invested in online dental scheduling software? 

Recent research shows that over 50% of people are still making appointments over the phone. However, 31% would seriously consider switching dentists if that provider offered online appointment booking.

If a patient calls and gets your voicemail, or sends in a contact form submission and doesn’t get an immediate response, they may keep looking for a new dentist. This is especially true for those who are in a hurry to get an appointment. 

Online appointment scheduling offers instant gratification and gets new patients started right away without any unnecessary waiting.

There are a lot of online scheduling software options available. We’ve outlined some of the top options here.

The world of online patient marketing is quite technical and constantly evolving. There are a lot of ideas out there, but there’s never a one-size-fits-all answer. The most effective methods are completely customized to your dental practice based on:

  • Current marketing tactics
  • Website design and copy
  • Location
  • Time
  • Budget
  • Problems you’re trying to solve
  • NP growth targets

Here’s what we suggest. Start by examining these ideas under the lens of your overall practice goals and objectives, considering how well they align. Ask yourself…

  • Where is my practice currently falling behind? 
  • Where is it succeeding?
  • How do these ideas fit with my current online dental marketing methods?

Then, talk to your dental marketing company about their thoughts on whether or not any new methods or ideas are worth your time and how they will help fuel success.

And if you’re not already working with a trusted and qualified dental patient marketing company, this is absolutely something to examine this year.

We can help implement an effective 2021 dental patient marketing strategy

If you’re skeptical about online marketing agencies, we understand. Like we mentioned earlier, there are too many who overpromise and underdeliver.

But that’s not how we do things at :Delmain. We only work with dentists if we’re confident we can create and implement an effective strategy and deliver high-value patient results. 

On average, our dental clients see 57 new patients per month!

Learn more about our approach to dental patient marketing or connect with us today to talk about how we can help you increase your NPOs and grow your practice.