How To Create A Marketing Plan That Works

The 6 elements that make your marketing plan effective

An integral part of running your successful dental practice business is being aware of who your ideal customers are and how to get more just like them.

While a successful dental practice can expect that upwards of 50% of new patients will come from existing patient referrals, those referrals don’t happen organically.

The other 50% of new-patient volume is needed to drive practice growth and maintain revenues. These patients are attracted through an effective marketing plan – a marketing plan that works.

6 Elements Of An Effective Marketing Plan:

  1. Market Analysis to identify your target audience and competitive environment
  2. Unique Value Proposition (UVP) that answers an unmet need for this target market and how you provide for it
  3. Marketing Strategy using an established healthy budget and incremental objectives and methods that resonate with your target
  4. Winning Conversion Strategy to turn your target market into loyal patients
  5. Effective Marketing Action Plan including measurement of benchmark metrics
  6. Regular Evaluation and adjustments.

A comprehensive market analysis of your practice neighborhood will tell you about your patients, your prospects, your competitive environment, your neighborhood’s expected growth trends, and any natural barriers that are preventing prospects from making your practice their dental home.

When you have all the details about the area from which you draw new patients, the rest of your marketing plan is about checking off the boxes that meet the needs of your community.

Let’s look at these 6 elements one at a time.

1. Marketing Analysis

Here are the “ABC Questions” To Ask Yourself When You Complete Your Market Analysis:

A. Who lives in your practice neighborhood?

  • Who lives in the area around your dental practice?
  • In what stage of life are they?
  • Are they young families or empty nesters who have a healthy cash flow?
  • Where do they work?
  • What’s their income bracket?
  • Do they have dental insurance?
  • Are they well educated?
  • How do they spend their money?
  • Do they rent or own?
  • What’s the value of their house/condo?
  • What is the average number of residents per home?

When you use this information to determine who is living around your dental practice, you can create marketing materials that are specifically tailored to this demographic group to increase visibility and response. Taking the time to produce content that resonates with your target market will pay off with higher conversion rates.

Also look at social and cultural factors which are crucial to understanding your market’s needs, wants, and behaviors, starting with knowing the key influencer in targeted households. For example, women make 92% of healthcare decisions which should be a major influencer of your marketing strategy.

Consumers respond to language, imagery, color, products, and services that specifically target them. It’s important to understand details such as behaviors, buying patterns, lifestyles, and ethnic groups to ensure your marketing is as effective as possible.

And because your existing patients-of-record can be a wealth of knowledge... What products and services do they use most often? How many new patients are they referring? Do they come from a specific area around your practice? You can find out a lot about your practice neighborhood just by analyzing your existing patient base.

B. Who Are The Major Employers In Your Neighborhood?

According to the National Association of Dental Plans, more people than ever are covered by an employer’s dental plan. Do you know which plans cover the patients who live around your office?

Patients with dental benefits are more likely to visit the dentist, keep regular appointments, accept treatment recommendations, and enjoy better overall health, so it critical to attract these patients.

Knowing which insurance companies have the most members in your area helps to identify which plans you will want to be in-network with. As an in-network provider, you are positioned to communicate this through your marketing, attract and retain these employees, and put more money in your pocket.

C. What Is Your Competitive Environment?

It’s critical that you know your competitors. Who are they? Where are they? How many are there?

  • In a high-density urban area, most competitors (and patients) are within 1 mile of your office.
  • In low-density urban areas, it’s 3 miles.
  • In the suburbs, it’s 3-5 miles.
  • In rural areas, 20 miles or more.

What are the products/services competitors offer?

  • What is their new-patient offer?
  • Can patients book an appointment within 24-48 hours?
  • Do they have a beautiful comprehensive dental website?
  • Is teeth cleaning available at the first visit?
  • Is theirs a niche service or a bare-bones essential service?
  • Are they independent or group practices?
  • Do they accept insurance?
  • What are their office hours?
  • Do they have 5-star reviews?
  • How are you different?

Can new patients easily book appointments on their dental website?

When you know your competition, you have the advantage of knowing how to make yourself stand out as the practice of choice in your neighborhood. This critical business intelligence will help you make the right operational decisions for your practice.

Then these key attributes must be communicated to your team, patients, and prospective patients so everyone clearly understands why your practice is different and why that’s a benefit.

How does your competition play into the dentist-to-population ratio of your practice area? The national average is 1 dentist to every 1,851 people. Your specific ratio will influence your business operations and your marketing. It will help you manage revenue expectations.

A simple rule of thumb… Plan for as few dentists as possible between your office and your demographically targeted area.

2. Unique Value Proposition

Now that you have completed your Market Analysis and have reviewed your product and service offerings in relation to the demand anticipated from your target market, compare your practice offerings to that of your competition’s.

How do you stand out? Your answer is your Unique Value Proposition (UVP) which describes both the practical and emotional benefits of your products and services and clearly differentiates your dental practice from your competition. It makes patient retention, referrals, and acquisition marketing easier and more effective. Your UVP must be communicated in all your marketing material and all members of your team must know it inside and out.

3. Marketing Strategy

Your marketing budget should be between 3-5% of your practice revenue and is subject to variables such as:

  • competitive environment
  • area demographics
  • neighborhood turnover (percentage of new movers)
  • area employers and their insurance plans
  • family income levels
  • the number of years you’ve been in practice
  • whether you practice a specialty.

This is further influenced by your practice’s ability to compete through hours of operation, visibility (from the street, in your marketing, and on your dental website), and insurance plans accepted.

You want to ensure that your marketing spend is going to be representative of the average patient production value you can expect at your practice.

According to the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey presented by the ADA, the average spend per dental patient in 2013 was $685. Depending on the specialty services you provide at your dental practice, this number could go as high as $1,755. When you’re planning your marketing budget with these figures in mind, you develop a much clearer idea of exactly how much you need to be spending to stay successful.

Use your Market Analysis to help you determine how many touch points you need to stand out in your practice neighborhood. Ensure you use a variety of marketing initiatives such as a website, social media, direct mail with offer strategies, networking, community events, television ads, and radio ads.

You may think that you’re not getting a response from that TV or radio ad, but it is building your brand recognition and may have a positive effect on your ROI.

You want to build your brand and be instantly recognizable in your neighborhood. You may think that you’re not getting a response from that TV or radio ad, but it is building your brand recognition and may have a positive effect on your ROI.

Every touch point by your marketing will build a relationship with the ideal buyer, so when she is ready to purchase, yours will be the number she calls.

4. Conversion Strategy

Just like the rest of your team, your call handlers need continuing education and evaluation as well as consistent internal communications and personal goals to be the best that they can be.

When they know how critical they are to your practice’s success and have continual training, sample scripts, and an understanding of your Market Analysis, call handlers will be more confident. This translates into more conversions.

Thoroughly communicate your Market Analysis and UVP to your entire team. This makes every team member feel valued, experience higher job satisfaction, and present a more service-oriented approach to your patients and prospects.


Your team needs personal goals and incentive programs that reward their achievements. Set incremental objectives, e.g. number of new-patient conversions per call handler per month. Always be aware of team achievements so you can react quickly to make any necessary adjustments.

HINT: If you already have a cohesive well-trained customer-oriented team, include it in your Unique Value Proposition … and tell the world.

5. Effective Marketing Action Plan

Effective marketing includes establishing benchmark metrics that you need to calculate return on investment, formalize results tracking, and create a campaign calendar for internal and external initiatives. When you have an effective action plan, you also have an effective path to follow when meeting your interim goals and adjusting them as necessary based on your results.

Where possible, make this information easy to access and automatic.

When you have a variety of spreadsheets and reports to update and review, user error can make a huge difference between a successful marketing strategy and a hit or miss campaign that may or may not bring you results.

You want to regularly evaluate how your marketing efforts are measuring up to your original marketing plan. You need to know what’s working and how well it’s working to have a clear idea of your return on investment.

For example, newsletters generate 70% more response than postcards, so if you mailed a postcard-only campaign and it didn’t get you the phone calls you’d hoped for, using a newsletter campaign could bring you the results you want – and need – for your dental practice.

Alternately, a call-response analysis may show you pockets in your practice neighborhood that bring in more phone calls from your direct mail marketing efforts than others. This gives you the opportunity to increase mailings to the pockets that are giving you a great response and decrease the number in other less-successful pockets.

Ensure you have analytics on your dental website to monitor visits, which page is the most important (are visitors interested in teeth whitening or crowns) and use this information to guide your marketing message.

6. Regular Evaluation And Adjustments

You’ll want to re-evaluate your original Market Analysis on a regular basis. This frequency will depend on the specific variables of your practice neighborhood.

  • Have a significant number of older residents moved from your neighborhood into retirement communities? Younger families could have replaced these older residents.
  • Did a major employer suffer from mass lay-offs?
  • Is a new housing development planned that will bring new families to your community?
  • What has happened in your neighborhood that could have an impact on your patient acquisition success?

Regular Market Analysis re-evaluation will keep you ahead of the curve and will allow you to further anticipate the needs of your community … building the trust and rapport that will bring more new patients to your door.

If you have questions, please call Patient NEWS today. Our dental marketing experts will be happy to help you STAND OUT and Grow!