How a solo dental practitioner can compete with the big dogs

Dental service organizations have some advantages over the small guys, including big budgets designed to entice away patients. What can independent dental practices do to compete with DSOs?

Content Dam Diq Online Articles 2017 08 Solo Vs Dso 1

Dental service organizations have some advantages over the small guys, including big budgets designed to entice away patients. What can independent dental practices do to compete with DSOs?


DENTAL SERVICE ORGANIZATIONS (DSOs)
have one major advantage over solo practitioners—extensive marketing departments with advertising dollars to support their practice’s growth. Ignoring the DSOs and focusing on what you do best can work, but consider this: every new patient for the DSOs is a loss for your practice. However, there are easy ways for solo practitioners to compete without digging deep into their pockets for marketing.

Tell your story

Promote what the bigger guys cannot, and that is to tell your practice’s authentic story. If you’re the practice that has been open for generations and has been serving the local community for 30-plus years, use that to your advantage. You’ve established your practice as one that can be trusted in your community. What do you want the community to know about your practice, staff, and services?

As part of your story, promote the services and experience you provide rather than the price. It’s difficult to beat a DSO’s prices. But the larger dental offices have a hard time promoting their services because they don’t have the history with the community or experiences with long-time patients.

Stop the presses

Dentists should reach out to their local media to help tell their stories. They should share ideas for potential profile pieces about their practices with their local papers or TV news outlets, as well as profiles about the hygienists.

Dentists can also position themselves as the local experts to be called upon for stories about oral health, and this establishes trust within communities. They can even offer to write a weekly, monthly, or quarterly column for the newspaper.

Some example topics for articles are: questions you should ask when choosing a new family dentist; what to expect before a dental procedure; and habits that might cause a person to have to visit the dentist more often.

To take on your own promotions, it’s important to consider the right timing in conjunction to whatever promotions you have going on with different programs in the market, as well as timely topics in the media. For example, October 7 is World Smile Day. That might be just the catchy hook that gets the local business reporter to feature your practice. These holidays are also timely elements for social media posts.

Use social media the right way

You need to understand that social media is just another platform to share your story and tell followers what goes on at the practice. People enjoy seeing the real dentists and staff members behind the business. Patients connect with other people, and building a sense of community within your practice’s Facebook page encourages patient interaction.

Social media also allows you to share your expertise more widely and position yourself as a reliable resource in the community. You want to make a habit of providing shareable, relatable content to followers. If your practice has a blog where you post valuable insight, then share that knowledge on social media. Also, don’t be afraid to spark a conversation. Perhaps you can post a general question, such as, “Does anyone have questions regarding their children’s brushing habits, or have concerns about their oral care?” You want people to feel comfortable coming to you for advice. You also want to be responsive to questions, comments, and concerns. When you use social media properly, it speaks volumes about your business. You want people to know that you treat your online followers with the same level of respect you give in-office patients.

Get reviewed

Develop a strong presence on review sites such as Yelp. This can generate positive brand awareness and drive patient leads. Prospective patients see your practice through the lens of their Google search. Therefore, it’s crucial to build reviews about your practice on the right platforms. Start by focusing on Facebook and Google My Business with a minimum of five reviews on each. Our study in 2015 discovered that dental practices with at least five positive reviews on their Google My Business page, Facebook, and Yelp converted 38% more traffic to active patients than practices that had fewer reviews.

Google’s algorithm waits until you have five reviews before it creates an average and shows gold stars. Consider those stars as “street credit.” It doesn’t make sense for a prospective patient to even click on your website if you have no stars next to your name and the practice down the street is rated four stars. Make sure you encourage your staff to generate more reviews for the practice. Arrange for them to ask happy patients to share their experiences on the review sites.

There’s only a small pool of patients out there to target. Even if revenue is high for your practice, a competing DSO can be building up its cliental by using an assortment of strategies executed by their marketing department. However, this article should arm you with some strategies of your own to become a worthy adversary.


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Bill Donato cofounded Conversion Whale in 2014, a consulting company that’s dedicated to lead generation and marketing for dental practices. The rapidly growing marketing firm specializes in turning existing websites into profitable marketing engines. It currently partners with more than 700 dentists throughout North America. Prior to founding Conversion Whale, Bill worked with a leading Florida-based dental equipment repair company, and served as technical editor for the book, Micro-Entrepreneurship for Dummies.

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