Three simple fundamentals of dental marketing strategy

In the current hyper-competitive dental environment in Australia, dental marketing is a must, not a maybe. In this article, we’ll look at three simple fundamentals of marketing strategy to maximise the chances of your business’ success.

Look under the bonnet

Within any dental practice, there are so many moving parts and without specifically looking at them, it can be hard to really understand what’s working and what isn’t. With this in mind, the first step in guiding your marketing efforts is to “look under the bonnet”. What this means is looking at a range of metrics to get a sense of your marketing performance for a given period.

The simplest way to do this (assuming you’re using practice management software such as Dental4Windows or Oasis) is to run some reports. The 3 fundamentals you need to be across are:

  • New patients;
  • Referral sources; and
  • Break up of billing by service

New patients

Even with the best dental practice in the world, a certain level of patient attrition is inevitable. Patients tend not to travel too far to the dentist, so if an existing patient moves out of the area, you may not keep them as a patient.

As you’re looking through your numbers, check the monthly count of new patients arriving at your practice. What do the numbers say? Are you trending up, down or sideways?

If you’ve not done this exercise before, you could run these numbers over several years to see if there are any seasonal trends. Where there’s a seasonal lull, this could be a prod for you to be more active in your marketing during those quieter times.

If your marketing efforts (word of mouth, online, signage, etc) are working well, you should have a steady flow of new patients coming in. If you’re not growing, chances are your practice is going backward.

Referral sources

Next, examine where new patients are coming from. If you’re not recording this information, you really should start. It’s pretty simple – add a question to your patient information sheet and have your staff enter that data into the system.

To make it easier for your patients, it’s usually better to spell out the different possible options based on the marketing you are undertaking. An example is shown below.

Once you have this information, compare the results with the cost/effort required for each. As a general rule, marketing looks to find the best way to attract the most “customers” for the lowest cost/effort. Marketing can be a tricky beast and it’s not one size fits all. Only when you look at the return can you get a handle on what’s working and what’s not.

However, sometimes trial and error is required to see what works. To keep you on your toes, what used to work previously, may not work this time. And it can change rapidly. Hence, keeping an eye on this data is critical to guiding your marketing strategy.


Billing by service

Finally, have a look at the break up of your billing by service. This will help you understand where your bread is buttered and potentially guide you in the direction you want to head.

One of the trends I’ve seen in recent times is an increased focus by dentists on higher-end treatments such as implants, orthodontics, and veneers. Focusing on the billing by service should give you a good understanding of whether you’re really winning in those areas and whether the extra training you did was a good investment or a (financial) waste of time.

As you consider the different components of the services you offer, reflect on the profitability. Not every service is billed at the same hourly rate and if you can leverage the time/skills of others (e.g. a hygienist), all the better.

As a marketer, my focus is heavily on what you get your best financial return for. Yet, on the other hand, it needn’t just be about the dollars and cents.

If there are certain procedures that are perhaps less profitable but you really love doing them, then you may also need to consider the “enjoyability” test. Life’s too short to spend a lot of time doing things you really don’t like just because they’re profitable. Equally, however, you are running a business, so you need good information in order to achieve a balance.

Action steps

As the CEO of your own business, it’s important to make sure that you’re regularly consulting your dashboard/instruments to guide your marketing strategy.

With this in mind, run the aforementioned reports to get a handle on how your business has been tracking. If this is the first time you’ve done this, you may want to run the same reports for previous years to check the variation.

If you’re not sure how to find the reports, get in touch with your software provider for the necessary advice. It really doesn’t take that long and the results can be profound.

This article was first published in the Australasian Dental Practice – January/February 2017 Issue