This is a question that every dentist probably asks either themselves or a professional at several points throughout their career. Every practice is different, with different levels of profitability, patient demographics, and more. While there’s no specific right or wrong answer to this question in terms of dollar figures, there are some general guidelines and industry averages that can help you determine where your practice spending stands with dental marketing costs.
First, Know Where Your Costs Should Be Allocated
Just as important as knowing how much you should be spending on your overall marketing costs, it’s essential to know where you should be spending these costs as well. Here’s a quick breakdown:
- Website: This really is the foundation of your entire marketing campaign and the costs to create it, update it, and maintain it should be seen as an investment, not just an expense. This isn’t an area where you should skimp on costs, either. It’s a direct reflection of the quality of your brand and is the first thing the majority of new patients will see before they step into your office.
- Advertising: Every dental practice has a different advertising mix that works best for them to get new patients through the door. This includes everything from direct mail postcards and newspaper ads to online advertising, radio ads, and more.
- Social Media: While using social media is technically free, it still requires a lot of time to make sure that your practice is utilizing social media correctly to grow your practice. Typically, this involves paying someone in house to update your social media accounts regularly and respond to requests, messages, questions, etc.
- Discounts: Many practices often forget that discounts should be considered a marketing cost. If it’s a tactic to get patients through the door, it counts as a marketing expense. Even if you might be offering free x-rays or exams, it still counts toward a time expense for your hygienists and staff.
- Insurance: This is also often forgotten as a marketing cost. Accepting insurances at your practice is a promotion that encourages patients to walk through your door, and it requires you to discount your work to accommodate the individual plans.
Know When You’re Overspending
Most dentists wonder how much they should be spending on dental marketing costs because they think they are either spending too much or too little. In most instances, dental practices err on the latter. However, here are two obvious indicators that you’re spending too much on dental marketing costs, to the point where you’re basically putting money down the drain:
A. You have a completely full patient schedule for the next three to six weeks. If you’re marketing to new patients but can’t fit them in within the next few days, it’s likely that they’ll go elsewhere. A booked schedule is a sign that your current marketing budget is effective and you probably don’t need to spend more until you’re not filling up your schedule as quickly.
B. Word of mouth isn’t your strongest source of new patient referrals. If the majority of your new patients aren’t coming from word-of-mouth referrals, you need to be focusing your efforts inward rather than spending more on external marketing. Word-of-mouth referrals will always be less expensive and more effective than any other form of marketing, so focus first on making the patient experience in your practice one that will encourage them to spread the word to their friends and family.
Finding The Right Balance
Now that you know where your marketing dollars should be going and how to know if you’re spending too much in those areas, we can look at some general guidelines for overall spend amount. Since every practice has a different revenue level, a good rule of thumb is to look at a percentage level rather than a dollar amount. On average, you should expect to spend about 5% of your practice’s annual revenue towards marketing. Some practices can spend upward of 8% if they are either a start up trying to build a brand new patient base or a thriving practice with steady profitability.
When it comes down to it, the most important aspect of marketing costs is that you’re getting an effective return from every dollar you’re spending, wherever it is you are spending it. If your practice is spending the average of 5% of its revenue on marketing expenses but you’re still not filling up your schedule like you want to, it’s probably time to reconsider how effective the tactics in your marketing mix are.
At DentalMarketing.net, we specialize in helping our patients make the most of their marketing budget with effective direct mail programs. Contact us today to learn how we can help you improve your ROI and get more patients through your door.