A lot of dentists I speak with often ask the same question….”What is the most important thing I can do to get more new patients?”.

My answer usually isn’t what they expect to hear. It’s not a new website. It’s not Facebook. And it’s not extending your hours. Don’t get me wrong….all of those are great marketing levers….and they’re all important. But, there are a few crucial steps you need to take first on the journey to more successful marketing.

And it all starts with knowing your market. I mean…really knowing your market. That’s why I tell dentist that the cornerstone to an effective marketing strategy…and getting great results from your marketing efforts…all begins with fully understanding your market in depth. If you will, let me provide a bit more detail here.

The first thing you need to understand is where your prospective patients are coming from. Believe it or not, for most dentists, 90% or more of their patients live or work within a 5-10 mile radius surrounding their dental practice. That’s pretty surprising to a lot of people I talk with. Now, of course, if you’re in a rural setting, it may be up to 25-30 miles, whereas a dentist in the middle of a large city is likely working with a 2-3 mile radius, or even less. But, by and large, this immediate radius surrounding your practice is essentially your addressable market…and that’s it. Do me a favor please…if you haven’t done this before….simply pull up Google Maps. Now identify the market radius around your practice. Be sure to account for your unique factors. This simple act of visually identifying and understanding that radius is very important.

Once you have a visual representation of your market, you now want to understand the demographics of this space inside and out. Because you have to really understand your potential customer base if you’re going to successfully market to them. At a minimum, you should know the following demographics throughout your market radius:

  • Income distribution
  • Age distribution
  • Household composition (i.e. % with children, % dual income no kids, % single, % retired)
  • Employment rates
  • Key employers in the area and types of dental insurance provided
  • Education levels
  • Ethnic backgrounds and secondary languages spoken
  • Duration in home (% < 3 years)
  • # of residents per dentist

Now I know this may seem a bit overwhelming to obtain. I assure you it’s not. You can hire a company to do this type of analysis for you. Or alternatively, you can have a member of your staff compile this information for you via free sites like City Data or the US Census Bureau Fact Finder. Either way, make sure you get it, and that your marketing efforts are based on solid, reliable data that enables you to better understand your prospective customers. And this, will in turn, lead to more successful marketing and more new patients!

“The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well, that the product or service fits him and sells itself.” – Peter Drucker

About Kent Sears

About Kent Sears

Kent provides over 15 years experience in consulting and marketing strategy. His work has spanned the globe, in both public and private sector, with leading companies such as Microsoft and T-Mobile. He brings his corporate experience to help private practice dentists realize their full business potential through more effective marketing strategies to stay competitive in the rapidly changing world of marketing and healthcare.