Many marketing companies try to show dentists their ROI on their dental marketing by creating some sort of automation through a portal. They assign hypothetical revenue to leads and essentially say, “Tada! Money!” The problem is that these numbers rarely tell the whole story and often flat-out lie to the dentist’s face. To properly determine dental marketing ROI and whether or not their campaigns are successful, the office has to include a few critical steps in their process, starting with adequately setting goals and expectations.

Goals and Expectations

illustration of puzzle pieces and one missing

I’ve written out an entire dental digital marketing plan process if you’re interested. Part of it includes this step of setting goals and expectations. Many dentists evaluate their marketing annually, trying to assess whether or not “it worked.” They come to the gut-driven conclusion that “Meh, I think I could do better,” and go hunting for their new dental marketing company. They have reset their campaigns without even realizing it, potentially sabotaging themselves, all because they didn’t have a plan.

It’s like a hunter buying a box of bullets, walking out into the forest on opening day, and firing off every round in the box in every direction. Surveying the carnage, the hunter says, “Nope. I didn’t hit a thing. These bullets must suck.” The bullets were fine. It was just the approach to the hunt that was the problem.

What are you hunting for? Try to set SMART goals

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Assignable
  • Realistic
  • Time-based

S-M-A-R-T Dental Marketing Goals

I am convinced this basic management principle could solve at least 25% of the marketing problems in dental offices. It’s hard mental work, but without it, how can you know if you should go through the headache of uprooting your marketing, trashing 90% of the momentum you had, and handing it to someone else? Maybe I’m an idiot for writing this, but switching to Pro Impressions Marketing is probably not what you need to do next in your marketing —instead, set some SMART goals.

Specifically, what do you want to get with your marketing? “More new patients” really isn’t specific enough. In working with a few DSOs, we find some disconnects between the new DSO and the dentist who has sold all or part of the practice. The DSOs tend to be focused on the number of new patient appointments rather than the type of patient. That’s fine in theory, but it’s a mismatch from what our long-standing client, the dentist, has told us in the past: “I want more patients asking for X and Y service.” Whether you want more X and Y, more dental implant and TMJ patients, for example, or just “more new patient appointments,” you won’t have created a SMART goal until you add specific numbers or time-based parameters.

How many new patients do you want, and over what period? If you add those to your goals, you can reverse engineer the required investment from that point before giving the green light to a marketing campaign. Adding numbers to your dental marketing goals also allows you to measure your progress toward those goals better. That can help you know whether or not your goals amount to pie-in-the-sky hopes or reasonable expectations of your dental marketing efforts.

Document Your Dental Marketing Funnel Expectations

If you want more dental implant leads and set the goal of adding 120 new dental implant patients over the year (averaging 10 per month), you can do some math. Write down your goal (it doesn’t have to be the above goal) and your answers to these questions:

  • How many treatment plans do you have to present to get 120 patients to say ‘Yes’ to treatment?
  • How many new patient exams must you complete to present 120 patients with a treatment plan?
  • How many consults do you need to schedule that number of new patient exams?
  • How many new patient leads (phone calls, emails, online appointments scheduled) do you need to receive and follow up on to schedule that many consults?
  • How much would you have to spend at your current cost per lead to generate that number of leads?

When you ask these questions and write the answers down, you document the funnel that will naturally form with any marketing effort. Asking these questions allows you to know if your expectations are realistic. If your campaign is currently struggling to spend the entire budget you’ve devoted to it, you may need to invest in other forms of marketing to meet the necessary lead numbers. There may not be enough demand, and you have to adjust your cost per lead then, working on demand generation in addition to lead generation (YIKES!). You won’t know that immediately, so you must monitor results and adjust your goals, perhaps nudging them down to something more realistic. Either way, your expectations will be in line with a data-driven reality.

Big Picture Evaluation

In her article in the Harvard Business Review titled The Value of Keeping the Right Customers, Amy Gallo shared a study by Bain & Company that showed companies could improve profits by as much as 25% by improving customer retention by 5%. While many of our high-end, reconstructive dental practices have told us they only care about new patient acquisition, many of these practices have also told us that their best new patient leads are referrals from their current and past patients. If you are not top of mind as the best solution to the dental problems that you solve, your current and past patients are more likely to start their search over for a new dentist when a new need arises. They are also less likely to recommend you to their friends and family. 

The best way to factor this into your marketing plans and evaluation is to calculate your marketing cost per patient and track this as another metric. 

Total Marketing Investment Number of Patients seen during the same period = Marketing Cost Per Patient

This factors in your current patient’s exposure to your marketing, such as social media, and how readily they say yes to new treatment because of the trust your marketing has built and held in your dental brand.

Finally, you have to regularly take a step back and look at the big picture of your practice. 

Look for Unrealistic Expectations

Are there reasons, seemingly unrelated to your marketing, that the calculations you made when documenting your expectations aren’t realistic? 

Critically Examine New Patient Lead Handling

Listen to your phone calls regularly through this lens, looking for opportunities that may have been missed. 

Critically Examine Patient Experience

Can you see why some patients may experience a bait and switch when they respond to your marketing and then encounter your real-life practice? “Hire” some friends as secret shoppers to your practice and ask them what your office could have done better to elevate their experience.

Get Professional Outside Help

If need be, get help from a practice consultant and ask for some tough love. You don’t need a rosy picture painted about your office. You are a driven dentist who wants a high-performance office that can meet lofty goals. That means your external marketing, internal marketing, and office performance must be aligned and finely tuned. It’s an ongoing effort that pays big dividends.

100% Accurate ROI Trackability is Probably Not Feasible

You want an increase in marketing investment to generate an increase in production. That’s reasonable and realistic. To calculate it, you need only track the ratio of marketing investment to production dollars and do it over time. Of course, your production should always exceed your marketing investment (unless you’re literally in your first months of operation), but this shouldn’t be a problem. You’re looking for a refined dental production engine where you can add more dollars to the top of the funnel and get even more dollars out of the bottom. That refinement comes through tracking and adjusting over time.

Trying to track a marketing dollar straight through a specific campaign like SEO or Google Ads to a new patient has become more and more of a fool’s errand. Have you seen all of the “Ask App Not To Track” buttons in your apps and cookie notifications on websites? Trackability in digital marketing is getting more complicated all the time. Expecting a specific ad click or website visit to be trackable straight through to a new patient in the chair fails to account for the Rule of 20, the multimedia state of our lives, and any value of patient retention and referral generation. 

To build brand awareness, your practice needs to:

  1. Be visible everywhere
  2. Be visible nearly all the time
  3. And 1 and 2 in this list must be true for a long time. 

Ironically, when all three brand awareness elements are true, you’ll have difficulty knowing exactly where certain patients came from. If you track your production, your marketing cost per patient, and the ratio of marketing to production, you’ll have a good idea of when a change was good or whether you may have been better optimized how you were running things before.

In that scenario, you’re like the hunter who decides what he’s hunting for, scouts the animal’s travel patterns, selects the appropriate ambush site, sets up optimal cover, and comes prepared with a quality weapon and ammunition they have practiced with until they are deadly-accurate. That hunter is more likely to have a productive day or at least better understand why they missed an opportunity.

If you need advice on where you can improve your dental marketing, don’t hesitate to reach out or schedule a strategy session. We’re always glad to help.