Dental practice marketing is critical to the success of any dental practice because, no matter how great a dentist is, patients will always leave:

They move
They change benefits providers
They grow dissatisfied with an element of the service or price
Etc, etc etc
The key to the success of a dentist’s business, therefore, is to make every effort to minimize patient attrition while, at the same time, endeavoring to continuously attract a steady stream of new patients. This is where dental practice marketing comes in.

Dental Practice Marketing Ensures Survival and Drives Growth

Dental practice marketing provides for both the survival of a dentist’s office – if patients who leave the practice aren’t replaced the practice will simply cease to exist – and for its growth, provided that its marketing efforts are effective at attracting new patients at a faster rate than it loses “old” patients.

And yet, in spite of the obvious importance of marketing to the success of any dental practice, the majority of dentists seem to make some pretty poor decisions when it comes to how and where to spend their marketing time, effort, and money. They tend to spend their marketing time, effort, and money mostly in the same ways they always have – “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” – and really only dabble in anything outside their dental practice marketing “comfort zone.”

Well, the reality is that “it is broke” and it needs to be fixed. The audiences that dental practices market to have moved away from the places where they spend most of their marketing time, effort, and money – consumer usage of the Yellow Pages, for instance, continues to fall dramatically year after year – and towards places where most dental practices have little or no “strategic” visibility, such as search engines and Web 2.0.

Search Engines Trump Web 2.0 Sites as Targets for Dental Practice Marketing Effort and Spend

And even though Web 2.0 sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and the like generate most of the buzz these days – and with good reason because the high-level (but meaningless at a local level) numbers are, frankly, jaw-dropping – they’re not where a dental practice should be directing a lot of its marketing time, effort or money for the simple reason that people visit Web 2.0 sites primarily to connect/socialize with friends and family. They’re not there to look for products and services and are certainly not there to be marketed to.

Search engines, on the other hand, are where people turn when they’ve got an itch to scratch:

15.7 billion “explicit core” searches were conducted in the US in August 2010 – comScore
90% of the 239 million US Internet users who use the Internet to find local businesses use search engines to do so – the Kelsey Group
52% of people who use search engines to find local business information usually or always follow up their online search with an offline purchase – Nielsen/WebVisble
39% of people who use a search engine to find a local business are looking for medical/dental services – Nielsen/WebVisble
When you look at what’s going on in the search engines at a local level – for example, in the city of Vancouver – you’ll see that the numbers make a compelling case for dental practices to invest more of their marketing time, effort, and money into search engine marketing.

The following numbers are taken from Google’s Keyword Selection Tool which, among other things, tracks and reports on monthly keyword search volumes:

5,400 monthly searches for “dentist Vancouver”
3,600 monthly searches for “Vancouver dentist”
2,900 monthly searches for “Vancouver dental”
1,600 monthly searches for “dental Vancouver”
1,600 monthly searches for “dentists Vancouver”
That’s 15,100 monthly searches for just six keywords – out of dozens – that people use every month in their efforts to find dentists/dental practices/dental services in the city of Vancouver.

An Effective Dental Practice Marketing Strategy Must Include Search Engine Marketing

Search engines, very simply, connect people in need of products and services with businesses that sell the products and services they need – at the precise moment when their needs are at a peak level. That’s why they’re searching on the Internet in the first place. They’ve got an itch to scratch – such as a tooth ache – and they need it scratched – and usually pretty urgently.

And not only are search volumes for dentists and related terms already high, more and more people are turning to search engines to help them find dentists than ever before – as searches for dentist and related keywords reached their highest volumes ever July and August 2010, according to Google Trends.