How to start marketing a dental office.
October 13, 2009 11:52 PM   Subscribe

How do I start marketing a dentist?

How do I effectively start marketing a dentist?

She has been a dentist for thirty years (many of those years as a professor), and now she has started her own practice.

She can do cosmetic dentistry, but she really likes pediatric/adolescent dentistry. She is also excellent (and I think prefers to work) at what I could call "major" dentistry, requiring going under. Her practice is located inside a hospital -- definitely something most dentists don't offer. She seems to think cosmetic dentistry is over-saturated (but if your idea is good I can convince her otherwise). I think she really likes those dental-insured patients that need extensive work.

I haven't marketed dentists before. How do I get this lady new clients? I want her to make lots of money, so I can ask for and make lots of money. If it's not win-win, I'd rather not take the job.
posted by beingresourceful to Work & Money (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Most people find their dentists through the phone book, their HMOs, personal referral, and the internet. So, you need an ad in the yellow pages, and for her HMO info to feature on the Insurance page of her website.

For word of mouth, if she wants pediatric patients, I'd look at doing some marketing to all of the pediatricians in your area. Do NOT send glossy brochures, pens, squeeze balls or anything that looks like it comes from Pfizer. I might send mini-tooth friendly hampers (by which I mean like a 6x6 box) with a cheerful themed postcard stuck in and a personal invitation to call or visit her.

She should also look into whatever professional networking is available in your region.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:03 AM on October 14, 2009

Contribute some money to the local PTA, school, or other child-related nonprofit and get a mention in their newsletter/program/etc. Volunteer to do a toothbrushing demo at the local elementary school.

Bonus: if it doesn't work, it's still nice.
posted by alexei at 12:36 AM on October 14, 2009

I'm actively searching for a new dentist. My primary concern is modern (such that they're as pain-free as possible) and experienced (such that they're as pain-free as possible). I had a horrible experience with a dentist who thought it was a great idea to fill 5 cavities on each side of my mouth in just two visits. This was a Bad Thing that made me hurt for months.

I'm looking for someone who has newer equipment that will reduce my discomfort (like digital xrays) and who has the experience not to cause me any more pain than absolutely necessary.

If you focus on these elements, you can at least help build a web presence that shows up in geographically-based searches. That would be important to me. Things like that give me a reason to choose one dentist over another, where, to the casual observer, there may be little else to differentiate.

With a cosmetic dentist, it'll come down to testimonials, before and afters, proof of her talent, etc. Make it clear that she's differentiated in her collateral--the difference should be clear, online, in brochures, etc.

And make sure people can find her when looking for those specific things that set her apart, especially online.
posted by disillusioned at 1:56 AM on October 14, 2009

Direct mail is the answer. Make a nice brochure chock full of tips about dental care for kids and teenagers. Get address list of people with kids in the region. Include a coupon (free plaque removal for second child, that sort of thing).
posted by NekulturnY at 1:59 AM on October 14, 2009

For the "major" dentistry / oral surgery, I'd think customers could be referred to her for specialty work by their regular dentists who don't do such stuff. So, market her to private-practice dentists in the area.
posted by jon1270 at 3:44 AM on October 14, 2009

I work at a medical specialist practice (on computers, so my knowledge isn't exactly super strong and dentistry might be completely different). Most of our business is based off referrals from primary care providers. We do the phone book ads, website, radio spot things and some free screening type appointments, but the biggest draw (again) is from primary care. So we have a liaison who visits doctors in the area (and big referrers regularly) to handout referral cards, inform of new services, inquire about how they are receiving reports from us, etc. So if your client gets referral business, I'd stop by some pcp offices (with notice) and hand out biz cards and some information about her practice.
(On preview, seconding jon1270 hit up the regular dentists offices and maybe send some fruit baskets in the upcoming holiday season... the dentist probably won't care, but the staff will)
posted by syntheticfaith at 4:31 AM on October 14, 2009

Oh, also, with some pcp's who we have close relationships with our doctors (or even staff) will visit and conduct training or teaching sessions (or just talks) about anything from basics for the medical assistants to info on new procedures to the other doctors, maybe that's an avenue (again... I could be way off on the divide between docs and dentists)
posted by syntheticfaith at 4:33 AM on October 14, 2009

These guys (a dentist near me in London) market themselves superbly. Lots of good ideas there.

Amongst other things, they ensure that they have a really good street presence - i.e. everyone who walks by them takes an interest because they look so unlike your average, dull dentist practice. Passersby are a free audience and a worthwhile one.

Another thing is find people/organizations who are shortcuts to your target audience. I.e. if you convert one admin bod in a corporation, can you get the business of their employees etc.
posted by MuffinMan at 6:18 AM on October 14, 2009

Get her a regular gig on a local radio station answering listener questions.
Have her contribute to local parenting blogs.
In short, position her as a community resource.
posted by carmicha at 7:37 AM on October 14, 2009

Specialise in dentistry for people who don't like dentists? Especially children. Offer a free visit to the surgery with no treatment at all, just a cup of tea, a look round and a chat, to acclimatise people who are scared of dental procedures. Have a calming space and emphasise that the dentist is happy to be gentle and understanding with people who are scared silly.

Go into schools and talk to them about teeth and dentists. You could entertain a whole class of younger kids with role-play teddy bear dentistry, in which the teddy bears are sometimes frightened of dentists. The children can hold their hands, talk to them gently and reassure them that it may hurt a little bit just now, but after that it will go numb and won't hurt at all. Maybe if the dentist demonstrates that she works well with kids, teachers would start recommending her as especially child-friendly.

Even better, do this kind of "meet a dentist" demonstration/class at local events where kids are present with their parents.
posted by emilyw at 7:43 AM on October 14, 2009

Do make sure that she has a website. When I needed a new dentist, I asked my local friends who they had. Those without websites, I did not consider.
posted by teragram at 7:49 AM on October 14, 2009

It doesn't sound like you have a firm grasp on even the basics of what her practice is going to be (and it sounds like this is her fault, not yours). She really likes pediatric dentistry but she wants clients who need extensive work? Kids aren't generally going to need root canals, crowns, etc., not to mention anything that would require hospital sedation.

If she does go into pediatric dentistry, I can tell you how I chose my son's dentist. Number one was that the dentist had to be exclusively a pediatric dentist. I didn't want a "family" dentist. #2, location - close to our home. When our son was about 2, I picked up a flier from his daycare. I thought this was a fantastic idea because her practice was close to the center, and of course our home is close to the center. It was one of those stiff 8x5 or so direct-mail type things and it looked pretty slick. The dentist goes by her first name (Dr. FirstName) and the flier offered a free first time cleaning.

And the website went into further details about all the kid friendly stuff they have at their office. Tiny instruments where possible, a "candy machine" filled with toys and balls; the kids get a token for the machine after each appointment.

All that stuff got me in there for the first visit but it's really the awesome staff that keeps us coming back. That would be beyond your scope, but I thought some of the above might help.
posted by peep at 9:02 AM on October 14, 2009

Promoting a professional medical/dental practice is a specialized area that may be something you aren't equipped to do. It requires much more than's a vast subject. A feature story in the news would be an excellent place to begin introducing her to the public. In order to go down that road you need exceptional press release writing skills and good contacts with media. She definitely needs a first rate website and matching top notch paper literature. She and her marketing agency need a clearly defined direction about her emphasis. It isn't enough to know that she wants people who need extensive work and have dental insurance. That's what every dentist wants and it's thin information. Would she really "take up" cosmetic dentistry because you recommend it? That's weird.
It is a requirement for dentists to have tons of before and after photos to prove to people "at a glance" that they have the goods. Does she have those? If there is any money in her coffers local television or radio is effective if managed by someone with experience. A job like this (marketing a talented person who has been a professor for years) is an undertaking that is best left to people who have successfully marketed medical/dentist types before and whose track record proves it. It also takes a huge chunk of money to do it correctly. Finally..if she is as old as can be surmised from your post she might not be attractive..and unfortunately attractiveness is a key issue also. You might have to suggest a makeover on top of everything else. Not easy to do if you are much younger than her and just winging this whole thing.
posted by naplesyellow at 10:05 AM on October 14, 2009

coupons for free or low-priced cleanings.
posted by anniecat at 10:09 AM on October 14, 2009

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