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Why most dental marketing misses the mark

Nov. 4, 2022
Why does dental marketing feel underwhelming at times—and what can make yours pop? You may be surprised by the power of being personal.

Why does marketing, specifically dental marketing, feel underwhelming at times? Why do some dentists, no matter how hard they try (and how much they spend), rarely see a good return on their marketing investments? I believe there are a few cogs in the proverbial wheel here.

Let’s face it, “niche-ing” down is becoming more and more common in the marketing field. There’s tremendous upside for a service provider, like a marketer, to focus on one core business demographic. Dentistry is appealing because of the sheer market size and the fact that most practices can afford high-end services. Every entrepreneur/social media influencer encourages their masses to niche down. It’s great advice. It’s also extremely harmful to a niche like dental.

Many people want to be expensive. Few want to be valuable. Marketers jump into dental with little to no understanding of this very unique vertical. First, the provider or agencies focus on scale and the dentist second. How can they get as many clients in the door as possible and deliver the minimum amount of work, while charging max rates? They aren’t focused on what really drives practice growth. They omit what patients are actually buying. They don’t focus on the things that separate you in your market—not because they intend to harm you, but simply because they don’t know what the variable is. That variable is YOU. Your story. Your patient experience. That’s what consumers are buying. It’s not dentistry; it’s the story.

Also by Sean Hamel:

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4 effective ways to grow your Instagram presence

The truth is, you have droves of “side hustle”-focused, unqualified, and unskilled marketers entering the dental space with little understanding of how to really get results. I know because when I started in this vertical, I knew traditional marketing, too. Not dental marketing. My journey began by helping a friend get his practice going. There were a lot of mistakes and roadblocks along the path to success. Now, he’s bursting at the seams, and the methodology developed while growing his office has helped hundreds of other dentists on their journey as well.

It's all about you (or it should be)

Look at the average dental website. Read the copy. Check out the imagery associated with the brand. Chances are, it’s stock. Template. Mass-produced. Generic.

That message is anything but YOU. Existing and potential patients don’t know if you’re the best clinician in town. Yet all that the marketing is doing is talking clinical, clinical, clinical. What a patient knows is their experience. Do they like you? Do they enjoy your team? Do they feel cared for? Noticed? Appreciated? Valued?

This is what drives your bottom line and, chances are, your marketers don’t realize it. Who are you? What are your hobbies? Why did you choose to be a dentist? Tell me about your family, pets, strange facts, or life experiences. Give me something to identify with—something that humanizes you and makes you less threatening and more familiar.

The average person is scared of the dentist; there is anxiety and apprehension around your very existence. Someone who has a dog, young children, or a beautiful singing voice all are much less threatening than a stranger, especially if it’s something you have in common.

What your potential customers really want

Proximity will kick off the average search. Are you close to their home or office? From there, are you going to hurt me? Can I afford this dentistry? Those two are usually the next emotional needs the user wants satisfied. Give them that comfort. Patient testimonials are a great way to soothe apprehension and fear of the unknown. Social proof is everything. Document your patients’ journeys and post them everywhere: your website, social media, Google Business Profile. Everywhere.

Then, present affordability options. Do you have financing? Can the user pay in installments? Do you have a membership plan? TELL them! Make it easy to find. Don’t hide it somewhere in your sub navigation. Put it on the homepage. Add it to your social media captions. Make it easy to say yes.

Most dental marketing doesn’t connect because it’s not speaking to patients’ main drivers. Some potential patients are only focused on price, yes. Competing on price is a race to the bottom. But if you give a quality experience, provide exceptional results, and make patients feel valued, you’re going to win. Focus on the reasons your patients should stay and let those principles guide your attraction techniques in the future.

I’m going to share much more regarding the state of dental marketing and why, from my point of view, it tends to underperform. There are a lot of contributing factors, but simplifying and connecting with your local community with a powerful story is a solid foundation for your future.

While there are unqualified marketers in the space, there are also some very talented and effective dental marketers in the field today. Their ingenuity and ideas regarding helping practices grow and succeed present a lot of hope for the future.

About the Author

Sean Hamel

A recent addition to the DentistryIQ Advisory Board, Sean Hamel is a seasoned dental marketing professional and the founder and CEO of Art of Dental Marketing. ADM is a story-based dental marketing agency that helps practices get found online and convert web traffic into real patients. We understand that every practice is unique and has a story to tell, but they just don’t know how to get it out to the community. ADM builds state-of-the-art, video-based websites, powerful local SEO strategies, and effective pay-per-click campaigns, and provides an attentive and comprehensive client service experience for every practice.