Marketing Is a Vital Investment for Your Dental Practice in 2022

The Incisor sits down with Joe Barton of RAMP, The Dentist’s Advertising Agency, to discuss the importance of advertising and marketing your dental practice. Spoiler alert: it’s all about consistency.

By Susan Richards

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), small businesses should try to budget 7-8% of their total revenue for marketing. What they don’t tell you is exactly how to spend that money, and with today’s wide variety of technology and media, the decisions can be truly daunting. Let’s face it, most dentists don’t enter their field excited to learn about marketing-centric acronyms such as SEO, PPC, and OTT, much less about how to budget for each.

Fortunately for the industry, there's RAMP: The Dentist’s Advertising Agency and its Vice President, Joe Barton.

Joe launched his career in radio advertising in Philadelphia, using insights he gained from his military service in communications during Operation Desert Storm. He eventually moved on to Tapscan, one of the world’s largest media buying software company, where he taught executives at the top advertising agencies in the country. Through that position, Joe helped generate over a billion dollars in revenue and worked with a wide array of businesses and industries, including automotive, health insurance, tourism, restaurants, and more.

Since joining the RAMP team in 2003, he's helped more than 1,000 dentists achieve success with digital marketing and cutting-edge technology. Joe has shared his knowledge with more than 10,000 dentists through dozens of speaking and teaching engagements with DOCS Education, Sunrise Dental Solutions, and The Profitable Dentist.

The Incisor recently chatted with Joe about marketing and media in the dental world, and he offered some valuable advice on succeeding in a constantly evolving business landscape.

RAMP Vice President, Joe Barton

Incisor: Are dentists typically knowledgeable about marketing?

Joe Barton: No. But we find that 99.9% of them understand that and follow what we advise.

Incisor: What do you tell them?

JB: I explain to them that every practice is different, and every geographic area is different. So, we create customized advertising campaigns specific to the type of patient the practice would like to attract and then maximize within their local area.

When you start to market, you want to allocate a percentage of your gross income to marketing. But the most important thing isn’t how much (to spend) – you want to stay consistent in that percentage.

A dentist might increase their income by threefold, but not their marketing budget. A competitor could see their success and start their own advertising. Then they no longer have complete market share. So when you expand, it becomes a defensive move too.

For example, I just got a call from a client in Georgia, and gosh, we’re doing six different things for them: digital, OTT (Over-the-Top Television advertising), radio, billboard…  But they didn’t start out with that (in 2003).

Incisor: What do you advise dentists to do first?

JB: First and foremost, not just every dentist, but every business at a minimum should be doing website retargeting. What that means in the digital world is creating internet ads for your business. When someone visits your website we drop a “cookie” (a digital file) and then your ads follow them for the next 30 days while they surf the internet.

The top two people who visit your site are current patients, probably looking for a phone number, and those searching for a service. Typically, they’ll look at three, four, or five sites before making a decision. While they’re procrastinating about it, your ads will be adding ‘top of mind awareness’ for weeks. That’s website retargeting.

Incisor: RAMP offers a lot of services: direct mail marketing, television, radio, print, website design… do you have a favorite?

JB: It changes over time as new media comes on the scene, but right now digital marketing is exciting.

When most dentists hear the term digital advertising, they immediately think of SEO (search engine optimization). But SEO can be expensive because the cost of new patient acquisition steadily goes up each time Google changes its algorithms. The most a small dentist can hope for is to get to the top of the bottom of the search results page.

Digital advertising can include website retargeting, keyword retargeting, geofencing (location-based technology), PPC (pay-per-click), and more.

Incisor: What do you want dentists to know about marketing?

JB: Because we’re a full advertising agency, we include all mediums. It gives us a unique perspective that makes us unbiased. Digital is important but it’s not the "be all and end all" – it works in conjunction with other media as well.

I know it can be overwhelming, so we offer a free consultation to see what would work best for each individual client. It’s all about customization.

Incisor: What do you personally find the most rewarding about your work at RAMP?

JB: Essentially, the most rewarding thing for me and my team is to work with small businesses and people who trust us. When they succeed they’re very appreciative. In media buying at a big agency, someone else up the line gets the credit. What’s more fun than spending money for Proctor & Gamble? Changing people’s lives.

In Closing

RAMP is a full-service advertising agency that has worked exclusively with dentists since 2000, helping over a thousand dental professionals – many of them DOCS members – and generating over a billion dollars in new revenue for their practices.

“I have been using RAMP since 2007. They have a very deep and well-rounded knowledge of all aspects of external and internal marketing. Marketing is an investment, not an expense. We have grown 20% per year since using RAMP. Hire in areas that you are not an expert.” – Dr. David Ducommun, of Madison, WI

Author: Susan Richards is a staff writer at DOCS Education. With over 20 years of experience in local journalism and business marketing, Susan’s career includes award-winning feature writing, as well as creating content with context for a wide variety of industries.

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