Do The Photos on Your Website Matter?

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Many of our clients ask, “Does it matter if I use real photos of my patients and my practice, or will generic stock photography work for my website?”

Your website is a billboard in the middle of the ocean, and it needs specific strategies and support to get noticed. Internet users are constantly becoming smarter and faster at assessing websites, and in-turn, are using your website as one of their deciding factors when deciding on a dentist. Your website often serves as your first impression to a potential patient, so it is an investment worth making.

Studies show that the photography you use does matter, and that there are huge benefits to using professionally shot photos of your actual patients, your team and your office. These authentic photos allow the visitor to connect to you, your team, your current patients, your website and the services that you offer. The photography on your website is intended to make the visitor relate to your site, and generic stock photos of smiling models (which are often sold online to multiple users or sometimes available for free) can come across as too perfect or overly staged, which is not relatable.

Visual Website Optimizer’s recent article states that professionally shot photos of your actual patients, your team and your office can improve website conversions and that generic stock photos are generally ignored. Photos are essential to your practice brand and the message that you want the public to absorb. These photos should be used to your advantage and be effective at attracting high-quality patients.

Another reason to avoid using stock photos is the potential of your competitors using the same, or similar, images. Despite the size of the stock photo pool, if a competitor is using the same or similar images, your potential patient could be confused and feel a lack of originality. If stock photos are the only viable option for your website, there are sources available where you can determine who else is using that photo.

It is important to view photography as an investment, one that can be used for years to come. Your original photos can also be used in subsequent marketing materials, such as direct mail, print advertisements, flyers, newsletters, referral postcards, welcome packets, and more.

Hire a professional photographer and allow your original photographs to tell the story of your practice and build strong relationships with potential and current patients from the start.



Why Isn’t My Marketing Working to Get Me More Implant Cases?

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Standard dental practice marketing, such as online advertising and direct mail, are ideal for attracting general dentistry patients who are actively seeking a dentist. Those patients who are considering implants are facing a life-changing event and a big investment. These patients need far more education before they will be ready to commit. In fact, they need a lot of education before they will even be ready to contact the practice for a conversation or initial consultation about implants.

Here is where content marketing comes in:

Content marketing is the distribution of insightful, educational articles or blog posts that are meant to nurture potential patients into the practice. Great content does the following:

  • Helps people overcome any fears, challenges and obstacles they may have before they part ways with their money or make that big appointment.
  • Positions the practice as the area expert on dental implants.
  • Helps answer all of the “burning questions” that keep the patient awake at night.
  • Includes all relevant search keywords in a natural, easy-to-read way.
  • Takes a stand. Offers a big “aha moment” or invites the reader to agree or disagree.
  • Is not about the practice. Rarely if ever contains the practice name. May include a byline, such as, “By John Smith DDS.”
  • Never contains an offer, discount or call to action. May include an invitation to submit questions at the end. See chart below for example.

Each piece of content is typically 300-1,000 words in length.

How is content marketing shared, and with whom?

Content may be delivered:

  • Via email to the entire business/practice database once weekly or twice monthly
  • Via the website blog, which is updated as soon as a new piece of content is finished
  • Via social media like Facebook or LinkedIn, onto which a link to the content may be posted

Content marketing is shared with current patients rather than potential patients. Current patients are far more likely to know and trust the dentist enough to complete a big implant case with the practice.

What’s the difference between content and marketing copy?

Content is insightful, educational, and never promotional like marketing copy is.

Here are a few examples of the difference:



“Clicking, popping and headaches are not normal. While it becomes the norm for those suffering from TMD, there are plenty of ways to be restored to health and freedom once more. TMD stands for temporomandibular disorder. You may have also heard the acronym TMJ, which stands for the temporomandibular joint. This joint acts as a hinge, connecting your jaw to your skull. Clicking, popping, pain and lockjaw may be caused by problems with the muscles around the TMJ or problems inside the joint itself.”

“There are no credentials right now for implantology. While there are board certified periodontists (who specialize in the health of your gums), board certified endodontists (who specialize in root canals), and board certified oral surgeons, there is no such thing as a board certified implantologist. Implant dentistry is not a specialty, and that’s a problem. Be leery of any dentist who tells you they are an implant specialist, since there is no such thing. Ask about these areas of their background.”

“The implant itself is not an actual replacement for the tooth. It is an artificial tooth root that is placed into your jaw to secure the new tooth. The American Academy of Periodontology explains it like this: “A dental implant is an artificial tooth root that is placed into your jaw to hold a replacement tooth or bridge. Dental implants may be an option for people who have lost a tooth or teeth due to periodontal disease, an injury, or some other reason.” (Source)

We welcome your questions. Please reach us at 000-000-0000 or”

“As a trusted dentist, Dr. Jones is proud to offer dentistry for your whole family. Always striving to offer our patients the most comprehensive care possible, we focus not just on teeth, but on your health as a whole – keeping you healthy and creating a smile that lasts a lifetime. Experience, education and a passion for dentistry are just a few of the reasons Dr. Jones patients call him the best dentist in the area.”

“We are a dental practice devoted to restoring and enhancing the natural beauty of your smile using conservative, state-of-the-art procedures that will result in beautiful, long lasting smiles! A standard of excellence in personalized dental care enables us to provide the quality dental services our patients deserve. We provide comprehensive treatment planning and use restorative and cosmetic dentistry to achieve your optimal dental health. Should a dental emergency occur, we make every effort to see and care for you as soon as possible.”

“The beauty of a spectacular smile reaches far beyond your exterior image. When you smile confidently, you literally become happier inside. Dr. Smith offers everything from whitening to veneers to reconstructions to make your life happier inside and out. The practice also offers general, functional and cosmetic dentistry, plus orthodontics to any patient who wants to invest in life-long oral health and true happiness.”

“Explore what’s possible for your smile! Book your a complimentary initial consultation today and get a $500 credit on your bill.”

There is certainly a time and place for marketing copy. Namely, it belongs on the practice website and direct marketing materials.

Content marketing, on the other hand, is reserved exclusively to send to your patient database and share with your current patients. Over time, content marketing can add up to more implant cases – and higher quality implant patients. It often yields patients who require very little convincing to accept treatment.

6 Burning Marketing Questions about Dental Benefits Answered

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1. What’s the best way to handle “price shopper” calls?

Every practice gets these: the patient who is scrolling down the online listings for dentists in their area and calling one by one to get the best price. To handle these requests, repurpose the conversation. When the caller asks, “How much is it?” your front office might say, “I’m curious to explore the question behind your question. Tell me a little bit about what’s going on, and let’s see how we can help.” The key is to build the relationship right out of the gate. Your staff might even say, “We want to get to know you more than we want your money. How about we get you scheduled for an initial consultation to see if we’re a good match?”

2. If my practice wants to attract more PPO/fee-for-service patients, what’s the best marketing approach?

Create a profile of your ideal patient. They pay on time, accept treatment, show up on time, and carry a certain benefit plan (or no benefit plan). Now, identify in your practice 10 patients who fit that profile. Survey them and ask what marketing gets their attention: Google AdWords? Yelp ads? Direct mail? What else? Ask how they found your practice. Ask what tools they use to find their other healthcare practitioners. Replicate what resonated with them, and you will attract more of the same type of patient.

3. How do we say on our website that we accept only fee-for-service or certain PPOs – without scaring off potential patients?

Your website and marketing materials should act as sieves, straining out the patients you don’t want and leading to your door the ones that you do want. In the practice marketing materials, be inviting yet informative about your dental benefits policies. Give away enough information to weed out anyone who does not fit your ideal patient profile, but not so much detail that you fail to invite into the practice those who do match the profile. Be promotional, not educational – the time to educate the patient is after they come into the practice and are face-to-face with you. Do be certain to address dental benefits on your website. Saying nothing at all would be leaving a big question unanswered, which may cause the potential patient to never even contact you.

4. How do I extend an enticing offer to attract new patients when I already take a hit on my profits by accepting insurance and can’t afford to discount my fees?

First, consider this: existing patients are your number one asset, not new patients. Consider making the offer to them instead, or as well. Second, rarely discount your fees. It diminishes your credibility and value. Instead, offer something of added value: a $25 gift card to a local retailer, a Sonicare toothbrush, or free whitening trays, for example. When practices offer something like this to current patients in exchange for a referral, the practice attracts more people who fit the ideal patient profile and, perhaps most importantly, solidifies patient loyalty.

5. Can I still rely on dental benefits directories for a steady stream of new patients?

Would you hire a marketing agency that takes a percentage of your fee for each patient that they lead to the practice? Absolutely not. Round out your marketing strategy with tactics that attract implant patients, crown and bridge patients, fee-for-service patients, and those who fit your ideal patient profile. A good mix of patients will serve the practice well for years to come.

Want to attract more patients that fit your ideal patient profile? Schedule a complimentary consultation.




How long will it take to see results?

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Ah, the age-old marketing question! Everyone wants to know how long before patients come streaming in the door. Here’s a simple visual to show the answer by marketing tactic, based on nine years of dental marketing experience and collaboration with other marketing professionals serving the dental community.

Marketing Tactic Number of Days before This Tactic Attracts New Patients
Promoting openings in the schedule 1 day
Asking patients for referrals as they check out 1 day
Google AdWords 1 day
Yelp advertising 1 day
Boosting a “Now Accepting New Patients” post on Facebook 1 day
Facebook advertising 1 day
Direct mail (time to develop and send) 28 days
Radio advertisement (time to record and air) 21 days
Television advertisement (time to record and air) 21 days
Brand new website (time to develop) 60 days
Search engine optimization 90 days
Marketing for implants and other high-dollar treatments 90 days
Print advertising 90 days

This is not to say that you should run only those tactics that take just one day to attract new patients. By contrast, it’s best to run only those tactics to which your best patients and their peers will pay attention. To uncover which those are, survey your best patients.

Overall, the right marketing mix has the power to consistently get you to your goals in 15 to 90 days. And it’s the right marketing mix that matters most.


How to Allot the Practice’s Marketing Budget

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Most dental and orthodontic practices regularly reinvest about 6% of their annual production back into marketing. For the practice that produces $850,000 each year, that means $4,250 per month is invested in marketing. In 9 years advising hundreds of practices, I have rarely seen one be successful with less than a $30,000 annual marketing budget.

By setting an overall marketing budget, the practice is more likely to produce a return on investment. You’ll have a single set figure month over month to most accurately measure your marketing success.

Next, decide where to invest. Notice I did not say “decide where you want to invest.” Marketing should always be backed by strategy not opinion.

Survey your best patients to understand what marketing tactics they and their peers are or are not likely to consume. Ask questions like:

  • How likely are you to click on Google AdWords?
  • How likely are you to select a healthcare provider based upon direct mail?
  • How important is a healthcare provider’s website to you in deciding whether or not to initially visit that practice?

Use a Likert scale in order to gather the most precise data.

Then have a look at what the competition is doing. If four out of five competitors are advertising in the city magazine, steer clear. If none of them are doing television or radio ads, consider investing there. (But only if your surveys showed that your patients and their friends and family would pay attention to those tactics.)

There are many possible things you can be doing for marketing right now. Here’s a basic list:

  • Recall marketing
  • Reputation management/online reviews
  • Search engine optimization
  • Website development
  • Content marketing
  • Social media marketing
  • Google AdWords, Facebook Ads, other online ads
  • Email campaigns
  • Referral marketing
  • Thank you cards
  • Practice brochure
  • Welcome packet
  • Television ads
  • Radio ads
  • Public relations
  • Outdoor ads/billboards
  • Direct mail
  • Print ads
  • Community event sponsorship
  • Marketing to referring doctors
  • Open houses
  • Patient appreciation events
  • Professional lecture presentations
  • Point-of-sales campaigns
  • Retargeting ads
  • LinkedIn lead mining

Did you break out in hives considering all of the possibilities?

Not to worry. Based upon the findings from your research (the surveys and competitor analysis), you can pick just five of these to focus on for now.

And finally, for the big question: How to know what part of the budget to allot to what?

Gather estimates for each of the five tactics you wish to deploy. Direct mail can be an investment of tens of thousands of dollars and can translate into hundreds of thousands of dollars of production when done well in the right markets. By contrast, the average U.S. marketing firm charges just $750 per month for search engine optimization services.

Think not, “How much should I spend?”

Think instead, “What is the overall budget I’m willing to invest, and what are the top five things that are best for me to do now?”

That’s investing for a healthy return!

How to Find The Absolute Right Marketing Partner

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In over nine years serving dental practices, they all have one thing in common by the time they call us: they are on a relentless quest to find the absolute right marketing partner.

How do you do that?

Look within. The absolute right marketing partner for your dental practice is you.

Certainly, you can outsource the work and get great results – but only when you take a part in your own marketing success. Our most productive and profitable clients are those who:

  1. See us as a true partner, never just a vendor. A partner is someone who works alongside you, who contributes to your success and who works towards a common goal. A partner is in the trenches with you through thick and thin, and works tirelessly to help you achieve your practice vision.
  2. See us as true marketing experts. Our most successful clients run all marketing questions past us. They listen to our guidance and take action around our suggestions. They challenge us when we need to be challenged, and allow us to do the same for them. They pass the marketing baton to us with total confidence that our strategies will serve them well.
  3. Give us room. Our most satisfied clients are those who commit to giving us space and time to do our best work. They resist the temptation to design or write their own marketing. They give clear, concise feedback on projects, which allows us to keep their marketing moving and patients flowing into their doors.
  4. Trust us as their single marketing source. Those clients who see the best results from marketing are the ones who entrust all their marketing needs to one expert source. Divvying up marketing efforts across various partners opens the door for lower quality assurance, inefficiencies in getting promotions to market, higher overall marketing costs and difficulty measuring results with any real consistency.
  5. See marketing as an investment. Our top-producing dental practices have a good understanding of marketing and see it as a lifelong investment in the practice, never as an expense.
  6. Know their numbers. The most successful practices set achievable goals and maintain a reasonable marketing budget. They know their production numbers, patient numbers and can quantify what they wish to achieve. For example, “I want to increase production from $950,000 last year to $1.1 million this year.” Or, “I’m seeing 20 new patients per month now, and would like to see more like 40.”
  7. Are committed to excellent communication. The dental practices that truly thrive are the ones that communicate regularly with their marketing partner, responding quickly and thoroughly to requests and providing timely feedback. Only with regular input from you can your marketing partner ace the patient attraction game.

Regardless of whether you select us or another firm, your marketing success begins with you.

Is it a marketing issue? Or something else?

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Marketing works best when great leadership, strong systems and processes and healthy cash flow support it. Every now and again a new client requests marketing, and we very quickly identify that the issue is not in marketing, but in one of the other three areas. The following outline shows signs of success in each area, and may help identify challenges to overcome in each area:

Signs of Leadership Success

  • The dentist and team are clear about the vision for the practice and regularly articulate it in an inspiring way.
  • The practice has set and often discusses a quantifiable goal based upon actual numbers. For example, the goal is to see 35 new patients per month, and the practice is now seeing 20 new patients per month.
  • Every team member has become a leader, working together to develop ideas, processes and systems for reaching the practice goal.

Challenges with leadership may make the marketing less effective. Only when we get the whole team on the same page do we experience true marketing success.

The best professional to help with challenges in the area of leadership is a practice coach, not to be confused with a practice management consultant. The coach focuses on improving people while the consultant works on improving systems.

Signs of Systems/Processes Success

  • Internal systems and processes are strong, and allow the practice to focus on care.
  • Trusted individuals who are not the dentist seamlessly execute the functions like equipment updates and maintenance, supply orders, lab orders, marketing, accounting, bookkeeping, billing, payroll, janitorial and recruiting.
  • Day-to-day operations feel smooth and easy, never arduous.

When systems and processes are insufficient, the effectiveness of the marketing suffers. For example, a robust marketing strategy might attract new patients to the practice. When a new patient calls in, the phones must work properly, the intake process must be seamless, the billing process buttoned up, and the follow-up process dialed, etc.

The best professional to help with challenges in this area is a specialist in the given system or process; for example, one company to handle accounting, bookkeeping, billing, payroll and recruiting.

Signs of Cash Flow Success

  • The dentist has a clear view on the money that will come in and go out of the practice in the next few weeks and months, or the practice’s financial forecast.
  • The practice is able to hire staff, purchase equipment, invest in marketing and otherwise expand with confidence.

Cash flow is the fuel that propels the marketing machine. When cash flow is weak, it seems impossible to invest regularly in marketing that will maintain steady patient flow and strong production. When cash flow is strong and marketing becomes a standard monthly investment, marketing efforts are consistent and results are, too.

If this is an area of challenge then a cash flow consultant can provide accurate projections to get the practice back on track.

Signs of Marketing Success

  • The practice regularly invests in marketing and realizes a healthy return on investment from overall marketing efforts.
  • Someone besides the dentist, a true marketing expert, is at the helm in executing all marketing efforts.
  • The dentist has access to reports that demonstrate what marketing tactics are deployed, how they are performing individually and how they are performing collectively.

Marketing is the oxygen to the practice, keeping it alive and well with a steady flow of new patients and compelling branding that keeps existing patients loyal. When marketing is weak, the practice sees erratic production month over month.

If this is an area of challenge, a reputable dental marketing agency can offer a strategy to correct course.

5 Ways to Convert Website Visitors into Patients

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Your practice website is a billboard in the middle of the ocean until you begin driving web traffic to it. To take this analogy even further, your website is a billboard with a bunch of birds sitting on it until you convert visitors into new patients.

Here are 5 ways to improve your website so that it is a conversion machine:

1. Keep it simple. A 15-page website is really all you need for a one- to two-dentist private practice. Website visitors are creatures of habit, so function trumps form. In other words, a simple website is more compelling to the visitor than a fancy one. No more than eight pages across the main navigation and no more than five on each drop-down, please; anything more than that overwhelms the visitor. An overwhelmed visitor will leave your website in a jiffy. With that in mind, format short (around 100-word) bits of text together to keep the eye moving and the reader engaged. See an example of this on one of our client’s websites, here.

2. Call visitors to action. Be sure that the website provides an “action opportunity” on every page. Call for an appointment. Fill out this form to learn more. Follow the practice on Facebook. Enter an email address and get a free care guide. Each person who arrives to the website will have different preferences, so provide a number of options. The more options, the more likely web visitors are to act and thereby stay engaged with the practice. Here is a good example of this. The website should be designed to intrigue visitors and encourage action. Be sure that the website copy and imagery is promotional, not just informational.

3. Offer 24/7 online scheduling. The moment that a visitor makes the decision to schedule an appointment is a pivotal one. Research shows that the shorter the time is between that moment and the moment that the patient is scheduled, the more likely the visitor is to actually become a patient. Whether we like it or not, patients are “shopping” for their dental care, often comparing one provider to the next in quick snap judgments as they surf the net. Dentrix and ZocDoc offer solid 24/7 scheduling systems. See one in motion on another of our client’s sites, here. (Click “Make an Appointment.”) Offer access to this feature on every page of the website, and you dramatically increase your odds of converting visitors into patients.

4. Make the most of the three A’s. The three A’s of websites that drive results are: affability, ability and availability. A powerful website makes the practice look affable, or likeable. Visitors should see warm and inviting photos of the office, doctors and staff. They should get the feeling, “I might like them. They could earn my trust.” A great website makes it clear that the dental team is highly able. Any of the dentists’ awards and accolades and any compelling before-and-after cases they have completed should be clear in the first few seconds of looking at the home page. Visitors should get the feeling, “They seem capable. They would take good care of me.” Last, a terrific website articulates that the dentist is available. Office hours, address and directions should appear on every page. This conveys the feeling, “It would be easy for me to at least check them out. I could make it happen.” Here is a great example of all three A’s well executed.

5. Include compelling forms. When you increase the chances of potential patients completing your online forms, you increase the odds of generating new patients from your website. Include a form on every page. Here is a great example of this on one of our client’s sites. Notice how the “Request an Appointment” box appears on every page. A compelling, aesthetically pleasing headline that appropriately compliments the rest of the content on the page is a must. Every form should contain a button that stands out and draws attention. Adding a short patient testimonial right next to your online form builds trust with your potential patient.

Follow these guidelines and your dental practice website will be a new-patient-making machine!

Where Did All My New Patients Go?

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A high number of new patient inquiries (whether by phone, email or other sources) does not always translate to actual new patients in the schedule.

What causes this? And how do we correct it?

The most important thing you can do to close the gap is track your metrics. Provide your front office with a spreadsheet to track who called or emailed from what source, how many turned into actual patients, and what that translated into in terms of production dollars. This type of visibility on your marketing data will allow you to see whether transitioning new patient inquiries into actual new patients is an issue for your practice. You may be surprised!

Beyond that, be sure to respond to new patient inquiries right away. New patients who make inquiries should be scheduled within two hours of contacting the office, even if it’s after hours. Be sure phones are answered around the clock. Those in the Millennial generation typically do not leave a voicemail; if you haven’t answered, you have lost them. Consider assigning one person to answering inquiries even if they arrive after hours or on the weekend.

Monitor the front office to ensure that calls and emails are answered in the spirit of excellent customer service. Consider recording calls to use for training purposes; specific tracking numbers that record calls should be used on all marketing materials. Training from experts like the Scheduling Institute may be a good resource for improving phone skills. It’s not to say that your front office is doing it wrong. There are plenty of things that they are doing right. But to get an inquiry to convert to a paying patient, certain nuances and even a bit of magic are needed. These are teachable skills.

Finally, use a program like Demandforce, Lighthouse 360 or Solutionreach to initiate appointment reminders via phone call, email and text. The more ways you remind the patient, the more likely they are to make the appointment. Hold openings in the schedule so that new patients can be seen within 48 hours of contacting the practice.

Make the most of every new patient inquiry, and you’ll make sure every chair is filled every day!

Need help boosting new patient numbers? Contact us today.

Google Update Part 2: Now What? Why You Should Keep Running Ads

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Last week’s blog post explored Google’s newest update, which is the removal of the sidebar feature of paid ads. While there are no more sidebar ads, an extra top ad position will be added. This is an extra opportunity for your practice to be shown at the very top of the page.

Even with that addition, you may be wondering what your next step should be. Many clients have asked…

“Should I stop Google Adwords?”

“How can I ensure my ads are worth my money?”

 This update does not mean you should not stop running Google Adwords. Your budget still works the same way, as you are still investing in clicks that represent patients entering and working their way down your practice funnel and into your door. A slight increase in your AdWords budget may even give you an advantage over competing practices that are uninformed of the change and not optimizing their ads accordingly. This will help to increase your bids for the most valuable keywords.

Here’s an example: a competitive market left one of our clients unable to compete for general keywords related to their city and specialty. We adapted and targeted neighborhoods, which resulted in a 230% increase in click-through-rate, an 80% decrease in cost-per-click, and several #1 rankings on Google.

With all this said, if you choose not to invest in Google AdWords, you should consider investing in SEO services as a long-term solution.

To ensure that your online ad budget is being used wisely, find an agency that has specific dental online marketing experience.