How to build dental marketing campaigns that retain patients

Patient acquisition gets a lot of attention since it’s a key metric for practice success, and sometimes that leaves patient retention as an afterthought. But the most successful practices know prioritizing both acquisition and retention is the secret to having a profitable practice. For many practices though, retention hovers around 41% for new patients leaving room for improvement. Patient retention is easier and less costly because your existing patients chose your practice for specific reasons, so they already have loyalty to you. Considering it can cost between 6-7 times more to get a new customer, why wouldn’t you invest more in your relationships with patients?  

One effective way to improve patient retention is by sending relevant and timely dental marketing campaigns to stay top of mind. Helpful content can separate you from the rest of the practices. It’s about making a genuine connection where you understand their values and showing them how to have the best oral health possible.  

In this post, we’ll cover how to develop campaign themes, what types of emails you should send to connect with patients, and how to track your success – all of which  will help you cultivate loyal patients who want to return.  

1. Start with a theme and develop a dental marketing campaign calendar

Before jumping into building a marketing campaign, it helps to have a theme in mind. Make this a team effort so it’s not falling onto one person. You can decide if it makes sense to a monthly, bimonthly or even quarterly theme depending on your practice goals. Campaign themes are useful because they provide structure and force you to narrow in on topics that best represent your practice and are most relevant to your patients. Plus, they help you define the exact messages you want to share.

Here are some ways to brainstorm dental marketing campaign themes.  

  • Come up with your own dental holiday or awareness week or month if there’s a topic or area your practice is passionate about or excels in.  
  • Look at your reviews to see if your patients give you positive feedback in a specific area. Maybe they love the different cosmetic dentistry options your practice offers. Or does your team have a reputation for putting nervous or anxious patients at ease when they visit your practice?  
  • Here are some designated dental ‘holidays’ you might want to use. Gum Disease Awareness month is in February, Root Canal Awareness week is in May, TMJ Awareness month is in November, and National Floss Day is on the fourth Friday in November.  

For the sake of this post, we’ll use the following theme in the next few sections to explain how to create a campaign from it. Let’s say your practice theme for an upcoming month is to focus on ‘helping patients find confidence in their smiles.’  

If you’re interested in learning how to set your own practice goals, then watch this webinar or read this post to get concrete steps on goal setting and tracking to plan your marketing campaigns.

2. Create a campaign calendar with tactical activities

Once you’ve nailed down your themes, then you need to develop your campaign tactics. This includes brainstorming what content to create, what channels to use, when it will go out, who your audiences are, and what you’re measuring. Seeing all your activities laid out will give you an idea of what’s missing, if you’re overcommunicating, or if there’s unnecessary overlap in communications. You can always shift items around if needed but use this calendar to stay accountable, organized, and not lose sight over what you’re trying to accomplish. The more often you use a campaign calendar, the more routine it becomes. Soon enough, you’ll have a campaign calendar that serves as a template, so you won’t have to reinvent the wheel each time.

Here's an example of some tactical activities for your ‘confident smiles’ campaign.  

  • Content ideas can include what foods and drinks cause tooth decay, what foods help with teeth repair, how to decide when it’s time to explore cosmetic dentistry procedures, pros and cons of teeth whitening procedures, what’s the difference between implants and veneers, etc.  
  • Channels are the ways you’ll promote your campaign. This can include social media, paid social, Google ads, and newsletters and promotional emails. It helps to know what channels your patients are active on to promote your campaigns. Experiment with a mix of different channels so you can reach more people who’d benefit from your services. For this post, we’re going to focus on emails, but keep in mind you can take an omnichannel approach with your marketing activities which allows you to engage with more people.  
  • Frequency  includes what days, times, and how often you’ll send these messages. For example, you could send your emails only on specific days of the week like Tuesdays and Thursdays at 11 am on the first and third week of every month. You can test out timings to see when your patients engage with your content.
  • Measure what you do so you know what’s working and what isn’t. Some metrics to consider include open and click-through rates for email campaigns and appointments and consultations scheduled through your different channels.  

3. Send newsletters and promotional emails to stay in touch with the entire base

If your patients have willingly subscribed to your email communications, then you should take advantage of it to send educational and promotional content. These emails keep them informed of what’s happening at your practice. Newsletters and promotional emails are two types to send.  

Newsletters are an underrated way to reach patients. It’s a type of owned media, which means you have complete control of the content and how it’s published. A newsletter should be educational and move them to prioritize their dental health. It shouldn’t feel like a sales email although you can include a few promotional plugs. After all, like you, your patients are inundated with lots of emails, so if you’re going to be in their inbox, the content needs to be valuable to them. Or they’ll be tempted to unsubscribe.   

Here's one structure for a newsletter you can implement.  

  • Lean into your chosen theme so the newsletter content is cohesive and has a clear message and purpose. For example, your newsletter theme could be related to helping patients find confidence in their smiles. You could even get specific and focus on one topic like teeth whitening.  
  • Lead with an educational piece. The first section of the newsletter which can serve as your ‘spotlight’ piece should be tied to the overall theme and be solely educational. The main content piece could be centered around what foods and drinks stain your teeth and natural ways to improve it. It can be a combination of tips, videos, or articles around ways to maintain naturally white teeth, teeth whitening services to consider, or how to maintain it if you decide to do a teeth whitening service.
  • Follow it up with a promotional plug. The next sections could be more promotional and tied back to your theme and the main content piece. You could promote a service or product or both. This could be a teeth whitening treatment you offer and/or a tooth whitening toothpaste and brush.  
  • Follow the promotional piece with another educational one. You could follow that up with another educational piece such as how to reduce teeth sensitivity after whitening.  
  • End with brand-centric content such as an employee spotlight, donation drive you’re hosting, community event you’re sponsoring. This gives you a chance to showcase your personality, humanize your practice team, and get patients more engaged with you. It’s okay if it isn’t related to your theme, but it could be.  
  • Don’t forget to include a clear CTA like ‘Schedule an Appointment’ to drive conversions.

The second type of email you can send is a promotional email. They shouldn’t feel like a pushy sales email. Instead, they should highlight a product or service that would be beneficial for them and addresses a pain point. This email content should be informative and move them to feel an emotion, so they take action. You could do a promotional email around a teeth whitening service or offer a free cosmetic dentistry consultation during the month, particularly the same timeframe you do the ‘confident smiles’ theme.  

Your patient engagement tools may already have a pre-built newsletter template and other promotional email templates you can start with. In the Campaigns tab of the RevenueWell Marketing Platform, you’ll find a wide variety of email templates including newsletters and other promotional content to use as a template to plug and edit your content.  

4. Send targeted email using segmentation

Segmentation involves breaking down your audience into specific groups of patients based on their demographics, interests, and needs. To do this, you need to get clear on who you want to reach for each email. This involves identifying your audiences using the filters in your PMS to segment your groups. Here are some examples of segmentation.

  1. Target responsible party’s kids between 7-18 to come in for a cleaning
  1. Target college students between 18-23 to come in for a cleaning and explore teeth whitening options
  1. Target patients 25+ who have done a cosmetic dentistry consultation
  1. Patients 30+ who have done teeth whitening in the past year to come back for another session

Additionally, you can leverage ADA treatment codes in your patient engagement tools to send targeted emails to ensure patients are getting the right treatments at the right time. RevenueWell has a robust set of treatment codes you can use. You can even create your own treatment codes specific to your practice and what unique services you offer.  

Another type of targeted email you can send is last-minute ones related to filling your schedule, in case you got some no shows and cancellations or overdue appointments. It can depend on the urgency and whether you need an immediate response or not. It’s always good to leave slots open in your campaign calendar for these more time-sensitive communications.  

5. Measure and adjust

Once you’ve launched your dental marketing campaigns, it’s worth monitoring the performances to understand if they’re bringing you more appointments. You can measure your results directly within your patient engagement tools using the analytics and performance reports available to you. Reviewing these analytics gives you the knowledge to see what’s working and what needs to be tweaked. It also allows you to create a baseline for success at your practice. RevenueWell has an analytics tool inside the platform where you can see how you stack up against the industry standard and track how your campaigns are performing against specific outcomes that drive patient retention.

Use these tips as a guide to build your next dental marketing campaign and see how it performs. Take what you learn and keep iterating what you create. You’ll get a clearer sense of what content resonates with your patients and what drives them to keep coming back to your practice.  

There are several key metrics that practices should regularly track to understand practice performance. Reviewing those metrics will help you find more opportunities to authentically connect with patients, so they stay active and engaged. In the eBook How to Leverage Practice Data and Analytics to Maximize Practice Performance, you’ll learn how to calculate these metrics and get practical tips on how to plan your work around them. This will help you focus on tasks that improve patient retention and drive revenue. Download it today.