Market Research

Guidelines for Practice Success | Managing Marketing | Marketing

Having accurate market research will help you identify what audience, or types of patient, to target.

Knowing what groups to target will help you identify the most effective way to reach them. If you don’t know your target, you can’t expect to hit it.

But knowing who and where your target is and what matters to them will help you plan marketing campaigns that let patients know why your practice is the right one for them. Knowing what makes one practice stand out from others is known as differentiation and will help you create a brand for your practice. That knowledge will be instrumental as you develop your marketing campaign and identify which marketing tactics and outlets to use.

The first major step to any marketing campaign involves several smaller steps:

  1. Know the type of advertising you’ve done and how successful it’s been
  2. Learn more about other dentists practicing in your area
  3. Understand your current market, or patient base
  4. Identify your target market, or the types of patients you want in your practice
  5. Determine how much new business your practice can handle

That information will serve as the baseline data, or metrics, that you will use to gauge the success of future marketing efforts.

Gathering market research about your practice doesn’t have to be intimidating.

Your primary purpose is to collect information about your patient population, how new patients became aware of your practice, the types of advertising you’ve been doing, and the results of each campaign or type of ad.

Your office or administrative manager can help collect this information by researching information on your previous advertising efforts, gathering information about other, similar practices in your community, and conducting a brief patient survey.

Data on your current or recent marketing efforts should recap:

  • Type of media used and when the campaign ran
  • The length and cost of each campaign
  • The number of prospective patients who called the office in response to the campaign
  • The number of prospective patients who scheduled – and kept – appointments

Information about other practices in the community can be gathered by viewing the websites of similar practices within a specific geographic area, such as a 5-10 mile radius. Have the person assisting you in this research focus his/her efforts on practices similar to yours, such as general dentistry or specialty.

Collect data on:

  • Types of services provided, including cosmetic and elective procedures
  • Number of doctors
  • Office hours
  • Dental benefit plans accepted, if available online
  • Any special offers or promotions
  • Online availability of a practice newsletter, blog, videos, etc.

Most of the demographic data about patients is available in your patient records and sample survey questions and tips are available in the articles in The Patient Survey section of this module. Information to be collected should include:

  • Who they are
  • Where they live
  • Their initial oral health status
  • How they learned about your practice
  • Case acceptance rates
  • How willing they are to invest in achieving and maintaining good oral health
  • Whether they have coverage under a dental benefit plan and, if so, the name of the plan, etc.

Once you’ve collected this information, review the details and determine whether your marketing efforts are delivering the number and types of patients you want. If they are, congratulations! If they aren’t, it’s time to consider redirecting your efforts.

Finally, talk with your staff about the campaign; let them know its goals, when and how it will launch, and how they can support it. Knowing this information early in the process will increase their enthusiasm and commitment to making the plan a success.

Don’t Forget! Be sure to review the articles contained in the Legal and Ethical Aspects of Marketing section of this module for specific information on AdvertisingPatient Privacy/Social Media, and Online Reviews/Social Media.

Keep in mind that even the best marketing campaign can fail if your practice’s internal systems can’t support it.

Take a close and objective review of all of the systems in place in your practice – including your financial plans, systems, staffing and staff training – to ensure that they’re effective and able to support the additional phone calls and patients your campaign will bring into the office. Consult the articles on Inquiries from Prospective Patients and Internal Marketing in this module for information on making sure your staff is trained on how to handle additional calls and patients.