Traditional or digital marketing? What's working now for dentists

Nov. 20, 2014
Learn how to approach marketing the right way and meet a new tool that makes it easy.

Learn how to approach marketing the right way and meet a new tool that makes it easy.

by Joy Gendusa

Digital marketing technologies, such as websites, pay-per-click ads, email, and search engine optimization are the latest rage in marketing - and for good reason. In fact, they have rightfully become a staple for most businesses at this point. Nothing is wrong with that; however, when people start to make an "either/or" judgment that sides with digital marketing and leaves traditional marketing - direct-mail marketing, specifically - out in the cold, it's a problem.

If you fall in that camp, I have some critical data that you need to consider. In 2012, the Direct Marketing Association published these response rate statistics for different media:

Direct mail: 4.26% response to house list; 1.44% to prospects

Email:0.12% to house; 0.03% to prospects

Display ads:0.00% to house; 0.04% to prospects

Pay-per-click (PPC) ads:0.00% to house; 0.22% to prospects

(Click-through rate was used for online media.)

The evidence doesn't lie: direct mail is still the premier lead generation option. However, it's important to note this is not an "either/or" situation. The key to maximizing your return on marketing investment is to integrate your marketing campaigns. Use strategies from both the digital and print universes. Together, they complement each other and create a more stable and profitable marketing system.

When you integrate your marketing campaigns, you gain maximum exposure, which means your campaigns actually improve over time as awareness of your practice increases in the community. When you become known as the go-to dental professional in your area for your target audience, you've reached your ultimate marketing goal. Now, let's look a little deeper at why integration is such a big deal ...

The new mover hypothetical

Pay-per-click ads and most other kinds of digital marketing are excellent at targeting prospective patients who are already searching for a new dentist or for specific dental services. In most situations, it is the act of searching that brings a prospective patient to your website or that triggers your Google pay-per-click ad. Direct mail is different. It allows you to target prospective patients who fit your ideal patient profile but who may not actively be looking for your services yet.

Imagine that two new families move into your area. One family cares for dental health, and the other does not. The first family goes online to find a reputable dental professional in the area, and they really do their research. Your best chance to land them as patients is to have a robust online marketing strategy, including Google ads, a great website, etc.

The other family waits until somebody has a dental crisis, and when it happens, they don't do much research but just head to whichever dental office is closest or whichever their friends tell them about. That office could be yours, or it could be one of your competitors'. Your best chance to get this family to become your patients is to market to them proactively through direct mail. You send them a "welcome to the neighborhood" postcard and offer a special deal on a cleaning. Direct mailing lists are still the industry's best way to find a highly qualified target audience and generate new interest for your products and services.

OK, all of that sounds great, right? But what on earth does it look like? How can you build integrated marketing campaigns, especially when you are so busy every day?

How to integrate dental marketing campaigns

Let's look at three concrete steps you can take to integrate your direct-mail and online marketing strategies in order to create a cooperative (and mostly automated!) system ...

1. Send direct mail to generate calls and online leads.

As I mentioned, direct-mail prospective patients may or may not be searching for your services at this moment. As a result, their reactions to your ads have a larger spectrum of variance than those of patients who are determined to visit a dentist and who only need to decide which one. Maybe the direct-mail prospective patient is not interested at all. Maybe the prospect is ready to book an appointment right away. Maybe s/he is a little interested but wants more information.

Your direct-mail piece (which, for dentists, should definitely be a postcard and not a letter) should give prospective patients the option to call and schedule an appointment or to go online for more information. This way, you can at least try to capture their email address through a form on your website. Email is a far cheaper way to continue to expose them to your message, although it's not great for actually generating leads.

Additionally, landing pages are a much less intimidating introduction for prospective new patients. A landing page is a single-purpose webpage that guides prospects through your sales process. They can learn more about what generated their interest in the postcard and receive a special offer if they fill out a contact form. Using postcards to drive prospects to your online marketing platforms is the first step to integration domination!

2. Use pay-per-click ads to generate online leads.

If you've never used pay-per-click ads before, I understand it could be intimidating, but just remember that first family we talked about above. You want them as patients. A little legwork is definitely required for setting up pay-per-click campaigns, but it is worth the effort. If you truly have no time to spare, there are companies that can do it for you for a fee.

Every single day, there are people in your area who are going online to find a new dentist. Unless your website has an incredible ranking in Google's search results, the chances aren't great that these people will settle on your practice. With pay-per-click ads, you can pay a small price for the right to have your practice pop up on the first page of Google every time.

3. Engage prospective patients with geo-targeted online ads.

The key to integration is to have prospective patients experience your brand and marketing message in multiple different ways, via different media. While they are exposed to your message in the mailbox or through your pay-per-click ads, you should hit them another way too. Geo-targeted ads that show up all across Google's expansive network, which includes millions of websites, are perfect for this. Here's how they work:

1. You tell Google what geographic area you would like to target.

2. Google identifies Internet users in that area who are cruising the web.

3. Google shows targeted ads to those users.

With this tool, you get repeated exposure to prospects across millions of high-quality sites, such as,, and more, but you don't pay a cent until they actually click on the ad. That's good stuff. Note, too, that Google does everything. You don't have to lift a finger once it's set up.

Making it easy

Speaking of getting it set up ... there is a new direct-mail product, DirectMail2.0 New Patient Edition, that actually does the first and third steps for you. If you go that route, you can just cross the postcards and geo-targeted ads off your list. DirectMail2.0 is only available from select direct-mail houses, so be sure to find someone who offers this system if you want to maximize your next campaign. Plus, in some cases, they can handle pay-per-click advertising for you too. In other words, it might be possible for you to get everything for your integrated marketing done in one fell swoop. I definitely recommend doing so.

Did you know: 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!

Joy Gendusa is the founder and CEO of PostcardMania. Using just postcards and her innate marketing savvy, Joy built PostcardMania from a one-woman startup with just a phone and a computer into an industry leader, generating more than $21 million in annual revenue and employing 200-plus people in Clearwater, Florida. Joy can be reached for questions or marketing consultations by phone or email via [email protected] or (844) 269-1836.

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