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Q&A with Dr. Edward Alvarez: How to Market Cosmetic Services, Part I


Social media's amplification of visual aesthetic bodes well for dentists. With so many young people looking to perfect or simply improve their smiles, opportunities to attract new patients abound but so does the competition. Whitening is a service offered at almost any dental practice, so how can you make your practice stand out? Dr. Edward Alvarez, DDS, specializes in all things cosmetic dentistry. Keep reading for his advice on marketing your whitening services.

Instagram is your best social media marketing tool because of its visual element.

Social media’s amplification of visual aesthetic bodes well for dentists. With so many young people looking to perfect or simply improve their smiles, opportunities to attract new patients abound — but so does the competition.

Services like whitening are offered at almost any dental practice, so how can you make your practice stand out? Dr. Edward Alvarez, DDS, specializes in all things cosmetic dentistry. Keep reading for his marketing best practices.

DMD: What's the outlook on cosmetic dentistry, and why should GPs consider looking into it?

Dr. Alvarez: I really think cosmetic dentistry is just going to continue to grow. There's such an explosion of things, such as tooth whitening on social media, and it's just getting bigger and bigger. I think there was this little initial bump with at-home systems, kind of like the blue LED lights and stuff like that, but patients, from what I see, are truly seeking out whitening. Whether it's laser or a more expensive alternative, people are paying much more attention to the appearance of their smiles.

I think social media is a huge driver, and I see it more in younger people rather than baby boomers. Baby boomers want to have better teeth and whatnot, and that's going to be your largest pool you'll draw from in terms of finances. But I think younger consumers are spending the money to look better. Besides from a practice management point of view, a lot of the services aren't covered by insurance, so you will continue to get growth without having to worry about insurance.

DMD: How do you implement social media in your own practice? How popular are your posts, what platforms do you use?

Dr. Alvarez: I'm big on Instagram — I think that's the one where I see the most value in terms of a business point of view and visibility. Facebook is good as well. Twitter is not that great. The number of people that seek me out or interact with me on Twitter is small.

Instagram, because more people are on there and looking for that visual cue. A lot of it has to do with hashtags and how you tag your photos — that will make a big difference in terms of who sees it. I tend to post some before-and-afters, I'm not a fan of profiles that have picture after picture of before-and-afters. It doesn't say much other than, "Teeth!" And I think that's that very boring. I think some people, some practices and practitioners, go to the opposite extreme where they show every single aspect of their lives. Or they're out celebrating, popping bottles.

At least with mine, I try to keep it on that line of being professional and informative of services that I provide, answer any questions that patients may pose, and also give them a little insight into my life. Here and there, I'll post a picture of my puppies or of my girlfriend and myself at a special event — I want to humanize who I am so people can relate to me, while at the same time remaining professional. I think social media is great. I'm looking to acquire practices right now, and so many of the older dentists have absolutely no social media footprint. I look at them, they have these practices that are doing well, and I think about how much more they could be doing if they actually had Facebook, Twitter or Instagram out there to market themselves.

DMD: You're talking a lot about dentists should do on social media. What should practitioners and dental professionals avoid?

Dr. Alvarez: I think common sense comes into play here. I look at colleagues and other dentists, and I don't know that I want to see you, my dentist, in a bikini. I don't want to see you flexing your muscles and showing me your chest hair. I think it's a bit much. Keeping things professional is what should be done. Avoid anything that's going to kind of offend somebody, try to keep politics completely out of it. Don't talk about politics or religion. Be mindful that whatever you put out there is always going to be out there, and If you decide that you want to post your drunken adventure, your patients will always look at you as the dentist who got drunk. They may think, “What if they have to work on me the next day?” Younger doctors still kind of just don't know how to tow that line between being a professional and having a social life. We all like to have a nice glass of wine or whatever, but some doctors really take it to the extreme.

DMD: How else do you advertise your whitening services? When you post things online, what gets the most attention?

Dr. Alvarez: Sometimes I do email blasts within my own practice. I will post on Facebook or on Instagram something like, a new patient comes in and we'll bleach her teeth for free. Or, “If you do Invisalign or Clear Correct, then we'll bleach your teeth for free.” People who are looking at clear aligner therapy are already very aesthetic conscious, so if you're giving them the benefit of whitening their teeth, I find that's very positive for marketing whitening services. But that's more of a driver of patient traffic as opposed to driving your bleaching. When I'm doing marketing to increase the amount of people that do bleaching, I also do lips and Botox and whatnot, so I'll kind of package things with services like that.

Anytime I do veneers, I tell people, even though you're getting veneering done, you might still want to whiten underneath. In terms of getting the most response, before-and-after pictures. However, the thing that I sometimes get worried about is that sometimes people will doctor pictures. There are so many filters out there that you can put on your pictures, and you see people get results that you know really don't happen, and I think one of the worries that I get is making sure that patients have realistic expectations. I don’t want them to leave thinking, “Well, this person got whitened that much using this system, why didn't I get that?” That's something I look at when I post and I tag.

Hashtagging is the most important part of social media, particularly Instagram, because people will really look at something like tooth whitening and it may have a couple million views. "Bleaching" is not going to have the same audience. The importance of tagging must not be lost in the whole process.

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