11 Dental Marketing Ideas to Get New Patients

Written on February 28, 2020
Advertiser Disclosure

No matter how skilled you are, your dental practice is only as good as its patients. Keep people coming through the door, and you’ll keep things running smoothly. However, if you’re a one-person operation with a long list of day-to-day responsibilities to balance, you may not have a ton of time to devote to thinking up dental marketing ideas.

There are plenty of unique considerations when effectively marketing your dental practice, but several small business marketing tenets still apply. Chiefly, your focus is on getting the most bang for your buck with ads and maximizing your ability to attract clients through tactics that may not cost anything at all.

The good news is that the best dental marketing ideas to get new patients don’t need to blow your marketing budget, and implementing them doesn’t have to feel like pulling teeth. Jokes aside, there are tons of clever ideas for marketing your dental practice, so long as you know where to look.

11 Marketing Ideas for Dental Offices

Here are some of the top dental marketing ideas to get new patients, boost referrals, promote your business, and expand your market presence.

1. Curate Online Business Profiles

One of the best marketing exercises you can conduct for your dental practice doesn’t cost a dime. Creating business profiles on popular review sites is an easy and crucial step you can take to ensure your dental business is found by prospective clients. For instance, Google My Business is a platform where you can upload photos, post reviews, book appointments, and even have prospective clients reach out to your practice with the click of a button.

Similarly, you should also create a Yelp business profile. These profiles can exist whether you create them or not, so it’s best to take ownership and curate your own profiles so you can post the most accurate and helpful information (address, hours of operation, services offered, etc.) and respond to any reviews—both negative and positive.

These profiles are a great way to improve your dental practice’s appearance in search. Improving your business’s search results can make a massive difference in terms of visibility within your area of operation and makes it easier for new customers to find out more about what sets you apart. It doesn’t take long to set these up, and you can continue to add information at any time.

2. Use SMS Marketing Programs

One of the biggest challenges that dental practices, as well as medical offices in general, encounter is the likelihood of patients missing their appointments. No-shows can cost your practice money and, more importantly, time that could be spent on new patients. With the advent of SMS marketing programs for small business, you can turn this vexing problem into an opportunity to brand your dental practice through texts.

Businesses across many industries are using business-oriented text messaging programs to reach out to new and current clients. These messages can promote special offers, remind patrons of upcoming appointments, offer scheduling services at the tap of a screen, and provide digital receipts, among other features. If you’re building a robust online presence, you can even solicit customers to leave reviews on your Google or Yelp business page, which goes a long way toward building word-of-mouth marketing.

3. Pursue Digital Advertising

Any mention of small business advertising these days includes a heavy focus on digital advertising. Other forms of advertising are far from dead (more on that below), but digital is king. Digital advertising tends to offer budget-friendly advertising options that yield insightful data about your prospective clientele. 

Depending on how you set up your digital ads and which kinds of ads you plan to run, your efforts can cost mere pennies on the dollar per engagement. You can also target your ads to show up directly against your competitors, pitting your paid search results or banner ads against keywords and audiences that are associated with other practices. Best of all, you can get a clear picture of who engages with your ads, what they do once they’ve clicked through an advertisement, what terms resonate the most with your audience, and much more. 

4. Consider Direct Mail Campaigns 

Digital advertising is a great asset for marketing your dental practice, but it’s far from the only advertising channel worth exploring. Direct mail campaigns have experienced a resurgence as of late. Most consumers are inundated with digital ads, which can sometimes become exhausting for the average person. As “junk mail” has become less of a common occurrence, direct mail has become more impactful. These kinds of campaigns have become more strategic as well.

Nowadays, direct mail campaigns can go to specific subsections of would-be clientele to provide much better specificity and focus than the mailer campaigns of yore. As a result, direct mail campaigns are resonating with clients more than many digital advertising campaigns. One recent study found that 70% of consumers surveyed believed that these marketing efforts were more resonant than their digital cohorts. So the next time you think about advertising your dental practice, you may want to look toward the nearest mailbox.

5. Offer Promotional Discount Codes

Promotional codes aren’t just for online retailers anymore. The rise of online booking and billing has made it much more common for businesses of all stripes to take advantage of promotional and discount codes to help boost business. Most online merchant services providers now offer an optional field for discount codes at checkout, making it easy to offer perks to your customers without having to do much back-end work with your billing software.

One of the key reasons to consider promotional codes as a dental marketing idea is the ability to gauge how popular and widespread the use of these codes becomes. For example, if you offer a discount code as part of a direct mail campaign, you’ve just created a data point to gauge the efficacy of your advertising. You can also offer specific codes to individual clients, subscribers to a newsletter, or for people whom you’ve rewarded for other actions (such as leaving a review or celebrating a certain number of years as a patient).

6. Build a Robust Website

No business can afford to put their digital presence on the back-burner. Even the simplest shops have to offer their prospective patrons a wealth of information online, making it crucial that you put your best foot forward. A great business website provides your dental practice with an immediate lift—not just in terms of searchability as we’ll discuss below, but also in terms of prestige and professionalism. Like it or not, people judge a business by its website. If yours is outdated, inaccurate, or just plain ugly, you may be turning away new clients without even realizing it.

Good-looking business websites don’t have to come at a premium anymore, either. Website-building platforms make it easy to customize standard templates to make beautiful sites in a matter of hours. Granted, there is still much to be said about hiring a digital design firm to really make your website more robust (especially if you want to incorporate features like online patient portals, for example), but most practices can find success with the DIY route.

7. Explore Search Engine Optimization

SEO, or search engine optimization, goes hand-in-hand with good websites. The most impactful business website should be easy on the eyes, informative, and visible in search. SEO includes the standards and best practices that can help websites appear in relevant search results. The more specific and detailed a site is, the better its SEO tends to be. And the better the SEO, the more likely patients are to find your practice when looking for a new dentist.

Mastering SEO is not an easy feat. Common search providers do not offer up a blueprint for how to make a site appear at the top of search results, and companies that promise to help businesses get there often over-promise and under-deliver. Good SEO boils down to producing informative material that speaks to a broad range of relevant search topics; a good digital marketing agency can help craft the right SEO strategy to position your practice the right way. Don’t be afraid to reach out to field experts here, as an investment in good SEO can pay for itself in short order.

8. Use Online Scheduling Software

Be it pizza, groceries, or a root canal, people have come to expect that almost any transaction can be completed online. For the most part, they’re right: Platforms like ZocDoc and other online scheduling platforms have taken away the telephone anxiety that stops many new and existing patients from scheduling consultations or much-needed checkups. By offering patients the ability to schedule appointments entirely online, dental practices can drum up new business as well as streamlining scheduling operations.

As with most things digital, the easier you make booking, the better. Make sure every instance of your practice’s online presence includes a prominent option to book an appointment online. Whether you choose to use one of the larger medical appointment platforms to do the bulk of your digital scheduling, or go for a more open-ended online scheduling platform, be sure to link out to these services on platforms like Google My Business, Yelp, and social media in addition to any callouts to this function that you would place on your site.  

9. Master the Art of Good Reviews

Online reviews can make or break a business. This is particularly true for dental practices, where dental-phobic patients often spend much more time looking for practices that are gentle or stress-free. Businesses may not be able to control what reviewers say and where their reviews might appear, but they can still take proactive steps to help make positive reviews shine.

It’s become common for businesses to solicit feedback from satisfied customers. Encourage your patients to leave a review on Google, Yelp, ZocDoc, or other platforms that are popular in your area. The more you stress the importance of spreading the positive word about your practice among your patients, the better your business appears when new clients are making a decision on which practice to visit. Plus, this modern-day version of word-of-mouth advertising goes much further than any paid advertisements, as they’re seen as more organic and honest.

Keep in mind, though, negative reviews are inevitable. While you can’t erase their presence from the internet, you can respond to them in a thoughtful way and try to better your clients’ experience. If, for instance, they had a billing issue or problem with scheduling, reach out to try to resolve these issues. You just may get an amended review out of it, but either way, it shows prospective clients that you take complaints seriously and are working to better your business.

10. Set up Referral Reward Programs

Many patients may be willing to write a positive review out of the goodness of their hearts. For those who need a little extra nudge, or for instances in which you’d like your clientele to go a little bit further to help your business, a referral program can be a great strategy to employ when looking for new patients for your dental practice. 

These programs typically offer customers with discounted services, free visits, or gift cards in exchange for referring their friends and family to your practice for the first time. The money you invest in these perks will pay for itself in new business, all while providing more tangible results than a less personal advertising or marketing campaign could.

11. Provide Digital Customer Service

People love to book appointments online so they don’t have to hop on the phone, maneuver around a busy practice’s schedule, and spend time reading out insurance information to an overburdened front staff. The same thing that makes online booking popular also makes digital customer service a great option to explore when trying to solicit new patients. People love to handle common questions and issues online when they can.

As a medical office, your ability to answer specific questions through a digital customer service portal will likely be curtailed by HIPAA compliance issues. You can, however, use these tools to answer new customer queries, such as providing directions and addressing frequently asked questions. Even if digital customer service is complementary to your existing communication channels rather than supplementary, your efforts to diversify the ways in which clients can contact your office won’t go unnoticed.

The Bottom Line

The only thing limiting the number of dental marketing ideas out there is, well, your imagination. That and the amount of time you can dedicate to brainstorming. Some of these strategies may work better than others depending on your practice, comfort level with marketing and advertising, and willingness to adopt a digital-first model for attracting new patients. The best thing to do is use these suggestions as a starting point, and modify them to best align with your dental practice’s specific needs. 

No matter how you go about marketing your dental practice, however, the best thing you can do is get started right away. Don’t be afraid to experiment, put a few dollars behind your efforts, track your results so you know what is and isn’t working, and keep an open mind as you branch out.

Brian O'Connor

Brian writes about finance, business strategy, and digital marketing. He has worked at Morgan Stanley, Foreign Affairs magazine, Student Loan Hero, and as a partner of a small consulting firm, too. Combined, these experiences allow him to offer a unique perspective on the challenges small business owners face.
Read more