Restorative procedures—the bread and butter of many successful practices—represent some of the most lucrative opportunities in dentistry today. A schedule full of restorative appointments can be the difference between a stagnating or thriving practice. How can you ensure you’re drawing a fair share of restorative patients to your practice before they book appointments with your competitors?
Direct mail can give you an edge over digital-only advertising when it comes to landing these big payday patients, thanks to one of its most reliable data sets: age. For example, Google simply guesses a user’s age based on their browsing profile, and Facebook is likely to show your ad to people outside of your desired age group to improve overall reach if they fit your other parameters. With direct mail, your data is finite and extremely reliable, due to regular monthly updates by the United States Postal Service (USPS).
This also extends to things like income and home value. Google and Facebook are making assumptions on income level based on browsing behavior or the job listed on a user’s profile. But addresses have a specific home value attached, and a household must collectively earn enough to live there—entire industries exist to ensure this.
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In short, direct mail data has decades of legitimacy behind it when targeting specific patient types. That can be the key to coordinating your campaign’s success.
I combed through our collection of over 4,000 successful direct mail campaigns to find the tactics that reliably attracted new restorative treatment patients. Here’s what jumped out at me and can help you land more of these patients for your practice.
Target prospects by income and proximity to average 25 new patients monthly.
Targeting a particular income range is the most common way to determine a desired audience for restorative dental campaigns. This adds up, as restorative dentistry can be fairly expensive (ranging from $50 to $5,000 per tooth)1 and eliminates those at lower salary ranges.
North Brunswick Family Dental in New Jersey is part of the New York City metropolitan area, where you’ll find a lot of high earners. The median income of North Brunswick is $96,546, while the per capita income is $40,883.2
For their mailings, we tried to balance the cost of postage (which eats up the lion’s share of any direct mail budget) while still targeting affluent areas more likely to be able to afford restorative care. The best solution was a resident/occupant mailing list, which hits every address within a specified geographical area. It boasts one of the lowest postage rates offered by the USPS and some choice targeting capabilities. Their resident/occupant mailing list targeted residents living within a certain radius around their practice using the following income qualifications:
- Income of at least $50,000
- Median mailing route income of $60,000
In an affluent area like North Brunswick, a mailing list like this is a good compromise that allows you to save money on postage while still targeting financially qualified homes.
Their design emphasized the use of dental insurance with the headline, “Use it or lose it by the end of the year.” Their offers focused on restorative treatments as well, including a number of specials:
- $99 new patient exam, x-rays, and cleaning
- Implants for $2,200 each
- $4,200 orthodontic treatment
- Free orthodontic and implant consultation
North Brunswick Family Dental mailed 6,000 of their restoration-focused postcards every month for six months to the same list, and they reported that their postcard campaign increased monthly new patients to an average of 25. At the time we discussed their results, they had gained about 125 new patients. They still had several mailings left in their campaign, so it’s likely these numbers increased.
For dentists looking to boost restorative treatments, more precisely targeting prospective patients can bring a big revenue boost. I like to think of income and proximity as starting points, and you can add additional parameters from there to create a campaign that’s extremely targeted.
One prosthodontist practice in Tallahassee, Florida, mailed to people who were 50 and older with an income of $70,000+, who had purchased some sort of dental adhesive in the past. They only mailed 5,134 postcards by the time we discussed their results with them, and they had already closed seven patients and generated $20,537.
Another example client of mine is Kathleen Mullaney, DDS, who owns a boutique fee-for-service practice in the affluent community of Alexandria, Virginia. In this case, it helped to narrow down her campaign’s focus by targeting people age 45 and up with an income of at least $100,000. Her campaign brought in 29 new patients and over $145,000 in revenue that year.
Widen your mailing radius a little more and generate 144 new patients in one month.
For most dental practices, we advise that their direct mail campaigns target households within a five-mile radius of their practice, depending on their area’s population density. This is because many individuals choose a dentist based on location alone.
If you’re trying to achieve a more specific goal, it can help to broaden that radius. This helps with more specialized dentistry goals like cosmetic
Another client of mine, Fort Worth Dental, purchased a yearlong campaign that targeted a very similar mailing list as North Brunswick Dental, using a resident/occupant mailing list targeting an income of $60,000+ (figure 1). Their mailing list, however, targeted a wider audience, hitting a huge range of zip codes around their location within a half-hour drive.
As a result, they hit a record number of monthly patients—144 in a single month. Their postcard’s design also included a number of discounts on high-ticket items like implants, along with a free second opinion, which is a great offer to attract patients who know they need work done.
It’s worth mentioning that the Tallahassee-based prosthodontist also mailed to a wider-than-average radius—people within a 20-minute drive from their practice.
Don’t forget to offer something with a high perceived value to bring in 230 new patients.
You may have noticed similarities in the example campaigns; that’s because we figure out what works best and try to stick to that formula whenever we can. (As long as someone in your area isn’t already doing the same thing.) Something that every single successful restorative campaign shares? An offer with a high perceived value. Notice I say “perceived.” Its cost to you is irrelevant as long as the recipient perceives it as valuable to them.
Some of the more successful restorative dental service offers we’ve seen in the past include:
- Free implant consultations
- Free second opinions
- Discounted implant procedures
- Discounted crown procedures
- Discounted crown and bridge procedures
Chris M. Jolley, DDS, whose practice is based out of Pleasant Grove, Utah, offered a free second opinion, orthodontic consultation, or implant consultation. All three of these offers provide patients with free time to discuss their dental problems with an expert. For them, it worked. Over the course of their yearlong campaign, they brought in 230 new patients. Not bad for a rural Utah town with a small population of just over 38,000!
If you’re curious about direct mail and how it can help you reach your restorative treatment goals, I encourage you to do what Dr. Jolley’s patients did—get a free consultation. Go ahead and chat with an expert. It doesn’t have to be me or my consultants, but a discussion can go a long way toward understanding how to ultimately reach your goals.
Editor’s note: This article appeared in the February 2022 print edition of Dental Economics.
1. Porter S. Restorative dentistry: Get your teeth back with implants and fillings. Dentaly.org. February 8, 2020. Updated November 8, 2021. https://www.dentaly.org/us/ restorative-dentistry/
2. QuickFacts: North Brunswick township. United States Census Bureau. https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/northbrunswicktownshipmiddlesexcountynewjersey