Dental Marketing Blog - Big Buzz

The #1 Myth about Marketing (And How to Overcome It)

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There are plenty of myths about dental marketing…

  • That the dental team will help propel the marketing efforts. Dental teams are trained professionals in dentistry, not marketing. Even a dental team member with a marketing background will be strapped for time to truly deliver measurable results. In order to translate marketing efforts into higher production dollars, it’s best to outsource the heavy lifting to marketing experts, even if it’s your brother-in-law.
  • That online marketing is the way to go. In nine years serving hundreds of dental practices, we have seen very few practices thrive on online marketing alone; instead, it’s important to execute the right mix of traditional, internal and awareness marketing as well as online marketing.
  • That using multiple providers for various marketing specialties, such as SEO or direct mail, is best. A full-service dental marketing agency will be able to track and report on all your marketing efforts. You will also only have to have one point of contact to get questions answered and request completed.  If you do choose to use several different vendors, we recommend hiring a marketing expert to oversee all of your providers, holding them to the same standards and goals.
  • That just because a marketing provider has a great sales pitch, they must drive great results. Instead of vetting them by their sales abilities, check references and ask for case studies of past work with practices like yours.

All of that said, the #1 myth, and most insidious one, is that the object of the marketing game is simply to attract patients.

Au contraire!

The object of the marketing game is to attract ideal patients.

And here’s how to do exactly that:

Survey your best patients to understand what marketing tactics resonate with them. Next, research what the competition is doing. If four out of five competitors are running Google AdWords, steer clear or go to market with an edgier, catchier message. If none of them are doing Yelp ads, consider investing there, but only if your surveys showed that your patients and their friends and family frequent that website.

This is an insidious myth because it impacts everything. Without this research on the front end, marketing efforts can get lost in a sea of sameness among other dental offices.

Put your best foot forward in 2017. Get a complimentary marketing plan for that is tailored to what your patients and their peers want most.2017

2016 Dental Marketing Year in Review

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After surveying hundreds of patients in dental practices nationwide in 2016, we have compiled the following data to help your practice increase production and profitability in the coming year. In our proprietary survey process, we ask 25 key questions to uncover why patients are loyal to their practice and what marketing tactics they consume. This report details the cumulative data from three of those questions.

Would you search online for a practice like this one?

blogchart1The common 21st Century misnomer is that it is best to invest heavily in online marketing. Patient data shows that a diversified marketing plan is a stronger strategy, since only 63% of patients surveyed this year would search online for a practice like yours.

In fact, online marketing is only one quarter of the appropriate marketing mix for today’s dental practices, as the chart below shows.


There are more than 20 marketing tactics that a dental practice could deploy, and of those, only a handful are appropriate right now. The majority of practices realize higher production dollars and profits when the marketing plan includes the right combination of brand/awareness marketing tactics, traditional marketing tactics and internal marketing tactics in addition to a few online marketing initiatives.

There is good money in online dental marketing, so more and more providers are popping up and wooing dentists with strong sales pitches. (A Google search for “online dental marketing” yields 2.5 million results!) If your practice invests with one of these providers, be sure to also invest with a full-service dental marketing firm that can round out efforts for optimum overall results.


What type of marketing do you pay attention to when searching for a dentist?blogchart3_720

Not surprisingly, referral emerges as the most popular answer. Note that this means patient referrals rather than doctor referrals, which are far less common than in past decades. Too, practices cannot rely on patient referrals without marketing communications supporting them. Ensure that the team is trained and incentivized to ask for referrals on a regular basis. Have on hand “care to share” cards that help facilitate the referral conversation and demonstrate value to the patient. Cards should clearly articulate what the patient gets for referring, such as a $50 gift card. Beyond that, branded note cards will allow the front office to easily print batches of thank you cards to send to referring patients and welcome cards to send to referred patients. 

Inspire the team to regularly use referral materials, and reward them when the practice reaches its new patient goals.

Online search comes in second at 27%. Again, note how low that is compared to today’s supply and demand for online dental marketing. Your competitors are under the impression that online marketing will get them all the patients that they need. You know that this strategy is only one part of a much bigger picture.

Even so, patients are constantly using mobile devices to connect to your practice. Be sure that your website is not just mobile friendly but also responsive, which means it is easy to navigate for any patient using any device. Also be sure that patients can click your phone number on their mobile device for easy of calling the practice. Dialing is passé.

Review sites also come in at 27%. Post point-of-sales campaigns throughout the practice that show clear instructions on how patients can write an online review. Be sure that the front office is asking every patient at checkout to write reviews. The two most popular review sites among dental patients in 2016 were Yelp and Google, so focus the team and patients there.

Social media and direct mail follow online search and review sites as the most popular ways for patients to find a dental practice, both at 17%.

Social media is like a practice open house happening 24/7 online. Appoint two people on the dental team or outsource this function for highest patient engagement. If you are managing it in-house, be sure the team is trained in HIPAA guidelines for social media marketing.

And yes, direct mail is still a great way to drive new patient traffic and to increase treatment acceptance rates. It matters not if you would pay attention to another postcard in your mailbox; it only matters that your future patients will. There are plenty of marketing functions that an be managed by your team, but direct mail is best handled by dental direct mail experts who will use demographic data and specific designs to engage the right audience for you.


What would be the easiest way to encourage you to write a review or make a referral?blogchart2

The easier we make it for patients to write reviews and make referrals, the more likely they are to do just that. Services like Demandforce and Lighthouse 360 can help automate the process of staying in front of patients and encouraging them to take action around reviews and referrals. Beyond that, a simple “thank you” and small gift card go a long way in inspiring them to continue to sing your praises across your community.

While these are the major trends we saw in dental marketing in 2016, our philosophy is that each practice has its own unique print on the world. Resist the temptation to copycat what everyone else is doing.

Get a complimentary marketing plan for 2017 that is custom to your practice’s goals.


Thank You from Big Buzz

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On behalf of the entire Big Buzz team, we want to thank you – our clients, referrers, friends, colleagues, and others in our dental industry network – for having confidence in our vision and our services, and for allowing us to flourish alongside you over the last nine years.

We appreciate your business and support, and most importantly, we appreciate the relationships we have fostered with each of you. Because of you, we are able to foster more of those relationships and make a larger impact on the dental industry.

The honest feedback and encouragement have allowed us to improve our services and expand into the only full-service dental marketing agency in the nation, and for that, we are ever grateful.

We greatly appreciate the opportunity to work with you and look forward to serving you for many more years.


The Big Buzz team

Finish Strong: End-of-Year Marketing To-Dos

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You’ve had your sights set on a particular production goal all year, and now you’re just six short weeks away from the finish line. Here’s a simple to-do list to ensure that you finish strong:

Boost end-of-year patient traffic. Initiate an educational email campaign to the entire patient base – including active and inactive patients – to encourage them to use their benefits before year-end.

Our friends at Rankin & Mingle Dentistry used this verbiage:

“Did you know that if you don’t use your dental insurance benefits this year, you lose them? It’s true – dental insurance benefits don’t roll over to the following year. If you don’t use them, you lose them!

“Don’t let your dental benefits go to waste. Call us now to schedule a dental appointment for a professional dental cleaning or any dental care you may have been putting off.

“Call today because our schedule is filling quickly as many patients are rushing to use their dental benefits before they expire. We’ll be happy to discuss your remaining benefits and answer any questions you may have.

“We are looking forward to speaking with you soon!”

Offset tax exposure. If cash flow permits, consider making an extra payment or two to your marketing firm to pre-pay the 2017 fees. Reinvesting profits back into the practice means a lower tax bill.

Reward the team. This is another great way to reinvest profits, and even more importantly, a great way to bolster confidence and excitement in the dental practice. Have your marketing firm provide metrics that show how many new patient calls the front office fielded, how many new patients the hygiene team saw and how many recall appointments were completed for the year. Hold an end-of-the-year team meeting – something more special than the standard morning huddle, like a team lunch. Publicly recognize each team member for their part in making the year great, and if cash flow permits, hand out bonuses. Even a small Visa gift card can go a long way in saying thank you to the people who carry your practice day in and day out.

Finalize 2017 production goals. Meet with the leadership team to analyze historic year-over-year growth and set next year’s goals. For example, if the practice has grown on average 20% each year, aim for 25% next year. Break down exactly how that will happen. How many recall appointments? How many new patients? How many crown and bridge cases? How many implant cases? From the breakdown, formulate a clear production plan and share it with the entire team.

Finalize the 2017 marketing plan. Analyze what has worked well in the past and what may not be producing as high of a return on investment. Consider the total marketing investment you made last year and your production goals for next year. Articulate in writing exactly what marketing tactics will continue in 2017. Attribute a dollar figure to each to account for how much you plan to invest next year. Again, share the completed marketing plan with the entire team so that everyone is clear on precisely how the practice will achieve the production goals and what each person’s part is in getting there.

Inspire the team. This goes far beyond sharing your plans with the team. Facilitate an open team discussion about what their personal goals are for 2017 and explore together how the practice might help them achieve those. Show them what’s in it for them to help the practice make its goal a reality. An inspired dental team is a highly successful team.

Corporate Dental Marketing Secrets

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Years ago, I worked for a marketing agency on accounts like Wells Fargo, Microsoft and Regal Cinemas. While there, I learned the strategy that these corporate giants use to deploy powerful, foolproof marketing.

Fast forward ten years, and I’m now seeing corporate dental practices use a very similar approach.

What if you could replicate what they are doing?

You can. Here are the basics:

Give Them What They Want. America’s largest and most successful corporations, including corporate dental practices, regularly research patient behaviors, data, and trends.


To ensure that they are delivering all of the right messages, services and perks throughout the patient experience. is a great example of this. CEO Jeff Besos founded the company as an online bookseller. The nation’s upper middle class took notice, buying books and having them delivered to their doorstep. Unwittingly, those buyers were providing Besos and his team with valuable data on what they were willing to buy. Today, is the world’s largest online marketplace for wares of all types, thanks to all of that market research.

An independent dental practice can gather similar data with simple surveys. Ask why patients chose the practice and what they love most about the doctor in order to develop a marketing message that truly resonates. Ask your patients what types of marketing (Google AdWords, Yelp reviews, direct mail, etc.) capture their attention so that you know how best to reach their peers, who are your potential patients. Continue to gather feedback to refine the marketing strategy and the patient experience.

Consistency is Key. A mentor once told me, “When you become sick of a logo, that’s the time when the target audience is noticing it for the first time.” When you gather market research and truly understand your patients or buyers, you have the power to replicate a meaningful message using captivating media outlets. Invest in professionally designed marketing materials. Even more, invest in a solid marketing plan that is consistent with its message, look, and delivery. This is the only way to truly compete in today’s marketplace. It’s hard to find one vendor that does it all for dental practices, but they do exist.

Always Be Closing. In the corporate world, there is a phrase: “ABC! Always Be Closing.” This refers to asking for the sale on a regular basis. If you think there’s not a “sales” job inside a dental practice, you are dead wrong. It’s best if all treatment coordinators and dentists in the practice are professionally trained in closing sales, or encouraging treatment acceptance.

Beyond that, the practice should always be recruiting great talent. What does the team have to do with marketing? Everything. The right team acts as a patient and referral magnet, keeping existing patients loyal to the practice and inspiring those patients to regularly bring friends and family into the practice. Corporate dental practices always have well-developed job opening advertisements on their websites, not just when they are hiring. The very best actively seek great talent with robust headhunting strategies. You can do the same my searching out qualified dental professionals on LinkedIn, connecting and building relationships. That way, when it comes time to hire, you will have cultivated an entire pool of talented people from which to draw.

Finally, corporations know to Always Be Marketing, too. Marketing is not a one-and-done activity, but the very lifeblood of the practice. A thriving independent dental practice has a professional marketing team, or outside agency, managing the right mix of 5-7 marketing tactics at any given time, that collectively attract new patients and increase production over time.


This is the foundation upon which our offerings are based, so plenty of independent dental practices are benefiting from this strategy now, too.

What will you change in your marketing approach to better compete with the big dogs?

The Power of the Ideal Patient Profile

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The name of the marketing game is not to attract every patient to your practice. The name of the marketing game is to attract your ideal patients into the practice.

To start, it is imperative to document an ideal patient profile. A basic potential patient profile includes demographic information like:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Zip code

What else defines your best patients? I once encountered a dental practice that attracts droves of divorced mothers. That’s critical demographic information for the practice to understand in order to market effectively. Though you may be unaware of it, you likely have segments of patients and potential patients similar to this. That said, a solid ideal patient profile takes it a step further, articulating data like:

  • Income
  • Marital status
  • Employment status
  • Political preference

And an extraordinary ideal patient profile mimics the strategy that Facebook Ads use. There are more than a billion people worldwide using Facebook, posting to their own timelines and reading their newsfeeds. On the newsfeed, each user sees the things that interest them, and the Facebook algorithm can see that. (Source:

For example, Facebook knows that I am the mother of a daughter in elementary school because I post about her all the time. Facebook knows that I work in the dental industry because I am Facebook friends with a lot of dentists and I often post about dental marketing. And Facebook even knows that I am the daughter of an avid sailor because I have my father connected to my profile, and he often posts about his adventures as a U.S. Coast Guard captain.

In fact, Facebook has me pegged for 263 preferences based upon my activity on their website. Beyond family and occupation, here are a few more things that Facebook knows about me:

  • Enjoys running
  • Has TMJ disorder
  • Buys organic food
  • Watches Ellen
  • Interested in martial arts
  • Loves visiting The Outer Banks of North Carolina

Curious? See what they know about you here:

They know all of this about each of your potential patients, too! Imagine how useful that data would be to you. Imagine how powerful your marketing would be if you got as granular as Facebook does.

It’s not hard.

Sure, Facebook Ads are a great way to get in front of your ideal patient, but even more, the Facebook algorithm is a terrific tool to help you explore all the possibilities when you create your ideal patient profile. To explore the algorithm, go to Facebook. In the upper right corner, you will see a section called “Your Pages,” and your practice page will appear below. Right below that, you will see a blue button that says, “Promote Local Business.” When you click that button, a tool will appear that is meant to help you build your Facebook Ad. Within that tool is an area marked “Interests.” Inside, there will be about five interest categories already populated. Those interests are just the beginning. Start typing in that area, and you will see that there are several possibilities. From those possibilities, list the interests that your patients and potential patients likely have. Then whittle the list down to the top five to ten that qualify an ideal patient.

Your ideal patient profile is now nearly complete.

Lastly, list anything that is a must-have for an ideal patient when it comes to the relationship and business transaction. For example:

  • Accepts treatment
  • Shows up to appointments on time
  • Refers friends and family
  • Pays out of pocket

Now you’re ready to attract your ideal patients!

Why spend time and money on attracting everyone in the five-mile radius around your practice when you can invest less time and money attracting exactly the right people who will become loyal to you and your practice?

Phone Etiquette: Does It Matter?

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When a prospective patient calls your practice, their interaction with you over the phone is going to set the tone for the rest of the relationship. If you do not win them over from your very first conversation, the chance of them establishing themselves as a patient at your practice decreases significantly. Encourage your front office staff to graciously and consistently interact with patients, so that the customer experience is as positive as possible. To start, have your front office staff follow these tips:

  • Use inclusive language. By using words such as “we” and “our” you are allowing the prospective patient to feel like they are already a part of your dental family. They will also feel more of a personal connection to your practice, easing the anxieties that come with visiting a new dental office.
  • Limit your buzzwords. Each person’s knowledge of dentistry varies, so keep it as simple as possible, especially when discussing insurance and finances. Remember, you are an expert in dentistry, and the prospective patient may not be. Overly communicate and explain, so that you can be sure the two of you are always on the same page.
  • Empathize. Make it your priority to make sure prospective patients feel heard, especially in regards to their unique needs and requests. Again, this will help develop a personal connection right off the bat, and the prospective patient will immediately feel more at ease with you.
  • Be realistic. While empathizing and explaining, ensure you remain realistic when discussing treatment times, costs, appointment scheduling, etc. Thorough and transparent communication will allow the patient relationship to develop from a positive foundation, setting the tone for all future interactions.

By setting a positive tone and developing a relationship with prospective patients from the very beginning, you and your front office team will help boost patient conversions and the overall patient experience.

Comparing Apples to Oranges… Or is it?

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Let’s have a look at the differences and similarities between marketing startup practices and established practices, and what one can learn from the other.


Startup PracticeEstablished Practice
Strategy First. The best foundation for a great marketing plan is a strategy. Gather together a group of mentors, past professors from dental school, and people who know, understand and believe in your vision for your practice. Try to include a handful of potential patients and any staff that you plan to hire. Survey this pool of people to find out what they think you do best. Ask them, too, what marketing media they think will be best received by your target audience. (Media might include direct mail, social media, online ads, etc.)Strategy at Last. In our nine years of experience, we find that about 95% of dental practices conduct marketing without a strategy. The best foundation for a great marketing plan is a strategy. Gather together a group of your happiest patients. Survey them to find out what they think you do best. Ask them, too, what marketing media grabs their attention. (Media might include direct mail, social media, online ads, etc.) If you have been sending practice marketing materials, be sure to ask specific questions to gauge whether they were seen or acted upon. (For example, “How did you first hear of us?” or “Do you recall seeing our ad on Facebook?”)
Understand the Competition. Make a list of the top 5-10 practices that your potential patients may consider before selecting yours. Be sure that the message and look that you plan to take to market are dramatically different and better than these competing practices. You might even have a friend or family member “secret shop” these practices to be sure that your atmosphere, services and fees are on par or even above par with what is available to patients in your community.Understand the Competition. Particularly with the encroachment of corporate dental, the competitive landscape is always changing. Every 2 years, make a list of the top 5-10 practices that your potential patients may consider before selecting yours. (You might even ask on the surveys what other practices with which they may be familiar.) Be sure that the message and look that you are marketing are dramatically different and better than these competing practices. You might even have a friend or family member “secret shop” these practices to be sure that your atmosphere, services and fees are on par or even above par with what is available to patients in your community.
Set a Brand Baseline. Take the time and invest the money to have the practice logo and identity professionally designed. (Identity includes letterhead, envelope, appointment cards, business cards, email signature and even signage.) This will go a long way in building your reputation and making your practice memorable in your area.Check Your Brand Baseline. Every 5 years, take the time and invest the money to have the practice logo and identity professionally designed or at least refreshed. (Identity includes letterhead, envelope, appointment cards, business cards, email signature and even signage.) Today, consumers expect fresh, new design in their brand interactions. After all, we get entire system updates on our smart phones every few months. If your logo and identity haven’t been refreshed in 5 years or more then they may be dating your reputation and making you less memorable in your area.
Wow With Your Website. As with logo and identity, take the time and invest the money to have the practice website professionally developed. The process should take about 6 weeks, and with regular security and content updates, a great website will last up to 5 years. Regular updates are like oil changes for your car; as routine maintenance, they shouldn’t take long or cost much but can drastically improve the lifetime value of your investment.Wow With Your Website. As with logo and identity, take the time and invest the money to have the practice website professionally developed every 5 years. Be sure that your developer is making regular security and content updates on your website. These updates are like oil changes for your car; as routine maintenance, they shouldn’t take long or cost much but can drastically improve the lifetime value of your investment.
Drive Traffic. The practice website is a billboard in the middle of the ocean until you drive traffic to it and, thereby, patients in your door. Look back at the survey results and deploy only those marketing tactics that are going to make your target audience sit up, take notice and take action.Drive Traffic Differently. Look back at the survey results and deploy only those marketing tactics that are going to make your target audience sit up, take notice and take action. What worked a few years ago may not work anymore. Continuously evolve your efforts to keep in line with the times and ensure a steady flow of patient traffic month after month, year after year.

Is yours an existing practice in transition such as merger or acquisition? Begin again under the “startup” column.

And no matter where you are in your practice history, remember that marketing is the oxygen to your practice. Never stop, or the practice will suffocate and perish.

Using Systems and Structures to Reach Your End Goal

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To ensure steady, month-over-month growth, detailed systems and structures need to be in place for every aspect of your practice. That includes systems and structures for how the phone is answered, how new patients are tracked, how insurance claims are filed, how each operatory should be prepared for a new patient. There need to be systems and structures for every single aspect of your practice.

Systems create effectiveness, readiness and ultimately productivity. By instilling and upholding established systems and structures, each team member is clear on his or her responsibilities, and is therefore held accountable and can clearly see their part in achieving the end goal.

In turn, your team sees you as a leader and their confidence in you continues to grow. You will empower them to feel an individualized and communal sense of accomplishment, and the overall workings of the practice will run much more smoothly and effectively.

While there are systems and structures in place, they must remain non-negotiable and each team member must feel personally responsible for helping reach the end goal. That being said, the systems and structures put in place can grow, change and improve as the practice evolves.

To determine and refine the systems and structures within your practice, first set your end goal. Where do you want your practice to be in one year? In five years? What do you want your practice to be remembered for? Use your end goal as the baseline, and then map out how you will steadily and realistically get there.

Once your systems and structures have been determined and agreed upon, document them. When you hire new team members, acquaint them with the systems and structures that are in place to ensure a seamless transition.

Deploying and maintaining the systems and structures is an ongoing process; team members should constantly train for and practice them. It is human nature to revert to old habits or what is comfortable, which is why ongoing training and holding each team member accountable is imperative to the success of your systems and structures.

Developing the systems and structures that are right for your practice is an intricate process that may take some time. Refine each system and structure until it is right for your practice culture and your team members. Make sure that it is producing the results you want and helping you achieve your end goal.


Responding to a Negative Online Review

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With the majority of patients likely finding you via the Internet and social media, your practice’s online reputation matters now more than ever. Since it is nearly impossible to please everyone all of the time, negative online reviews may happen. When they do, view them as an opportunity to bring attention to your practice’s many positive qualities and a chance to improve the practice in order to prevent recurring mistakes or complaints.

When responding to negative reviews, there are three important factors to keep in mind.

  1. General is better. Briefly acknowledge the patient and the issues at hand, and then deal with any specifics within the confines of a private conversation (whether it be in person or over the phone).
  2. Never be defensive. Even if the patient is misinformed or incorrect, online the patient is always right, even if you disagree.
  3. Encourage conversation. It is hard to get entire thoughts and emotions out in just a few words via the Internet. Call the patient and talk through the issue. This will allow you to salvage and foster the relationship, and learn from the experience to ensure it never happens again.

Here is an example of a negative review response, to use as a general template:

“We appreciate hearing your feedback and we apologize that you didn’t have a good experience at our office. We would love the opportunity to talk with you. We will do our best to contact you as soon as possible so that we can make things right.”

Of course, your specific response may vary based on your practice culture and what you feel comfortable posting.

Managing your online reputation doesn’t have to be a full-time job. Monitor your reviews on a weekly basis and respond as needed. Follow these general guidelines and your online presence will continue to flourish!