The new dentist's guide to a successful marketing budget

May 15, 2015
When you're launching a new practice, there are a million little details that must be dealt with. While choosing the color of the waiting room chairs is a decision that must happen at some point, the more salient question is: How do you plan to put butts in those chairs?

Start strong and reap the benefits for years

Joy Gendusa

When you're launching a new practice, there are a million little details that must be dealt with. While choosing the color of the waiting room chairs is a decision that must happen at some point, the more salient question is: How do you plan to put butts in those chairs? Without patients, nothing else matters, does it?

Obviously, you know that. What you might not know quite as well is what a successful marketing budget looks like for a new dental practice. I can help you with that, and I will. But first, two disclaimers:

1. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Don't hold out hope for a silver bullet. There's no such thing in marketing. But I can give you the tools you need to build a successful marketing budget for your practice. That's what really matters.

2. Think of your budget as a starting point. The goal of this article is to show you the minimum amount you should spend on marketing in order to grow, not maintain a certain threshold. With that in mind, you can always increase your budget to grow more quickly. That's how this thing works. It's an investment. The more you put in, the more you get out as long as it is wisely invested, because that's important.

OK, with that said, let's start at the traditional place-the beginning.

The budgeting method you should use

The first thing we need to do is establish the method you'll use to set your budget. There are a few different philosophies on how to do this, but the most popular and most successful for small businesses is this: Your marketing budget as a percentage of your gross revenue.

Example: ABC Dental had gross revenue of $500,000 in 2014. They assign 15% to marketing, (we recommend 15% for established practices who want to continue growing) and 15% of $500,000 is $75,000. So they have a $75,000 marketing budget for 2015, which comes to $6,250 per month.

That's great if you've been operational for at least a year. But what if you're still pre-launch, and you don't have past numbers from which to work? If your practice is just starting out, you should reassess your gross revenue quarterly, or even monthly, to get an accurate view of what your marketing budget should be. You don't want to stick to an outdated budget if your revenue has exploded (or imploded).

Now, the percentage you use won't be the same as an established practice. It won't even be the same as a new practice in a different market. There are more variables to consider. That's what makes it tricky. But stick with me-we'll conquer this thing!

Finding your percentage

There are seemingly endless factors to consider when choosing the right marketing budget for your practice, so allow me to break it down for you based on your current stage of business life, (i.e., new dentist).

New practice launch

If you have a startup practice, you'll require a greater percentage of marketing capital than an established practice to get the ball rolling. I won't sugarcoat it-this often means tightening your belt and enduring a relatively lean season in terms of your personal income. (I paid myself only about $40k per year, with two kids, when I started PostcardMania!) But again, you need to think investment. You reap what you sow. It's not just a catchy saying. Sow marketing, and you'll reap greater revenue down the road. Sow into your own pockets at the expense of the marketing budget, and you'll reap an uneven growth pattern that never quite lives up to expectations, if you reap a growth pattern at all.

Without further ado, here's what you're looking at:

Ideal percentage range: 20% to 30% of gross revenue

Variables: When it comes to creating a marketing budget, a new venture has the widest of possible ranges because it's the most volatile situation for a practice to be in. However, some markets are more competitive than others. If you've done your homework, you know where your service area stands in terms of competition and marketing noise. If competition is light, 20% should be enough to grab a share of the marketplace. If competition is heavy, you need to invest more resources into marketing or you may never really get out of the gate-always wondering what you're doing wrong. Believe me, I've seen this, and the only thing wrong is the scope of reach, a.k.a., too small of a budget.

Helpful Tip 1: Rate your competition level on a scale of 1-10, and use that number to guide your marketing percentage. If your competition level is a 6, go with a 26% marketing budget.

Helpful Tip 2: It's extremely important to make sure you get your name and practice out there as soon as possible. Don't be shy about what percentage to use if you don't even have an income yet; it's vital that you put part of your initial startup capital toward a grand opening campaign. Contact a marketing or mailing list company that can help you figure out how many people there are in your immediate vicinity, and target them with a postcard campaign that contains a few special offers to announce your grand opening and get the phones ringing. Be sure to place your order early enough to hit your list multiple times before the grand opening date! Repetition is crucial.

Bonus Tip: Incorporate DirectMail2.0: New Patient Edition ( into your grand opening campaign for an integrated (online and offline) approach that will ensure full market saturation in the area surrounding your list. Here's how it works:

· You select a list of potential patients living in the area around your practice.

· You send postcards to that list so that you're in their mailboxes.

· At the same time, online display ads mirroring your postcard will be shown to the same people as they browse the Internet.

· Also included are mail tracking and call tracking/recording so you know where your calls are coming from, you never miss a call (even if they hang up), and you can review call quality later.

It's an amazing product developed especially for dentists, and only select direct mail providers offer this tool.

Believe me; I know this seems like a lot of money. Obviously, never make a decision that will put the financial viability of your practice in jeopardy. But keep in mind that the time your practice spends in the startup/new launch phase is a mere season compared to what you will achieve in the long run. Once you're at a sustainable revenue level, you can potentially lower this percentage. Considering what you spent to become a dentist, it's really not that much.

There you have it. If you want to continue brainstorming, visit to see postcard design ideas and request free samples. And don't forget—as a Dental Economics reader, you are entitled to 5,000 free dental postcards, printed by PostcardMania, as well as free samples of postcards that are working right now for other dental practices. Redeem online or call (844) 269-1836 today—free marketing advice for your practice is also included!


1. Advertising Budget.,

2. Caron Beesley. How to Build and Use a Business Budget That's Useful All Year Long.

3. George Boykin. What Percentage of Gross Revenue Should Be Used for Marketing & Advertising?

Joy Gendusa is the founder and CEO of PostcardMania. Using just postcards, a phone ,and a computer, Joy built PostcardMania from a one-person startup into an industry leader serving 65,000 clients-including 4,000 dentists! Need help figuring out your new practice budget? Call one of our dental marketing consultants at (844) 269-1836, email Joy at [email protected], or visit

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