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Marketing comes in all sizes and shapes. In fact, you could say that everything we do from location, hours, answering phones, systems and any form of potential patient encounters is actually some form of marketing. I wanted to go back and help you prioritize you marketing budget and hone in on “print” marketing as a viable and important way to attract more quality patients. We routinely spend about 3-5% of collections in every office we have owned or coached on marketing strategies. That could be translated into several hundred to tens of thousands of dollars per month invested in the procurement of patients in one fashion or another. This investment of time and money is foundational to building a Super General Dental Practice that is both unlimited in growth potential and insulated from any challenges from insurance, corporations, economic, or national healthcare assaults.

When we look at what the average dental practice is spending their marketing dollars on, we see a disturbing trend. Fifteen years ago, nearly 100% of every dental practices marketing budget was being spent for yellow pages ads. They put all their eggs in one basket and never considered diversifying their outreach. It was the flock mentality: Everyone is doing it, and so will I. No reason or rhyme to it, just blind action. Today we are seeing a lot of offices whose marketing budgets are practically 100% electronic media: Website, Facebook, Twitter, SEO for Google and other search engines. Neither of these is a good approach. Every office should have a balanced marketing approach governed by a budget and altered to fit the results. It’s like fishing. You arrive at the lake not knowing what will work to attract the fish, so you come with a tackle box full of a variety of bait. You try one right after the other; you fish deep and shallow, artificial or natural bait, in the sunlight or shadows until you strike the right balance. Something may work to attract the fish in the morning that is completely worthless by noon. You adapt to the conditions of your environment.

Electronic messaging is beginning to reach a saturation point with all of the posts, tweets, emails, and text messages going unopened and/or unread. It has gone from a convenient unique way of communicating, to an overused and abused way of disrupting our day. With less standard mail arriving in most people’s mailboxes today, your well-designed direct mail marketing will stand a better chance of being seen and read and acted upon.

We need to picture our marketing strategies as a multitude of small streams that flow into a river and eventually create a much more powerful entity than any one of the tributaries by itself. Just using one single strategy handicaps you as far as effectiveness, return on investment, and the quality and diversity of those you can reach. Instead of looking at one marketing vehicle to supply you with 30 additional new patients per month, look at 10 different ones to produce 3 or more new patients each. One big difference between your practice website and direct mail is that someone must be actively considering a dental appointment/procedure to sit down in front of their computer and search for a dentist. With direct mail, the prospective patient will see your message and be reminded that they have been meaning to make an appointment or that they should be seeing a dentist regularly.

It is still difficult, maybe impossible, to target specific demographic groups with electronic media. With print material we consider the message that a picture, offer, demographics, timing, and placement makes as to the response and ROI. If you are targeting left handed dwarves who drive Volkswagens while living in a two story east facing house, direct response print marketing can reach them. Defining exactly whom you want to send a direct mail item to is easier and more sophisticated than ever.

Direct mail postcards, or really, any printed marketing should consider these seven tenants for successful direct response marketing:

1. You have, at most, three (3) seconds to capture the attention of your audience with direct response marketing: Postcards, newspapers, billboards, etc. Ninety percent of folks open their mail over the trashcan. You need to be remarkable via the size of the card, power of the graphics, or nature of the offers or your item will be invisible and ultimately trash: Wasted money and wasted opportunity. In three seconds they should know it is from a dentist, what the offers are, and where they are available.

2. Be sure that your website URL is prominently displayed on any print marketing in order to push them to a place that offers additional information and hopefully helps them take one step closer to calling to make an appointment. Make sure that all of your marketing is consistent in appearance, outreach, offers, and services.

3. Study your demographics to know the age, race, income level, and educational level in order to craft your offers and services that would most benefit that group of people. So often we see something as silly as a Pediatric practice moving into a retirement community only to discover there are no kids. Match the offers and services with your potential clients.

4. Craft an offer that pulls. Every potential client is looking for a low cost, low stress way to meet you and find out what’s wrong. Consider that of all of the searches done for any type of dental related topic on the Internet, “general dentist” is number one with over 45%, and “braces” is number two at about 14%. Not until you get to the last three categories of search do you ever see a search for implants, cosmetic, or sedation dentistry (about 4% but consider that the same person looked in all three locations, so it is really about 1%). Also consider that “boutique” practices are the most guilty of putting all of their money into web and social medial. Curious, in that the group they need to inspire, 45-65 year olds, is the very group that uses the Internet and social media the least.

5. Lose the platitudes and the crowded layout. If you look at your yellow pages, postcards, or billboards and while reading the copy you say to yourself, “Of course they do”, take it out. For example: lose the pictures of credit cards, lists of services, and words like “we cater to cowards”. Take your thirty-year old picture and put something in there that reflects the age and race demographics that you would like to attract. Make the offers pop out from the ad copy. Remember: you have less than three seconds to capture their attention.

6. Create urgency for the offers in order to put “Call the dentist” higher up on the potential clients to do list.

7. Color, size, pictures, and layout must appeal to a female’s eye. With over ninety percent of all appointments being made by females, make sure you have females look at the ad before printing and give you feedback. Win with the female and you have no limit to your growth.

Mike Abernathy, DDS
972-523-4660 cell
[email protected]

PS — If you have been disappointed in the past by quality, cost, ROI, customer service, or any other aspect of direct response print marketing, one of the Alliance Partners in BEST for Dentistry ( will take good care of you. Just go there and look for InTech Dental Marketing. I know you will like dealing with them.