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Dental industry marketing: Before you blame the sales team, master the marketing pyramid

April 24, 2018
If your sales team is failing to convert dentist leads, your problem could lie in your marketing strategy. Naomi Cooper, CEO of Doctor Distillery, explains why.
Naomi Cooper, Founder and CEO, Doctor Distillery

Why a full-funnel marketing approach is more effective for closing inbound dentist leads

Imagine an all-too-common scenario: the marketing team is meeting its lead-generation goals, but those leads somehow aren’t producing the expected sales results. It's easy to start playing the blame game, especially when conversion rates from sales are low despite a flood of new dentist leads rushing in. And while it might seem natural to point the finger at the sales team, the reality is that the situation may deserve a closer examination—from a marketing perspective.

It’s clear that in order for a business to succeed, both the marketing and sales teams need to perform in their respective roles: marketing needs to generate a flow of high-quality leads to pass onto to sales, who should have the skills to convert those leads into customers. The sales team is often blamed for lagging conversion rates, but is it really their fault?

Sometimes, the failure to convert new leads may actually stem from the marketing strategy. True, getting a flood of inbound prospects may make it seem as though the company’s lead-generation efforts are a success, but if you’re not attracting the right type of leads, it can make the sales team’s job nearly impossible.

How to attract better quality dentist leads

Getting a dentist to opt-in or fill out a form online is only half the battle. Generally speaking, before a dentist will take the next step—be it setting up a phone consultation, scheduling a demo, or making an online purchase—he or she must first recognize and respect your brand enough to consider becoming a paying customer.

How does a brand achieve that level of recognition and respect? Rather than looking at the marketing and sales process as a funnel, I like to picture it as a pyramid—much like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Brand awareness

At the base of the marketing pyramid is the most important foundational principle. It is one that no brand can survive without, and it is the concept of brand awareness. In other words, before you attempt to achieve any other marketing objectives, it is critical to first ensure that your brand has, at the very least, established a baseline level of recognition in the marketplace, made continual efforts to become more well-known, and made dentists highly familiar with your company’s name and its associated products and services.

Branding is often measured in terms of market penetration, which includes frequency and reach. This measurement may be made via an independent study conducted by an outside market-research firm, or by simply quantifying the number of times on average that your brand message is seen by dentists in your target audience.


The next layer on the pyramid above brand awareness is education. Here dentists must learn all about your company, as well as your product or service’s features and benefits. They must gain a clear understanding of your unique selling proposition (USP), i.e., what your company, product, or service offers that they can’t get anywhere else.

Education may be accomplished by getting dentists to visit your website, your product page, or a landing page. How can you objectively measure success in this area? It could be how many dentist visits you drive to your website, how much time dentists spend on your website, or how many pages dentists visit. Alternatively, you might measure how many whitepaper requests or video views are completed on a given landing page.


Next comes authority. This may well be the hardest and yet the most critical level on the marketing pyramid to achieve, as it requires getting dentists to not only believe that your product is a viable option, but also that your company is the foremost expert in the field and the best possible vendor or solution partner.

Authority convinces dentists that they would be crazy to buy from anyone else. This cannot achieved through advertising alone, but rather via a long-term strategy of establishing the company as a thought leader, gaining third-party validation of that status through key opinion leaders and editorial support, and cultivating an all-around sense of gravitas for the brand.

Once you have achieved authority, your company will be able to establish much stronger and deeper connections with your sales prospects. What does this mean to you and your sales team? Authority shores up the integrity of your leads, it means that your leads are much less fragile and that they stay warm longer, and it means dentists are more invested in your brand. As a result, they are more compelled to buy from either your sales force or your website.

The importance of full-funnel marketing

All of this leads back to the critical importance of full-funnel marketing, which pays attention to every level in the funnel (or the pyramid, as it were).

In recent years, dental marketers have become almost singularly focused on lead generation. After all, leads are measurable, quantifiable, and easily justifiable to higher-ups and shareholders. Conversely, branding, brand awareness, education, and authority-building have been pushed to the back burner.

But dentists, like all consumers, need to be led through the entire journey that is your marketing funnel, and there aren’t any shortcuts. A dentist needs to get to know your brand, understand what you do, learn how your service or product will solve his or her problem, and believe in your company more than any other before they’ll show up for a sales demo—let alone sign a purchase order or transact on your website.

Full-funnel marketing uses a wide array of advertising and marketing platforms to maintain a steady stream of high-quality leads and sales, first creating awareness for your brand, then moving dentist prospects through the funnel via educational touch points that build product knowledge and authority, and ultimately make it easier for sales to close the leads that make it all the way through the funnel.

Seeing a full-funnel strategy in action

To see the full-funnel strategy in action, I'll present two brief examples from recent work by my company, Doctor Distillery. In these case studies, we worked to provide a turnkey, full-funnel solution exclusively for dental industry marketers. The end goal was to produce quantifiable results within an exclusive online audience of verified, licensed US dentists.

Case study No. 1—Kulzer

Kulzer, a major dental manufacturer, was recently looking for a way to burnish its brand and promote a new product online. The goal was to drive as many dentists in the US as possible to a landing page request form where they could request a free sample.

At the same time, the company was going through a major corporate rebranding effort. So, the challenge was two-fold: how to get dentists to sign up for a sample of a brand new product from a company whose name might sound familiar—or not.

Doctor Distillery worked with Kulzer to create a branding campaign and a product sampling campaign designed to work in tandem. Recognition for the new corporate brand was developed through social media engagement, while Doctor Distillery also enabled Kulzer to educate the dentist public about its new product’s features and benefits by advertising to our verified dentist-only audience on a wide variety of websites across the internet.

The result? Just over halfway through the six-month campaign, the volume of product sample requests reached the anticipated goal. The campaign was deemed a success and continues to drive hundreds of sample requests.

Case study No. 2—MMG Fusion

MMG Fusion is a software company that works to manage, market and grow dental practices across the US. They came to Doctor Distillery looking for a dependable, scalable, and measurable source of dentist leads, knowing that while they had a compelling and unique value proposition, it was essential for them to establish their brand in an already crowded marketplace.

To this end, Doctor Distillery customized for MMG Fusion an integrated, three-pronged, full-funnel marketing campaign.

The first prong was a display-based and video-based advertising awareness campaign designed to reach a targeted audience of dentists with a repeated message that would establish the MMG Fusion brand in the mind of the dentist public.

The next layer would be a social media and native advertising educational campaign to drive traffic to MMG Fusion’s website and ensure that the details of its product offering would become well-known and understood by that same audience. Through these first two layers, MMG Fusion soon came to gain a high level of gravitas and authority, helping it succeed in its ultimate goal: lead generation.

Social media and native advertising also positioned the company as a subject matter expert and leader in the area of dental practice marketing.

The third and final campaign strategy goal was to drive dentists to a dead-end online landing page containing a “Request a Demo” form for MMG Fusion. Doctor Distillery’s online audience of US dentists were already primed by the first two components of the campaign; they were familiar with the brand from the awareness campaign, and they understood the features and benefits of MMG Fusion’s software suite as a result of Doctor Distillery’s educational campaign, which consistently drove dentist traffic to its product pages.

As a result, in the first six months of the campaign Doctor Distillery drove to MMG Fusion many of the most valuable dentist leads in the company’s history and a achieved a demo set rate of nearly 70%. The dentists who responded to this full-funnel marketing campaign not only had their interest piqued in the company’s product offerings, but also firmly believed in MMG Fusion as a preeminent expert in the field and a leading software solution to help them grow their practices.

“Doctor Distillery’s three-pronged marketing strategy has been extremely effective,” says to Paul Intlekofer, CEO of MMG Fusion. “Other sources we used previously were never capable of generating qualified leads, much less demos. Doctor Distillery’s lead information is even loaded into our CRM in real time to expedite our sales response. As a result, Doctor Distillery has become an invaluable source of branding and lead generation for our business.”


When viewed through this lens, it’s evident how both the quantity and quality of leads stand to impact full-funnel marketing efforts and a brand’s mastery of the marketing pyramid.

Dentists who are not only made aware of your brand but are also educated on an ongoing basis about your products will become convinced of your company’s leadership position in the marketplace. They will most certainly become the leads that your sales team has the best chance of converting, rather than those dentists with an tenuous impulse connection to your company.

So, the next time you’re frustrated with struggling sales or landing page conversion rates, don't point fingers. Take a moment to examine your marketing strategy. If the current strategy isn’t working, maybe your dentist prospects simply aren’t yet invested enough in your brand to make a real commitment. As we all learned in Marketing 101, branding, awareness, education, and authority are all essential ingredients in a marketing campaign in order to earn true buy-in from your prospects. Master the marketing pyramid first—and then watch your sales multiply.

Naomi Cooper is CEO and co-founder of Doctor Distillery. With more than 17 years in the dental industry, she is a respected dental marketing executive, strategist, consultant, author, speaker, and industry opinion leader. Naomi has worked with dozens of leading companies across the dental industry, helping them to create tangible results for their marketing efforts aimed at the dental professional. For more information about how Doctor Distillery can help your dental marketers reach 180,000 dentists online, visit or email Naomi at [email protected].

More Dental Industry Marketing

4 ways to convert more online dentist leads into conversations

Why focusing solely on lead generation blurs your marketing vision

The industry's best kept secret for getting more dentists on the phone

5 pitfalls product managers can avoid when marketing to dentists online

Dental Industry Marketing is a periodic column by Naomi Cooper that appears in the Apex360 e-newsletter.

Editor's note: This article first appeared in the Apex360 e-newsletter. Apex360 is a DentistryIQ partner publication for dental practitioners and members of the dental industry. Its goal is to provide timely dental information and present it in meaningful context, empowering those in the dental space to make better business decisions.

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