Take a quick trip through history with this fascinating overview of how dental marketing originated and its drastic evolution over the past century.
Ancient Writings About Dentistry
The first known text mentioning dentistry was written in 5000 BC by the Sumerians of Babylonia and simply states “tooth worms” as a cause of dental decay.
The earliest known reference to a “dentist” is from 2600 BC. Hesy-Re, an Egyptian scribe, was described as “The greatest of those who deal with teeth…” This would have been a great advertisement, except he was already dead when it was inscribed on his tomb.
After the Gutenberg movable type printing press was invented in 1450, all advertisements were printed in newspapers and magazines. From 1768-1770, Paul Revere placed ads in a Boston newspaper offering his services as a dentist.
At this time and throughout the industrial revolution, article-length informational text was used as the main source of advertising. This text was always written on a specific subject in the voice of a medical expert who then used his knowledge to tell the reader what he or she needed, then proceeded to sell it. Advertising was always price-driven.
Radio advertising emerged in 1922, but the advertisements largely followed the same protocol as printed articles.
Starting after World War II, advertisers began turning away from article-style to lifestyle ads. Pictures were used prominently in order to catch the attention of readers flipping through magazines.
Focusing more on specific ailments, dental ads said things like:
- “Stop bad breath with Colgate. Fight tooth decay all day!”
- “Unless you face these facts about false teeth…you may be in trouble!”
- “Save the life of your tooth enamel.”
During the same period, TV commercial revenue surpassed print and radio advertisement revenue.
Many “hard selling” strategies were used over the next three decades. Between door-to-door sales, telemarketing, spam emails, and online popup ads, consumers were bombarded by unsolicited solicitations. The frustration caused by such tactics led to “No Soliciting” signs, the Do Not Call list, and the Can-Spam act.
By using demographic-specific and opt-in mailing lists, dentists are now able to send brochures and direct mail postcards to potential patients and current patients in a way that is more productive and less costly.
When online users search for specific keywords such as “pediatric dentist” or “root canal,” local dentists are able to use online marketing tactics to get their dental practice at the top of the list. Sidebar ads related to specific searches are also a commonly used form of strategic marketing.
Using these two method focuses efforts and advertising dollars and keep consumers interested rather than frustrated.
Going hand-in-hand with strategic marketing, forming relationships is the new norm of dental marketing. Dentists and their patients want to know each other on a more personal level and desire to have a long-term relationship.
To accomplish this, dentists have integrated social media into their business strategy. Linkedin profiles, Facebook pages, and Yelp reviews now play a large role in advertising their business and services. Informative blog articles and YouTube videos help consumers feel comfortable with their dentist and go a long way to solidify trust.
Unlike dental procedures, there is no exact science and practice when it comes to dental marketing. Considering how much it has changed in the last 30 years – and how much it will continue to shift – it’s vital for your practice to stay current on best marketing practices. The future of your dental practice depends on it.