Smile! Your Guide to Picking the Perfect Dental Marketing Company

June 12, 2023 by AACD Executive Office

If you want a successful, growing dental practice, you need a solid marketing strategy. And for that, you’ll probably need the help of a dental marketing company.

Choosing a marketing partner for your dental practice can be a frustrating and fraught process for a dentist or practice manager. After all, your specialty is oral health, not digital branding strategies. Your time and mental energy are dominated by calendar administration, personnel management, continuing education, and giving your patients the very best service you can.

Fortunately, a good dental marketing agency can take much of the stress of business growth off your plate. However, before you can find that perfect match, you’ll need to educate yourself and then ask the questions that help you make the right decision.

Before You Start Your Search…

Define Your Goals Internally

This might seem redundant at first. After all, isn’t the goal to simply have a successful marketing plan? Of course! But there are many different ways that your marketing can be successful. Are you more interested in improving your branding, or generating new patient leads? Do you need to improve retention or maximize the revenue you can generate with your existing patient base?

What specific benchmarks do you hope to achieve within the next year? The next five years? All of these questions could help you determine what kind of marketing services are the highest priority for you. Having some basic information on these factors will also help you ask smart questions as you research new companies, and challenge them to pitch customized solutions for your practice.

Don’t worry…you don’t need to have conclusive goals just yet. A good dental marketing agency will help you set measurable marketing goals and adapt them over time as you grow and shift. However, being ready to set this up as a talking point will produce far more fruitful conversations than generic questions about services and packages.

Set a Budget Range

High-quality services don’t come from a marketing budget that is simply an afterthought. A proportion of your yearly budget should be earmarked for ongoing marketing efforts. But how much? In general, companies can allocate anything from 2% to 40% of their gross revenue for marketing.

Dental practices, of course, seldom have the same aggressive growth strategies as VC-backed startups and industry disruptors. However, they still need to be ready to invest enough to counter natural patient attrition as a minimal baseline. Membership and mentorship in organizations like the AACD can help you discuss ranges with other dentists and get more of a feel for a realistic marketing budget.

Most dental marketing agencies will be able to offer scaled services according to your budget and counsel you regarding how to get the greatest ROI for your efforts.

Determine Your Internal Resources and Abilities

Even with an extremely attentive agency that offers great personalized services, your marketing efforts will be far more effective an in-practice marketing manager.. This is especially true when focusing on dental social media marketing. Your in-practice marketing manager may be a practice manager or assistant who’s open to additional duties, or a dentist who likes to stay involved.

Whoever it is, be realistic about how much time and effort you can spend on marketing each day or each week. The less involved your team is personally, the more likely you’ll receive generic marketing campaigns–even from a highly attentive and creative agency. That being said, if you do need a solution that largely takes the burden off of any in-practice staff, you’ll need to be aware of that from the get-go when you talk to prospective marketing partners.

Your internal resources can also include the rest of the team. Their willingness to join in on campaigns, contribute ideas, and provide in-practice, personalized promotion will maximize the efforts of your external marketing partner.

When Talking to Potential Marketing Providers…

Get to Know Communication Expectations

You can expect that your first conversation with a marketing agency will be with someone on the sales team. However, once the contract is signed, you’ll be passed along to an account representative. This shift can cause some companies to feel like they’re getting something different from what was promised, especially if there isn’t effective communication between the sales team and operations. That’s why it’s useful to learn more about who your team will be before you sign the contract. Ask about the experience and workload of your account rep so that you can be sure that they’ll provide reliable guidance and have the time to manage your account effectively. And remember, this account manager probably won’t be the one personally providing creative materials, ad management, or technical work for your account. So ask who will provide the strategy for your practice, and learn about the experience of the team of writers, designers, developers, and media buyers who will execute that strategy.

In addition to learning what will happen behind the curtain and whose fingers will be in your pie, you’ll want to get a good read on what communication expectations will be. Will the agency provide monthly reports? How often will they be available to answer questions? What kind of information will you need to provide on a regular basis in order to help their work be effective and personalized? How will you coordinate to respond to unique events and campaign initiatives in your practice?

This is also your opportunity to vet a company for legitimacy. If you can’t get transparency about your creative team or confident answers about availability and response times, then consider it a red flag.

Check Out the Case Studies and Client Testimonials

When you look at a company’s portfolio, it’s easy to be distracted by flashy images and slick slogans. But great graphic elements don’t always translate to effective marketing practices and trackable results. That’s why it’s vital for you to take a close look at case studies and testimonials. 

Ask for case studies where (1) the client matches your practice closely in size, demographics, and services, and (2) the objective and success story aligns with your own practice goals (see why you determined those goals internally first?)

Some dental marketing agencies will also give you the option of contacting some of their clients to have a one-on-one conversation about their experience. Organize your thoughts by framing some basic questions before the call so you can check out these references effectively.

Research the Company’s Longevity and Turnover Rates

How long has the company been in business? During that time, what has been their rate of client attrition? How about their turnover rate for employees?

Many marketing agencies have a tendency to churn quickly through clients, prioritizing acquisition more than retention. The fast-paced nature of the business can also burn out employees, especially if they rely on younger personnel who are cheaper to hire. While that may seem like something that’s not your problem, it can cause disruptions in your service. Changing your point of contact at a company over and over again will make effective communication harder.

There’s a wide range of quality in dental marketing agencies. Don’t let your quest for a budget-friendly solution blind you to the problems that an inexperienced agency could give you. Seek out a dental marketing agency with a solid reputation in the industry, dedication to long-term relationships, and a proven track record of success.

Look for Someone With Dental Specific Marketing Experience

Many marketing agencies help small businesses in any industry and they believe that their skills can be applied to any business. Unfortunately you may need to suffer through a learning curve as the marketing agency becomes familiar with the dental industry, before you get the best results. That learning curve can keep getting reset if there’s high employee turnover at the agency. 

Dental practices have very unique and particular needs. As a healthcare business, you need to comply with HIPAA best practices. Your industry terms and trends need to be understood by your creative team. And because you’re a location-based and relationship-based business, your marketing strategist needs to know how to customize digital marketing practices to maximize local connections and search methodologies.

Securing a marketing partner with extensive experience promoting dental practices will help you get the most out of each hour you’re billed for.

Take the Time to Get It Right

Far too many of us have experienced the hassle and grief that comes from a rushed decision. When it comes to securing a dental marketing company for your practice, investing some time in making your choice will pay off in the long run.

Personalize the criteria according to your practice, and then get quotes and conduct exploratory interviews from a few different agencies before you make your final decision. Finding a trustworthy, experienced agency that you can truly collaborate with over time will empower your practice to grow and thrive.

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