Top 5 Dental Marketing Questions, Answered: An Interview

In Print Issues, Success by Minal Sampat

Minal Sampat is a dental hygienist, national speaker, marketing strategist, entrepreneur and author residing in Washington State. Today, she’s answering five pressing questions about dental marketing in 2020. Let’s dive in!

#1: What are the most common marketing mistakes dental practices make?

There are a few, but a big one I see is practices jumping into outlets like social media without a strategy, or even a target audience. Unfortunately, a strategy is essential to a marketing plan that produces ROI. Practices are often just trying to keep up with seasonal upticks or the competition’s marketing, but if your competition has a strategy and you don’t, you’ve already lost.

Another mistake is underestimating the power of teamwork. If a practice’s team isn’t on the same page about a marketing campaign, it will fall flat. Too often, a single email is sent to everyone about a campaign, and that’s the only communication that happens. There’s no collaboration; the front desk, clinical and admin teams never get a chance to offer input and build the investment necessary to keep the campaign going long-term.

The last big mistake I see is not knowing your practice’s numbers. How many new monthly patients are you acquiring? Where are they coming from? How much are you spending on marketing? Most practices I talk to know one or two of these but not all three. You need to pay attention to these metrics to understand where you are and where you’re going.

#2: Do I need to be on all social media platforms?

Absolutely not. In fact, I don’t recommend being on all platforms because it tends to spread teams too thin. The only platforms you need are the ones your ideal patients use. That means if you’re targeting implant patients, you likely want to be on Facebook where that audience is more likely to spend time. If you’re trying to become the go-to practice for bridal teeth whitening, Pinterest is a good place to start.

Pick one platform, and master it. Every platform is different, so simply reposting the same content across multiple outlets doesn’t typically yield great results. Learn to leverage one platform well, and once it’s become second nature, consider adding another to your strategy.

Lastly, remember that social media platforms are just that: places to be social. You have to show up and engage. Reply to comments, post often and be consistent. With time, your continual presence will build trust with followers.

#3: Do I need to spend thousands of dollars on a website?

I don’t build or provide websites, but I get asked this question a lot. You’ll find builders who charge anything from $1,000 to $30,000 for a site, and it can be hard to determine what’s appropriate for your practice.

Here’s my advice: ultimately, you need a website that is as good or better than your competition’s. Once you establish what it will cost to meet that baseline, you can consider budgeting for additional features that suit your business plan (think online scheduling, videos, patient portal, etc.). Focus on SEO and user-friendliness, and the rest should take care of itself.

Remember, technology is always evolving. Like all marketing, a website isn’t “set it and forget it,” so be prepared to update and add to your website as times change.

I have one last note on this topic, and it’s that you can’t expect an external company to make your marketing successful without internal help. Whether it’s building your website or managing your social media, you need someone inside your practice managing marketing and communicating with partners to create relevant content. With a marketing manager on the inside, an external company won’t have to turn to stock photos and clichés to represent your practice.

#4: What should I look for in an internal social media manager?

Hiring a social media manager is an exciting move, but it requires finding the right candidate. Personally, I think it’s important to prioritize the social aspects of a candidate’s personality for this position. Skill and experience are important, of course, but a social media manager needs to be someone who truly loves socializing.

I’d look for an extrovert with a history of fast learning, someone others would describe as fun and creative. This person will be constantly engaging your team and patients in person, then translating those photos and interactions into social media posts. If the first part comes naturally, training on social media platforms is easy.

#5: How do I create a realistic marketing plan?

When creating a marketing plan, the first thing you need to do is know your numbers. I mentioned this earlier. In this case, you’ll also want to know when your practice is slow and which months business tends to pick up. This big-picture will inform when and what to market.

Then, create a task list, and make sure each task is delegated to a responsible team member. Who makes the flyer? Posts to social media? Who puts it on the website? Who engages patients in-office? Every team member should know their job in forwarding the mission of the campaign, and the campaign should appear on every outlet available. If the team isn’t involved and informed, this simply won’t happen.

Lastly, as the practice owner, you need to personally put in one hour a week of campaign work. Check in with team members, note whether your numbers are changing, and follow up with newly acquired patients to thank them and ask for feedback. As the leader, knowledge of campaign performance is a basic pillar of long-term success. At the end of the day, whole-team involvement, including yourself, is what makes successful marketing happen.