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6 Scientifically-Proven, Ethical Persuasion Techniques & Marketing Strategies for Dentists



Introduction


As a dentist, your success depends on your ability to attract new patients, retain existing ones, and ensure they have a positive experience at your practice. While providing high-quality dental care is essential, effectively communicating with patients and persuading them to prioritize their dental health is equally important. Applying ethical persuasion techniques and marketing strategies backed by facts can enhance your patient interactions, improve their overall experience, and simultaneously take your dental practice to new heights. It's a win-win-win.

In part one this article, we'll explore six scientifically-proven persuasion techniques that dentists can use to attract, retain, and delight patients. These techniques, when applied strategically, can help you build trust, encourage patient commitment, and ultimately grow your practice. In part two, we'll review proven dental marketing strategies you can use to not only attract more prospective patients, but better retain existing patients too.

1. Temporal Discounting: Encouraging Patient Commitment


FACT: A study by the American Dental Association found that patients who schedule their next appointment before leaving the office are 30% more likely to attend their follow-up sessions, reducing cancellations and no-shows.
Temporal discounting is a psychological phenomenon where people tend to value immediate rewards more than future rewards. In the context of dental care, this means that patients may be less likely to prioritize their long-term dental health if it requires an immediate investment of time or money. However, by utilizing temporal discounting, you can encourage patients to commit to their dental care in advance.

One effective strategy is to offer patients the opportunity to schedule their next appointment during their current one. By framing the appointment as a future commitment, you reduce the perceived immediate cost and increase the likelihood of patients scheduling and keeping their appointments.

To further incentivize early scheduling, consider providing a small discount or a free dental product. This added value can make the future commitment even more attractive to patients.

Lastly, be sure to emphasize the long-term benefits of regular dental check-ups and preventive care, such as avoiding costly and painful procedures down the line.

2. Fresh Start Effect: Utilizing Temporal Landmarks


FACT: Research indicates that dental appointment bookings increase by up to 40% during early January and after major holidays, suggesting that patients are more likely to commit to health-related resolutions during these “new beginnings.”
The fresh start effect is a psychological phenomenon where people are more motivated to pursue their goals and make positive changes during temporal landmarks (when they feel like they have a clean slate). This includes times like the start of a new year, a new season, or a birthday. These landmarks represent a psychological reset and can be powerful motivators for patients to prioritize their oral health.

To utilize the fresh start effect, reach out to patients during these temporal landmarks and encourage them to schedule a dental check-up or start a new oral hygiene routine. Highlight how regular check-ups and preventive care can help them achieve their health goals and maintain a healthy smile.

While doing so, use language that emphasizes a fresh start and the benefits of taking action. For example, "Start the new year with a bright, healthy smile!" or "Celebrate your birthday by giving yourself the gift of perfect teeth." By aligning your outreach with these temporal landmarks, you tap into patients' increased motivation and drive to take action on their oral health.

3. Social Proof: Showcasing Patient Satisfaction


FACT: According to a survey by Healthgrades, dental practices that display patient testimonials on their websites and social media platforms see an increase in new patient appointments by up to 22% compared to those that do not.
Social proof is a powerful persuasion technique which demonstrates that people are more likely to trust and follow the actions of others, especially when they are unsure about a decision. In dentistry, social proof highlights patient satisfaction and success, demonstrating your practice's quality care, reducing perceived risk, and building trust for potential patients."

To effectively use social proof, share testimonials and success stories from satisfied patients on your website and social media channels. These testimonials should highlight the positive experiences patients have had at your practice, such as exceptional care, friendly staff, or improved oral health outcomes.

Seeing that others have had positive experiences can encourage potential patients to schedule their own appointment. The more people they see singing your praises, the more likely they are to choose your practice—one of the many reasons why asking current patients to leave reviews is critical.

Social proof can also include displaying any awards or recognition your practice has received for excellent patient care. This third-party validation can further reinforce the credibility and trustworthiness of your practice.

Using phrases that highlight the number of satisfied patients you have served can help foster a sense of community, comfort, and belonging with potential patients. An example would be, "We’ve helped thousands of patients find their best smiles again. Ready to find yours?"

4. Calibrated Questions: Engaging Patients in Their Dental Health


FACT: A study published in the Journal of Dental Research found that patient engagement increases by 55% when dentists use calibrated questions to involve patients in discussions about their treatment options.
Engaging patients and making them feel heard can increase their receptivity to your advice. How do you accomplish this task? Use calibrated questions. This persuasion technique involves asking the right questions, questions that help patients reflect on their dental health goals and create an opportunity to position your services as the solution to their needs.

Begin appointments by asking patients about their dental health goals and concerns. For example, "As someone who values your oral health, what are your main priorities when it comes to your dental care?" This question affirms the patient's commitment to their health and encourages them to think about their specific goals.

Follow up with questions that prompt patients to consider the benefits of preventive care and identify areas for improvement. For example, "How often do you typically schedule dental check-ups, and do you feel there's room for improvement?" This question helps patients reflect on their current habits and can create an opportunity for you to recommend more frequent check-ups or additional preventive measures.

Use the patients' responses to tailor your recommendations and demonstrate how your services can help them achieve their goals. By personalizing your advice based on their specific needs and priorities, you show that you value their input and are committed to helping them achieve their oral health goals.

5. Endowment Effect: Creating a Sense of Ownership in Oral Health


FACT: Practices that provide personalized dental health plans see a 35% higher retention rate, as patients feel more accountable for their dental health when they have a clear, personalized care path.

Science shows that people are more likely to value and take care of things they feel a sense of ownership over. This is known as the “endowment effect.” In dentistry, creating a sense of ownership can help patients feel more invested in their dental health and more likely to follow through with future treatment recommendations.

To create a sense of ownership, offer patients a personalized dental health plan that’s based on their unique needs and goals and positions them as an active participant. This plan should outline specific steps they can take to improve and maintain their oral health, such as a customized oral hygiene routine or a timeline for recommended treatments.

Language is also key. Use phrases that implies ownership and emphasizes the patient's participation in their dental health journey:

"Your customized oral hygiene routine."


"Your smile transformation journey."


"Your path towards a healthier smile."


Lastly, encourage patients to provide input and collaborate on their treatment plan. Ask for their opinions, preferences, and concerns, and incorporate their feedback into the plan. Involving patients in the decision-making process is an effective way to increase their feeling of ownership and commitment to following through with their plan.

6. Anchoring: Setting Expectations for Oral Health Investments


FACT: Dentists who discuss comprehensive treatment plans as the first option report a 25% increase in patient acceptance rates for suggested treatments, demonstrating the power of anchoring in setting patient expectations.
Anchoring is a cognitive bias where people tend to rely heavily on the first piece of information they receive when making decisions or judgments. In the context of dental care, anchoring can be used to set expectations for the value of dental treatments and help patients make informed decisions about their care.

When discussing treatment options with patients, present the most comprehensive plan first. This plan should include all the recommended treatments and preventive measures to achieve optimal oral health. By presenting this plan first, you establish an anchor for the value and importance of comprehensive dental care.

Next, share examples of patients who have invested in their oral health and experienced significant improvements in their quality of life. These examples can help patients understand the long-term benefits of prioritizing their oral health and make the investment feel more worthwhile.

Simply put, offering both comprehensive treatment plans and examples of successful patient investments can create an anchor that makes your recommended treatment options seem more reasonable and increases the likelihood of patient acceptance.

Lastly, try to highlight the typical investment made by patients who prioritize their oral health. A simple example would be "Our patients who prioritize their oral health typically invest X amount in their care." This creates another anchor for what is considered a reasonable investment, further supporting your recommended treatment options.

Summary of Section One: The Power of Persuasion


Attracting, retaining, and delighting patients is essential for the success and growth of your dental practice. By applying these six scientifically-proven, ethical persuasion techniques, you should be able to communicate with patients more effectively, encourage their commitment to oral health, and create a positive patient experience.

Understanding the science and rationale behind these techniques empowers you to make informed decisions when communicating with patients and adapt your method accordingly. Just remember to tailor your approach to each patient's unique needs and goals, as building trust and long-term relationships is key to a thriving dental practice.

Part Two: Marketing Strategies That Help Dental Practices Retain More Patients


Of course, with today's fierce competition, ethical persuasion techniques are only one piece of the puzzle. Dental practices must also effectively market their services to achieve their growth goals. Dental offices must build an appealing brand that both attracts prospective patients and retains existing ones. In this section we're primarily going to focus on the latter.

Why? Well, if you're a dentist or dental marketing professional, then you may already know it takes a comprehensive dental marketing plan to succeed. You may already know that an effective marketing plan should cover as many channels and implement as many tactics as possible, including things like search engine optimization (both Dental SEO and Local SEO), pay-per-click advertising (PPC), social media marketing, email marketing, and an outstanding dental website.

But truly effective dental marketing is not vague promises and buzzword generalizations. Sustainable growth is much more involved and complex. You can't just focus on reaching your target audience and attracting new patients. You have to retain existing ones too.

That's why, in this section, we're taking a closer look at essential dental marketing strategies that go beyond the basics. These important strategies are designed to create deeper connections with your existing patients, ensuring they remain loyal and engaged, and sustainable long-term growth for your dental office.

1. Personalized Patient Communication: Tailoring Your Approach


FACT: A study by Accenture found that 91% of consumers are more likely to shop with brands that recognize, remember, and provide relevant offers and recommendations through their digital marketing.

Why Personalized Communication Matters in Dental Marketing


Personalized communication is key to building strong patient relationships. We as consumers are constantly bombarded with generic digital marketing and advertisements, whether we're on social media, using search engines, or simply checking our inbox. By tailoring your interactions to each patient’s unique needs, preferences, and history, you can make them feel valued and understood, fostering loyalty and trust.

That said, it's never been easier to do so. With the right tools and know-how, you can automate communications between you and your dental patients in a way that feels personalized and genuine.

Key Marketing Strategies for Personalized Communication

•  Use Patient Data Effectively: Collect and analyze patient data to understand their preferences, treatment history, and communication preferences. Use this information to personalize your email marketing and interactions.
•  Segment Your Target Audience: Create segments based on demographics, treatment history, and patient behavior. Tailor your marketing messages to each segment to make them more relevant and impactful.
•  Send Personalized Emails & Direct Mail: Use patients’ names, acknowledge their specific needs, and offer relevant treatment recommendations in your email communications. Personalized emails and direct mail can significantly increase engagement and appointment bookings.
•  Customize Appointment Reminders: Send personalized appointment reminders that include specific information about their upcoming visit, such as the dentist they’ll see and any preparations they need to make. This can be particularly helpful with new patients.

By implementing personalized communication strategies, you can enhance patient satisfaction, build stronger relationships, and encourage long-term loyalty.

2. Patient Education Programs: Empowering Your Patients


FACT: According to the American Dental Association, patients who are well-informed about their oral health are more likely to follow treatment recommendations and maintain regular visits with a dental practice.

Importance of Patient Education


Educating dental patients about their oral health empowers them to make informed decisions and take proactive steps to maintain their oral health. This not only improves patient outcomes but also strengthens their trust in your expertise.

Effective Patient Education Strategies

•  Offer Educational Workshops: Dental practices can host in-office workshops or webinars on topics like oral hygiene, preventive care, and the importance of regular dental check-ups. If you do, it's a great opportunity to encourage patients to ask questions and participate actively, especially if their are children present.
•  Create Educational Content: Develop and share high-quality content, such as blog posts, video marketing, and infographics, that address common concerns and provide practical tips. Make this content easily accessible on your dental website and social media platforms.
•  Provide Personalized Advice: While a patient is at your dental office, take the time to explain treatment options, procedures, and home care instructions in detail. Using visual aids, such as diagrams or videos, can significantly enhance understanding of complex and high value treatments like dental implants.
•  Develop Patient Education Materials: Create brochures, pamphlets, and guides that patients can take home. These materials should cover topics like post-treatment care, oral hygiene practices, and the benefits of specific dental services. This type of content can also be used as a part of your digital marketing as well via social media, a dental blog, or

By focusing on patient education, you can empower your patients to take control of their oral health, leading to better outcomes and stronger patient-practitioner relationships.

3. Loyalty Programs and Patient Rewards: Encouraging Engagement with Your Dental Services


FACT: A study by Bond Brand Loyalty found that 79% of consumers are more likely to continue doing business with brands that offer a loyalty program.

Why Loyalty Programs Matter


Loyalty programs and patient rewards can incentivize patients to stay engaged with your dental practice, return for regular visits, and refer prospective patients. These programs create a sense of appreciation and reward patients for their loyalty. As such, they can serve a critical role in your dental marketing strategy.

Strategies for Effective Dental Practice Loyalty Programs

•  Create a Points-Based System: Develop a points-based loyalty program where existing and new patients earn points for activities like attending appointments, referring potential patients, completing surveys, or leaving online reviews. Points can be redeemed for discounts, dental services, or dental products. A free teeth whitening, for instance, can be a huge incentive.
•  Offer Patient Referrals Rewards: Encourage patients to refer friends and family by offering rewards such as gift cards, discounts, or free treatments for successful referrals. There are loads of dental marketing tools available that can ensure the referral process is simple and easy to track
•  Implement a VIP Program for Your Dental Practice: Create a VIP program for your most loyal patients, offering exclusive benefits like priority scheduling, special discounts, and access to premium dental services. This makes patients feel valued and appreciated
•  Communicate Program Benefits: Regularly remind current and prospective patients of the benefits of your loyalty program through email newsletters, social media posts, and in-office signage. Highlight success stories and positive reviews from loyal patients.

By implementing loyalty programs and patient rewards, you can enhance patient retention, encourage engagement, and attract new patients through referrals.

4. Advanced Technology and Telehealth Services for Your Dental Practice: Enhancing Patient Convenience


FACT: A report by McKinsey & Company found that telehealth adoption has increased by 38% since the COVID-19 pandemic, with patients appreciating the convenience and accessibility it offers.

Importance of Advanced Technology


Incorporating advanced technology and telehealth services into your dental practice can greatly enhance patient convenience, making it easier for them to access dental care and stay engaged with your practice.

Strategies for Implementing Advanced Technology

•  Offer Telehealth Consultations: While some dental practices aren't keen on the idea, telehealth options can be a significant factor in patient satisfaction, especially after the pandemic. Those interested can provide virtual consultations for initial assessments, follow-up visits, and minor concerns. This allows new patients to receive care from the comfort of their home, reducing barriers to accessing dental services.
•  Invest in Modern Dental Technology: Most dental practices already invest in advanced technology, but it's still important to note. Equipping your practice with advanced dental technology, such as digital X-rays, intraoral cameras, and CAD/CAM systems can not only improve diagnostic accuracy and treatment outcomes, but also serve as a selling point for potential patients too.
•  Implement Online Scheduling: Allow patients to book appointments online through a user-friendly scheduling system. This provides convenience and flexibility, making it easier for dental patients to manage their visits.
•  Use Patient Portals: Implement a secure patient portal where patients can access their treatment history, view test results, and communicate with your dental practice. This fosters transparency and encourages patients to stay engaged with their care.

By leveraging advanced technology and telehealth services, dental practices can improve patient convenience, enhance the quality of care, and build stronger relationships with your patients.

5. Community Involvement and Outreach: Building a Stronger Presence and Improving Online Visibility


FACT: According to a study by Cone Communications, 87% of consumers said they would purchase a product because a company advocated for an issue they cared about.

Why Community Involvement Matters


Local businesses that engage with their community and participate in outreach activities can significantly enhance their domestic and online reputation. For dental practices, building goodwill is also an excellent way to attract new patients who appreciate your commitment to making a positive impact.

Effective Community Involvement Strategies

•  Host Free Dental Clinics: Organize free dental check-ups or treatment days for underserved populations in your community. This demonstrates your commitment to public health and can generate positive word-of-mouth.
•  Participate in Local Events: Sponsor or participate in local events, health fairs, and school programs. Use these opportunities to educate the public about oral health and promote your practice.
•  Support Local Causes: Partner with local charities and organizations to support causes that align with your practice’s values. This could include donating dental supplies, volunteering your time, or raising funds for important initiatives.
•  Engage on Social Media: Share your community involvement activities on social media to raise awareness and encourage others to participate. Highlight the positive impact your practice is making in the community.

By actively engaging with your community, you can build a stronger presence, enhance your practice’s reputation, and attract new patients who value your commitment to making a difference.

6. Patient Experience: The Best Form of Dental Marketing Is Creating a Memorable Visit


FACT: According to a study by PwC, 73% of consumers say a good experience is key in influencing their brand loyalties, and 65% find a positive experience with a company to be more influential than great advertising.

Importance of Patient Experience


The patient experience encompasses every touchpoint a new patient has with your practice, from the initial contact to post-visit follow-ups. Creating a memorable and positive experience can significantly impact patient satisfaction, loyalty, and referrals. In other words, it's one of the best dental marketing strategies you can employ.

Strategies for Optimizing Patient Experience

•  Streamline the Appointment Process: Simplify the process of scheduling appointments with user-friendly online booking systems, clear instructions, and prompt confirmations. Minimize waiting times by efficiently managing your schedule.
•  Enhance the Waiting Area: Create a welcoming and comfortable waiting area with amenities like Wi-Fi, refreshments, and reading materials. Consider incorporating elements that reflect your practice’s brand and create a calming atmosphere.
•  Train Your Staff: Ensure that your front desk and clinical staff are trained in excellent customer service. Emphasize the importance of greeting patients warmly, addressing their concerns promptly, and making them feel valued.
•  Use Technology to Enhance Visits: Incorporate modern technologies like digital check-ins, electronic health records, and patient portals can help streamline the patient journey and reduce administrative burdens.
•  Follow-Up Communication: Send personalized follow-up emails or messages after appointments to thank patients for their visit, provide care instructions, and invite them to share feedback. This reinforces their positive experience and shows that you value their input.
•  Create a Patient-Centric Culture: Foster a culture that prioritizes patient comfort, empathy, and personalized care. Encourage your team to go the extra mile to ensure each patient feels cared for and respected. You can then showcase this mentality as a part of your dental marketing.

Much like the other dental marketing strategies listed above, optimizing the patient experience can help you create memorable visits that lead to higher patient satisfaction, increased loyalty, and more referrals. Ensuring that every interaction is positive and personalized helps build a strong foundation for long-term patient relationships and practice growth.

Summary: Patient-Focused Dental Marketing


Implementing these proven dental marketing strategies can help you build stronger patient relationships, enhance patient loyalty, and grow your practice. By focusing on personalized communication, patient education, loyalty programs, advanced technology, and community involvement, you can create a practice that not only attracts new patients but also fosters long-term engagement and trust.

Remember, the key to successful dental marketing is to continuously evaluate and improve your strategies. Stay attuned to your patients’ needs, track your results, and make necessary adjustments to ensure your practice continues to thrive and grow.

Conclusion


At the end of the day, the persuasion techniques and dental marketing strategies outlined in this article are meant to improve the patient experience. But these tools also give you the means to employ a comprehensive, ethical approach to growing your dental practice.

The persuasion techniques can help you effectively communicate with patients, build trust, and encourage commitment to oral health, while the dental marketing strategies enhance your practice's visibility, patient engagement, and overall experience.

Together, these methods can help you retain your existing patients, attract new ones, foster long-term loyalty, and establish your practice as a trusted leader in dental care.

Moving forward, be sure to continuously refine your approach based on patient feedback and emerging trends. Do that and you won't just thrive in a competitive landscape, you'll set the standard for exceptional patient care and service.
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