Free and Low-Cost Marketing Efforts to Use in your Dental Practice


Engaging patients in word-of-mouth marketing could be the most cost-effective way to spread the word about your dental practice. Often, the only cost to the dentist with this marketing method is time. Dentists should simply ask patients who have had positive experiences in their practices to provide feedback. The key is having systems in place to streamline that process.

You can spend a lot of time and money marketing your dental practice to patients, or you can try a more cost-effective method: word-of-mouth marketing.

And the key to successful word-of-mouth marketing is happy patients. Just ask Emily Letran, D.D.S.

“Give patients the care and service just like you would treat a family member,” Letran says. “The patients can feel our genuine care for them.”

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And then when the patient has something complimentary to say, particularly before they’ve even left the practice, that’s the opportunity to maximize word-of-mouth marketing.


Letran’s approach is simple. As soon as a patient mentions anything positive — “That shot didn’t hurt,” or “I like my new teeth”— be ready to ask for a testimonial on video that you can share on social media.

“What I do is say, ‘Thank you very much. I appreciate your feedback. Is there any way I can get that on video?’” Letran says.

Don’t patients balk at being asked to be recorded?

“I would say nine out of 10 people say, ‘Yeah, sure,’” Letran says. “I explain that it helps me spread the word about what we do as a dental practice. I don’t tell them to say anything more than they had just said to me. It makes them feel that they’re contributing.”

Letran admits, however, that such a forward approach with patients takes a little getting used to. Most dental professionals are not used to asking for testimonials, especially when face-to-face with patients.

“It may be a little hard to do at first,” she acknowledges. “But we’re looking for every opportunity to market our office. And when you have a happy patient, that’s the best time.”

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Letran also asks patients for written testimonials to share on social media, and makes it as simple as possible for patients to participate. She uses a service called Birds Eye. Patients receive a text while still sitting in the chair asking them to provide some written feedback of their experience that day. Once they provide feedback, if it’s positive, it’s shared on social media.

“They’re not going to go home and go on Yelp or Google,” Letran says. “So sometimes I just give them a piece of paper and a pen right then and there. They sign it, and I put it up on the wall. Then I take a photo of it and put it on social media.”

The practice also holds referral contests so patients can refer friends and earn a chance to win a non-dental-related gift. The gifts range from three days, two nights in Las Vegas, to a large wine-filled holiday gift basket. When patients receive their prize, their photo is taken and shared on social media.

And then there are patient appreciation events that Letran says show gratitude to patients, strengthen goodwill, and of course, get patients talking about the practice on social media. For example, Letran will rent an entire movie theatre and invite patients and either family or friends to attend a free screening of a recently released film. She mails out invitations to the 263-seat theatre along with a coupon for a drink and popcorn, and a raffle ticket that could earn patients a $500 gift certificate for dental services.

If the film runs two hours, Letran books the theatre for three, and uses the additional time to talk to the audience about what the practice has been doing, as well as single out patients who have been with the practice for a long time. That’s also a good time to obtain on-the-spot testimonials.

The cost of the event?

“It usually pays for itself within a week or two,” Letran says. “I’ve been doing this for about five years now, and I always make (the money) back. It builds tremendous goodwill.”


Letran believes that marketing should be a focus for every business owner, and every dentist should think of him or herself as a business owner. Word-of-mouth marketing, she says, is a very effective but often overlooked tool.

“I do a lot of business conferences, so I’m exposed to (the idea of word-of-mouth marketing) a lot,” she says. “My feeling is it’s about getting different people to give you different perspectives about the practice, and about the work you do. Because when you have multiple things like that going on, it just strengthens your credibility.”

Discover more Dentist’s Money Digest Practice Management coverage here.

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