Marketing dentistry to people, not demographics

Posted on March 29, 2017 POSTED UNDER:


(This article is a 5.5 minute read)


1. How you can match your marketing to real life

2. How your experience is the key factor that helps you do this

3. The time frame for results you can expect from this approach

Have you ever performed a root canal on a demographic? Ever had a demographic sitting in your waiting room? When we talk about marketing dentistry, there’s a fundamental mismatch between what you see in the surgery and what marketing people crap on about.


You’re trained to look carefully for what’s different in each case so you can make an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. They’re trained to ignore what’s different so they can communicate efficiently with a large group of people. It’s why dental advertising can feel a little false. To make it feel a little more real to both yourself and your patients, we have to find a halfway point between what marketing tries to do, and what you see every day.

Thinking of patients when marketing dentistry

Dentistry, like medicine, is for everyone. But not every dental product or service is right for everyone all the time. Some people need a little cosmetic boost before a big event like a wedding or job interview. Some people need ortho. Some just need a boot in the pants to get their oral health in order.


I hope you notice here that I was saying “some people”, not “some groups”. It’s a mistake when you’re marketing dentistry to these people to treat them like a faceless member of a larger group. Your challenge is to find a way of communicating with those people that treats them like an individual.


If you are promoting products—like teeth whitening, for example, or clear braces—you have to be more focussed on the product than the person. You can’t avoid it. So you automatically start to treat the people in the equation as a group.

Who benefits from your marketing?

I know it’s difficult to NOT think of your products and services. You are marketing your practice, right? Instead I’m asking you to think about them in a slightly different way.


Take tooth whitening, for example. All dental practice want to market their teeth whitening services because they know people will pay for it, and it’s a good thing for many people.


But instead of just buying ads or writing blog posts saying you offer teeth whitening, pause and think about who benefits from it.


I was talking to a dentist the other day who pointed out that teeth whitening is great for more mature patients. But those patients don’t ask for it, because they think it’s vain or not for them. She wanted to make the point that teeth whitening is very much a service they can benefit from. And she’s absolutely right.


If you think about both your product and who that product is good for, you’ve got a much more powerful marketing message. The way you can build that message is think of a patient who is married with two kids. What are three ways teeth whitening can benefit her? Think of another who is leaving school this year. And another who is retiring. As you explain the three benefits of teeth whitening to each one, know that you’re creating three basic blog posts. Or three really powerful, targeted marketing messages.

The 18-month plan

Everything takes time to work. Teeth whitening takes time. So does orthodontics. Same with advertising. Not to mention content marketing.

And this is where the halfway point is between what marketing folk do and what you do every day. Many practices expect fast results from marketing or advertising. Which you can get—as long as you have a sensible idea of what type of results.


In the initial phase of your marketing, you should expect to build interest and awareness. That’s a reasonable goal, given you will often be talking to people who didn’t know you existed previously.


The only way you can know if that initial phase is working, and if the interest is there, is if you measure and categorise your audience. That means keeping track of subscribers to your newsletter, visits to your blog, and Facebook fans and followers.


Some of these people will book with you directly as a result of your content or advertising. But many won’t follow such a clear (and easily measured) path. You will need to allow at least 18 months to get a clear picture of how many people are interested in what you have to say and share, and how many of them become your patients.


It’s a turn-off to be faced with product all the time. And it’s depressing to feel like you’re shouting into the void when you try to talk to patients as a group.

A happy medium is where you can think of how a particular patient would use a particular product. How that product solves their problems. Then write about it.


You’ll be surprised how well patients react.


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Rob Johnson

Rob is the co-founder of Bite magazine and Vet Practice magazine. He writes and gives talks about content marketing, and leads a team of good-looking and stylish content folk from their Sydney HQ.

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