How to target your ideal patients with digital marketing strategies

December 18, 2018
Scott Hansen

Scott Hansen is the founder and CEO of DentistChats, a leading professionally managed website chat service exclusively for dentists. The company has grown has grown from one to more than 100 employees since 2016 and is recognized as one of the 100 fastest growing businesses in the country. After a short one-year stint as a professional soloist and chorister with a Grammy award winning choir, Scott began working with his family’s dental practice in Kansas City. As the Practice Director, he immediately started implementing innovative marketing and sales systems. Over four years, and while earning his MBA, Scott earned his family’s practice consecutive awards as one of the fastest growing businesses in the country. The practice was among the first in the country to adopt clear aligners as a long-term strategy and use technology, like online chat, to attract new patients in innovative ways.

6 tips for better utilization of the digital marketing tools at your disposal

If you’re still working under the old-fashioned model to get the word out about your dental practice, it’s time to revise your strategy. In the past, you could open your doors, put an ad in the local paper, send out some postcards and that was enough; in today’s world of online reviews, social media, and targeted ads, this doesn’t work.

The good news is that modern marketing is much more efficient and gives you the potential to reach your ideal patient with a relatively small spend. A newspaper ad goes to thousands of homes where it might be read by that household’s decision-maker. It’s a shotgun approach, but targeted online marketing gives you a laser sight.

With a little planning and creativity, you can target your ideal patients, use online tools to reach them in your local market and achieve the explosive growth your dental practice needs to thrive. You don’t have to sink a lot of time or money into it. The key is making it a priority and following through.

The ideal patient

Why does finding the ideal patient matter? Doesn’t everyone in your area need a good dentist?

While it’s true that dental services are a universal need, not everyone needs or wants the same things. If you run a pediatric dental practice, should you be targeting senior citizens? How do you know you’re targeting the right decision-maker? Teens rely on their parents to decide which dentist to visit. One spouse might rely on the other to choose. All of these factors inform the way you market and to whom, making your marketing spend more efficient and effective.

Related reading: The importance of online dental practice marketing

In addition, social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram favor ads that have high relevance for their target audience. When a potential patient sees a native ad on these platforms with high relevance, the ad feels less like an ad and more like a normal part of their news feed. This makes them more likely to like, comment, or share and add organic reach to your paid boost. With higher relevance, you get broader reach and cheaper ads.

Zeroing in

Start by identifying your ideal, decision-making patient. What is their gender? What is their age? Are they married? Do they have children at home? Where do they live? Get creative: imagine their hobbies and interests; Likes and dislikes; aspirations, goals, and annoyances

Once you have created a profile of your ideal patient, use a phased approach for marketing to this person or similar people. Start with low-cost, hyper-focused Facebook ads, as well as Google AdWords and other digital marketing platforms like Instagram. 

Being responsive

Before your ideal patient decides to schedule an appointment with you, they will check you out online, scoping out your website and reading reviews on Google, Yelp, and Facebook. There are some steps you can take to make sure that what they see there is as positive as you can make it.

First, make it easy for patients to leave reviews for you, especially when they’re happy. Put links on your website and use a service like TextRequest to send review links to your patients. 

Related reading: 4 signs your online reputation may be at risk

You can ask patients to review you, too. When a patient gives you or your staff a verbal compliment, respond with, “Thanks so much! Would you mind to write us an online review so we can share what you have to say? It would mean the world to us.” 

It’s vital to respond to every review, including the less-than-stellar ones, to show that you are genuinely concerned about your patients. Don’t discuss treatment or specifics of their visit online since that would be a breach of patient privacy. Instead, thank them for their feedback, respond with something like, “This is not how we have developed a reputation for providing exceptional service,” and tell them that someone will contact them directly within the hour.

Getting creative

Once you have these strategies in place, it’s okay to have a little fun and think outside the box for your marketing. There are plenty of real-world marketing strategies that will work well for your dental practice as long as you keep targeting in mind. 

Consider attending one community event per month that you think your ideal patient might attend. You could have a booth at a fall festival, hand out toothbrushes instead of candy in the community Christmas parade or donate dental hygiene items to a local charity. 

These events not only establish you as an involved community member, they help you generate social media content as well. As a rule of thumb, wait until you have pictures or videos that your target audience will engage with, (i.e content they’ll ‘like,’ comment on, or share). Some people recommend a set social media schedule of posting a certain number of times per week. The reality is that post engagement is more important than number of posts, and if you’re spamming your followers’ feeds, they might unfollow you.

Setting goals

How will you know when your marketing efforts pay off? Start by setting goals before you launch your campaign. Just make sure your goals are realistic and SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound). Be careful to manage expectations versus reality when setting goals. Growth in your dental practice will take time to achieve as you gain momentum and build on previous successes.

Time to launch

Revamping the marketing strategy for your dental practice is not something you can put on the back burner. Make marketing a priority. Put planning and careful thought into targeting your ideal patient. Then, put your plan into action. Getting the word out to the people who will need and appreciate your services most isn’t just in your best interest. It’s a service to those potential patients as well.