As dental marketing has progressed, more dentists have wisely focused their efforts online. Even dentists with limited budgets have found a way to do a basic website. The issue is that in most markets we may have hit that point of critical mass. Unless you’re going to spend the money to be a player online it might be a good time to start looking for local alternatives with traditional media instead.

The Online Problem:

Problem #1 – Your Website

It’s ok that you wanted to save money the first go-around but as your practice is growing it’s imperative that your website is up to date. You can no longer build a site and just let it sit there. The most common mistake I see is dentists buying template sites from national dental marketing companies that just plug and play images and content. Google doesn’t like this and I promise the end-user (future new patients) won’t either.

Get a custom responsive site done and actually participate in the process.

Problem #2 – SEO (Search Engine Optimization):

The dental marketing companies and numerous local SEO providers have been pushing SEO for years now. The problem is that chasing that coveted first spot on Google is like buying a lottery ticket every day hoping for a big payoff. These companies are duplicating efforts for each client in an effort to keep costs low and in turn allowing the market to become oversaturated. Google has noticed this too. When you have duplicate content Google won’t find it as relevant or as fresh original content.

Not sure if your content is duplicated?  Here’s a trick: Copy a few sentences from the second or third paragraph in your blog (or internal website pages). Then paste that into a Google search bar and look at the results. If numerous come up that are very similar you know you’re part of a duplicate content system.

Look for companies that are going to do four blogs a month and make sure they run it through a program like Copyscape that looks for plagiarized or duplicate content.

Problem #3 – PPC Advertising:

My biggest issue here is that Google decided to empower business owners to do this themselves and provide all these great tools and training. That’s a great thought in theory but how many dentists take the time to be trained, consult a Google rep, optimize their campaign, retrain every three months, and learn the latest technology available. In addition, you have to use other software that shows what your competition is doing and you need to know what the best ads around the country are for quality score purposes.

My point is that most dentists won’t pay professionals to put together a campaign that actually works. Most don’t see the value in doing that and in return when I walk into a consult and suggest having part of their budget placed in PPC ads I get this response: “We have already tried that and it’s a huge waste of money.”

Here’s an example of why it was a waste of money:

Last month there were 64 advertisers for the term “dentist charlotte.” There were 40 people a day who actually searched that term. You do the math. When you haven’t optimized your campaign correctly, looked for alternative search terms, and put together ads that will get a great quality score, Google is going to push you down the list.

Hire a professional or just don’t do it.

Problem #4 – Business Listings:

This is an area that almost every practice fails. Most feel as long as you have claimed your place on Google you have accomplished this piece of the online puzzle. Unfortunately, the search engines disagree with you and expect more from you. There are thousands of online publishers that you need to list your business with but at least take the time to find the top 25 your market seems to use the most or again, hire a professional

Problem #5 – Online Reviews:

You can’t make people review you but you can make it easy for them. Every practice should have cards on the front desk that explain the process of doing a Google review. We all know those are the best ones to have but there are alternatives.

When it comes to online reviews I usually see Demandforce reviews show up the best. Lighthouse 360 does well too. Don’t let any company tell you they have some magical partnership with Google that gets their reviews up higher.

These reviews are generally much easier to get because they are emailed directly to the patient after their appointments so they can submit a review in a timely manner. It’s easier for them to do. It’s a really good idea to have these reviews populate automatically to a testimonial page on your website.

Problem #6 – You’re not paying attention to mobile advertising:

When the dental marketing companies are pushing their products at dental trade shows I try to get to the big marketing conferences each year and listen to the industry experts talk about what’s next. Moving my clients ahead of where everyone else is has helped with client satisfaction and retention.

At last year’s Internet Summit I heard the best comment that defined why mobile is a great solution for now: From Gary Vanerchuk -“They paid me a $100K to be your keynote for an hour but I really only need five seconds. Here’s the best advice I can give you: Market in the year that you live in.”

Most small business owners need to see a competitor have success with something before they are willing to try it out. I have done this myself, but as I move forward I progress towards markets where my competitors just haven’t figured it out yet. For dentists that’s mobile. It not only hits people searching on their phones but allows ads to be displayed on the content they’re reading through apps and games. This is where people are spending their time so that’s where you should be spending your money.

Problem #7 – The online numbers may not be in your favor.

If 50% of your market doesn’t go to the dentist they’re not searching online. If the other 50% is going to the dentist are they willing to switch? There’s a small percentage depending on where you live and you have to actually capture those online searches. You need to extend your presence elsewhere.

The Offline Solution:

Don’t be scared of any medium:

Don’t let online forms dictate whether or not you are going to do a particular medium. It’s the same as diagnosing your own medical condition from online comments. Like your body, you understand your business the best and when your not sure, talk to professionals to help you figure it out.

Do a Media Run:

You want to look at mediums that are hyper-local and are geared towards the local patients you want in your practice.

For example: If you are looking for families you need to look at the mediums moms in your area would consume. That could be as specific as a town parent magazine or as broad as a billboard by Target.

Pick up every magazine and print piece as well as take pictures of available ads from grocery carts, movie theaters, malls, etc. See what their copy states and call the people using these mediums to see if they are having any success.

Spend the money on the big-ticket mediums:

Radio, TV, and Print are great options and should be considered the same as you would consider a direct mail campaign.  Inserts in the paper for denture clients still work great. Radio ads that focus on prevention and the consequences of not going to the dentist work best. TV ads that show a modern office and friendly staff may be the push a person needs to finally book an appointment.

The thing to consider with these mediums is that they are mass mediums. There’s a lot of marketing professionals that are trying to get clients to narrow their target as much as possible. That’s great for part of your strategy but you also need to be casting a big net.

Hiring media buyers for this will help and be sure to look at creative that fits the mediums you’re choosing.

Don’t be scared of direct mail:

If you’re still depending on email for more than recall you are way behind the times. Email is being filtered into junk folders and is more cluttered than direct mail ever was. People have the ability to delete emails straight from their phone without even paying attention to who it is from.

Direct mail gives you the opportunity to cast a big net in a targeted area. If you do it right it can get a great response but you need to be realistic about what you’re getting. A good return on 10,000 pieces is 20-25 new patients depending on your specials. Even if you’re average patient is only worth $500 you are still getting a better than 3:1 return. Ask your financial advisor to get you that.

If you have the opportunity for a great billboard buy it:

Outside of word of mouth I see signage as the number two source of new patients for those that have good signage. In the areas where there is stiff competition having a permanent piece of real estate constantly reminding people you are there when they’re ready will pay dividends. I would avoid the digital boards unless they are a good value. Being on there for 10 seconds every 70 seconds isn’t worth it.

Look at other service businesses and how they’re advertising:

I would never compare a dentist to a heating and air technician but there is cross-over here. Both sell a service that people don’t think they need until it breaks. If they serviced them twice a year they would have fewer complications. When something goes wrong people want it fixed immediately. HVAC companies out-spend dentists 20 to 1 on average when it comes to marketing and their margins are even slimmer so see what mediums they use the most and evaluate them accordingly.

In Conclusion:

Before moving forward on purchasing any marketing take a step back and evaluate your practice and local market. Move forward with a 12-month marketing plan that includes online and traditional media sources. Be sure to do research before making big investment decisions. It’s extremely important to stick with the mediums you choose for 90 days and re-evaluate. Have professionals help you at least set up the plan and be sure to use call tracking and online analytics to keep an eye on your marketing success.


Ben Shaver
Lead Strategist & Consultant

Ben Shaver is a dental marketing consultant for Dental Inbound. He works with practices of all sizes.

His main focus is to develop strategies that provide congruency between traditional media sources and new media platforms.

You can email him at