In this post, I am going to evaluate all the different types of dental advertising you could run and the pros and cons of each. My hope is that it gives you or your dental practice a more informed perspective as to which dental ads are more effective and which ones to not waste money on. 

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Before I begin, I would like to preface that a good marketing strategy or marketing plan is essential before you start running dental advertising. Know who you want to reach, how you are different and what type of message that will resonate with your prospective patient. If you don’t do this, it doesn’t matter where you place your ad, your response will generally be weak.

One last thing, whatever medium you choose for your dental ads; you need to be consistent and run the ad long enough to make sure prospects become aware of who you are, why you are different and what you are offering. To understand the anatomies of a good ad read my previous blog post.

Word of mouth: Word of mouth advertising is always the best. It means you are doing a good job and patients are having a good experience with your practice. Keep in mind, there are varying degrees of referrals from the unsolicited evangelist who loves you to passively mention “who is your dentist?” Also, you might be referred because of your proximity to an emergency or you carry their new insurance. Referrals are great, but they need to be nurtured to remain patients.

Direct mail letter: Can be a very effective way to target your patient base and not waste a lot of money.  With postage increases it has become less desirable, but is still cost efficient compared to lots of other mediums.  Bulk mail rates are still under .30 cents per piece.

Magazine ad: This is a tough one. It lends itself to more image-based ads. This can work well for cosmetic practices with high polished facilities, but remember to mention an offer that leads them back to your website to get more information. This way you can track its effectiveness. Otherwise, it is a long shot.

Marquee sign: A well placed sign out front of your practice can lead to a large amount of drive-by traffic. Do not overlook the importance of this form of advertising, especially if you are hidden in an office or medical building. Patients like to patronize medical offices close to their home or work.

Newspaper ad: Newspaper rates have come down with lower circulation and readership numbers, but they still have a substantial market share and reach the plus-50 crowd who often needs more dental work and can afford to pay for it. Remember to run an ad size that stands out and keeps your copy focused on just a few items. See my past post on building good ad copy.*

Radio: This is a great medium if you are running an event and you have multiple locations to take advantage of a larger broadcast area. You don’t want to pay to reach people who are 20 miles away from your practice and are unlikely candidates. Also, listeners are usually split between multiple stations.

Television: Prepare to have a large budget, like $20,000 per campaign. Also, keep in mind the production cost of each spot… it can be expensive.  But, if you have the budget and are willing to spend it, this can be an effective way to reach prospects. There are certainly more cost-effective channels to use.

Postcards and (EDDM) Every Door Direct Mail: Can be an effective way to target prospects close to your practice that otherwise may have never heard about you. Patients like practices close to their home, in case of emergencies. Remember for direct mail to be effective, you need to send it to prospects multiple times – preferably, 4 or 5 times a year. Read my prior post for more details: http://www.redstarmarketing.com/Default.aspx?app=bizblogger&tabid=660899&subctrl=post&bid=311383&mid=1385262

Bill stuffers, Preprints, Shared-Mail, Post-it-notes: These can be effective, but may be more effective for a lower income-base patient who expects to find and use coupons from these products.

Directory listing: The Yellow Page directories are dying as people go to Google to find contact information. But keep in mind, older people are still using directories and if that is who you are trying to attract, you need to be there. Remember to use larger type, I prefer in-column boxed listings. Display ads are expensive and most people don’t shop for a dentist in a directory, they look up a phone number.

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Dental Education – School outreach program: This is a great way to reach out to the community and build a base of families around your practice. Kids love the activities and goody bags they typically receive.

Sponsorships: A long-term plan to show support for a team or cause and attract other who are dear to the same cause.

Neighborhood mining: This is a very grassroots way to reach the patient base in and around your practice. It can be expensive but a great way to connect to desirable neighborhoods. You might what to drop something at each house around the season with a note from your practice. Try: seed packets for spring, Flags for the Fourth of July, Pumpkins for fall and Holiday treats for winter.

Advertorial coop vendor section: A great way to tell the story of your practice, anniversary, new location, and new associate. These sections are typically supported by your vendors.

Presentations, seminars, and open house events: These are great ways to build instant know, like and trust with your prospects. Nothing builds faster credibility than face-to-face contact.

Referral marketing: Use them for new patient welcome kits, incentive cards, on website, counter signage, thank you notes. Let your patients be evangelists and tell everyone how much they enjoy their experience with your practice. Incent both sides for exchanging the referral and send a hand written note thanking them for referring to your practice.

Strategic alliance: For example, partner with other medical professionals in your building to promote each other’s patient base to each other. You might want to have an open house together.

Networking events: I am aware of one dentist who used her unfilled schedule time to attend Chamber and BNI events to network with prospects and eventually many of them became patients and loved her. They also referred everyone they knew to her!

Search Engine Optimization (SEO): More people search for a new dentist everyday online. Have the proper keywords on your web pages, in your blogs and focus on attracting quality links, to show up higher in the search rankings. Read my blog about SEO: http://www.redstarmarketing.com/Default.aspx?app=bizblogger&tabid=660899&subctrl=post&bid=320620&mid=1385262

E-Blast: This a great way to nurture new prospects who have come to your website and filled out a form to get more information on a topic, say, “A guide to a whiter smile”. Email them back with additional information about whitening, be careful not to promote and solely focus on educating them.

Social media posting: This is a communication vehicle and a great way to attract more prospects by having your patients click on a post they like of yours and having it go to all their friends, sometimes thousands of people.

Pay per click campaigns: PPC can be very effective if you have an immediate need from someone searching for, say, a dental emergency! Otherwise, it may be overlooked being in more of a promotional area of the website. You really need to know what you are doing or you can waste a lot of money buying pay per click advertising. Only 15-18%% of the searches are clicked in these areas.

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Local search engine optimization: This has become a huge area since it involves online ratings and reviews in directories, such as Yelp, City Search, Super Pages, Health Grades, Doctoroggle, Rate-a-dentist, and others. Search engines want you to have identical profiles among the sites you claim.

Mobile marketing: Make sure your website is formatted correctly to show up when someone is searching for you on their smart phone or tablet.

If you want to learn ways to better market your dental practice download the following 25-page report, “7 Steps to Dental Practice Marketing Success”:

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