The 3 Things I’ve Learned About Dental Marketing You HAVE to Know

IN SEPTEMBER OF 2008 I attended an event in Las Vegas called Blogworld & New Media Expo. It was the second time this event was held, and social media’s popularity was just beginning to emerge. I remember truly sensing a revolution in the making, but little did I know what a paradigm shift it would bring to dental marketing.

Some of the people around me were tweeting. I had no idea what that was… and when I checked into it, frankly, I thought it was the dumbest thing I’d ever seen. “How on Earth could this be useful,” I thought.

I opened an account anyway (because I didn’t want to feel left out) and became approximately the 16 millionth registered user with this first tweet:

From that day I would be inspired, fueled, and consumed by this new media revolution — and in particular, its application to dental marketing — for nearly the next decade.


In preparation for a recent speaking opportunity I asked myself, “If a dentist asked you to list the three most important things you’ve learned about dental marketing, how would you reply?” As I worked to answer that question I distilled, and distilled. Here’s what I came up with…

1. Today, ALL Dental Marketing Is Digital Marketing

Dental marketing has changed forever. In the old days, consumers had limited choices, limited places to buy goods and services, limited messages to pay attention to, and they believed advertising. Not today.

People don’t pay attention to traditional advertising anymore. They “opt in” to the messages they want to receive. And according to a recent Nielsen study, 84% of smartphone and tablet owners use their devices as second-screens while watching TV. I’m one of them. I can’t remember the last time I watched TV without a second screen in my hands… Whether that was my laptop, iPad or smartphone. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I watched live TV and sat through the commercials. Maybe you’re the same way.

Your patients and prospective patients constantly move between the online and offline worlds. And social media has become DEEPLY embedded in this very fluid space.

Regardless of how someone first hears about your practice, marketing your practice almost immediately becomes digital and social. If someone recommends your practice over lunch, or receives your direct mail postcard, the first thing that happens is the smartphone comes out of the purse and your practice is checked out. Even when you make a treatment recommendation inside your practice, patients will use social media to ask their trusted friends about those recommendations—and about you.

A pediatric dentist and client of ours, Dr. Mitzi Hines, recently wrote us a note about this very thing. “We get new patients from social media, but that’s not the best part. There are lots of people out there who are looking at our Facebook page to find out what we’re ‘really like’ before they bring their son or daughter in for their first visit. Whether they hear about us from a referring dentist or from other advertising, we know almost everyone is ‘checking us out’ on Facebook.”


Which brings me to the second important thing I’ve learned about social media dental marketing…

2. Social Media Favors Small, Local Businesses — Like Your Dental Practice

Nike has 30 million Likes on their Facebook page. But typically when they post content the amount of interaction they get is proportionally low. When they recently posted about a half marathon, 684 people Liked the post and 70 people commented… Which at first glance seems pretty good, until you do the math. As a percentage of their fan base, very few people Liked the post and an even smaller percentage commented.

Contrast that with a dental practice example where the practice asked their fans to guess the date when their hygienist would deliver her baby. 21 people Liked the post and 68 people commented. Again, when you do the math, you begin to see the significant difference between the proportional level of interaction on big corporate pages vs. small business pages.

Small businesses — like your dental practice — are relationship based. Big corporations aren’t. And this brings me to the third thing I’ve learned:

3. Effective Dental Marketing Is About People, Not Media

Whoever started using the word “media” to describe social media really messed it all up for everyone and made it all very confusing. I understand what it means to be in business, and the importance of measuring the effectiveness of your marketing spend. But while big businesses earmark tens of millions of dollars crunching numbers in an effort to attribute some arbitrary dollar value to a fan, savvy small business owners seem to already “get it.” They intuitively understand the monetary value of having strengthened relationships with their customers… Especially given the tiny amount of monetary expenditure necessary to maintain and strengthen those relationships.

When you use social media as a stage for communicating your own unique practice story, through people, and through valued relationships, profound and unexplainable changes start to happen. For small businesses — like your dental practice — social media dental marketing provides a simple, systematic way to reinforce to your patients, members of your team, your community, and to YOU, that what you do each day matters. That dentistry isn’t just a commodity. That the way you practice dentistry each day makes a difference… Which in turn strengthens relationships, trust, loyalty, referrals, case acceptance and patient retention.

Effective dental marketing, especially on social media, now belongs to those dentists who care about other people, who are awake to the opportunity dental social media marketing provides, and who believe in their gut that better relationships matter. Embrace what this revolution can do for your practice. Embrace what this revolution can do for you personally.

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  • Hi Jack, I appreciate the article.

    Can’t say that I agree with with the point that ALL Dental Marketing is Digital.

    How did I find my last dentist? Saw a new practice go up near my house, and wanted to support a local business owner who is new to the community, so I called them up and set an appointment.

    Direct mail (in particular postcards) can be EXTREMELY effective, and while you attributed that to digital, I’d disagree. Most would agree that the patient was found because of direct mail, even if they went online to find you, and if you are using attribution modeling, then, you’d likely want to track the first interaction so you can see the real source of that new revenue ( )

    I also disagree that Social Media Favors Small Business. I don’t think there’s anything that really backs that up, and everything that I’ve experienced with both my business, and my clients businesses and read shows that isn’t the case as well. A big business such as Red Bull has the resources to be able to create crazy, awesome, interesting media that gets attention (likes/follows/retweets/shares, etc) and they likely have those extremely loyal fans.

    A small business such as a dental office probably doesn’t have those resources, and the amount of loyal promoters of their business is likely extremely small.

    In fact, organic reach on Facebook is near 1-2%!

    Yes, create engaging, authentic, real, content that your audience and target demographic can relate to, but by and large, don’t expect that to get seen much, it’s just how it works at this point in time. That isn’t to say it won’t change, but to say that “Social Media Favors Small Business” is simply wrong. You should know that.

    This part I agree with:
    For small businesses — like your dental practice — social media dental
    marketing provides a simple, systematic way to reinforce to your
    patients, members of your team, your community, and to YOU, that what
    you do each day matters. That dentistry isn’t just a commodity. That the
    way you practice dentistry each day makes a difference… Which in turn strengthens relationships, trust, loyalty, referrals, case acceptance and patient retention.

    • Hello Tyson. Thanks for your comments. I very much appreciate your feedback. Perhaps most importantly, I appreciate that you’re as thoughtful and as passionate as you are—especially in light of the fact that you own a digital marketing company. I’m an absolute believer that, in the end, discussing these kinds of topics usually results in bringing greater value and benefit to dental and dental specialty practices (which is likely our shared goal).

      May I briefly address your comments?

      1. The way in which you found your last dentist.
      I don’t doubt that this happens a lot. Another similar example might be when someone is hired at a new company, then receives her insurance benefits booklet the first day on the job. She thumbs through the booklet, then picks the dental provider that is closest to her home. I think the important distinction here is that I’m talking about all dental “marketing” beginning and/or ending digitally. It could be said that in your case, when you chose a dentist because you drove by their newly constructed office, there really wasn’t any “marketing” going on. The same holds true for my new employee example above.

      2. Today, all dental marketing is digital marketing.
      One thing that is not apparent on this blog post is that the “original version” of the post was posted about four years ago on April 12, 2014 (which, by the way, is something that I need to discuss with our marketing team… that in the future they identify the original post because of the time that has passed and the changes that happen). Here is the original post: “3 Important Things I’ve Learned About Dental Social Media Marketing” ( ). Over the past four years, I have modified that statement a few times. In the post you read, it said, “Today, all dental marketing is digital marketing.” Now, what I typically say is a little bit different when I speak at dental events—e.g. something like, “Today, all dental marketing begins and/or ends digitally—and social media is its core.”

      3. Attribution Modeling
      I appreciate that you brought up the concept of attribution modeling. I’m a big fan of that—although in practical terms, most dental practices don’t pay enough attention to tracking where their new patients come from. In a perfect world, I’m sure the practice’s efforts in tracking would show that some new patients originally hear about the practice in a non-digital way… But frankly, I still defend the idea that those are few and far between. The vast majority of our clients never send postcards to targeted zip codes any more. You mentioned that it can be effective… And I don’t doubt your word. But for the most part, for most of our client practices, I have not found that’s the case.

      3. I disagree that social media favors small business.
      I guess we may just have to agree to disagree on this one. One important point to remember is that—first and foremost—it all depends on the objectives! In teaching social media marketing at an MBA level for a number of years, I have reveiwed and taught from tons of case studies where social media is used by big brands. It is a big part of my teaching curriculum in the MBA program. And still, in my opinion, having worked with thousands and thousands of dental practices over nearly a decade, I must hold to my assertion that “social media favors small, local businesses”, at least given the objectives that we set for our practice clients.

      Thanks again, Tyson, for spending the time to post your feedback. This kind of dialogue is helpful and productive. By the way… Given your strong opinions, we should have you teach a breakout lecture at our upcoming Dental Digital Marketing Conference in April! Let me know if you have interest and we can take this conversation ahead offline.

      Thanks again, Tyson.

      • Thank you for your kind, and professional feedback.

        All too often, I see that when somebody has a different opinion, the criticism is taken personally, and instead of furthering the discussion, it digresses and nobody learns anything.

        On a side note, what I prefer to do on updated posts is to update the actual post. Then put a note at the top of the post that it was updated. Keep the same URL for SEO benefits, as well as for user experience (you don’t have old, outdated content on your site). See an example of how I do it here:

        You also aren’t having multiple blog posts that are trying to rank for the same keyword (which typically isn’t a good idea, particularly when your blog posts are as short as they are).

        Thanks for the invite for the conference. Please shoot me an email at tyson at with more details. That is the heart of baseball season, and with two kids and three teams across those two boys, it get’s busy, so I’m not sure if I’ll be available. But should I be, I’d love to be there.

        • Thanks for the insights about what you’ve learned about best practices for updated posts. I will pass that along to our marketing team. I will send you an email about the conference. Have a great week.