Effective online marketing for dentists is essential for dental practice success. It opens the door to new patients, helps you retain patients, and boosts practice recognition. What’s more, digital marketing allows you to use advanced targeting with your audiences, as opposed to the fire-and-forget approach of traditional advertising materials, like direct mail postcards and printed content.
But there are some important things to note before tackling digital dental marketing and beginning your online efforts. Let’s begin with the differences between traditional dentistry marketing and digital dental marketing.
Traditional dentist marketing vs. dental digital marketing
Traditional advertising was a mainstay for dentists and other types of medical practices for years, right up until the digital shift of the last decade. Traditional advertising still has its place, though. To better illustrate this, it’s important to understand the roles of both traditional and online marketing:
- Traditional dentist marketing requires no technical knowledge and requires no software licenses or fees.
- Traditional marketing can be less competitive than online marketing, depending on your location.
- Online marketing opens the door to audiences in other areas that are sometimes out of reach of traditional marketing. This enables you to look for prospective patients in neighboring towns or cities.
- Online marketing tactics, such as paid advertising, allows for advanced audience targeting and remarketing. Unlike traditional marketing, where you simply lose those you didn’t win over the first go-round, digital marketing allows you to show different marketing materials to people who have previously seen your ads but not become patients.
The above points are only a small sampling of the many differences between traditional and online marketing. Again, both have their place in any overall dental marketing strategy, each one offering something the other can’t.
The beginner’s guide to online marketing for dentists
Before you invest hundreds or thousands of dollars in a complex digital dental marketing campaign, there are some steps you need to take. These steps will help you determine where your dental practice currently stands, who you’re targeting, and more.
5 steps to take before starting digital marketing
1. Define your brand
Every practice has something that makes it unique. Think about how you want your practice brand to be defined and known by your prospective patients. Will you be the practice that’s known for being thought leaders in dentistry? Or, do you want to be known as the dental practice that goes above and beyond with patients, hosting fun events and encouraging relationship building?
Defining your brand will help you determine what kind of audience to look for, what types of content you’ll want to consider producing, and which competitors to follow most closely.
2. Identify target audiences of your dental practice
You likely have a solid idea about your core audience. Typically, they are the patients you work with and treat every single day. In some cases, however, you might not be attracting the types of patients you want to work with. Think about who these ideal patients are.
Once you’ve defined your target audiences, consider their questions, interests, and common dental care needs. Then think about ways you can best reach them online. Which social media channels do they use? What types of engaging content are they most likely to read and share?
Beyond this, it’s important that you do extensive audience research to determine whether you’re missing out on additional audience groups. There are tools that can help you do this, but if you want to keep things relatively inexpensive (or free) you can look at competitor sites and social media accounts to see who they’re interacting with and what they’re posting. You can also look at forums and social media groups related to dentistry or dental health and see what kinds of questions are being asked, and by which types of people.
3. Master digital marketing language
Acronyms are rampant in the world of digital marketing. Not only this, there are numerous terms that have multiple meanings across traditional and digital marketing.
Check any of the major online and social media marketing resources and see what kinds of lingo are being used. Learn the terms inside and out so you can better speak to marketing agencies, internal marketers, and any partners you pursue.
4. Research your dental industry competitors
It’s often said that imitation is the best form of flattery. This holds true in digital marketing.
Look at what your competitors are doing. Examine what kinds of engaging content they’re creating, what they’re using their social media for, how they’re interacting with patients, and so on. Although you don’t want to steal their plans, you can adapt many of their tactics for your own practice and brand.
5. Develop a marketing plan and set expectations
With your brand defined, audience identified, lingo mastered, and competitors researched, it’s time to develop a digital dental marketing plan and set realistic expectations goals.
Look at your dental practice as a whole and ask yourself which metrics and goals are most important to you. Are you wanting to focus your online dental marketing campaign on patient acquisition, retaining current patients, or both? Do you want to focus your campaign on thought leadership and push for more recognition in the industry?
Defining these goals before you start a campaign will ensure you have the right tasks in place and don’t waste any time or funds.
The essential components of online dentistry marketing
Now that you’ve gone through your checklist of pre-marketing tasks and objectives, it’s time to tackle the essentials of online marketing for dentists. Each of the following pieces are equally important to the success of your dental marketing campaign, so none of them can be ignored or downplayed.
It’s not enough to have any website for your dental practice; you need a site that’s properly optimized with dental SEO keywords, mobile friendly, and fast. All of these things will send the right signals to Google and help ensure your site isn’t penalized or de-prioritized. This will also increase the chances visitors to your site have a great experience.
Widespread online presence
Be sure that prospective patients can find you by enhancing your web presence. In addition to your social media profiles and your practice website, there are many places online to connect with patients.
Submit practice profiles to relevant dental or healthcare directories as well as local directories. Take care to be accurate with your contact information in all online profiles, as consistency is necessary to rank highly in local search engines.
Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are all important, but you need to branch out beyond these major social media players when establishing your online presence. Research where your target audience likes to hang out and be there. If particular forums are popular in your town or surrounding area, make your dental practice known there.
You can also increase your online presence by looking for guest posting opportunities with online publications, publishing your own content, and creating content that’s focused on getting social shares.
Speaking of content and your online presence, regularly posting high-quality, original content is essential to your online efforts. Engaging content will not only help with your online presence, but also help your site rank for valuable keywords.
Ranking for specific terms can result in people finding your dental website and practice when they search on Google. If you’re regularly posting original content, you can also wind up with numerous guest posting opportunities, free publicity as people share your content online, and ultimately gain more value for your marketing dollar.
Optimize for local SEO
Local search engine optimization (SEO) is an important part of making sure your practice is found when people nearby search on Google. Local SEO is different from general SEO in that you’re focused on your immediate area. This entails using certain terms on your site, making sure your Google business listing is updated, and your site is entered in any relevant directories.
Unlike general SEO, local SEO can sometimes be less competitive, as you’re no longer competing with everyone online, but only similar dental websites and practices in your area. This makes it an especially vital tool early on in your online efforts.
Online patient reviews
Beyond making you feel great about your practice, online reviews have a vital role in digital dental marketing: they help attract prospective patients. Many people search online for their next dentist or doctor, and with a large portion of people trusting reviews as much as the opinion as a friend, you can’t afford to miss out on reviews.
Online reviews are a part of your overall online reputation management and practice growth strategy, so make sure you’re curating that as well. There are numerous online reputation management guides that can help you get this process moving.
Taking the next steps in digital dental marketing
Dental marketing is complex, ever-changing, and essential to your success. If tackling it yourself is out of the realm of possibility, consider hiring a dental marketing consultant.
Another option is to partner with PatientPop. Thousands of dentists, doctors, and other medical providers throughout the U.S. have experienced success with the PatientPop solution and the company’s dental marketing services.