They Didn’t Teach This in Dental School

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They Didn’t Teach This in Dental School

Marketing your practice can be frustrating. What kind of marketing should you do? How much should it cost? We took these questions and more and asked the experts

February 2005

Marketing your practice can be frustrating. What kind of marketing should you do? How much should it cost? We took these questions and more and asked the experts

We compiled some of your marketing questions from and took them directly to the experts. Following is a sampling of their answers. The complete answers will be posted on in mid-February.

What percent of gross income should be spent on marketing?

Fred Joyal, 1-800-DENTIST: I would recommend between 4-5% of the practice gross, but the better question is: What should your ROI be on marketing? Essentially, anything that generates production at 3-to-4 times the cost makes sense. But you need to track the referrals that are generated and, more importantly, the production generated from secondary and tertiary referrals. Without proper tracking to two or three levels, you won’t know what really works.

My dental office is four years old and I want to increase new patients. My annual marketing budget is $20,000. What is the best way to divide this money among the many different forms of marketing? How do patient demographics play into this decision?

Ed O’Keefe, Dentist Profits, Inc., 1-866-723-0420: First, internal marketing has been proven to be six times less expensive than external marketing and in almost every case is the best way to start. I would recommend starting a monthly patient newsletter at the bare minimum. Most people want to skimp on this strategy. However, the ONLY way to ensure high retention rates, increase unsolicited referrals, and get your patients back in for more care is a monthly patient newsletter. The Direct Mail Association has proven that for “every month you don’t communicate with your patients, the value of that patient diminishes by 10%”. Which means if you haven’t communicated in 10 months, that patient is about as valuable as a cold name.

Just like any kind of relationship, if the only thing you send these people are bills and recall cards, then what kind of relationship do you expect from it?

The other thing you should be doing monthly is to send out a monthly special offer to your current and inactive patients. My clients who do this find they make more money every month by sending out inexpensive postcards.

The reason is most people are “Interested” in doing some esthetic dentistry or know that they need to come in for a crown, or whatever. Since all of your patients are procrastinators, all they need is a reason to come in. You can offer “Free Smile Makeover Consultation”, “1/2 Off Whitening”, etc. What we do is surround the “special” around an event of that month. It works like a charm. I challenge you to try both of these strategies for the next three months, and I guarantee you the only thing you’ll notice is that you are seeing more patients and you are doing more care-with the ones you have!

Everyone tells me word-of-mouth marketing is the best way to grow a dental practice. What is the second best method of marketing?

Howie Horrocks, New Patients, Inc., 1-866-DENT-ADS: Our experience with direct mail over the last 15 years has shown it to be the best ROI. Of course this assumes that it’s done correctly. There are many ways to do it wrong and it’s too large a subject to detail here. Check out the wealth of information on this subject on Look in the marketing forum and type “direct mail” into the search engine. You will get enough information on this subject to get you started.

Is a practice Web site primarily an internal or external marketing tool? What is an appropriate budget for development of a good practice Web site?

Joel Harris, Intrinsic Dental Marketing, 1-877-942-8855: A Web site should be used as both an external and internal marketing tool. However, most dentists don’t know how to promote their site, and many dental Web sites are poorly designed and executed. A dental Web site needs to educate, promote offers and improve the image of the practice. In short, a good Web site builds credibility. A wimpy site or a less-than-professional site is almost worse than nothing. A good budget for a dental Web site should be at least $1,500 for the initial setup and up to $75 per month for hosting and site maintenance.

About 1-800-DENTIST®

1-800-DENTIST has been the nation’s premier dental marketing company since 1986, helping thousands of successful dentists grow their business. Beginning as a lead generation company for dentists, the program has delivered over 7 million new patient leads to member dentists. Today, 1-800-DENTIST is a total marketing resource for dentists, offering multiple products to help dentists attract, retain and optimize patients. In addition to its flagship PatientProducer® program (new patient leads), the company also offers PatientActivator® (automated patient communications and online marketing), ReputationMonitor® (online reputation management), ReActivator® (dormant patient reactivation) and WebDirector® (websites and online identity).

Contact: Betsy Roddy, 1-800-DENTIST, 310-215-6535