Most dentists & dental practice owners would agree that there’s nothing like finding a good, consistent patient. But it’s hard to find a good patient if you don’t have new appointments coming in.
Some dentists have a location or word of mouth that brings in appointments with nothing but a Dentist sign on the curb. But for most dental practices, you have to go out and market your practice to get a quality pool of potential patients.
I’ve consulted on search marketing for many local businesses. One of my first clients was a family dentistry practice in Illinois. Based on those experiences, here are some dental marketing ideas that you can use to bring in more appointments.
Create City & Neighborhood-Specific Website Pages
For patients, metropolitan area searches are too big and “near me” searches are too small. City & Neighborhood searches are just right.
That may sound obvious, but most small local businesses that I’ve worked with still don’t focus their marketing on neighborhoods. It’s a lot of work. It’s tedious. But it can still be worthwhile.
If you list multiple locations on your website, simply organize them by neighborhood or city (i.e., make neighborhoods your category).
If you have a single location, create a neighborhood & next to your neighborhood pages to try to rank for “dentists in [neighborhood]” searches.
Create Niche Service Pages
Lots of patients have specific services and/or needs that they want. Instead of listing your services in a giant list, make detailed pages about each service. Try to rank for searches like “dentist with [service]”.
You can use Google Suggest for ideas. Go to Google and type in “[city] dentist with/that” and hit space, but not enter. You’ll see some suggestions.
You can do this with the entire alphabet and as many modifiers as you can think of.
Create pages that match those search queries to show up when people search.
If you want to take this to the next level, you can use a tool like SEMrush’s Keyword Explorer to provide phrase match search terms in bulk. Here’s an example report for a local business.
Create Local & Dentistry Pages
Create resource guides for people moving to your city. Create lots of them.
Use Google Autosuggest to understand what people are searching for in your city. Focus on healthcare needs. Laws, options, and providers vary wildly from city to city and state to state. Become the go-to resource for local FAQs about dentistry and healthcare. And if you don’t find enough local questions – you can always create content around broad questions.
Develop Your Local Citations & Reviews
You should already have a Google My Business profile so that you can show up in Google Maps.
But you can take it to the next level to show up even more prominently.
First, you can build your Google My Business profile with photos, posts, and full listing details.
Second, go to every local business listing site and make sure that your Business Name, Address, and Phone Number match exactly. Whether it’s on the Yellow Pages, Yelp, or elsewhere – everything must match. These are called your “local citations” and Google uses them to confirm the relevance of local business.
You can use SEMrush’s Local Listing Management Tool to audit all these listings quickly.
Third, create a local review strategy. Having diverse, unique, and regular reviews on your Google My Business page is the number one way to get more views (aka appointments) from Google Maps.
Steal Ideas from Large Local Competitors / Businesses
I’m not a fan of brainstorming. I think that it’s more effective to build off ideas that have already worked.
No matter your size, you can always look to larger competitors or larger businesses for inspiration.
With dental marketing, make a list of local businesses that you *think* are being creative – including companies in different industries. For dentists, it’s often easy enough to just check out what the top hospitals or top business practices are doing. Find what you can copy and go from there.
Like local listings and keywords, I then use a marketing tool like SEMrush to spy on those competitors. Type in the URL of a competitor below to see an example.
Here’s an example of what you’ll see.
It looks like a lot. But drill down and categorize each link. You’ll quickly get a sense of what they are doing. You’ll see where they are posting on social media. You’ll see which media outlets have accepted press releases and what types of digital marketing they’re doing.
The trick here is *not* to copy cat them. Instead, take the general idea of what your competitors have done and make it your own – or, make it better.
For example, if a local hospital gets attention in the local newspaper for providing a journalist with consumer trends – see if you can do the same. Or if a local doctor has a profile with a local healthcare directory, go get that same listing for yourself.
Work with Local Blogs & Magazines
Every city, no matter how small, has niche publications and blogs. In Atlanta, where I live, we have Atlanta Parent magazine in addition to the AJC Health Section, Best Self Atlanta, and dozens of smaller neighborhood newspapers and niche blogs / social media accounts.
Find those and become a regular fixture. All these blogs & social media accounts act on tips & press releases. Very few have a “boots on the ground” journalists. If you can be the place to provide inside information, free images, and consistent write-ups, you’ll earn attention and links.
That extra attention and those links will help every other idea on this list. Google loves links. Social media users find URLs via links.
Your neighborhood pages, local listings, service pages, and everything else on your website will benefit from more inbound links.
In other words, the links & write-ups won’t necessarily bring customers. But it will help you stand out in marketing channels that will bring in customers.
Use Hyper-Local Facebook Ads
A local business has one massive advantage against national brands trying to operate locally – you live in your city and understand it.
Facebook allows for hyper-local advertising. You can run ads that show within a radius of only a few miles. It’s tedious to set up, but it’s relevant and effective.
Learn how to create hyper-local targeting for demographics and geography to find lots of interested patients.
You can run small, targeted campaigns that show multiple places at once.
Use Hyper-Local Google Search Ads
Google Search ads are famously effective and famously expensive. The best tenant is someone who searches for “dentist in [neighborhood]”.
But that search click will be very costly.
But like Facebook, you have an “in” – Google Quality Score. Google will show ads higher if the ad is more relevant even if they don’t have the high bid.
Like Facebook, it’s tedious to set up, but if you can set up a hyper-local campaign, you’ll be able to get Google Search traffic that large competitors can’t bid on.
Use Hyper-Local Google Display Ads
Google’s Display Network also offers opportunities for local advertisers who are willing to put in the work.
Google serves banner & text ads on some of the best ad locations on the Internet. Many placements are expensive for bulk ad buys.
But again, Google would rather serve a relevant ad with a low bid than an irrelevant ad with a high bid. That’s your opportunity to set up a hyper-local campaign focused on specific demographics in a specific area.
List on Locally-Popular Review Websites
Local review websites are a dime a dozen. They will send traffic to your listing. But they are expensive and require a lot of legwork.
The key is to find a few key local review websites that are popular in your area – and list on those.
List on NextDoor & Local Forums
NextDoor is one of many local social media websites & forums. They are hard to find and hard to join, representing an opportunity for any local, enterprising dental practice. They also have an interesting new ad product for early adopters.
These local social networks are interesting because they are specifically local and extremely relevant for geographically limited businesses like dentists.
Advertise / Post on Local Subreddits
Reddit is an attractive website for many industries. But local subreddits are especially interesting for dentists for a couple of reasons.
First, they are hubs for local discussion & recommendations.
Second, they are the first place for people to plan a move visit to ask specific, local questions.
Now, they are decidedly non-commercial with lots of rules. You should get to know them before posting or commenting as a commercial entity.
However, you should explore their sidebar wiki for research.
You should get in touch with the moderators to listen to their rules about business posting. And you should look at running ads or giveaways there.
*Personal Note – I actually found my children’s pediatric dentist on the Atlanta subreddit.
Post Visual Educational Content on Instagram
Think about how you can make your Instagram feed useful instead of promotional & repurpose them across different platforms. I don’t think an office-centric or promotional feed is the route to go. Instead, be a professional curator of dental education and factoids to create a truly interesting feed on Instagram, Facebook & Twitter.
Develop a Local Resources Pinterest Board
Pinterest is an incredible resource for people looking to decorate & upgrade their living. You can get in front of prospects with a locally-focused healthcare-oriented Pinterest board.
Use local photos, lists, resources, etc from real listings to provide ideas. Pull from the local data pages mentioned earlier or visual explainers of common services.
Identify & Market Local Employers
Your patients are all working somewhere. And your prospective patients all will want a dentist near their job if they can’t have one near their home.
Identify all the largest employers & sources of potential patients nearby. Create resource pages for those employers (especially if they are large).
Create discounts, bonuses, etc. Get in touch with those employers to see if there is a way to collaborate.
Identify & Market Popular Customer Sources
Take previous & existing patients and try to understand where those tenants came from and how they found you.
See if there is a way to build off that success.
Cross-Promote Local Healthcare Professionals
Local healthcare professionals usually have an incredible offline network, but have a poor online network. If you are investing in your online marketing efforts, try to develop a relationship to cross-promote your fellow healthcare professionals.
Cross-Promote Local Businesses
Your patients will likely spend money or time nearby. Figure out what other businesses do well when you have 100% booked appointments. Look at the businesses in your shopping center or block. Offer a way to cross-promote, especially if they have multiple locations or a presence with your target patient.
Remember that even a link to your website from their website will dramatically help your other online efforts.
Use Events To Get Social Media Attention
Events like open house tours, openings, holiday showings, etc are marketing staples for many local events. They can be the same for dental practices, especially since events have a bonus effect online.
You can list them on multiple platforms to get extra exposure. Facebook is the best place for this tactic, but it also works on Google, Instagram, and event apps like Meet and Four Square. Think of events that you can hold – even if it’s as simple as a career day for the local high school.
Use Video Behind The Scenes To Hack Social Media
Like events, most social media gives preference to video in their feeds. Take interesting video tours of your office, tools, and behind the scenes.
Post the file natively to Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. Pay a small budget to boost it. And look for opportunities to embed it on your website.
Use Digital Referral Fees for Word of Mouth
Referral fees are also a staple of dental marketing. But they don’t get the same reach as digital referral codes.
Whether you use a simple bit.ly link, manually hand out custom codes (i.e., customer numbers), or use a software service – digital referral codes can help you move limited physical word of mouth to unlimited digital word of mouth.
Find & Sponsor Local Charities
Sponsoring local charities provides a few marketing benefits.
First, you can likely get a link to your website, which will help your other efforts.
Second, you can tap into a well-networked organization with lots of word of mouth potential.
Third, you can tap into neighborhood goodwill to help with soliciting reviews to help with your Google My Business efforts.
There are a lot of marketing ideas out there for dentists and dental practice owners. You don’t have to do all of them. You just have to do one or two well.
Find the one that fits your interests & resources and give it a try. Learn based on your initial experience and improve.