In the dental industry, being able attract and retain patients is essential to surviving and thriving in a competitive environment.

Effective marketing plays a key role in this, but you may be thinking that your practice is already overloaded with day to day business activities that you don’t have the time and/or resources to undergo a new marketing campaign.

After all, according to a report by NewPatientsInc.com, “…A substantial majority of the dentistry in the United States (about 74% in 1995 ) is performed by dentists that are either sole proprietors or in partnerships with one other dentist. The small size of these businesses severely limits the amount of emphasis, resources, and talent that can be devoted to marketing the practice to potential patients in the community.” (emphasis added)

The report, now a little more than 10 years old, goes on to estimate that the average lifetime value of a non-Medicaid patient of $1,120.

Whatever that number is for your business today is important, because it lets you make intelligent decisions on what you can spend on marketing.

Is my cost to acquire a customer less than their lifetime value to the practice?

If so, you’ve got a winning equation.

Enough with equations… let’s talk about some fun stuff. Here are 3 practical marketing ideas for dental offices that don’t cost a fortune and are super effective:

[su_note]Want more? Click here for 14 more free (or very cheap) marketing ideas. [/su_note]

1. Giveaway Your Services

Can a giveaway really work for a dental business?

Absolutely.

In fact, we’ve seen targeted giveaways work well in a variety of different industries, including our own software business.

Everybody Wins! Contest Marketing

When you do it right, you can pull in a bunch of new leads and drum up quite a bit of business.

When I first mentioned doing a “giveaway,” what was the first thing you thought about giving away in order to get people to give you their name and contact information?

Most people immediately think of something like an iPad or a flat screen TV.

After all, you want to give away something with mass appeal, right?

Wrong. 

It may seem counterintuitive, but remember that your goal is to get targeted leads that you can turn into new customers/patients.

What do you know about people who sign up for your free iPad contest?

You only know that they want an iPad.

You really have no idea if they are looking for a dentist or even need dental services.

A better approach is to give away something that only your target audience would want. Something much more narrowly focused, like a free teeth whitening session.

What do you know about someone who enters your contest for free teeth whitening?

You know that they are interested in getting their teeth whitened.

This is a much more qualified lead for your business than the iPad guy.

How To Make It Work

In the example provided in earlier report I referenced, they estimated that a dentist who offers teeth whitening as an “up sell” can expect to add about $120 to their average lifetime value of a patient.

That’s a significant amount for something that has pretty high margins. Even offering something with no doctor time, like Supreme whitening kits from Crest, can profit the office about $24 per sale on average.

Here are a few steps to follow that you can customize for your own business:

  1. Find something that you can give away that is also a service you can sell to everyone who doesn’t “win” the contest.
  2. I’d recommend using a system designed to manage online contests. We’ve used Contest Domination and highly recommend it.
  3. Promote your contest in the office, online, to your email list, and via word of mouth. Contest Domination incentivizes registrants to share automatically – which helps spread the word outside of your immediate circle.
  4. At the conclusion of the contest, simply email everyone who entered and create a page on your website where you announce the winner, and offer some kind of limited time offer to everyone who didn’t win, but still wants whatever you gave away.

Let’s say you gave away a free whitening session. Perhaps you could offer special pricing on whitening for everyone else, but only if they book within a certain period of time. If not special pricing, perhaps you could work in a free bonus add-on when they buy a whitening service.

Feel free to get creative with it, but the concept works!

2. Simple List Building

Building an email list can be a game changer for almost any business. This gives you a steady group of followers that you can contact when you add new content to your website, offer special deals, or have upcoming events.

If you aren’t building an email list, you are missing out on a huge opportunity. For further reading, check out some of these list building ideas.

The idea I’m going to share with you is a little old school, and was shared with me by Laura Nunemaker who actually used this technique when she owned a local bakery.

She said “we put out a legal pad, pen and simple flyer in a plastic frame describing the benefits of our weekly email newsletter. There were no prizes or promised discounts for signing up but we still cleared about a dozen sign-ups a week.”

notepad and pen

Again, there is an opportunity to get creative here, but starting by simply putting out a sign up sheet and a pen near where people sign in or perhaps where they check out could get you started building an email list.

Maybe instead of advertising it as a newsletter, put together a free video or PDF report that you can email them when they sign up. Maybe it’s 10 tips for naturally whitening your teeth, or some other information that would incentivize people to give you their preferred email address.

This idea is free, and something you can start today.

3. Feature Your Customers

People love it when you make them look good.

If your office is active of social media, try featuring your customers on your Facebook and Instagram pages.

The concept here is simple.

We all love to be featured and be honored – so when people see themselves as the customer of the week, or community member of the week, etc. they usually want to share that with friends. Maybe you could have a “Smile of the Week” campaign.

Get creative with it!

The Bouqs Regram

One example of this was discussed in our post about getting more followers on Instagram. The Bouqs, a flower delivery service, reposts pictures they’ve found from happy customers sharing photos of their flowers.

Besides connecting with the customer, this also serves as a form of a testimonial as they are showing non-professional photos, submitted by customers, of their product in action. This helps make the Bouqs appear more transparent, since they are simply reposting what happy customers have already posted voluntarily.

How could your practice start featuring your own happy clients and benefit from the social sharing that follows?

Wrap Up

Hopefully these 3 ideas have got your wheels turning a little about how your dental business can get more creative with your marketing efforts and start making an impact to the bottom line without spending a ton of money.

[su_note]Want more? Click here for 14 more free (or very cheap) marketing ideas. [/su_note]