A Dentist’s Guide to Targeting Ideal Patients

[This Guide to targeting ideal patients will show you how to analyze, segment, and then effectively target your ideal patients. Approaching dental marketing with this methodology might very well be the difference between you being a contender, or a pretender in your market.]

It’s quite simple, if you want to effectively message ideal patients, you need to know what kind of messages resonate with them. As the late Steven Covey put it, “If I were to summarize in one sentence the single most important principle I have learned in the field of interpersonal relations, it would be this: Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

Know The Patients You Are Trying to Reach.

Know WHERE Your Market Is

Geographic segmentation helps marketers better understand the specific needs of people in a given locale, so they can make better marketing decisions. For example, if your practice is in the tip top of North Dakota, you may have a lot of snowbirds that evacuate the area to dodge winter. If that’s the case, you might not want to spend your advertising budget on implant-supported denture promotions in the middle of January.

Know WHO Your Market Is

Demographic segmentation enables a deeper understanding of your market and exposes areas of competitive opportunity. Successful marketers leverage this exact kind of demographic data to be remarkably precise in both their ad messages and audience selections. Demographic data can be found using the same resources you

used to find your geographic data.

Through your demographic research, you may discover that your market has a significant percentage of young professional families who want to look great. You’ve lived in your town for ten years and you had no idea there were so many young

families. You have been promoting dentures for years. Instead of pushing dentures, maybe this is the group you want to attract and you therefore resolve to start promoting veneers more heavily.

Know WHAT Your Market Does and WHY

Psychographic segmentation divides consumers according to habitual and psychological characteristics. For example, you may live in a college town where a good portion of the people support the football program — particularly among the more well-to-do families who graduated from the university. If you are an alum of the university, it might be a great idea for you to plug into that passionate fan base by visibly supporting the team.

Collecting psychographic information is tricky. If you have been in your market for any amount of time, you will already have a good pulse on some things. You will still want to check your assumptions by researching and asking around. Knowing WHY people do things is tremendously valuable to your marketing. Find the best information you can. Be careful, and be objective!

Know the Competing Dental Practices

Identify Your Top Competitors

Select up to three top competitors you think are contending for the same patients you are. You need to honestly self-assess if you are even credible competition for the three you select. This might sound harsh, but if you look like a dingy practice in the bad part of town… you usually won’t be successful at attracting high-end clientele. (quick plug – The Book on Dental Marketing covers how to create an awesome culture and patient experience, so you can compete for those high-end patients.) You may only have one real competitor in your market, or you may have 25. The principle remains the same. Identify your top competition and go through the analysis process. It will be worth the effort.

Compare by “The Big 3”

Compare your practice against your competitors using “The Big 3.” Remember, the Big 3 (money, fear, and time) are the primary criteria consumers use to choose a dentist, but not the only criteria. The money criteria is split into two line items: pricing and insurance. You will see “online ratings” instead of fear because people are afraid of making a bad choice themselves and often defer to the wisdom of the crowd (ratings) when choosing a dentist. The final criteria of the Big 3, time, is listed as proximity/convenience. This refers to the practices’ locations and how close they are to the potential patients. Pricing should be compared to dentists in your market, not others. As far as online ratings go, people in town usually look at Google.

Compare by Patient Experience

When a potential patient is choosing a dentist, they usually consider things like amenities, the doc’s chairside manner, practice ambience, what the office looks like, and how the team interacts with each other and patients. They of course do this because they want to know they will be treated well at the practice they choose. Being able to confidently assert your claim of providing a better patient experience depends on knowing that you actually do. Scanning your competitors’ websites, checking their online reviews, and simply asking around will clue you in to your competition’s patient experience level. If you want more complete information, there are third party research groups that are happy to assist. Be sure to take the blinders off and do your absolute best to objectively compare your practice against the competition. Rose-tinted observations won’t expose the opportunities you want or need.

Compare by Profile

Patients like being treated well. Who doesn’t?! They also want to visit a nice facility, one that offers a robust array of services and technology. These are the tangible qualities of your practice. What treatments do you offer? What is your actual facility like? Does a mom have to worry about bringing a toddler to your office because they might eat lead paint off your walls? Think of your practice profile as the capabilities of your practice whereas the patient experience covers the comforts.

Compare by Dental Practice Marketing

Understanding the strength and movement of your competitors’ marketing efforts is critical in the race for growth. Armed with this info, you can choose which battles to fight, which to avoid, and claim greener pastures the competition doesn’t even know about! As mentioned previously, a little poking around online can net you a fair amount of detail to use in your analysis. Asking around should help fill in most of the holes.

Identifying Your Real Target Market

A scatter shot approach is damaging to your brand, expensive, and wasteful of opportunities. Savvy dental marketing calls for precise and effective targeting.

Build Your Brand the Right Way

A persona gives you, as a marketer, a precise picture of the potential patients you are trying to influence. Now, instead of guessing if an ad will appeal to your whole market, you only need to answer this question: “Would this appeal to Lisa (or whatever you call your persona)?” Building rapport is easy when you know someone’s interests and can converse with that person about said interests. If you love golf and see someone with a Titleist shirt, you’re about to make fast friends. However, talk about drum sets, and you’re going nowhere.

A well-built persona includes the hobbies, interests, concerns, and economic situation of your ideal patient. This clarity enables you to craft relevant and impactful messages with a much higher likelihood of connecting with your target. Having a clear picture of who are are targeting, what you are going to say, and where and how you’re going to say it builds your brand the right way.

Conserve Your Practice Resources

A lot of wasted resources hide in the slop when trying to market to everyone. By only

communicating with people you truly want as patients, you can slash your spending. A well-defined marketing target audience will help you conserve your resources and use them where they count.

Capture Better Yields from Your Marketing Investments

What is the net result of precise targeting and effectively using marketing dollars that would have been wasted elsewhere? A higher yield of ideal patients! Consider a dental practice example. Last year “Normalton” Dental spent $10,000 on a series of three mailers to 4,000 Normalton residents. The effort attracted two ideal patients and several one-and-done patients that didn’t benefit the practice at all. This year the practice decided to use the same mailer budget and target their persona in town — limiting the mailing to only 650 households. Every “Lisa” (again, whatever you call your persona) in town was sent ten mailers over the course of five months. The mailers were crafted such that each one built upon the previous, with the messaging focused on what matters to Lisa. Two months after the mailings were completed, the Normalton Dental team tallied up 17 new ideal patients. That is a 750% increase over the previous mailer with the same budget!


Researching and identifying your ideal patients is critical true, sustainable dental marketing success. As you build your brand through strategic, consistent messaging, you will start carving out the exact place in your market that you want.

Need help putting together a comprehensive marketing program for your dental practice? Check out our CMO service!