21 Ways You Can Attract New Patients to Grow Your Dental Practice
by Tyson Downs
*This post was originally published September 17, 2015 and extensively updated June 03, 2021.
If you just start a dental practice and you’re wondering how to get more new patients to your dental practice, then you're in luck. We are going to discuss how to grow a dental practice by getting patients to stay, pay, and refer using 21 effective healthcare marketing strategies.
More new dental practices are coming on the scene every year, while patients are going to the dentist less and less.
And each one of them is thinking:
"How do I increase patient volume in a dental office?"
More competition for fewer patients can seem pretty bleak unless you know the proven dental marketing tips to attract new patients. We've put together 21 dental marketing ideas that you can use to get more patients in your dental office by building patient loyalty and getting your current patients to refer their friends and family to you.
Before we get started, one thing real quick.
While this list of ideas will help you understand how to attract new patients to your dental practice, it requires action on your part. If you read the post and don't take action, then these methods and strategies won't help you reach your goal of attracting new dental patients and growing your practice.
1. Create an Optimized, Responsive Website
First impressions are everything.
Your website can't simply be a generic website that a large dental marketing company created by copying the site from thousands of others. Websites are meant to be engaging and interactive, but this is often overlooked by dentists. When someone visits your website, you need to have all things in place so you can convert that visitor into a new patient.
In other words, your website's primary purpose should be to drive prospective patients to your practice. Think of your website as a full-time salesperson that is working 24x7 for your practice.
Good websites cost money. Yes, you can put up a homemade website for a few hundred dollars, but it will likely not draw as much attention and convert as well as a professionally-built site.
Consider the benefits of having a professional dental website, designed by an agency that understands design concepts, user experience, the dental industry, and SEO. Properly done, a dental website will be an excellent marketing tool for you, provided the website has:
- Uncluttered, mobile-friendly web design
- Simple navigation
- An informative blog
- Pictures of dentists, hygienists, and offices
- Prominent contact info
- Reviews and testimonials
- On-page SEO
Any up-front costs you accrue in building an optimized website should be easily earned back. Your website should work for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, helping you to attract more patients. You should be able to recoup the cost as long as you are marketing your website effectively.
Consider developing a website that funnels patients towards setting an appointment. Be sure that your contact information is readily accessible and give your patients & potential patients multiple contact options.
Ask some of your long-term patients to write you a testimonial that you can use for your website. A video testimonial is even better! Hopefully, your marketing strategy includes a way for you to get online reviews, because reviews are truly the new word of mouth. If you have reviews online already, such as on your Google listing, then go ahead and use those reviews for your website. If you don't have a strategy in place to get more reviews from your existing patients, then check out the resource below to help you get started.
Highlight patient testimonials on your website and social media accounts to help build trust with future patients.
Remember, your website isn't for you. It is for your potential patients and existing patients. Try and put yourself in their shoes. Doing so will help you have a website that converts.
2. Stand Out from the Crowd
Attracting patients to a new practice can be difficult if you don’t stand out from the crowd. Depending on where you’re located, there could be several dental practices to choose from in your area.
One of the problems is that most people already have a dentist they see regularly or irregularly. They know the doctor and their insurance is on file. So why switch?
You can differentiate yourself by developing a unique selling proposition (USP) for your brand as part of your dental marketing strategy. A lot of practices go for the “luxury dentistry” USP to help them stand out. Although, you can also dig into your specialties, such as:
- Sedation dentistry
- Oral sleep appliances
It’s a great idea to focus on your unique services and other things that differentiate you, such as after-hours or emergency dentistry. Make it prominent in your dental marketing materials, including social media and your website.
Keeping your office technologies current also helps to attract new patients and keeps existing patients sticking around. In addition to using all the current dental technologies, be sure to let people know on your dental website that you are using these state-of-the-art technologies. People like to go to a dentist who keeps up to date on technology because, let's face it, the technology is meant to make the patient experience better.
Some dentists offer a spa-like experience at their practice. Others are continually adding dental amenities so that when prospective patients are looking for a new dentist, they stand out from the crowd. If you have patients that are on the fence about returning, offering the right amenities can be the difference between keeping a family of existing patients and losing them.
In addition to providing marketing materials in your office, make sure it is comfortable and provides amenities like drinking water, comfortable chairs, current magazines, and other niceties.
3. Sponsor Local Events
One of the most effective methods to attract patients to a new practice is to get involved in the community!
Sponsoring local events is a great strategy for your dental marketing plan. For example, become a sponsor for a charity event or community organization.
Especially if you’re just starting, having your name or logo at a local event will help build brand awareness. If there’s a concert or race involved, send one of your employees down to hand out fliers and coupons to attract new patients.
You can also host your own events in the community, and they don’t even need to be related to dentistry.
Take some inspiration from Collins Dentistry for Children in New Hampshire. At various points in their history, they have hosted and sponsored all sorts of events for children as part of their dental office promotions, including their Annual Child Safety Fair, the Promote Good Oral Hygiene event, and more.
4. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO is no longer the simple “stuff it with keywords” strategy. It isn't even a 'the most backlinks win' strategy anymore.
SEO has evolved to where you likely need the help of a professional.
The truth is unless you are in a small town, or a very non-competitive area, you likely won't rank well in the search results unless you have an effective and well-thought-out SEO strategy that you pay attention to on an ongoing basis.
The question you want to ask any person or company you are considering hiring for SEO is this: what is an appropriate and realistic goal concerning SEO? Ultimately, the goal should be to drive revenue growth through an increased online presence. How does that happen? By getting more new patients.
Of course, that is the ultimate goal. Initially, there will likely be others such as improving your website's rankings in the search results, attracting more visitors to your website, and increasing your call volume.
A true SEO professional will also understand conversion rate optimization. This means they will understand how to optimize your website so you can convert as many website visitors in need of a new dentist as possible. An SEO professional will also help set up your website so more new patient appointments are gained from it.
Once you rank well, and you are getting a good amount of traffic to your site, be sure to spend some time and money on the optimization of your site.
There are different SEO strategies, including local and organic search. Each has a different impact on your conversion rate. Talk to an expert about the strategy that will work best for you before you get started and remember that it’s not just about basic keywords.
Typically, dental SEO is what will be most important for a dentist because they are targeting people in a specific area, and want to show up in the Google local service ads results, as seen below:
Now, Google not only shows local listings but also highlights businesses with the best reviews and prioritizes them on mobile searches. This is to make it easier for people on the go to find the business they are looking for.
According to Google, “50% of consumers who conducted a local search on their smartphone visited a store within a day, and 34% who searched on computer/tablet did the same.”
You want to optimize for location-specific keywords so that people searching for dental offices near you will find your website. Here are some examples of location-specific keywords:
- [Your city] dentist
- [Your neighborhood] dentist
- [Your zip code] dental office
You should also optimize for keywords related to your specialty (e.g., Portland dental implants).
One way you can minimize competition is by targeting long-tail keywords. Patients are looking for solutions when they search online, and oftentimes these solutions have many words, called long-tail keywords. Examples would be:
- dentist in Salt Lake City that does teen Invisalign
- zoom teeth whitening dentist in SLC
So, focus on long-tail keywords that revolve around solving the dental problems that people have.
Search engine optimization is an ever-changing art, so you should probably enlist the help of a marketing professional (preferably a dental marketing professional) to decide what keywords to target and how.
Implementing the proper keyword research and long-tail keywords, will no doubt put you in a good spot when it comes to your online presence and Google search results.
5. Focus On Getting Positive Reviews
If you want to get new dental patients choosing your dental office in online searches, positive reviews are a must. Dental practices that don't prioritize reviews have no online reviews to speak of. Here's the hard truth about that:
Nobody is going to choose a dentist with no reviews over a dentist with dozens of positive reviews. Your online reputation is so critical and paramount when it comes to your digital presence, that it could take you from average production volume to as full as you want to be.
The truth is, reviews are the number one factor people consider when making a purchase decision. So, if you’ve landed a few patients through your employees or friends, ask them very nicely to write a review.
Yelp, Facebook, and Google Reviews are the biggest ones to pay attention to for local businesses. If someone uses Google search or Google Maps to find your dental practice they will easily be able to see your Google reviews right along with your address.
So do your best to get those first crucial reviews, then encourage all your future patients to continue by adding to your reviews.
Don’t pay people for positive reviews, as that is against Google’s terms of service. That said, a gentle nudge to patients after an appointment or a reminder via email or text after they have left the office should be enough to get them to write a review.
While on the topic of reviews, remember to deal with negative reviews quickly. Ignoring them will only compound the issue. Respond to all your reviews, both positive and negative, and take the time to clarify your position when you get a negative review. Sometimes having an explanation from the business is enough to convince people that the issue was a one-time occurrence.
As we mentioned earlier, be sure to read our guide to review management to learn how to get more reviews and how to appropriately respond to reviews and manage your reputation online.
Consider a review system to help you get more reviews. These review systems can automate and simplify your review efforts.
6. Directory Listings
To get new dental patients to schedule treatment, directory listings are low-hanging fruit. People searching for dental offices in an online directory are just the kind of patients you want to target. They either don’t have a dentist or are looking to switch.
So, make sure you have listings on Yelp, Better Business Bureau, HealthGrades, Vitals, Angie’s List, and any other directory you can think of.
More importantly, make sure your listings on these sites are completely consistent.
Again, it’s all about Google and other search engines. They pay attention to your business listings around the web to determine how to rank your website in local search. If your name, address, and phone number (NAP) aren’t consistent, your site will rank lower.
One mistake we often see is people listing their business name on one directory (e.g., Redmond Dental Center) and their own name on another (e.g., Jane Doe, DDS: Redmond). Go back through and change it so you are using the same naming convention everywhere.
7. Distribute Press Releases
If you want to attract patients to a new practice, press releases are a great place to start. They are an important part of many dental marketing campaigns. I’m not talking about “Hey, we’re in business!” notifications. Send press releases about subjects that interest people.
Whenever something dentistry-related reaches the national news, add your two cents on a local level. Here are some great example headlines from The Institute of Dental CPAs:
- “Dentist Says Needle and Drill Nearly Obsolete”
- “Cosmetic Dentistry Demand Running High”
- “Sioux City Dentist Goes High-Tech with Newly Approved Laser”
Also, Take advantage of the news when the FDA approves the use of new technologies in dentistry. The possibilities are endless.
8. Pay-Per-Click Advertising (PPC)
PPC is one of the most common marketing ideas for dentists you hear about. Google Ads is the largest pay-per-click (PPC) platform. With Google, PPC ads appear above organic search results, making it easy for your target audience to see them.
They work well because you target specific keywords, like with SEO. This ensures the ads are relevant to whatever people are searching for.
The good news is, you don’t have to pay to display the ads, you only pay when people click on them. Every time someone clicks this ad, you pay Google a small amount. While this amount varies depending on how competitive your industry and the local market are, a good agency can get you a lower rate compounded with higher conversions.
That said, the cost-per-click for dental ads can be expensive ($2-$15). To avoid paying out a large amount of money for ads that aren't effective, remember to optimize the right keywords. Don’t immediately choose keywords that have the most competition, as you will eat into your budget quickly. Also, consider the day of the week your PPC ads are shown. Some days have a higher click-through rate than others. Finally, narrow down the audience to be specific to your area and the demographics you serve at your dental clinic.
We wrote a post recently about using a local PPC management company for your paid advertising so make sure to check that out.
9. Seek Patient referrals With A Patient Referral Program
First, let’s agree that if a current patient refers someone to you, you’re likely to get that business. Someone testifying to your excellence as a dental practitioner, such as a satisfied patient, will convert someone into a new patient for you in much less time than it would take for you to convince them yourself.
Patient referrals are a great way to get more patients into your practice, even if you are just starting out. Those first few patients you get will serve as an essential voice in attracting more patients during your first year.
There are a lot of dental referral program ideas you can try. Encourage patients by offering a referral bonus program, such as a free cleaning or a special discount whenever they refer a friend. All you have to do is hand out a simple referral card at the end of the appointment that explains the deal.
You might also consider a referral program where if a patient refers a friend, and that friend books an appointment (and actually shows up), you reward the referring patient with free movie tickets or another valuable freebie.
Even if you don’t have a single patient yet, you can always use the strategy with your employees. They probably have plenty of friends and family in town, so encourage them to refer to your practice.
It may seem old-fashioned to focus on word-of-mouth marketing, but in the Internet age, even word-of-mouth marketing isn’t what it seems. It may seem simple. Be a great dentist and patients will refer new patients to you. With the power of the Internet, you can take it a few steps further.
10. Social Media Marketing (SMM)
If you want to attract dental patients to your new office, social media is something you'll want to try. Having a presence on social websites like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and more helps give your brand a human element.
Social media is an extremely powerful tool for online marketing. However, many businesses are approaching social marketing in the wrong manner.
Don’t be one of those businesses that set automatic posts without engaging with the readers of those posts. The more posts you publish every day, the less engagement you will see from your followers. Brands that post to social media twice a day only receive 57% of the likes and 78% of the comments per post according to Track Social.
You’re not just on social media to advertise your practice but to engage with your audience and show what life is really like at your dental practice. Use hashtags related to your industry to start participating in wider conversations:
You can also use social media to cross-promote your other tactics to get new patients. If you’re sponsoring a local event, use the event hashtags.
Make sure someone is monitoring your social media accounts for mentions of your dental practice. Have them reach out to potential patients in the area that may be looking for a dental practice. This is a simple strategy that can bring you patients that are in a hurry to get to a dental practice but don’t have the local knowledge to choose one.
Social media is also an important platform for customer service. If you have any disgruntled patients, they may air their complaints on your Twitter profile or Facebook page. Take this as an opportunity to publicly address any problems they may have. This will give your business a positive image to others.
Here are a couple of statistics from SmileSaavy that demonstrate the importance of including social media in your online marketing strategy:
- 40% of consumers say they use the information they find on social media to make health decisions
- 71% of consumers who receive a quick response from a business to a complaint on social media would recommend that business to others.
If you do maintain a presence on Facebook or Instagram, you want to use online tools to monitor your social mentions.
11. Offer New Patient Specials
According to research by the Healthy Policy Institute, 22.9% of adults say they are unsure or don’t plan to visit a dentist in the next 12 months. The top reason? Cost.
If you want to attract patients to your dental practice, new patient specials are the solution. People tend to avoid routine dental care and treatments because of cost, but if you offer a special discount, they are more likely to respond.
Use a new patient special to get people to book that first appointment, then you can nurture them as recurring patients for years to come. Here are some examples of simple incentives you can give:
- Free teeth whitening
- Money off Invisalign treatment
- Discount service bundles (e.g., oral exam, cleaning, and X-ray)
Whatever new patient special you decide to offer, just make sure it beats your competitors and communicates your USP. Remember, when you’re first starting, it’s not going to be helpful to offer the same deal as four other dental practices in your area.
12. Ad Retargeting
SEO and PPC are great marketing ideas for dentists, but ad retargeting is an effective tool that can make it easy to expand your practice. The idea behind ad retargeting is that it enables you to connect with people who are already interested in your practice.
For example, someone visits your website, but they don’t book an appointment, sign up for your mailing list, or anything else. Cookies from your site are placed on their browser, so when they leave your site, they see advertisements for your business in other places on the web.
There are two main platforms you can use for ad retargeting right now:
- Google Display Network
Facebook will display advertisements for your business right in people’s newsfeeds or in the sidebar on the desktop.
Google has a network of websites around the web where it displays advertisements. You can even target specific kinds of websites for your retargeting ad to appear on.
Like Google Ads PPC, retargeting works well because the ads are relevant. These ads display only to people in your target audience who are already browsing around for a new dentist, and you want to make sure your business stays fresh in their minds.
It is possible they don’t need a dentist right now, but they’re looking for one for a later time. Having your advertisement show up now and then is a great way to make sure your dental practice stays at the top of their minds.
Retargeting works best if you segment your potential patients and show them different ads based on their interests. For example, you can segment them by the pages they visit on your website to show them ads for services they are interested in.
13. Seek Business Referrals
Business referrals are another great way to get more patients into your practice. Develop a relationship with other businesses in town and you can work together to refer each other customers.
Working with a person/business related to yours, such as an oral surgeon or orthodontist, will get you the most relevant and valuable referrals. You can also partner with unrelated businesses and display fliers of each other's services in your offices.
If your office is located in a complex with other businesses, offer your dental services to your neighbors. Convenience is important for people working 9-5 jobs. If you have extended hours, it’s a perfect solution to their dental needs. Have one of your staff members hand-deliver a letter of invitation to other businesses around you.
Use a service like Redi Comps to get a list of new homeowners in your area, and then have a mailer designed somewhere like VistaPrint or Click2Mail. Some essentials to include in your postcard mailer include:
- A visually striking design
- An attractive offer
- A call to action with prominent contact information
If you use this strategy, make sure to offer to reciprocate by referring your staff or patients to your referral partners.
14. Offer a Membership Plan
One way to get patients to stay, pay, and refer is to offer them a membership plan that provides them with basic services in return for an annual fee. Dental membership plans might not be widespread yet, but they can be a good option for patients who aren't insured or have limited insurance.
According to an ADA article, a membership could work as follows. Say that your practice charges $200 for a full exam and cleaning and $35 for a bitewing x-ray. You could offer an annual membership for $450 that covers the following things:
- Two exams
- Two cleanings
- Two bitewing x-rays
- 15% off all additional services
The dentist mentioned in the article also added a $55 annual treatment credit that rolls over when membership is renewed. You could even offer a monthly payment plan to make the membership deal more enticing to your patients.
15. Start a Practice Blog
Did you know that blogging is one of the best ways to connect with your target audience and attract patients to your dental clinic? Companies who incorporate blogging into their marketing strategies attract, on average, 67% more leads than companies that don't have blogs.
Blogging is effective! Google and other search engines prioritize websites with fresh content. Each time you add a blog post to your website, you add a new page for Google to index. You can optimize each post for a different keyword, answer common questions, and generally make it easy for new patients to find your website.
In addition to helping with SEO, adding a dental blog to your website is the perfect opportunity to highlight members of your dental team, explain procedures, and ease patients' anxieties about dental care.
The best part is, you don't need to blog every day to get great results. Blogging as little as twice a month can help you increase the rank of your website and answer patient questions.
16. Offer 24/7 Online Appointment Scheduling
One of the biggest mistakes dental professionals make with their websites is putting obstacles in the way of new visitors who may want to make an appointment. Even when your office is closed, you can provide excellent customer service by making it possible for patients to book an appointment at any time and on any day they visit your website.
The good news is that this is an easy fix. Dental practice management software almost always includes a patient booking option that you can add to your practice website. With a few clicks, patients can book an appointment that your staff can confirm as needed.
Patient reviews are more likely to be positive if you make it easy for people to choose you as their dentist. A positive patient experience starts the very first time someone visits your website.
17. Print and Distribute Flyers
Printed marketing materials might seem a little old-fashioned in a world that's turned to digital marketing as the default, but the truth is that patients walk into dental clinics after learning about them in a variety of ways. You shouldn't rule out print marketing as a way of increasing brand awareness and attracting potential new patients.
A well-designed flyer can do a lot to let people know about your practice. You can mail flyers directly to your current patients or to former patients you haven't seen in a while. You can also give a stack to other local businesses and ask them to display them to help you -- in return for displaying some of their marketing materials.
Flyers are an effective way to announce new patient specials and get more dental patients. Best of all, they don't cost much. Also, you can easily print and copy them yourself if you prefer.
18. Be as Flexible as Possible with Payment
The ability to pay for necessary dental services and treatments is a concern for many people. While some companies offer dental insurance, many do not. For patients who have avoided dental care out of an inability to pay, the thought of booking an appointment may be upsetting at best.
One way you can get more patients in the door is by being willing to work with them on payment. There are multiple options, including:
- Partnering with an outside financing company to allow patients to borrow what they need and pay it off gradually
- Accepting credit card payments
- Offering in-house payment plans where patients make an initial deposit and pay off the rest of their balance in increments
- Offering a discount for patients who pay upfront
Of course, you'll need to weigh payment flexibility against the potential for ongoing delinquency. Your staff may have a little extra work following up on scheduled payments. However, there are solutions. For example, you could set up an email list to send out automated payment requests for patients who have agreed to a payment plan.
You are more likely to have happy patients if you are willing to work with them on payment and be empathetic to their needs.
19. Radio Advertising
Radio advertising is an option you may not have considered to encourage patients to choose your practice for their next dental treatment. It's less expensive than television advertising and it may help patients who hear your ads remember you the next time they need cleaning or an orthodontist for their child.
It might surprise you to learn that approximately 92% of all Americans listen to the radio at least once a week. Keep in mind that this statistic encompasses both traditional and online radio.
Most people who listen do so in their cars, but some listen at home. If you have room in your marketing budget, radio ads can help you to connect with local audiences and keep them informed about your practice and the services you offer.
20. Offer Teledentistry
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the patient demand for telehealth and teledentistry has dramatically increased. Teledentistry allows dentists to connect with patients remotely, do preliminary exams, and recommend services and treatments while minimizing the risk for patients and staff members.
We anticipate that teledentistry will continue to be a trend. As a provider, it can help you see more patients in a day and potentially, increase your profits by making it easier for patients to contact you when they have a problem.
Teledentistry is beneficial for your patients because it's convenient. Your current patients may be more likely to refer their friends to you if you offer teledentistry.
21. Expand Your Services
The last of our 21 dental marketing ideas is to expand your services to get more patients for your practice. A lot of dentists specialize and doing so may be beneficial, but if you limit yourself too much it can turn into a problem.
For example, if you've never considered offering cosmetic dentistry, you may want to consider adding whitening services and other cosmetic options to help patients get the smiles they deserve. Or you could expand into family dentistry by making your office more kid-friendly.
Another way that dentists are attracting new patients is by embracing new technology. For example, investing in lasers and other high-tech treatment options lets people in your area know that your practice stays on top of dental trends and prioritizes patient comfort.
You don't need to offer every service under the sun, but expanding your available services just a bit can help you attract more patients and get more referrals.
Need Help Attracting New Patients and Growing Your Dental Practice?
The 21 dental practice marketing ideas we have listed here can help you hold on to the patients you have, encourage them to pay more quickly, and make them eager to refer their friends and family to your practice instead of to your competitors' practices.
Titan Web Agency can help you attract more patients by implementing these ideas. We hope to hear from you!
About the Author
Tyson Downs, the owner of Titan Web Agency, has years of experience working with small businesses and helping them meet their revenue goals. Prior to starting Titan Web Agency, he freelanced in SEO and Web Design while working in the corporate world. Tyson is a graduate of Brigham Young University, the father of 5, and enjoys spending time with his family. Particularly on the baseball field.