Many dental professionals ask the same question in the current financial environment: “How do I increase patient volume?” Oral healthcare providers consistently face the challenge of attracting new patients. This endeavor may prove demanding, especially in a crowded market during a possible economic downturn. Factoring patient retention into this formula creates an even greater predicament.
According to a 2023 study by the Health Policy Institute and the American Dental Association (ADA), less than 25% of practice owners have confidence in an economic recovery for their offices soon. That is a daunting outlook, and the topic is especially vital for new dental clinics.
But do not be afraid.
New patient growth is attained with a business-savvy mind, embracing digital change, identifying necessary actions, and following prescriptive steps to achieving goals The growth of many dental facilities stemmed from technological advances in imaging tools, teledentistry, and 3D printing. We have some proven approaches to help you succeed in drawing more patients going forward through smart marketing, adding more treatments, and in-practice programs.
How to get more dental patients
The dilemma of attracting new patients to a dental practice is not uncommon. But what has sustained dentists in the past may not work as well in the digital era. How do you construct a balanced method comprising traditional efforts for offline patients and modern ones for those who utilize technology and social media? The answer is that you have to ask the right questions.
Questions must be answered for each practice to determine its new direction. From that starting point, primary importance is placed on developing a comprehensive marketing strategy based on budget constraints, overall needs, and competitors’ offerings.
Develop a comprehensive dental marketing plan
A comprehensive marketing plan should comprise online and offline strategies to attract patients, including search engine optimization, social media marketing, email campaigns, and traditional advertising methods. The Dandy Dental Study: Patient Experience found what patients, particularly new ones, seek:
- Same or next-day appointments
- Night or weekend hours
- Minimal waiting room time
- Convenient locations
High-performing offices address these issues by:
- Minimizing cancellations with reminders
- Maximizing efficiency by seeing more patients per day
- Increasing case acceptance
- Improving communication with patient communication technology
To formulate a good marketing approach, be prepared to answer questions on subjects like:
- Practice size and desired demographics: Does your practice cater to a particular segment of patients, such as pediatrics, geriatric, or the general population? Are you a boutique practice, or does it serve a larger demography? These points influence and streamline your choice of advertising and budget.
- Technology: Dental technology is constantly progressing; many patients seek offices with a tech edge. AI-powered imaging tools, teledentistry, and onsite 3D printing are differentiators. Consider it an investment with a definite Return on Investment (ROI). Tools like an Intraoral Scanner (IOS) improve workflow and patient experience. Also, practice management software and other tech automate your practice, enabling efficiency and growth.
- Level of care for patients and patient experience: Some practices create a patient experience through office aesthetics or a class of patient care, such as a concierge service. Think about the patient experience you want to establish for your practice and go for it. However, there are standards to be set against your competition, which takes some comparison investigation.
- Solo or multiple practitioners: Are you the sole practitioner, or are there other providers? How will this affect the amount of new patients you will need?
- Available budget to create changes: Budgets are not just about allocating funds towards initiatives. It is about understanding the value of investing in the right endeavors to provide a return. The Pareto Principle or Rule states that 80% of your return or outcomes derive from 20% of your investment or efforts. Develop a plan that focuses on your top 20% problems.
- Staffing: Dental teams should be well-educated, experienced, and composed of individuals with an excellent chair-side manner. The same holds for front office staff. Your focus is to enhance the patient experience.
- Establish the percentage of patient attrition: On average, dental practices lose 17 to 25% of their patient base yearly. The deterioration of patients is primarily due to loss of insurance and job changes. Also, staff size will impact patient loss due to the inability to serve them efficiently.
- The number of new patients: You need to improve the overall value of your patient base. But how many need to cross your threshold? This number varies between practices. Statistics show that a single provider or a dentist, part of a more considerable practice, needs 20 to 25 new patients each month to mitigate patient loss.
- Utilize email marketing campaigns: Are you sending regular newsletters and updates to your patient list to inform them about your dental services and any special offers? Email marketing campaigns help you stay connected with your existing patients, share news and promotions, and encourage referrals.
Monitor and analyze marketing performance: Tools like Google Analytics track your website’s performance, measure the success of your marketing campaigns, and make data-driven decisions. Monitoring and analyzing marketing performance is essential for identifying areas for improvement and bettering your strategies for raising results.
Understand patient demand and target your ideal patients
Understanding the needs and concerns of your target audience is at the top of your list. But who is your target audience? Here is some exciting news to factor into your strategy: women are responsible for 70 to 80% of all consumer purchases in the US and make most healthcare and dental buying decisions. Consequently, research shows that women need to hear your Unique Value Proposition (UVP). A UVP includes:
- Relevancy: Explain how your products or services solve customers’ problems or improve their situation.
- Value: Deliver specific benefits that can be assessed, quantified, and tracked. Other metrics to check include the following:
- Impressions: This is not made with alginate or an IOS device. It is the number of people who view your advertising content. Warning: this does not include repeat views of your online content.
- Visits: This refers to how many people visit your website. It doesn’t account for how long they stay on the site.
- Leads: You need to know how many leads your marketing efforts generate.
- Conversion rate: How many leads convert to actionable responses to your marketing motions.
- Lead close rate: Are your leads turning into patients? This number shows if your marketing efforts are strategically successful.
- Cost per lead: How much money do you spend on each lead? By breaking down the total amount spent per lead, you will know if it costs you too much or not enough.
- Cost per acquisition: Discovering how much you spend on conversions helps adjust your fee schedule to accommodate the cost.
- Differentiation: This strategy effort informs potential customers why they should choose you and your services over the competition.
Statistics show that women have considerable purchasing power that shouldn’t be ignored. Researchers and marketers call it the Female Economy or “SHEconomy.” Women investigate, respond to online reviews, listen to, and give more referrals than men. They also make most of the healthcare decisions. Marketing to women is a significant opportunity in today’s economy.
Knowing your market focus enables you to design messages that resonate and encourage people to take action. Building trust with patients is particularly important, as they will recommend your services to friends and family. So, address oral health concerns and showcase your expertise in your marketing materials.
Marketing playbooks must be rooted in a tangible UVP regardless of your marketing methods. The beginning efforts should focus on your website, which will be the face of your marketing efforts and your voice to potential patients.
Craft and optimize a user-friendly website for dental patients
Standing out in a crowd takes work. Your website can be a make-or-break effort in the virtual world. An optimized dental practice website is essential for attracting new patients and retaining existing ones.
To accomplish this goal, your website must be user-friendly, informative, and easy to navigate. You want to engage potential patients and provide a seamless experience.
Your website should include:
- An appealing home page
- A list of provided dental services
- Contact information
- Online scheduling capability
- An embedded map with your practice’s address
- Clear, high-quality photos of your dentists, hygienists, and other personnel
- A blog about your practice or dentistry in general
- Positive reviews and testimonials from current patients
- Links to your social media pages
Also, make sure your site translates to mobile devices. In our smartphone-centric age, websites need to be mobile-friendly.
Boost your online presence with SEO.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is vital in attracting new dental patients. Following SEO best practices—including relevant dental keywords and backlinking to trusted sources—you can be among the first results when someone Googles “dentists near me.”
Utilize various online resources to learn SEO basics and increase your dental clinic’s brand awareness. However, there are three different types of SEO tactics.
- Local SEO: Increases views in local online search results and generates patient leads. Keep your business information accurate and up-to-date. It attracts more local patients and enhances your practice’s online presence. To improve your local SEO:
- Claim your dental practice page on significant directories like Google My Business.
- List your business on Bing Places for Business.
- Optimize your website with local keywords and location-specific content.
- Encourage online reviews from satisfied patients.
- On-page SEO: Enlarges your dental website’s reach and individual web pages to boost ranking in search engine results. Implement strategies that drive potential patients to your website, such as keyword optimization, meta tags, content optimization, and website structure improvements.
- Off-page SEO: Focuses on improving your website’s reputation and authority through activities outside the website. These activities include building backlinks, generating positive reviews, and increasing social signals. Positive reviews on platforms like Google boost your online reputation and search engine rankings. Satisfied patient reviews are critical. Respond professionally to negative feedback to maintain a positive online image.
New patient promotions: Incentives for growth
Once new patients discover your practice online and your dental office is ready to receive more interest, incentivize people to walk through your doors. Deliver relevant dental services by expanding your repertoire and enhancing the patient experience for current and new patients. Some dental marketing ideas include:
- Hosting local events
- Collaborating with local businesses
- Encourage patients to leave positive reviews online.
If your budget allows, engage a marketer or an agency that demonstrates domain knowledge and aids other medical practices. If the budget isn’t there, consider independent or contract workers who will bring your initiatives to life. Finding freelancers through word of mouth or websites like Fiverr, Upwork, or MarketHire is a step in the right direction. Be sure to check references and gravitate toward sites that vet their participants.
Alternatively, try hiring office staff to assist you with online communication and social media. Evaluate hiring office staff that also work with you on your marketing plan and create or update your website. Here are a few more ideas to incorporate into your marketing programs.
- Implement in-office promotions, seasonal offers, and event specials: Offer unique promotions and specials, such as free consultations or discounted dental services, to differentiate your practice. Ensure your promotions are better than competing dental practices and communicate your unique selling points.
- Loyalty programs: Ensuring patients return–ensuring patients return–marketing to your customer base impacts retention. Try incentives like:
- $100 off an oral exam and routine cleaning
- A free teeth whitening kit
- A $50 gift card for a future visit
- A discounted multi-service bundle
- Offer flexible payment options: Cost is a significant prevention for people. To draw on-the-fence patients into your practice, offer promotions that keep bills low for first-time visits. Flexible payment options also make dental care more accessible and attract more patients to your practice. Some possibilities include Financing plans, Discounts, and In-house payment plans.
The trick to attracting new patients through promos is having the best offers in your area. The goal is to convince a patient to choose you over another dentist. Research nearby dental practices to provide a steeper discount or a better package.
Offer comprehensive dental services through new dental technology and innovation
Your dental services offerings should be broad, including preventive, restorative, and cosmetic treatments. Still, there are so many more offerings that increase patient volume. More services make your practice highly convenient for them to receive the dental care they require, especially when they have dental insurance. Another benefit to more services is that it sets your practice apart from competitors who offer limited services. That is a compelling reason to integrate new dental technology into your workflows.
Embrace and invest in advanced dental technology
Investing in advanced dental technology benefits the patient experience, increases efficiency, and attracts tech-savvy patients. Incorporating cutting-edge equipment and tools provides higher-quality dental care, streamlines your practice’s operations, and reduces chairside time.
In a world of high-tech, smart devices, there’s an expectation that everything should work quickly, smoothly, and conveniently. Meet consumer expectations by moving away from traditional processes and toward digital dentistry. This transition is achieved by gradually incorporating digital tools into your practice, training your staff to use them, and educating your patients about their benefits.
New dental technology to look into includes:
- Intraoral scanners: These handheld tools produce high-quality digital scans that create digital dental models, which makes obtaining an oral impression more effortless—for patients and dentists.
- Digital record-keeping: Eliminating paperwork speeds up processes, improves patient access to files, and reduces office clutter.
- CAD/CAM dentistry: Computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) allow for a much quicker design and creation of crowns, dentures, and more.
In addition to your dental practice offerings, consider tele-dentistry services. Providing tele-dentistry services, such as remote consultations, builds patient convenience and attracts new patients. Virtual appointments for preliminary exams and dental treatment recommendations cater to patients who may have difficulty attending in-person appointments or prefer virtual consultations. Embracing tele-dentistry services expands your practice’s reach.
Add services to your dental practice
By adding more offerings to your dental practice you will naturally attract more patients and increase the lifetime value of your current patients. Digital dentistry makes it simple for any general dentist to add Clear Aligners,mandibular advancement devices, and even implants to their practice with some training.
Exceptional customer service: prioritizing patients.
Perhaps most importantly, delivering a world-class patient experience to every patient that comes through your doors is essential. Satisfied customers will tell their family and friends, who may also be looking for a new dentist.
Especially in medical fields, word-of-mouth marketing still reigns supreme. From person-to-person referrals to online reviews, social proof is everything. Thanks to a glowing recommendation, the more positive experiences you provide, the better your chances of having new patients come in.
Simplify dental office appointment booking
Ideally, you may want to do away with over-the-phone bookings altogether. An online appointment portal reduces user frustration and enhances the quality of life for your receptionists. New patients can make an appointment anytime—even outside of business hours. There is a caveat to this method.
Too often, customers making an appointment turn away when the booking process becomes complicated. Optimizing the appointment scheduling process enhances patient satisfaction and reduces no-shows. Here are some ways to achieve this:
- Implement online booking systems to make scheduling more convenient for your patients.
- Use appointment reminders to reduce the likelihood of missed appointments.
- Streamline your practice’s operations to improve the overall patient experience.
Digital marketing to get more new dental patients
Blogging? Show your expertise and fresh content on the right platforms
Creating educational and engaging blog content helps showcase your expertise, answer common patient questions, and improve your dental website’s search rankings. We would go one step further—create and post trust-building material.
Regularly update your blog with pertinent articles and resources to provide value to existing and potential patients. Doing so establishes your dental practice as a trusted source of information and attracts more patients. But it’s not just about posting on your website anymore. Welcome to the age of social media marketing.
With 72% of American adults using social media sites, it’s no surprise that social media marketing is vital for dental practices. Sharing engaging content and interacting with followers enables you to reach potential patients and keep your existing patients informed about your services.
It’s also an excellent way to showcase your expertise and demonstrate how dental services have benefited patients. This should include educational content about dental health and procedures, patient testimonials, and before-and-after photos of successful treatments.
What people are looking for is authentic content. According to one social media survey, in 2024, “the most successful brands will redefine authenticity. It’s not about who (or what) creates your content anymore; it’s about the brand experience your content creates for the customer.”
Make sure to have a strong web presence on popular platforms like Facebook and Instagram to connect with your audience and grow your dental practice. Here are some other ideas for social media usage.
- Interact with followers: Respond to comments, answer questions, and converse with your audience to show that you genuinely care about their concerns and needs.
- Benefit from video marketing: Utilize video marketing to showcase your practice, share patient testimonials, and provide educational content.
- Utilize paid advertising campaigns: Paid advertising campaigns, such as Google Ads and Facebook Ads, help you reach an even wider audience. Targeting keywords and audience ensures that your ads are relevant and appealing to potential patients searching for dental services.
Reaching potential new patients through ads is only half the battle. Once an interested user clicks on your sponsored post or ad, they must end up somewhere. That somewhere should be your high-quality website.
Direct mail marketing: reaching offline patients.
While digital marketing is critical in today’s world, traditional advertising methods like print, radio, and TV are effective when used wisely, especially among older generations. Target the right audience and craft compelling messages to make the most of your traditional advertising efforts. Doing so reaches potential patients who may not be as active online. Try experimenting by throwing a few dollars into a different conventional marketing campaign, like mail or email, and measure what works best.
Dental patient referrals: Expanding through satisfied patients
Online reviews are crucial for building confidence and credibility with potential patients. This methodology is only accomplished by establishing and keeping a favorable patient experience. When you successfully create a trusted place for treatment, people will talk about it. Here are some ideas that will aid your endeavors.
- Encourage online reviews: Positive reviews significantly impact your dental practice’s reputation. They also aid search engine rankings. Make it easy for your patients to leave reviews by sending follow-up emails or phone calls after appointments or displaying a review request in your waiting area.
One of the keys to success is being able to differentiate yourself from the competition and solidify an excellent first impression. Nothing is as convincing as a patient’s voice. So, how do you get your patients to speak on your behalf? Simply ask. Unsure of a response or how to facilitate the conversation? Try a survey to reveal how a patient feels about your practice.
- The role of surveys: Surveys should be considered a form of feedback. They let you know where there are holes and successes in your workflow or patient experience. They come in four primary forms:
- In-person interviews: A quick question-answer session with a staff member when the patient checks out helps understand their sentiment. Sometimes, an in-person conversation mitigates any miscommunication or wrongdoing by staff.
- Paper surveys: Paper surveys are a traditional method. Though they are the most expensive technique due to the cost, time, and personnel to process answers, they are also helpful in data collection. They go where tech can’t—straight into the hands of patients.
- Telephone surveys: A call from your office manager following up after a procedure can be an impetus for a referral.
- Online: Online surveys are inexpensive, and responses are quickly reviewed. For example, an email with a post-procedure thank you card with survey questions. Surveys should be designed for instinctual use and simplicity. Respondents should be given time to respond to questions independently to answer without bias.
When patients respond positively, they should be approached for referrals and online reviews. However, don’t ignore negative responses. They deserve immediate attention and redirection.
Community outreach: Building awareness
Community outreach is a great way to increase your dental practice’s visibility and establish credibility within your local community. Here are a few ways to get your name out.
- Volunteer your services: One of the best brand reputations for your practice is to be known for empathy and compassion. Volunteering at in-need schools, eldercare facilities, or charitable organizations is a way to give back to your community while expanding your presence.
- Engage with local organizations: Create meaningful connections with potential patients through local organizations, such as charitable institutions, boost your brand awareness, and attract more patients to your dental practice.
- Sponsor local events: The events need not be ostentatious. They can be simple and properly placed. Advertising by sponsoring teams at local schools or sports clubs has always been a keen choice. Imagine how many parents will see your logo and name on their kid’s uniform or outfield banner.
- Develop partnerships with local businesses: Collaborate with businesses with a similar target audience, such as orthodontists, pediatricians, or fitness centers. Doing so creates mutually beneficial relationships that help your practice and the partnering business grow.
- Stay active in professional networks: It’s essential to stay informed about dental industry trends, collaborate with peers, and acquire referrals from other dental professionals. Attend conferences, join professional organizations, and participate in online forums to build your network and share knowledge with other dental professionals.
Every opportunity to share your vision and purpose enables you to grow your clientele and business. See your efforts as an investment in your office’s future. Another worthy investment is your staff.
Skilled staffing: the key to outstanding service and incredible patient experience
Providing exceptional customer service is critical for creating a positive patient experience, encouraging loyalty, and generating word-of-mouth referrals. Ensure that your dental team is:
- Professional, courteous, and attentive to your patient’s needs
- Fosters a positive practice atmosphere
- Keeps your patients coming back for future dental care
The patient experience is something that has many moving parts. Your staff weaves personalities, abilities, and consistent care into a personal encounter that begins when they find you online or walk through your door. The experience continues through each procedure until they leave. And they take it with them. One damaging episode will sever the patient relationship.
People share their impressions of you and your staff, not just your capabilities. So, choose and invest wisely in the people you hire. Another ‘area’ to consider is your waiting room.
Welcoming waiting room: A comfortable environment
A waiting room is not only a place to wait. It is a gathering space for patients and families. Depending on the type of practice, the wait time may fluctuate. The dental office decor should be functional and pleasing to the eye. It should have niches where visitors can read or watch TV. A pediatric practice must have a play area for kids.
Many practices incorporate work areas with complimentary WiFi connections and tech-enabled tables. The desire is to create a place of less stress where time passes productively. Your goal is a waiting room that messages the importance of time and the patient.
Attract new dental patients and grow your practice with Dandy
Growing your dental practice requires a comprehensive approach that includes developing a marketing plan, targeting your ideal patients, leveraging SEO and social media marketing, implementing a referral program, offering flexible payment options, and staying active in professional networks.
Maintaining a strong brand identity through dental marketing campaigns is vital in distinguishing your dental practice from competitors. Consistently communicate your practice’s values, mission, and unique selling points across all marketing channels to create a cohesive brand image. Doing so establishes your dental practice as a trusted provider of dental services and attracts more patients.
By following these proven strategies, you entice more patients, expand your practice, and provide exceptional dental care to your community.
Attracting new and more dental patients requires a complete toolbox of strategies. Don’t pick just one from the provided list. Incorporate as many suggestions that work for your practice. If you had to pick just one—improve the dental patient experience.
Ready to take your dental practice to the next level? Then, partner with Dandy.
Dandy is the original, fully digital dental lab. Our technology and tools aid in reducing chair time with digital scans and workflows. Want to give your new and existing patients the best possible experience? Get started with Dandy today.