Digital Dental
Marketing Guide

Digital Dental Marketing Guide

Marketing a dental office can be a struggle. You need new patients to grow your practice, and you want to limit expenses. So when you invest money in marketing and it doesn’t work, you not only have spent money on the digital dental marketing- you’ve missed out on new patient revenue. That makes bad marketing extremely expensive, even if you didn’t invest much in the marketing campaign. Having a digital marketing plan can help you avoid wasting time and money by giving your investment the best chance at achieving a return. It will give your campaign direction and give you a means for measuring its success. Creating a digital marketing plan gives you confidence as a business manager. Read the guide below to learn how to create your dental digital marketing plan.

Reviewing the digital dental marketing guide while multitasking on a phone and computer.

4 Steps To Create Your Digital Dental Marketing Plan

The focus is on the digital dental marketing guide, hitting its target with precision.

STEP 1

Have A Goal

The animated pencil and ruler illustrate the creation of the digital dental marketing guide.

STEP 2

What Do You Measure?

The gear and measuring tape are essential tools within the digital dental marketing guide.

STEP 3

Tools You
Should Use

The clipboard with a to-do list is an integral part of the digital dental marketing guide.

STEP 4

Maintain
Momentum

STEP 1 IN A DENTIST’S DIGITAL MARKETING PLAN:

Have A Goal

If you skip this first step, the rest of your efforts will be frustrating and less productive. Without a goal, you will have a difficult time directing your campaigns.

Here are some questions to ask yourself when setting the goals for your digital marketing:

  1. Who is my target audience?
  2. What problems do they have that I can solve?
  3. What qualifies me to help them solve those problems?
  4. How can I reach my target audience with this message?
  5. What do I want my audience to do once I reach them?
The 3-D image illustrates growth, guided by the digital dental marketing guide, with an arrow rising on the bar graph.

These questions will help you craft your message’s story, deliver it in a way that your prospective patients will receive it, and cause your prospective patients to take action. Be as detailed as you can while still limiting the scope of your message. Do not try to target all people with teeth. That’s not a target audience. That’s the internet and you can’t target the entire internet.

The fingers diligently type away on the laptop, following the guidance of the digital dental marketing guide.

When you ask “what problems can I solve?” think about the types of cases that you would like more of.

Narrow the scope with some simple questions:

  1. Adults, kids, both?
  2. Seniors, middle-aged adults, both?
  3. Cosmetic or general dentistry? Both?
  4. TMJ or sleep dentistry? Both?

If you said ‘Both’ to all three of these, you can still narrow it by eliminating prospective patients that you absolutely do NOT want to attract more of. Unless you have a dental marketing team that understands the goal-setting part of a dental digital marketing plan, you may unwittingly waste money on clicks and leads that you have no hope or interest in converting into patients.

Some examples of patients you may NOT want to target include:

  1. People looking for free or “cheap dental care”
  2. People calling outside of normal office hours looking for an “emergency dentist”
  3. People searching for things like ‘dentist near me…’ (good…but) ‘…who accepts Medicaid’ (probably a deal-breaker for you if you’re reading this)
  4. People looking for your competitor’s office and searching for it by name such as “Smythe Dental Office”
  5. People who would have to drive an hour or more to visit your office

All of these scenarios probably seem like obvious nonstarters to you. Why would anyone who knows anything about dental marketing target these people? Actually, it takes a lot of effort to AVOID targeting these searchers because the ad platforms available to marketers are programmed to try to build the largest audience possible. They want to get you LOTS of eyeballs. After more than 20 years of experience in marketing and running a dental marketing agency for more than 10 years, we understand that not every person on the internet who is searching for dental information is a prospective patient for your office.

Goals Beg For Metrics

Once you know who you want to target, you can also identify how much opportunity there is according to some of Google’s tools. You can also set goals for how many new patient leads you want in the form of emails and phone calls. Nowadays, you can factor in requests for telemedicine consults as well.

If your dental marketing expert has experience running similar campaigns in your city, you may be able to get some target numbers. Or you can just throw out some desired outcomes as a starting point and do your best to reach them, knowing that your goals may be way above or well below what’s actually possible and that you’ll need to adjust as you go.

For the sake of simplicity, let’s say that these are your goals in a hypothetical digital marketing plan:

Target market

Target Market

Target men and women aged 30-70 looking for cosmetic dentistry but not orthodontics within a 20-mile radius of your office.

Website Traffic

Achieve 500 new visitors to your website each month.

New Patient Leads

New Patient Leads

Achieve 15 new patient leads per month (3% converted visitors to leads) in the form of: 10 calls, 4 emails, 1 tele consult request

Appointments Scheduled

Achieve 5 new patients scheduled from those leads. (33% of leads)

Those are fine goals. How will you know if you achieve them? By measuring metrics with reporting systems.

STEP 2

What Do You Measure?

Creating a digital marketing plan for your dental office is key to your success in marketing your practice online. Step 1 of our dental digital marketing guide is to set a goal. You can think about your marketing campaign as a meeting with your team at your office. If you gather everyone together and open your mouth, your meeting will go well if you have a point to the meeting. You need to know what you want the meeting to accomplish and that’s the equivalent of having a goal for your dental digital marketing plan. Sticking with that analogy: how do you know if your message got through to the team一that they understood the instructions and are implementing the directions that you gave them? Whether you’re a TMJ dentist, a sleep dentist, or a cosmetic dentist, you have to track your results. You have to measure specific actions and outcomes in order to know if your digital marketing is accomplishing its goal.

Individuals measure their progress with the help of the digital dental marketing guide on a cartoon height chart.

The father of management thinking, Peter Drucker, famously said, “What gets measured, gets improved.” A successful dental digital marketing campaign looks at a number of metrics:

  1. Reach / Impressions
  2. Clicks
  3. Traffic on the website
  4. Conversions (phone calls, emails, virtual consultation requests, messages on social media or chat)
  5. Geographic sources of the four above metrics
  6. Reviews and reputation score

These metrics will help you understand what is going on with your marketing. When looking at each of these data points, you should ask yourself a number of questions.

1. Do I Understand What I’m Looking At?

It’s important to ask questions. Don’t settle for a bunch of jargon that makes no sense to you.

2. Do The Numbers Represent The Type Of Metric That Is Important To Me?

For example, if you are looking at the number of impressions your campaign achieves, you’re looking at how many people saw an ad, post, or some other kind of listing for your practice. Are these impressions being generated by the right piece of content? Does the content look right? What if you have 1,000 people see a listing of your practice and half saw a beautiful ad for your practice and the other half saw your privacy practices form. Which half would be more likely to turn into a phone call to your office? The ad is designed for a great experience, so of 1,000 impressions in this example, only 500 are helpful.

3. Do I Have A Large Enough Sample Size To Make Any Valuable Conclusions?

We usually recommend looking at data over a period of at least 3 months. You usually want to compare year over year data, in addition, to look for a trend across 3 or 4 months. You may see that certain peaks and valleys recur, pointing to seasonal trends rather than a problem with your campaign. Never make decisions based on weekly developments in numbers. They will almost always be poor decisions.

4. Is There A Trend To Be Seen And Should I Do Something About It?

When you look at the data over long stretches of time, you’ll see that the numbers will naturally rise and fall. Ideally, you will see an overall upward trend in the data. If you do, it means that you’re on the right track. If not, you may have a problem. In either case, before you do anything to modify the campaign, look for ways to cross-reference the data. You may find that the perceived trend is easily explained by looking at data that reveals an outside influence such as a shift in spending on the campaign’s ad budget or changes in economic conditions.

For example, you may see your website traffic go down over a period of three months and think, “What’s going on?” You then look at your click numbers from your Google Ads and see that those are down too. “Uh oh!” you think, “I may have a problem here.” Then you look at your spend and it’s down too and look at the calendar and see that it’s late December and realize that people are probably not searching for dental care as much during November and early December. You’d still want to talk with your account manager who oversees your ad campaign, but if people are online less, you’ll naturally see a reduction in clicks and spending from a paid search campaign.

5. If Action Is Necessary, What Do I Do Next?

Is there something that you can do more or less to affect the trend in front of you? Is spending more money on the campaign likely to fix the issue or just give you more of a result that you’re not happy with? Sometimes the campaign is doing exactly what it’s designed to do, but the design is faulty, not the management. In those cases, you probably need to go back to Step 1 and clarify the goal of the campaign with your account manager. If your account manager disagrees with the goal, you may want to get a second opinion on your dental digital marketing plan.

A Web Of Tactics And Metrics Makes For A Successful Dental Digital Marketing Plan

Measuring and interpreting analytical data from a complicated digital marketing campaign is not a simple task. It’s an ongoing process of learning, making changes, and learning again. It’s complicated by design and trying to oversimplify it is a mistake. A digital marketing plan should be multifaceted in the same way that a spider’s web is usually more than a couple of threads. A fly may be caught by just a few threads, but without the other threads that form the larger web, the web would fail to catch anything. We have to learn how the components of marketing work together. That just requires time, expertise, and the right tools. We’ll talk about tools in Step 3 of this dental digital marketing guide.

STEP 3

Tools You Should Use

You decided what marketing metrics you were going to measure for your dental digital marketing plan. Before that, in you set a goal that you would aim for. In your quest to create a digital marketing plan for your dental office, you will find that achieving your goal is only attainable if you can track your progress. Otherwise, you could be well on your way and then end up turning around midstream or stopping short of the destination. You could end up like an airplane circling around and around in the Bermuda Triangle, eventually running out of fuel, and your campaign will come crashing down.

Individuals collaborate effectively with the assistance of the digital dental marketing guide through their computers.

Fortunately, you have fantastic instrumentation available and a sound vehicle for your marketing if you build it the right way. This dental marketing guide talks about what tools you should use as part of the design and execution of your marketing plan.

Tools for Your Website Creation

We could write a book about building the ideal dental website. Dental website design is a complex process, and the idea of a perfect dental website is in constant flux as user technology and online standards evolve. For the purpose of this guide, we will assume that you probably have an existing website. Does it need to be revamped? Perhaps. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Does my website look dated when I compare it to some of my favorite websites (dental and other categories)?
  • Where did the text on the website come from, and is it accurate? Is the copywriting motivating and written to promote your practice and call the user to action rather than just informing them about dentistry?
  • When you open your website on a different computer (ask to use a friend or relative’s computer for a bit), does your website completely load quickly compared to your competitors’ websites?
  • Is the way to quickly get to the various pages of your website self-evident?
  • Is it easy to find the contact information for your practice?

If any of these questions lead to disturbing or displeasing findings, you’ll want to consider launching a new website, and for that, you have a variety of options in terms of tools that you can use to build your website.

First, we strongly recommend using a dental website design company like Pro Impressions Marketing. Yes, we are writing this dental marketing guide and have a bias in writing it to recommend ourselves. We truly believe that we are the best choice for most cosmetic dentists, TMJ dentists, and sleep dentists. However, we give you recommendations based on technology and not just a recommendation to hire us.

Tools And Tech For A Faster, More Functional Website

For a while, dental website design was more art than science. Designers created beautiful websites that dentists loved, but it quickly became evident that Google didn’t always feel the same way. Dental practices also regularly found that when they launched their sexy new site, their numbers of new patient inquiries went down.

Here are some tools to avoid this.

The website highlights the significance of the digital dental marketing guide as the most popular website builder.

Build A Great Website With WordPress

There are lots of website platforms out there that allow you to build your own website. Tools like GoDaddy Website Builder make it sound so easy. Just say ‘No!’. Easy does not get the job done. Builders with great reputations like SquareSpace and, in dentistry, ProSites, still carry the limitation of needing to use the same back-end programming for all of their websites and end up loading up assets that your website does not need.

WordPress websites are more challenging to build. You’ll need to hire a company to design and build the website for you, but it’s a proven platform with millions of websites using it. Over the years, their technology has grown due to the wisdom of thousands of developers who have used the platform and contributed improvements to its open-source platform. Websites built on WordPress are usually more efficient and powerful while also remaining secure. You can also host a WordPress website on almost any server whereas other companies and platforms force you to host your website on their proprietary system.

Find More Website Speed With Caching And Intelligent Loading Code

When you hire a company to build your website on WordPress, be sure that they leverage a caching plugin to boost your website’s speed. Special programming can help your website load more quickly than it would otherwise by avoiding the load of assets that your users aren’t even able to see right away. Both of these technologies will help your website perform better. Google’s Core Web Vitals are Google’s way of incentivizing website developers to prioritize a better user experience, so if your website performs better for users, it will perform better in the search engine results.

Don’t Share Your Server More Than Necessary

Even if you build your website on WordPress, your website still has to run on a server and it’s highly unlikely that it will be hosted all alone. That would be great. Not having to share the server’s memory, storage, or processing power with any other website, but it’s just not practical. Running a server is complicated and expensive work. Your website design company should have a server where they house websites that they create. Just be sure that your website is on one of their own servers and not a Shared Hosting platform like GoDaddy, HostGator, or BlueHost.

There are many other server companies out there that offer Shared Hosting. All of these companies host hundreds of websites on the same server, allowing each one first-come-first-served access to the server’s resources. This can mean that your website frequently loads very slowly because other websites are using the server. It can also mean that if a server is brought down because another website on the server is hacked, your website goes down too. This is true of any server that doesn’t have a redundant back-up, but in a shared hosting environment, it’s more common.

Website Tools & Tech To Avoid

In the past, websites with more stuff were more attractive and sometimes more successful. Now, it seems that websites that avoid clutter and added gadgets are winning online. Here are some technologies and strategies that you should pass on as part of your digital dental marketing plan.

Banner Sliders

Dentists, like other business owners who are considering a new website, tend to be attracted to shiny elements that add motion to the design. While these look cool to dental professionals, they rarely enhance the user experience. Banners at the top of the website that use large graphics and added coding to move across the page are a liability. They increase the total file size of the website, which makes the page load more slowly.

Think of downloading a single image file and how quickly that usually loads when compared to downloading a movie file. Users and search engines hate to wait, so just make sure that the top of your website has an eye-catching image with a strong call-to-action that will show your visitors you can help and what they should do next.

Chat Windows

Over the years, we have had several clients add a chat widget to their website because a salesperson convinced them that this was the wave of future patient communication. They do get used, but almost without exception, the dentists chose to remove the chat window a month or two later because the chats were a hassle. Either it gave their team an additional thing to manage or the company who handled the follow-up didn’t represent the office the way the doctor wanted. Bottom line: it didn’t generate more new patients.

fingers typing an IM message

Chat windows also require additional code to be added to the website. Because the code comes from another server, it’s considered an outside call when the website loads. This means that your page speed and security is then dependent on the speed and security of how that third-party server answers the outside call. This presents a large liability to the success of your website, and it’s usually not worth it.

Other Third-Party Widgets

We’ve been pruning and polishing our websites for a long time, making them the fastest dental websites out there. We have used proprietary technology to load external code quickly and only when necessary. You can get the same effect by not using third-party widgets on your website. If a company or organization wants you to add their code to your website, either pass on the opportunity or take the resulting image or concept and have your website design company code it directly into your website rather than calling on the third-party server. In most cases, this should be an acceptable work-around and will prevent your website from being negatively impacted by a third-party widget. As we discussed, chat windows are common offenders in this regard, but others include virtual patient consult companies and dental organization badges or links.

PRO TIP: Google Maps also offers the ability to embed a map of your office location on your website. Don’t do it! This is still third-party code. Even though the server it calls to is Google’s server, and you’d think it would be fast, the external call for the dynamic map will load more slowly than a static image that shows a pin at your office’s location.

Marketing Tools To Track Results

Once your website is up and running, you’ll be ready to launch your marketing and advertising. Before you start those campaigns, be sure that you have your tracking tools in place and activated. There are some gold standards for these tools that you need to use.

laptop sitting open on a table, showing marketing metrics

Use Google Analytics To
Track Website Activity

Google Analytics has the market for website traffic and usage analysis software pretty well sewn up. Their service is powerful and complex. Using it can be intimidating but for the price (free), and considering the things you can learn about how often people visit your site and what they do there once they arrive, it’s worth becoming familiar with the system.

When you set up Google Analytics, be sure that your account is created under your email address rather than under your Web company’s email address. This will make it easier to take your website data with you if you need to switch companies. You should own your historical traffic data so that you can measure your website traffic and goals on a year over year basis. This is one of the most important uses of Google Analytics.

Use Google Analytics To
Track Website Activity

Google Analytics has the market for website traffic and usage analysis software pretty well sewn up. Their service is powerful and complex. Using it can be intimidating but for the price (free), and considering the things you can learn about how often people visit your site and what they do there once they arrive, it’s worth becoming familiar with the system.

When you set up Google Analytics, be sure that your account is created under your email address rather than under your Web company’s email address. This will make it easier to take your website data with you if you need to switch companies. You should own your historical traffic data so that you can measure your website traffic and goals on a year over year basis. This is one of the most important uses of Google Analytics.

Reputation Tracking Software To Follow Review Activity

Your team needs to encourage patients to leave positive reviews and negative will happen from time to time for all dentists. You need to leverage an online reputation management system built for dentists to handle both aspects of review metrics. Google’s local ranking algorithm seems to factor in reviews in at least three ways:

  • Number of reviews
  • Average star rating of reviews
  • Freshness and frequency of new reviews

Google also encourages businesses to respond to all reviews. Unless you are measuring these metrics and keeping an eye out for new reviews, you’ll find out later that your competitors have surpassed you and that you have some ugly, unaddressed bad reviews.

There are several online reputation tools on the market. Many patient communication services in dentistry have also added online reputation tools to their dashboards. Unfortunately, the solutions offered by these dental companies either seem to be deficient in their targeting and reach or use automation that makes it too easy for online reputation management to fall by the wayside. They can give you and your team the false belief that the company’s robot has it all covered. Online reputation management is only as effective as the human being managing the campaign.

We offer our clients a solution that handles online reputation management, equipping dentists with an easy means of asking for reviews, while also making it easy to track and respond to new reviews. It also integrates the information into an easy-to-read report that makes it easy to monitor online reputation alongside Google Analytics data and other metrics.

Track Advertising Performance With Ad Management Tools

You need a professional you can trust to run your ad campaigns on Google Ads and potentially other websites. But once those campaigns are up and running, you still need to know what is happening with the ads. How do you know if your ads are showing up; if they are being clicked on? There are several options.

Most companies that offer Google Ads pay-per-click management for dentists also offer you some sort of reporting to see what’s happening with the campaign. Unfortunately, many of these reports are grossly limited. You need access to data that tells you how your ads are helping you achieve your measurables and goals. That usually includes the number of times your ads have been shown to you (impressions) and how many times people use your ads to get to your website (clicks). But impressions and clicks are just the beginning of tracking the performance of your campaign. You need to be able to see how much you’re spending by ad bundle, which keywords people are typing in to get to your ads, and much more.

illustration of document showing growth in marketing

Google Ads has its own dashboard for managing the campaigns run on its ad platform. We would advise you not to waste time trying to get to know that platform. In essence, you have to become a pay-per-click advertising expert to truly understand the data that you’re looking at in Google Ads, not to mention how to make changes in order to address concerns in the information. You need a tool that can connect with Google Ads directly and distill the information down so that it’s more concise.

Again, there are many tools that can help you do this. You may alternatively decide to run your own ads via Google Ads Express but this puts more control in the hands of Google- not your control. You can think of it as electing to hail a taxi in an area that you don’t know and feeling like what you thought was a short ride is ending up to be a longer, more expensive trip than is strictly necessary. The right advertising performance tool can be the equivalent of using Uber or Lyft in the taxi analogy, where you know better the route that you will take and how much it will cost you.

Tools like Hubspot and Adstream attempt to solve this problem, and you may find that you like them quite well, but they are expensive and can be just as overwhelming as managing your own Google Ads. They may also conflict with your ad specialist’s way of running your ad campaigns.

We offer our clients ad tracking because it distills down the metrics without stripping away important details. You can view performance over a period of time and by ad bundle. It also helps you track your cost per conversion (how much you spend to generate a phone call or email. Finally, as part of a larger system, your ad performance information can be easily located in a larger report that gives you a complete picture of your online visibility.

Dental Reputation Management

The number of tools you can find to manage your dental digital marketing campaign are seemingly endless. When providing services to our member dental marketing offices, our specialists use several independent systems to boost visibility, improve the client’s website, and manage the client’s off-site information and reputation. Our dedicated account managers understand how all of these independent systems are working together. We use Dental Reputation Management to communicate with our clients, set goals, and track results. Our clients use dental reputation management to manage their online reputation and to hold us accountable for doing what we say we will do. One such tool is Trust Index. You can read more about Trust Index and other dental marketing tools here.

STEP 4

Maintain Momentum

There’s no sense in creating a digital marketing plan for your dental practice if you don’t plan for how you will keep things moving and successful in the long run. You could make the case that it doesn’t matter how a campaign starts as long as it’s effectively managed on an ongoing basis. Even if it got off to a rocky start, with improvements along the way, it could be a winner. In step 1, step 2, and step 3, we designed a strong launchpad for success.

Ready step four of this dental digital marketing guide to discover how you will maintain your marketing plan.

A group of people's hands collaboratively work and point to vital data on a laptop, guided by the digital dental marketing guide.

How Will You Maintain Momentum?

Fully Commit.

First, you need to have a conviction that the effort is worth it. Don’t launch a dental marketing plan just because you know that’s what your colleagues are doing. You have a goal, and you have tools in place to measure the success of your campaign. Now you need to commit to knowing what’s happening and making decisions about how to move forward.

The number one mistake that dentists make in launching a new digital marketing initiative is turning it off prematurely. Your goal will not be achieved in the first month of the campaign. If you think you may want to turn it off after a month, don’t even measure the results. Don’t launch the campaign at all if that’s the case. A one-month digital marketing campaign is a waste of your money.

Commit to making the digital dental marketing plan part of your overall business plan. You can think of it like a new hire on your team. You carefully screen applicants and hold interviews before hiring. From the time you hire the new team member, you have to train and communicate with the new employee, ideally with someone mentoring them along the way to give them the best chance of success. Then, if that employee is not a good fit, you may need to move on, but that doesn’t mean you eliminate their position from the practice! You need that dental assistant or front desk position; you just need to make a change in the personnel. In the same way, you need a digital marketing plan to keep your dental practice moving forward.

Leverage And Empower Your Team.

Dental offices rely on their dentists to generate revenue. The more the dentist devotes their time and attention to other matters, the less money the practice will bring in. Maximize your revenue and capitalize on your investment in a dental digital marketing plan by empowering your team to help you run the campaign.

We often see dentists make the mistake of trying to leverage a technologically-savvy employee for their marketing effort while not actually empowering them to manage the campaign. The lack of empowerment usually comes from not carving out time in the employee’s schedule for them to actually connect with the marketing team and analyze the results.

social media post for a dentist showing off their staff

Get more dental social media ideas sent to your inbox with a free #StaySocial subscription.

You should have a point person to head up the marketing effort in the office, but it shouldn’t be the sole responsibility of any one person. Other team members need to be trained and incentivized to complete marketing tasks such as asking for reviews or taking photos for social media and website use. The dentist needs to fund the campaign and lead effectively by directing the team and checking in on their progress from time to time.

Dentists should not completely remove themselves from the digital dental marketing plan but should only check-in and provide direction. Just as a team member will fail if they don’t have time to devote to completing marketing tasks, dentists who try to either set their marketing on total auto-pilot or neglect marketing tasks that they put on their own plate are setting themselves up for failure.

Schedule marketing check-ins with your account manager at your dental marketing agency and then keep those appointments. Schedule marketing meetings with your team and make sure that they understand that marketing the dental practice will help the practice thrive and therefore benefit them indirectly with job security and directly from a financial standpoint. If one or both of those things are not true, consider some business structure changes to accommodate and incentivize growth.

Train And Role Play.

As part of your regular marketing meetings with team members (new and old), train and role play on the tasks that they perform as part of the dental digital marketing plan. These items could include:

  • How to ask for a review
  • How to spot a good social media photo op
  • How to ask about sharing a patient’s before and after images (to gain consent)
  • How to post to your social media profiles
  • Who to contact regarding updates to the website or online presence
  • Listening to call recordings and training on handling sales opportunities

Cycle through a list of critical actions during these meetings. Don’t train once and assume that the team will retain and implement all the information from there.

Successful Dental Digital Marketing Plans Are Active Partnerships

If you started this journey of designing a dental digital marketing plan and have read through all four steps, hopefully, you understand that your campaigns will not succeed with a ‘set it and forget it’ philosophy. Your marketing plan should be active, evolving, and growing based on your goals and data. Don’t give up. Get expert help when you need it. Pro Impressions Marketing dentists enjoy being in the know while also partnering with the best in the business. We love taking the lead with the marketing, and the dentists partner with us so that we understand how the dental office is growing and changing, too.

Sign up for the New in Dental Marketing newsletter!

Get dental marketing tips sent to your inbox!