My company has helped more than 5,130 dental practices with their marketing during the last 19 years, so we’ve collected a lot of data. I’ve written about some of our success stories in Dental Economics. This month I thought it might be helpful to delve a little deeper into the numbers and talk about what the dental community as a whole is doing, either “right” or “wrong,” and see what can be gleaned from that information.
I was more than a little surprised by what I found. Let’s get right to it!
Shocker No. 1: 18% of dentists have given up on direct mail after one mailing
We currently have 659 dental clients in our database who are using direct mail to market their practices. Here’s how their mailings break down:
• 18% have only mailed once.
• 21% mail consistently (every month or even every other month).
• 61% have mailed more than once, but not consistently.
That 18% statistic is particularly shocking to me because consistency is my marketing mantra. All of my clients have heard me (and my 30-plus consultants) say over and over again that repeated mailings are vital to a successful campaign.
I understand why it isn’t always applied though; more mailings mean more money, right? Well, yes and no. Yes, every mailing costs money, with the biggest expense being postage. But every time you mail to the same list, you become more familiar and credible to those prospective patients, and more of them will call.
In other words, as you mail more, you generate more responses and improve your return on investment. Yes, you’ve spent more money. But you’ve also brought in more revenue, and that’s the whole point of marketing.
That’s not to say a one-off mailing never works. My company has a results manager whose sole job is to follow up with our clients and find out what made their campaigns successful (or not). Of our dental clients who reported successful results from their campaigns, 76% mailed repeatedly. This means 24% of them didn’t. So yes, it absolutely is possible to have success with just one mailing; it’s just not the norm.
I mean, do you get one postcard one time and immediately take action? The idea is to reach your prospective patients repeatedly so they understand that you are a
trustworthy, stable practice, and to keep yourself top of mind when they need a new dentist. This leads to the second surprise—just how few of my clients actually are taking our advice to mail consistently and reaping the rewards.
Shocker No. 2: Only 21% of dentists mail regularly
Of those 659 dentists, only 138 of them mail monthly or every other month (21%). They are the ones who know that consistent marketing is the best way to generate large, predictable results. They are also the ones bringing in the most new patients.
But you don’t have to take my word for it. Let me show you what can happen when a dental practice starts mailing consistently (figure 1). You can see the correlation between this practice’s postcard mailings and its monthly new patients. The momentum generated by repeated mailings is evident.
Figure 1: New patients per month, Hall Family Dentistry
Dr. Seth Hall started out sending just 2,000 postcards per month for three months, and you can see where his new-patient numbers start to increase. Even though he didn’t mail at all from April through July, the momentum created by the earlier mailings carried him through, until it started to decline.
The months Dr. Hall did not mail postcards caught up to him in August, so he started mailing again. It’s interesting to see the skipped months and how those affected the momentum. I recommended that he be more consistent, even though he’s seeing higher numbers overall.
Speaking of momentum, let’s look at what happens to a dental practice when it mails consistently (every single month) for years (figure 2).
Dr. Amit Khanna has been sending mailings every month like clockwork since 2010. (He added digital marketing to the mix in 2012.) Now he’s breaking ground on his new office, which will have twice the chairs and three times the square footage of his current one. If that doesn’t convince you that consistent marketing is the key to increasing your revenue and growing your practice, I don’t know what will. Now, no one says you have to mail 12,000 postcards per month like Dr. Khanna’s practice did, but they’re bringing in more than 150 new patients per month with their marketing.
When I was a guest on the “Dentistry Uncensored” podcast recently, Howard Farran, DDS, asked me what he’d have to do to get just 10 more new patients per month. I told him, “Easy! Just mail 6,000 postcards per month, every month, and you’ll achieve your goal. But you have to be consistent!”
Now, the final shocker…
Shocker No. 3: 39% of dentists don’t do any external
marketing at all
We conducted a survey on our website asking new visitors which types of marketing they were currently doing, and we received responses from 386 dentists.
Here’s what they said:
• 26.7% said Google pay per click
• 26.2% said Yellow Pages
• 21.6% said direct mail
• 7.8% said radio
• 4.2% said TV
• 0.5% said “other”
• 39.2% didn’t answer
Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean that 39% of dentists are doing nothing, but for a lot of them I suspect it means they rely on internal (or referral) marketing, if anything. That’s crazy!
Figure 2: Annual revenue, Patuxent Dental
Referral marketing is an important piece of the dental marketing puzzle, considering that 92% of consumers trust referrals from people they know.1 When you’re choosing the person who will be wielding sharp objects in and around your mouth, trust is kind of important. However, unless you only want to work a couple of days a week, referrals probably are not enough.
If you want to grow your practice, you need an external marketing strategy, preferably one that spans multiple channels, such as direct mail, pay-per-click ads, social media, and more.
I would be remiss not to mention that I was also surprised to see more dentists doing pay-per-click advertising than direct mail. You really need to do both. I’ll explain why with this example.
One of my dental clients has an office in Franklin, Massachusetts. Within a five-mile radius of his practice, there are (1) 25,707 households, (2) 28 dentists, and (3) an average of 290 people per month searching Google for a Franklin dentist (according to Google AdWords). That’s a lot of dentists vying for a small number of patients.
Think about this: 290 people are actively searching for a dentist in that area each month. And who needs a dentist? Everyone! So how do you reach the other 25,417 prospective patients who may not need you right now, but eventuallywill? My client does this by sending out 22,000 postcards, every other month, to people in that radius. The result is 30-plus new patients per month.
Author’s note: Want to give your new-patient numbers a boost? Visit postcardmania.com/dentaldesignsto see postcard designs that are currently working for other dentists, and request a free sample kit.
1. The Nielsen Global Online Consumer Survey. Nielsen website. http://www.nielsen.com/content/dam/corporate/us/en/newswire/uploads/2009/07/pr_global-study_07709.pdf. Published July 2009. Accessed July 2017.
Joy Gendusa is the founder and CEO of PostcardMania. Using just postcards, a phone, and a computer, Joy built PostcardMania from a one-person start-up into an industry leader. PostcardMania serves 73,792 clients, including 5,025 dentists. Need help promoting your practice? Call one of PostcardMania’s dental marketing consultants at (844) 269-1836, e-mail Joy firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit postcardmania.com/dentaldesigns.