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Diagnosing your 2019 dental marketing fails for a healthier 2020 (part 2)

Jan. 22, 2020
Don’t let a disappointing 2019 perpetuate into the new year. Let’s examine the biggest issues that might be holding you back.
Joy Gendusa, Founder and CEO, PostcardMania

Now that we’re at the start of a fresh year, it’s time to confront the pitfalls and shortcomings of 2019 head-on. Without addressing the most common underlying practice management issues, you’ll be fighting an uphill battle for another 365 days.

We started this two-part article in last month’s issue, where we discussed three big marketing fails you might have committed. They were the following:

  • Losing track of your competition
  • Sleeping on your Google My Business listing
  • Failing to confront a website that hinders (rather than helps) convert visitors into new patients

I also covered how to start correcting those issues, so be sure to check that article out on dentaleconomics.com if you missed it.

That leaves three common marketing fails that need addressing. So, without further ado...

Marketing fail: Your front desk mishandles more leads than you’re ready to admit.

More than likely, your front-desk team is dynamite. They’re probably good with patients, work with integrity, and know their stuff. You hired them for a reason, right? The thing is, they’re also human beings. Yes, they want to be great employees and do everything you’ve asked of them, but they will also get overly busy. They will forget to ask for a phone number to follow up. And they’ll have a bad day here and there. We all do.

As the practice owner, you owe it to yourself and your patients to ensure those hiccups don’t become patterns of behavior. Periodically checking your front-desk manner is a must. You can do this with a simple call tracking service that is incredibly affordable (many start at around $20 a month). These services also offer a slew of benefits and caller insights, such as the following:

  • Call recordings to help train staff 
  • Caller info and demographics, such as name, address, and age
  • Source reporting to tell you which marketing platforms generate the most calls

Jason Monroe, DDS, a dentist whom I’ve written about before, audited his front desk after ramping up his external marketing. He discovered that they were converting a mere 18% of new callers, which meant his big marketing push had been a waste of money.

Dr. Monroe overhauled his front-desk training program, and in six months went from converting 18% to 40% of his leads. That’s a big boost by any practice’s standard, and it cost almost nothing other than his time and effort.

There are a number of new-caller auditing services, like MGE Management Experts, that can help you take your practice to the next level if you’re willing to invest.

Marketing Fail: You won’t invest long-term in external marketing.

If you’ve addressed the previous four potential practice pitfalls—your competition, your Google listing, your website, and your front desk—and found that all are optimized, but new-patient numbers are falling or stagnating, it’s time to face the music. You need to implement a consistent marketing campaign to let people know you’re there.

A marketing “injection” (for example, doing something “here and there” or “for a three-month test”) isn’t going to move the needle on real, long-term growth. Right now, at the beginning of the year, is the best time to sit down and set aside a monthly marketing budget for the rest of 2020. To work out that budget, look at your numbers. MGE suggests setting aside 5% to 9% of your monthly collections for promotion, but this number can be less if you have few competitors and more if you have a lot or if you’re a new scratch practice.1

Once you know how much you’re prepared to spend each month, allocate to maximize your reach. Personally, I recommend focusing your budget on these marketing tactics:

  • A review-generation software, such as Podium that will quickly increase your number of five-star reviews
  • Mailers that reach prospects earning $50,000+ and living within a radius around your practice
  • Matching display ads on Google and Facebook to increase exposure at a fraction of the price

Tracking new patients and how they heard about you is key to any marketing campaign. Otherwise, you won’t know what’s working, in which case you won’t know where to keep spending your money. 

Marketing Fail: You expect internal marketing to run itself and don’t have a plan to amplify referrals.

Putting up a “We appreciate referrals” sign and asking your staff to hand out business cards might work...for about a week. If you really want to cash in on referrals, you need to be willing to put in the effort and get your staff on board. Here are a few strategies to get your team into the referral groove:

  • Daily huddles that examine your calendar and “target” prime patients for referrals
  • Contests that reward the staff member with the most referrals
  • Overall group rewards when you hit certain targets
  • Small bonuses for every referral a staffer brings in
  • Personalize your referral cards and involve the entire staff—maybe use a fun staff photo on the front

Make sure that you have something tangible you can hand to patients or place in their goodie bags to solicit referrals. It can be a “care to share” card, just a postcard, or even a faux credit card with a “credit” built in. Either way, making it easy to pass along will maximize your redemption rate.

Moving forward

I suggest taking one last, long look at 2019. Note your new-patient numbers, your production and profits, and set a goal for 2020. Ask yourself, “Can we get 20% more? 25% more...?” The more you invest, the more you’ll reap—as long as the basics are well in place.

Hopefully, after reading this, you’re ready to move forward. If you need a little more help, my team put together a comprehensive 86-point dental marketing checklist that will cover these points and more in even greater detail. You can download the report for free at postcardmania.com/dentalchecklist.  


  1. Tip #1: Your dental office marketing budget. PostcardMania website. https://postcardmania.mgeonline.com/.

Joy Gendusa is the founder and CEO of PostcardMania. Using just postcards, a phone, and a computer, Gendusa built PostcardMania from a one-person startup into an industry leader. PostcardMania serves 78,589 clients, including 5,750 dentists. Need help promoting your practice? Call one of PostcardMania’s dental marketing consultants at (844) 269-1836, or email Gendusa at [email protected].

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