Dentistry has been growing phenomenally over the last few years. Experts estimate that the global dental services industry was worth $371.4 billion in 2020 and will be worth a staggering $698.8 billion by 2030, growing at 6.8% compounded annually across that period. This kind of growth has convinced many people to become dentists. Everyone wants to be part of something with a huge runway for growth. The difficulty for many dental practitioners is that standing out in dentistry gets harder every year. According to Statista, for example, the number of dentists grew every year between 1993 and 2016.it has likely continued growing since then. So many dentists are increasingly relying on dental marketing to improve their visibility. The question is, does dental marketing actually work?
Why Do Dentists Need Marketing?
The first thing to realize is that a dental practice is, in economic terms, a business that generates its revenue from the number and cost of procedures done within its facilities. So it matters how many patients a dentist has. Now let’s get to the raw numbers.
The typical solo practice should have an active patient base of between 1300 and 1500 patients. By active patient we mean a patient who has been in for treatment in the last 18 months and is scheduled for a check-up visit or recall. In addition, the typical general dental should add at least 25 new patients every month in order for it to thrive. As a rule of thumb, practice growth must be 15% and supported through the addition of more patients.
Furthermore, all dentists suffer from some level of churn, with the average dental practice losing 15% to 20% of its patient base per year, due largely to patients relocating, dying, losing their dental insurance or dental insurance.
So, a dental practice has to keep adding patients, firstly, just to replace the patients it will lose regardless of how good it is, and secondly, to go beyond breaking even and actually make a profit.
So Does It Actually Work?
The short answer is yes. According to the best prosthodontist I know, it’s not enough to rely on word-of-mouth to drive patient acquisition. The kind of growth demanded by a dental practice requires a marketing plan that caters for thought leadership pieces, print advertising, social media advertising, email marketing and other channels geared toward promoting a dental practice’s services.
Revenue Well and the American Dental Association published a review of the most successful marketing strategies and found that successful marketing strategies could be categorized into five themes: big, strategic decisions; switching service providers; reactivating inactive patients; focusing on a key service such as teeth whitening for a marketing campaign; and optimizing schedules could successfully drive production, reduce overheads, and simplify operations, all the while heightening brand visibility and the willingness of patients to promote a dental practice.
Studying cases like these can help dental practices develop better marketing campaigns and leverage the immense possibilities that technology and digital media offer.