Social Media Marketing: What Are The Risks?

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Social media is an ever-growing, popular mode of marketing in today’s digital world. With such an influx and overload of information, it is important and necessary to leverage yourself and your practice against the competition, while appearing relatable and professional, and communicating effectively.

Social media usage is one of the most prominent awareness and nurture tactics in marketing. When done properly, it can be immensely effective and rewarding. Before you start your own social media campaign for your practice, there are a few things to consider, including:

  1. Transparency: Every single word, image, or piece of information that is posted on a social media platform is going to be judged by the public. Social media posts can go viral within a matter of minutes, so it is imperative to post original, honest, and thorough information.
  2. Security: With this new wave of technology and the Internet, comes an increased risk of a security breach. Hackers are ever-present and also becoming more and more adept at breaking into personal accounts. If you are mindful of our online security, active on your social media accounts and use strong passwords, hackers and spammers can be more easily avoided.
  3. Emotion: Today’s online audience is hypersensitive and seems to be chomping at the bit for any piece of information to disagree with or voice their opinion about. It is impossible to please everyone, so keep posts as unbiased and neutral as possible, and never mention a specific person or group of people directly.
  4. Competition: Competition exists in every industry, especially in dentistry. Every tactic that you deploy has the potential of being mimicked, particularly if that tactic is working. Social media is no different, so just be aware of competitors and make sure everything you post is marked with your name or practice name.
  5. Legality: Everything that is posted to the Internet is permanent and can be tracked back to the source. This is something to be aware of with every public display or post, to help ensure neutrality, honesty, and originality, and to avoid any legal ramifications down the road.
  6. HIPAA: It is vital that your social media posts be HIPAA compliant. When discussing a certain type of treatment or case, avoid using any details that could identify the patient involved. That includes names, descriptions of the person, and location information. Speak in generalities. Posting photos of patients to your pages is okay, as long as you receive written consent from the patient or their guardian.

Social media remains one of the most effective, cost-efficient, and successful marketing tactics available to your practice. By being cognizant of these risks, you are minimizing problems or obstacles that may prevent your social media campaign from reaching it’s full potential, and are one step closer to maximizing it’s impact.


8 Essential Questions to Ask Once You’ve Contacted A Dental Marketing Agency

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The following are questions to ask once you’ve contacted a marketing agency:

  1. Do you specialize in dental marketing, and how many dental practices do you have as clients? A good marketing agency for your dental practice has a full understanding of the inner workings of your business, and has a strong track record for driving results with similar practices. Steer clear of general marketing agencies that may not understand the nuances of internal marketing to current patients and marketing for higher treatment acceptance rates. The best marketing agencies have consulted hundreds of practices yet provide custom strategies for each.
  1. How will you determine what marketing tactics are best for my dental practice? Every agency completes some level of market research to determine which tactics will work best for your particular practice. The best dental marketing agencies offer an integrated approach, or several marketing tactics working together at once, to reach the practice’s goals.
  1. How are marketing goals measured? Expect for any agency to report results to the practice in writing on a monthly basis, at least. Some agencies will even provide a real-time dashboard that you can access anytime to gauge progress.
  1. How long will it take to see results? Any marketing firm can get your ads placed on Google today. The best will get you new patients in just the first few weeks of engagement. 
  1. How long will it take to reach my goals? In a recent meeting among the top five dental marketers in the nation, it was agreed that it takes three months of steady, strategic marketing to consistently reach new patient and production goals. 
  1. How much does it cost? A better way to ask this is, “How much should I invest in marketing to reach my goals and realize a healthy return?” Every marketing firm can provide a written description of deliverables and associated fees.
  1. Can you provide references? It would be good to see samples of work they have done for other practices. It would be even better if they let you call a client or two for a reference.
  1. If I’m not satisfied with the results, what are my options? Not all agencies offer a cancelation policy. Get clear about how to get out of the contract before signing. At the same time, don’t put your focus on “what if it doesn’t work?” Marketing is a bit like magic; it works best when you believe.

The 3 Best Questions to Ask Before Hiring A Dental Marketing Agency

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Here are three questions to ask yourself before you contact a marketing agency:

  1. What is my specific, quantifiable marketing goal? Any reputable marketing agency will ask you up front what you want to achieve with your marketing. You might share with them that you are seeing 10 new patients per month now, and you want to be seeing 25. This helps them gauge what level of marketing is right for your dental practice. The best marketing agencies will offer a complimentary initial marketing plan to help you realize those goals sooner than later, regardless of whether you hire them.
  1. What is my practice doing now for marketing, what’s working, and what’s not working? A good marketing agency can build upon your marketing foundation. The very best agencies will advise you on what to trim from the existing plan and what to add to maximize efficiencies and effectiveness, and accelerate the time to goal realization.
  1. Who on my dental team will help spearhead this effort? Every marketing agency will tell you that it’s impossible to outsource marketing completely. They will need timely project feedback from you, approvals to ensure that expectations are aligned, logistical details like website and social media logins, etc. The top dental marketing agencies will provide you with tools and team trainings to make it easy for your marketing to run smoothly with very little effort on your part. In any case, it’s best to appoint an administrative person in the practice to tend to the details while you focus on dentistry. Be cautious not to relinquish 100% control internally, either, though. The very best agencies will update you on high-level progress and results at least once monthly.

Next week: The best questions to ask the agency once you contact them.

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.