I’m a dentist like you, who ran a successful fee-for-service practice for 15 years. I had a vision for my brand from day one and chose to embrace social media when no other dentist in my community did. The consequence of this choice has shaped my entire career.
Although I still love dentistry, I felt a call to serve dentists who struggled to stand out in an increasingly competitive marketplace. I now run a boutique dental marketing agency that helps dentists get on their mark and showcase their amazing stories through the powerful lens of social media, especially Instagram! But why build your brand? Why show it at all? Let me take you back a few years to share with you a story that demonstrates why I believe this is so important.
Discover the power of social media
Imagine a beautiful summer morning in Chicago; the sun is rising as I have my morning latte before heading into my office for another day of dentistry. The phone rings, my office manager answers. My entire team is trained to answer the phone, handle objections and discuss our financial policy. This strategy has paid off; I learned early on that even the most effective marketer would only get a lead through a phone call or an email. Turning this perspective into a cosmetic consultation requires a well-trained team. In the end, your practice is only as good as that of the weakest member of your team.
The script is precise and the caller answers many relevant questions. How did you hear about our firm? “Oh, it was actually my daughter who found you; she’s back from college for the summer. She has a serious dental phobia but has been thinking about getting a makeover for a long time. She’s a bit shy, but I have to tell you she’s online as we speak!
The girl shyly introduces herself and begins to explain that she’s been following us on Instagram for almost a year. “Everyone seems so fun and friendly. And I love your space; it’s so beautiful and it doesn’t look like a dental office at all!” She schedules a cosmetic consultation and, in four weeks, she has a beautiful new smile.
Here’s the thing: She was so excited about her experience that she documented the entire event on her Instagram and TikTok accounts. I guess I cured his phobia! She also tagged the office and a few days later a friend of hers scheduled a cleaning and then her friend’s mom came to get her teeth whitened and also signed up for Invisalign. What dentists don’t realize is that Instagram is a modern digital recommendation system, perfect for dentistry.
Marketing my practice on Instagram has allowed me to showcase my brand, and this strategy has changed my life. I went from working 50 hours a week to just 24 hours in three years while racking up more than seven figures. My original marketing approach has allowed me to attract like-minded patients who value me, my practice and my services. My patients were not motivated by insurance; they just wanted a great experience, and that’s what I gave them! My cosmetic patient base has grown tremendously thanks to Instagram marketing. When you start adding a few high value patients each week, it has a domino effect that has a real impact on your bottom line. My fundraising per hour has more than doubled in three years to over $1,000. This shift allowed me to significantly reduce my hours, which improved my quality of life, and like so many hard-working dentists, it is exactly what I wanted.
Find a niche
These kinds of results require a strategy. For me, it started with a clear vision of who my ideal patient or “avatar” was: what brands they liked, what they didn’t like, where they lived, their age and gender, which for me was mainly feminine. I also knew where they shopped and what other health and beauty services they liked. This avatar clarity is absolute gold. If you want to hit your target, you need to know where to look! Once I knew what they liked, I simply conveyed their likes to them by posting intentional content on my Instagram page, and I was reimbursed in kind.
Understanding your avatar gives you a distinct advantage; it’s kind of like the casting through which your marketing strategy is cast. It is never a question of “selling”; it’s about being authentic and showing what’s important to you and what you think will add value to your ideal patient experience. Once you make an emotional connection, trust follows!
It may seem trivial, but remember: you don’t have to be for everyone. Not everyone cares whether you charge their phone for them during their date, or offer them a scented warm pillow or cashmere blanket. Most won’t notice that triangle-shaped piece of toilet paper when they walk into a pristine bathroom. Or that there is a “no wait” policy where they get a $10 Starbucks gift card every time you are a few minutes late. There are certainly people who don’t care if they get a cupcake from a local bakery for their birthday, or that during the treatment they can enjoy their favorite TV show or movie while wearing headphones. Bose noise canceling. But I had no interest in attracting people who didn’t care about these little touches. They weren’t my target market because our values didn’t match.
If you find out exactly what your ideal patient wants and overdeliver, you will stand out and attract that patient. It’s so simple. The types of patients I wanted to attract definitely noticed every little detail. They valued extraordinary service above all else, and I knew how to provide it. I’ve even had patients thank me for having purse stools in my operating rooms. It is bad feng shui to have purses on the floor because floors do not carry good energy. Stupid, right? But not for people who appreciate this attention to detail. For them it’s important, so it’s important for me too! But all of that means nothing if it’s hidden behind the blackout curtain of poor marketing. Out of sight, out of mind!
Instagram is your best bet
Instagram is a visual platform, and studies have shown that people retain 55% more information when paired with a relevant image.1 Although you can include images on other platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, the images aren’t as visible as on Instagram.
When someone sees your content, an immediate emotional connection occurs. The photos you share are like little windows into the soul of your business. People can learn a lot about your practice from your Instagram feed, but you need to be transparent, which makes some dentists uncomfortable. Growth always requires some discomfort because our ego does not like change.
Today, more than 71% of businesses in the United States use Instagram, and most users spend an hour on the platform every day, scrolling through the feed, watching stories and interacting with the content they see.2 So why haven’t most dentists embraced social media marketing yet? It turns out that 67% of dentists don’t have a marketing strategy or marketing campaign of any kind! And 51% of dental practices don’t use any social media, and only 3% post at least once a day.3
I’ve spoken to hundreds of dentists, and there’s one major objection to using Instagram for their practice. They all complain about not having the time, which means “I don’t enjoy it, so I’m not ready to devote time to it”. What the majority of dentists miss is that if they step out of their comfort zone and trust the process, they have a huge competitive advantage! It has worked for me, it works for my clients, and I know it will work for you.
Social media is here to stay
OK, I hope you’re careful, because I’m about to drop a truth bomb. There is a change happening in the dental industry that has nothing to do with health care. It has to do with how we as dentists attract new patients to our practices. In the past, referrals were by far the best way to expand your patient base, but these days potential patients check out practices online before making a decision. It takes courage and humility to pivot and change your mindset, but the evidence is overwhelming and the truth is that the future of dental marketing has already arrived.
It’s clear that social media isn’t going anywhere, and Instagram is getting more and more popular day by day. As dentists, we need to seize this incredible opportunity to insert ourselves into the conversation and connect with people in an authentic and memorable way.
It is essential that dentists remain relevant during this tidal wave of change; they must learn to embrace marketing, branding and, most importantly, storytelling. Dentists must be able to connect with people in their community on an emotional level outside of the practice walls. The best way to do this is to use consistent and intentional branding to tell their story so people can know, love and trust them.
Like everything else in life, we have a choice when it comes to everything we do. If you keep sending emails to people looking for free cleanings and x-rays, and it attracts your ideal patients, keep doing it. Marketing is not a one-size-fits-all game. But if you want to attract patients who truly like you because they love who you are, the comfort that your practice provides, your amazing team, and of course your awesome services, then there’s no better way to put it. worth only on Instagram!
- Rules of Medina J. Brain: vision. Accessed January 24, 2022. http://brainrules.net/vision/
- Mohsin M. 10 Instagram Stats Every Marketer Should Know. February 16, 2021. Accessed January 24, 2022. https://www.oberlo.com/blog/instagram-stats-every-marketer-should-know
- Municipal survey: marketing. Dentalville. July 2021. https://www.dentaltown.com/magazine/article/8345/townie-poll-marketing
Editor’s note: This article appeared in the April 2022 print edition of Dental economy magazine. Dentists in North America can take advantage of a free print subscription. Register here.