Most dental practices will have issues bringing in new patients at some point. Most have tried different advertising methods with moderate success. After working inside numerous dental practices the past several years I have noticed these 10 common dental marketing mistakes.

1. “I don’t look at a postcard so no one else will either.”

Hands down my favorite comment from a dentist or any business owner for that matter. This doesn’t apply just to postcards it applies to all media.

Ever heard the old saying in dating “Are you the type of person the person you want to be with wants to be with?”

This applies in marketing your business as well. Guess what your future patients don’t care about? Your media habits. The question you need to concern yourself with is “what media are the patients I want consuming and what’s important to them?”

It’s easy for me to discuss marketing a family dental practice to a 38 year-old female dentist who is married with two children. She knows about being a busy mom and knows what would influence her.

The Point: Understand what is important to the patients you want in your practice and then ask what mediums they consume.  Not all moms spend nine hours a day on Facebook but most do go through the mail.

2. Don’t know their market

It doesn’t matter what type of patient you want in your practice if there is a low amount of them in the five to ten mile radius around your practice.

I encountered a great example of this a few months ago when a dentist I started working with told me about switching his practice to attract more cosmetic patients. We pulled an opportunity map in his area and found that most people in the ten-mile radius around his practice had a HH income below 50K.

His opportunity for success switching to reach that patient base would cost way more in advertising than he wants to spend and will deplete any budget to reach the patients he can actually get into his practice.

The Point: If the market around your practice doesn’t support the type of patients you want, marketing won’t help you much. Sell that practice and move to another location.

3. Don’t make patient personas

This goes along with what was stated above. Pull an opportunity map to figure out the type of people around your practice. Once you know what you’re working with, begin to develop patient personas.

For example, if the demos in your area tend to be 65+, start with the type of services they might choose: Dentures, implants, crowns, etc.  From there determine HH income, home ownership trends, travel habits, hobbies, etc.  You need to know that to determine if they have money, can take out an equity line for implants, when they tend to be out of market for extended periods and what they like to do.

The Point: Knowing all this will help when you are evaluating the demographics of a certain advertising medium. Like newspaper inserts for denture patients.

4. “I have a friendly staff” syndrome

This is actually worse than the “I don’t read postcards” issue. This would be like a hotel saying, “We have clean rooms.” Just like you might run across the occasional dirty hotel room you might encounter the occasional unfriendly staff.  The issue is when this is all you’re willing to advertise.

People assume you have a friendly staff. They need you to advertise something that they will respond to.  If someone doesn’t have insurance? Advertising discounts may be what they need. Are they scared of going to the dentist? Advertise sedation or pain management. Are they are a busy professional? Advertise convenient hours.

The Point: If you don’t provide a hook for your buyer persona then don’t spend money on advertisements that all dentists will claim. You need to stand out!

5. Spend money on marketing without evaluating their front desk’s ability to convert new patient inquiries.

This is the most common mistake made by dentists. They begin a marketing campaign and spend thousands on advertising without giving proper training to the front desk staff.

Make sure you have a crystal clear process and a firm script in place for new patient inquiries. Make sure web inquiries are handled in a timely manner. Hire a professional to come in and do phone training if necessary and make sure to use a call tracking service that includes a staff efficiency grader.

The Point: Don’t blame your marketing staff or agency for a failed campaign when you have neglected training your staff. If each new patient is worth $1,000 and they miss 10 a week, that’s $40,000 a month in potential revenue you lost.

See the next five common mistakes: Five more dental marketing mistakes.

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