Dental marketing strategy in 2018

For the purposes of this article we will be discussing dental marketing strategy with reference to online marketing as this is where in 2018 there is the greatest opportunity for patient bookings and revenue growth for dentists and clinics. Incidentally, online dental marketing happens to be our area of expertise as well.

Outline in the following is a series of elementary steps that we follow when beginning the marketing strategy for our clinics that we market.

Step 1 – Understand your ideal customer

target customer

As a dental clinic, when considering your dental marketing strategy we must understand that more often than not you are going to be interested in your immediate local area, because face it, very few individuals will travel 20 km to a general dentist that they have no previous history with. This isn’t an assumption, it is based on numerous campaigns and market research that has been carried out by us and others in the dental industry.

The only way to reach further than you immediate area and surrounding 5-10km radius is by ‘specialising’ in a field of dentistry. Now we must be careful when using the word ‘specialise’ due to AHPRA and ADA guidelines but within the skope of this article, I will use it. Also whilst many clinics receive patients from further than a 10km radius (sometimes other side of the city), from our many years of experience, most times this will be due to an existing patient who lived locally and moved further away or word of mouth. However when spending marketing budget you will always get better ROI focussing on the very local market.

That said patients will travel 15km+ to get to a clinic that they trust and specialises in a particular aspect of dentistry ie Cosmetic or Ortho. So we must firstly ask ourselves, who is our target market?

To begin building a marketing strategy for your dental clinic we need to identify some key elements. We need to identify the ideal customer and attach personas to them. Only once these ideal customer’s and their personas are identified, can we create the specific campaign strategies,the web-design and build, app design/build and marketing campaign development etc

Developing a strong understanding of your ideal customer will allow us to reduce wastage, of time and campaign funds as well as generate better results sooner.

Some of the defining traits that need to be identified to create the ideal customers persona are as follows;

  • Demographic – gender, age, income
  • Psychographics – Type of personality, preferences
  • Behaviour – What are they doing at the moment? Sports? Hobbies?
  • Geographic – Where do they live or holiday or work that is of interest to you?

Find the locations or mediums that your clients spend time in, i.e. websites they visit, topics they may be researching, watching videos and sharing pics on social media.

Why would the customer need you? Where do they start searching? What issues do they have in life that you can solve or get ahead of before becoming a problem. Finally as a result of your solutions how they will benefit and how will their quality of life improve?

We had a client come to us who was a small clinic in a somewhat regional area of Victoria. There brief was simple, create growth and expand into more clinics in regional areas. We identified that their point of difference was that they offered Sedation dentistry. The types of people who would require sedation dentistry was more often than not, those with dental phobias and are anxious about dental treatment. So the website was built in such a way that it didn’t trigger any dental phobias and we pushed to make the dominant in their immediate area as a general dentist and pushed 15-20km targeting sedation/sleep dentistry. Lo and behold the bookings came, within 3 months, 30 new monthly bookings were measured on a small budget and it only increased from their. By understanding who our ideal customer was, we were able to effectively target them.

Once we have a grasp of who it exactly it is that we want to target and appeal to we then need to look at the one thing that can stop us from completely wasting and exceeding our budget, going off in a direction that ends bearing no fruit or possibly even alienates us from our target market. What is this tool? I hear you say.

Step 2 – Carry out the research

market research One word. Data. You can not have a good Dental marketing strategy without good solid data. Data is the single most important aspect of marketing, and since the digital revolution well over a decade ago, is readily available to us once we know where to look for it. Why anyone would possibly comprehend creating a marketing strategy and plan without data to back it up baffles us and yet still occurs in 2018.

Armed with good research and data, you are able to make better decisions as to where to invest your money as well as significantly increasing the likelihood of generating good Return on Investment (ROI) from it. Quite often we encounter clients who will come to us and make a statement regarding the direction and medium of marketing they want to use. For example I want to use Social Media to push Invisalign out into a 30km radius around me or I want to be found as a leading Prosthodontist in my region. Before running off and executing such a campaign we need to know how many people are actually actively search for a Prosthodontist in this region, what are the monthly average figure for such search? Without this data, from our experience, you have a good chance of kissing that marketing budget goodbye.

In order to gather the required data we have numerous tools at our disposal such as Google Analytics, third party keyword research tools, Facebook analytics and third party websites like Semrush, MOZ etc.

You can find detailed guidelines on how to use the respective tools to dig through the mountains of data or ensure you find a good marketing agency which is data centric (shameless mention for Grow Marketing here) and understand who to target, where to start, what channels to utilise, how to word your messaging etc.

We can’t answer the first two of those three points, that is up to you to come up with these figures. But we can show you how to calculate the LTV (Life Time Value) a dental patient has to a clinic. This creates the foundation of our marketing strategy as once we understand things figure, we can use it to figure out which products to implement and which not to implement.

Life time value is the average revenue a clinic stands to gain over the lifetime a patient will visit the clinic. Now much of a general dental clinics work will be a check up and clean and depending on the area, size, customer demographic etc of your clinic/s this figure will be anywhere from $160 – $300. Of course there will be clinics that charge higher and lower than this amount but it gives us some average value to work on.

Next we know that some patients may be worth several thousand dollars ie root canal and crown. So we need to find an average value per visit and considering that you will have more check ups and cleans than root canals lets be conservative and say the Average Patient Value (APV) is $400 to you per visit. This number may go up or down depending on your clinic so it is essential that you re-calculate what that number may be for you.

We know that the average patient will re-visit (with a good recall system in place) every 6 months or 2 Purchases Per Year (PPY), so that means you will make $800 per annum from an average patient. Some patients will leave the area after just one years whilst others will remain in the area coming to your clinic for many years to come, however for the sake of being conservative let us assume that an average patient will come back to your dental clinic for a period of 3 years, this is our Life Time (LT).

We can now calculate our LTV.


= APV x PPY x LT

= 400 x 2 x 3

= $2,400

This is discounting the value of referrals, that means for a percentage of new bookings created by your marketing campaign, those patients will refer you to other friends and families so quite often this number is significantly higher, however we try to be as conservative as possible so we know that we are working with worst case scenario numbers.

If our marketing campaign can yield 40 new bookings per month we know that the value to the clinic in LTV;

= $2,400 x 40

= $96,000 per month of marketing activity

We can also look at this figure without considering LTV and only considering immediate value. In this case we take APV and multiply it by the number of bookings we are seeing coming in that we can attribute to our marketing channels. So if we are seeing 40 new bookings per month;

= $400 x 40

= $16,000

We now have a standard to measure the success of our campaigns against as well as giving us an idea on how much we can afford to spend. So how much should you spend? That again depends on your own budget but to give you an idea, small clinics will spend $1000-$2000 per month with 1-2 chair, clinics with 2+ chairs that are looking to grow will spend $2000+ per month with some larger clinics with 4+ chairs spending $5000+ per month across their channels of online marketing. Read More…

Step 3 – Create the Strategy/plan


Now that we have all the data we need to make smart and informed decisions, we start making our marketing strategy for the dental clinic/s. There are three main avenues that dentists currently market themselves online, SEO, Social Media and Google Adwords. This is for good reason as well as these are your go-to channels that will yield the highest ROI in our experience working with clinics.

We must now consider each channel on its merits as well as timeline of results. There are a few metrics against which we can judge the success of a campaign.

  1. Return on Investment
  2. Time to see ROI from campaign launch
  3. Time and energy required by clinic management and staff for campaigns
  4. Residual value to clinics from running campaign

The following is what Grow Marketing has seen first had based on our campaigns we have run which has been corroborated by many industry associates.


  1. Highest return on investment – Approx $30 for every dollar invested
  2. Varies significantly from campaign to campaign but can take 3-6 months to see first results and can take anywhere from 6-12 months for campaign to hit 100%. But is the go-to for most dentists as it’s the best long term strategy.
  3. Minimal energy required internally, possibly contribution to monthly blogs on website.
  4. High residual value, should you sell the clinic later on down the line, you are selling a clinic with guaranteed monthly new bookings regardless of marketing. This is of value to principal dentists looking to retire who have a large portion of their customer base that they have built over many years that are loyal to them. When purchasing a clinic the new potential clinic owner will consider loss of revenue due to loyal customers that only came to the clinic due to their loyalty to the previous principal dentist. Being ranked at the top of Google will be worth far more to you in residual value to the clinic than the costs of the campaigns many many times over. See SEO for Dental Clinics


  1. Lowest return on investment – Approx $17 return for every dollar invested
  2. Almost instant, campaign should be at 70% optimal within month 1 and 80-90% optimal by month 2.
  3. Minimal energy required internally
  4. No residual value as its Cost per Click so after you have paid for a click, that visitor will either become a booking or they won’t be however there is no residual value to the clinic outside of the value of the booking created. See Adwords for Dental Clinics

Social Media

  1. Medium return on investment – Approx $24 for every dollar invested
  2. Ads can be pushed out and given that you have a good landing page you can begin to convert traffic. Although can take a little bit of time to build Likes and a following for your actual profile page.
  3. Slightly more involvement required, ongoing discussions with SM staff around what’s happening in the clinic
  4. Medium residual value as you would have built a following for your clinic through social media which will be passed onto incoming management should you decided to sell the clinic. Not as high as SEO but certainly higher than Adwords. See Social Media for Dental Clinics

We generally recommend starting with SEO despite the small initial lag time to get the campaign up and running, it delivers maximum ROI as well as residual value to the clinic valuation should it be decided that you sell down the line.

Some clinics choose to launch and Adwords campaign together with an SEO campaign depending on budget. The Adwords campaign will generate almost instantaneous results (although more expensive) and can be phased out slowly as SEO results ramp up in the coming months.

When going after Search campaigns such as SEO or Adwords, keyword strategy is extremely important. This is where an experienced digital marketer can help. Different target keywords will have varying degrees of what we refer to as ‘commercial intent’. This refers to how likely they are to go ahead and book. The more commercial intent the online searcher has means they are searching for that term as they have a higher likelihood. So how do you decide what strategy to implement with keywords? Essentially the most important metrics are relevancy to what you do, competition level, search volumes (from data), commercial intent. See SEO for Dental for more explanation

Step 4 – Build or fix your website

website wireframe sketch and programming code on digital tablet

Quite often web designers are just that, they “design” websites with a focus on the aesthetic. Furthermore they are quite heavy due to the overuse of high quality graphics and all of this leads to slow websites, lack of focus on user experience and overall low conversion rates of visitors into enquiries as well as low scores from search engines.

Lets do some vary rough numbers for us to illustrate the importance of having a ‘high converting’ website. Not just one that looks good, but one that will help you get ranked and will also motivate visitors to become bookings.

A dental clinic might spend $3k per month on its digital marketing, that’s $36k per year and $108k over 3 years (minimum lifetime of a website). These numbers can be higher or lower as clinics tend to have significantly varying budgets.

Now let’s assume a well designed website is just 15% more likely to convert a visitor into a booking, enquiry etc. That amounts to over $16k in extra marketing budget results. Now let’s say that each dollar you put in yields just $20. That works out to $320,000 worth of revenue a better website will net you over a 3 year period, so don’t ask how much it costs when you choose a web designer to build your website (within reason), ask them what am I getting for my money? How are you going to ensure that our website will result in bookings for us? How are you going to focus on user experience? How fast will the website load? Etc.Read More…

Step 5 – Email newsletters for clinic patients

newsletterThere is an age old saying which goes, it is cheaper to keep a customer than to get a new one. Email newsletters can be one of the cheapest forms of marketing that you do when done correctly. By building a database of patient emails and sending a monthly newsletter, our clinics have found that patient retention rates increase significantly.

Quite often patient fall through the recall procedures in place and often forget about the clinic. Some time later when a dental emergency or issue arises they will then actively search for a local dentist again at which time may easily be poached.

Sending a monthly newsletter reinforces your brand onto your existing patients retaining them, reminds them of a particular type of dentistry they need which you provide, drives traffic to your website and can even illicit. In your newsletter you can send this such as clinic updates, maybe a healthy food recipe a link to one of the latest dental blogs on your website and even things such as the winner of a referral competition you run on a monthly basis.