As the owner of a dental practice, it can be tough to know how much to spend on marketing your business.
That’s right: your business.
If you own a dental practice, you own a business. Plain and simple. And all businesses need marketing to survive and thrive.
This concept may be eye-rollingly obvious to successful veteran practice owners. However, it can be a revelation to others, especially if you’re a fresh dental school graduate just starting out.
After all, you spent all those years in dental school becoming great at dentistry, not business management!
You’re smart. You’re a great dentist. You’d love to just focus on using your clinical talents to help people, not hard-sell them on services all day. That’s why you chose this career path in the first place, right?
Of course, you did.
From that perspective, it’s understandable that “marketing” would sound like a dirty word. The idea of spending money on it might make you a bit queasy.
If that’s you, we’re here to set the record straight.
Before we can even begin to discuss numbers and budgets, we must first get crystal clear on:
- What marketing REALLY is (Hint: it’s not selling snake oil).
- Why it’s critical for the success of your business (yes, your business!).
Don’t worry – Once we’ve cleared these points up, we’ll get to the numbers and math stuff.
Still with us?
Great. Let’s dive in.
What is marketing?
Before you can even consider spending your precious dollars on this “marketing” stuff, you need to understand what it is and why it’s so valuable.
Let’s address the obvious: Marketing gets a bad rap.
Because when most of us think of marketing, we think of bad marketing.
You know the stuff I’m talking about:
- Sleazy late-night infomercials.
- Radio ads with obnoxious booming voices.
- Flashing red banners interrupting the blog article you’re trying to read.
- That guy who keeps spamming your inbox with “a great investment opportunity.”
- The list goes on…
Bad marketing is about hype. It’s about interrupting and stealing attention. It’s pressuring and manipulating people to do what you want them to do, regardless of if they actually need or want your product or service.
That’s not the kind of marketing we’re talking about here. We wouldn’t spend money on that either, because it doesn’t work.
Good marketing is generous, sincere, and empathetic
Good marketing is a positive force in the world.
It is a generous act of deeply understanding and empathizing with the people you serve, then providing delightful solutions that make their experience in the world better.
A great marketer is curious about people – their struggles, their dreams, and their beliefs. From that insight, they can provide products and services that exactly meet the needs and worldviews of their customers.
Great marketers communicate this understanding with their customers through engaging storytelling.
No – you’re not going to sit around the campfire telling ghost stories with your patients (though that would be pretty fun!).
Rather, engage them with stories that answer the questions:
- Why should I care about this?
- What’s in it for me?
- Can I trust you? Do you REALLY “get” me?
When you approach marketing your dental practice from this mindset, people naturally gravitate to you – no hard-sells or manipulation required.
We can hear your sighs of relief.
But don’t stop here!
Now that we’re on the same page about what great marketing is, we have to put it into deliberate practice.
So what does this look like? How do you translate empathy towards your customers into tactical marketing strategies?
Here are a few examples:
Publish regular content that focuses purely on helping people – educate, inspire, or answer common questions.
Engage with people where they hang out. Produce content that establishes trust, shows you and your team as relatable human beings (as opposed to a scary doctor’s office), and genuinely helps people solve their problems.
Again: Educate, inspire, and answer burning questions.
Your website is a critical space for connecting with your people. The images, words, and overall design should tell the story your audience wants to hear.
Proactively and thoughtfully respond to reviews (the good and the bad!).
Let your patients get to know you before they even walk into your door.
Make it easy for people to find you and get the info they need.
Why does all this matter for the success of your dental practice?
Here’s the thing:
You can be the most amazing, personable, rockstar dental practice in the whole world…
…but it won’t matter one bit if people don’t know about it!
An amazing product that no one knows about or cares about, isn’t amazing because we don’t get to use it.
– Seth Godin…Opens in a new window to YouTube video featuring Seth Godin…, modern marketing genius
So you do need to get the word out somehow. The tactical examples I mentioned earlier are some great things to focus on.
But, you ask…
That’s great and all, but how the heck do I find time for all that?!
We hear ya.
Again, you’re great at dentistry, not marketing.
And you definitely do not have time to publish weekly blog posts, keep a social media presence (on so many platforms!), and respond to all your reviews.
That’s why most successful dental practices partner with a team of marketing experts.
Just like you’re great at fillings and root canals, marketing experts are great at developing and implementing strategies to attract people to your business.
They can help you narrow in on the types of people you hope to attract, understand their needs, and tell stories that connect with them through various mediums – blogging, social media, your website, emails, and more.
A great marketing partner does all the heavy-lifting required to keep new patients coming in your doors (and retaining existing ones!).
Above all, working with marketing experts allows you to focus on what you do best: dentistry!
Finally: The hard numbers (How much should I spend?)
Here’s the dreaded non-answer: it depends.
We’re not here to annoy you or dodge the question, of course. But we do want to be honest – the amount you need to spend on marketing is highly personal to your business and your goals.
All dental practices need some level of marketing. As the old adage goes: “You need to spend money to make money.”
Ultimately, marketing efforts should make you more money (ideally, a LOT more) than what you put in.
As a super-rough ballpark, most practices should be aiming to spend 5 to 15% of their gross revenue on marketing.
However, many factors determine what amount is right for you.
Here are a few things to consider:
- How long have you been in business? Are you a brand new practice, or have you been around for decades?
- How strong is your current client base?
- What’s the competition like in your local area?
- Are you seeking to grow, or just want to comfortably maintain your patient load?
- Are you struggling to retain patients?
Brand new vs. established dental practices
That first point is a big one.
Suppose you waltz into an established practice that already has a strong reputation and client base. They may get away with a small marketing budget focused on basic maintenance. They might be perfectly happy investing only 20% in marketing.
But what if you’re a brand new practice?
Typically, you’ll need to invest more in the beginning to get things up and running.
There may be some bigger ticket marketing expenses that you must build from scratch, like setting up a professional website and creating a logo.
You’ll also have to work a bit harder to get your initial client base in the door.
When you’re just starting out, you won’t have any revenue data to base your marketing budget on, so the percentage calculation goes out the window (you can’t calculate 30% of $0!).
As a new business owner, the thought of spending all this money on marketing before you’ve seen a single dollar in revenue can be daunting.
It may seem counter-intuitive, but partnering with a marketing agency at this stage can actually help you save money.
Because a trusted marketing partner can help you figure out exactly what to focus on at this stage in your business (what can wait until later), so you don’t waste a single dollar.
In other words, hire a true expert to get the job done right, and maximize the return on your investment.
The good news is, knowing the right amount to spend gets easier with time and practice. You’ll figure out the sweet spot of how much you need to spend to meet your goals and be a happy, successful business owner.
Get an expert in your corner (so you can focus on dentistry)
We believe in keeping marketing simple, straightforward, and delightful – no gimmicks, no B.S, and definitely no sleazy used-car-salesman vibes.
Our team of dental marketing experts are ready to help you craft a custom marketing plan and budget to help you reach (or blow past) your business goals.
Ready to chat with us?
Schedule a time on Angela’s calendar to get started. We can’t wait to meet you!