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Dental Marketing for New Patients: 5 Proven Ideas to Grow Your Practice

Not getting enough new patient sign-ups? Rise above the local competition with these five time-tested dental marketing ideas.

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For as important as dental health is, getting new dental patients can be like — forgive me — pulling teeth. 

A survey by Delta Dental found that 92% of adults consider oral health to be very, if not extremely, important to overall health. 

Why, then, is it so difficult to get new patients in the door?

According to a Byte survey, the most common reasons people avoid the dentist are:

  • Cost
  • Dental anxiety
  • Not wanting to go
  • Worried about a cavity or needing a procedure
  • No insurance

So even though people know the value of your dental services, they’re thinking twice before making and attending an appointment.

To win at dental marketing for new patients, you’re going to need a deep understanding of your target audience, a way to keep tabs on your competitors, and fresh new marketing ideas to incorporate into your strategy.

Below, I’ll show you what this process looks like for a dental office and the best dental practice marketing ideas to try. 

Laying the Ground Work for Dental Marketing Mastery

To get more dental patients, you’ll need to identify the patients you want to attract (ie. your target audience) and find gaps in your competitors’ strategies.

1. Identify Your Target Audience

If you don’t already know who your target audience is, here are a few ways to find patterns in your patients’ demographics and behaviors:

Analyze your current patient base. Look at the demographic information of your current patients, such as age, gender, location, and dental needs. The information they provide in patient forms can help you find patterns in the types of patients you’re currently attracting.

Conduct market research. Run a survey or focus group to get a better understanding of your community’s needs and preferences. You can find participants in local online communities like Facebook groups and Nextdoor. You may also want to look at industry data to determine trends and changes in the dental market.

Use social media and website analytics. Look at the analytics of your website and social media pages to see which demographics are engaging with your content.

2. Stand Out From Your Competition

Want to outshine other dental practices in your area? Pore over their websites, reviews, and social media profiles. 

Make a note of their brand messaging (the language they use to describe themselves and their services) and marketing strategies. Identify gaps in their services or areas where they fall short, according to customer reviews, so you can position your practice as a better alternative.

Best Dental Marketing Ideas for New Patients

Now, for the fun part: trying new marketing ideas! 

We’ve collected five tactics for you to try based on our conversations with dentists, office managers, and marketers who specialize in dental marketing.

As you read through the list, use the insights you gathered on your target audience and your competitors to adapt the ideas to your practice.

For example, let’s say your office is near a university’s campus. If your patients are mostly college students and older faculty, you may not want to spend time marketing your services to parents with children.

If your competitors’ reviews mention poor customer service, you can feature reviews on your site that rave about how your staff goes above and beyond.

Competition for new patients is tough, but these dental marketing ideas and tips will set you apart and catch the attention of your ideal patients.

1. Create a Patient Referral Program

Referrals from friends and families are one of the top three drivers of new patient leads, according to a survey of 1,700 respondents

Give people an incentive to spread the word about your services by setting up a referral program. Don’t overthink this – a simple gift card or discount on services will do as a reward for referrals. 

For example, a dental office administrator I came across in my research mentioned that they give a $5 gift card to a local coffee shop to both the new patient and the patient who made the referral. Almost half of their new patients come from word of mouth.

A dentist said they give a $20 gift card to patients who send a referral, and they average 10-20 new patients a month from this program. The cost of gift cards is a drop in the bucket compared to the revenue from new business.

Advertise your referral program on signs in your waiting room, on social media, in appointment confirmation messages, and anywhere else your existing patients may see it.

2. Invest in PPC Ads and Local SEO

When they need a new dentist or other healthcare provider, most people turn to Google first. Because of this, pay-per-click (PPC) ads and local search engine optimization (SEO) is a worthwhile investment.

Running ads and optimizing for SEO may sound costly, but the expense is worth it if you get the audience targeting right. 

Keep these tips from dental marketing pros in mind:

  1. When running PPC ads, don’t target everyone in your city or county. Limit your targeting to people who are a convenient drive away from your office, like those in the same zip code or nearby neighborhoods.
  2. Make sure the landing pages that your ads lead to are clear, concise, and created with your target audience in mind.
  3. Fill out your Google My Business listing completely, make sure the information is up to date, add photos of your office, answer FAQs, and respond to reviews. This is your chance to make a good impression on prospective new patients.
  4. Take advantage of Google My Business updates. Posting regularly can help improve your search rankings, which can lead to more people finding your dental office when they search for dentists near them. This is also a good place to share promotions and before and after photos.
illustration of google my business seo listing for dentist

These are just a few ideas to get you started, and you can research local digital marketing or work with an agency to see even greater results.

3. Get Involved in Your Community

This marketing idea may sound obvious, but it’s not one to gloss over. Several dental marketing professionals from my research mentioned local involvement as a fundamental part of local marketing strategy.

You can get involved in your community by joining the chamber of commerce and attending their events, volunteering with local nonprofits, and sponsoring local sports teams. 

Reach out to businesses near your office that appeal to your ideal patients and see if there is an opportunity to host an event together. For example, you could organize a kid-friendly event or sponsor a social media giveaway.

4. Ask Your Patients to Leave Online Reviews

Like we talked about earlier, people find local dentists through Google searches.

Online reviews often appear in search results and help build trust in your dental practice, so it’s essential to encourage patient reviews.

example text message for dentist referral program

To get more reviews, share links to your Google My Business listing, Facebook page, and other online review sites with patients often. Make it convenient for them to leave a review by including the links in your appointment follow-up messages, on your website, in your email signature.

Consider incentivizing reviews with gift cards or discounts as well. Just be sure to check the guidelines of the review sites you use to make sure incentives aren’t against their terms of use.

5. Get Creative With Direct Mail Advertising

We’ve all received postcards in the mail from local service providers. More often than not, your first festive holiday card of the season through the mailbox is from a local business.

The key to acquiring new patients among the dozens of holiday postcards sent each year is to take a different approach from your competitors.

That’s exactly what Seth Mendelsohn did when he was looking to acquire new patients for Longmont Dental Loft.

After compiling a list of new residents in the local area, Seth and the team created branded gift boxes and hand-delivered them to those that had moved in within the last six months.

The boxes contained a layer of purple tissue paper to reflect the dental surgery’s brand colors, as well as toothpaste, toothbrush, floss, and lip balm. They also added a postcard with a handwritten note for even more of a personal touch.

Longmont Dental Loft’s time and effort on the project paid off. Delivering the gift boxes resulted in nearly six times the number of new patient sign-ups compared to the number of sign-ups from postcards.

The attention to detail and time taken to hand-deliver gifts to their community showed prospective patients that this is a dental practice that cares.

Make a Lasting Impression on Your Patients With These Dental Marketing Ideas

If you feel like your dental practice is getting lost in a sea of local providers, try out these marketing ideas to differentiate yourself.

Above all else, the key to acquiring new patients is being memorable. Increasing your visibility and showing people you care can go a long way in a close-knit community.

Dani Henion
Dani Henion

Dani Henion is the content team lead at SimpleTexting and is continuously looking for ways to make text messaging strategies and tips more accessible to SMBs. When she's not writing or planning new SMS content, you'll find her decorating elaborate sugar cookies or thrifting in Atlanta.

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