Using Print Media as Part of Your Dental Marketing Plan

Print media can mean almost anything that is physically held and read by consumers near your dental practice. Newspapers and magazines are likely the first two to come to mind in this category. But there are many others. You may have a local subdivision nearby with a monthly community newsletter— that would be considered print media. In general, this medium can be feast or famine when it comes to including it in your dental marketing plan. We have had clients deploy the same basic newspaper insert in the same basic market for over a dozen years and enjoy wild success every time.

We have also seen the other side. In some markets, it takes us two or three attempts to find a print media outlet that provides a sustainable and consistent return. That’s why print media comes with a 62% success rate. However, once you find the winning formula, this medium can be a high-performing, reliable part of your marketing mix. We recommend looking at print media once you have exhausted the potential of lower-risk mediums.

Risk level:moderate
Upside:ROI can be high on a successful ad/insert
Downside:may take time and money to find the right print venue

Church bulletins, school publications, and local newsletters

Who it’s for:every type of dentist
Pros:cheap; low waste/tight distribution
Cons:low or no returns on your (small) investment

Why do we recommend advertising in these tiny, local print mediums? Because they won’t put a big dent in your dental marketing budget and they offer some worthwhile public relations value. They are also inexpensive, and because of the tight distribution area, you won’t waste a penny of your investment.

Recognize that paying for ad space in these types of community mediums is first and foremost a donation. If you advertise in your daughter’s high school bulletin, you’re doing it primarily to support the school or the team. But it does offer some small, local public relations value and it does give you a chance to tell your story and talk about what you can do for the people who are part of your community.

Will you get dozens of new patients? No. But you may get one or two, and you’ve definitely built some goodwill in your local community.

Tips:

  • Don’t use this type of medium to brag about your practice. Focus on the good things you can do for people in the community.
  • Where possible, use photos or testimonials from recognizable members of the local community in your ad

Coffee table magazines

Who it’s for:dentists in high-income areas or focused on high-income patients
Pros:chance to make a big impression
Cons:high up-front costs

Coffee table magazines are usually eight or 16-page glossy magazines that are mailed out on their own or inserted into the local newspaper. These magazines carry no advertising, and they’re all about you, from beginning to end.

The major advantage to this format is that it gives you a chance to showcase the very best about you and the services you offer. You have an opportunity to engage your audience in-depth with an attractive layout and interesting articles that clearly describe the advantages that your practice offers. It’s one of the few chances you’ll get to own the medium completely, unlike taking out a magazine or newspaper ad, where you must compete with everything else on the page. A coffee table magazine can capture your audience’s attention very effectively, and communicates that you are a high-end, high-quality practice.

This type of medium requires a significant up-front investment. Print runs are usually over 100,000, and very often 250,000 pieces. Of course, the more you print, the lower the per-piece price is, but once you get down to around 40,000 copies, the cost per piece becomes prohibitive.

Because of the costs involved, you want to make sure this medium is right for you and your practice. If you do a lot of big-case dentistry, and you’re promoting yourself to high-income areas with a decent doctor/patient ratio, then this could be the right medium for you. If you’re a family-oriented middle-income practice, you shouldn’t consider this medium—in fact it would be a disaster.

Here’s a sample of a well-executed coffee table magazine:

Magazines

Who it’s for:dentists with established marketing campaigns, big budgets and a taste for high-stakes gambling!
Pros:potential for big returns
Cons:high risk

You can equate investing a portion of your annual dental marketing budget in a magazine to playing a slot machine in a casino. When playing a slot machine, you will get many losing spins, but a big payoff for a good spin. Magazines, especially luxury magazines, can work the same way. These ads tend to attract a lower number of patients but you are more likely to get that ‘one big case’ by advertising in a glossy, graphically well-designed magazine as you advertise next to the jewelers, fashion designers, and spas. Before you discount the idea of promoting your practice in a magazine, remember, there are people that hit the jackpot on slot machines. The same can be said about magazines.

As with ANY promotion medium, the plan is to dominate. Magazines can have lofty advertising rates. To dominate, you must have the biggest, best, and baddest ad and/or ad position within the magazine. These cost money. However, if you have analyzed the magazine’s readership AND you think it’s your exact target market AND you can afford to buy an ad that will truly stand out among all the others… you probably have a winner.

Tips:

  • Make sure you have a call tracking number in place to track inquiries carefully over time.
  • Make absolutely sure the magazine targets the right readership. Does it cater to females? Does it cover your geographic area completely? Will there be much ‘waste’ if the distribution extends further than your practice area?
  • Find out how many of your competitors will be advertising in the magazine. The presence of competitors will dilute the effectiveness of your ad.

Here’s a sample of a magazine:

Newspaper Ads

Who it’s for:dentists who already have Internet and direct mail marketing in place
Pros:good demographic and geographic profile; potential for good deals on ads
Cons:volatile medium in transition; higher-risk medium

Newspapers have undergone a pretty radical change in the last few years, and the medium is still in a state of transition. Before the days of satellite cable and high-speed Internet, newspapers were a much more vital (and predictable) medium in which to invest dental marketing dollars. Nearly everyone read the local newspaper. Today, the readership continues to dwindle and the age of the average reader skews older and older.

However, it’s not time to write off the newspapers yet. In fact, in some ways, they are becoming a more viable option for dental marketing. This is because many newspapers are starting to reinvent themselves by moving away from a national focus and towards more local and regional information.

This is good news for three reasons:

  1. It means the newspaper will become much more reader friendly to your target market—mom! Mom loves to read community news, healthcare tips, gardening tips, family living ideas, cooking tips, school activity calendars, and see her kid’s name in the local high school and junior high sports sections.
  2. It means the readership and distribution of the newspaper will be restricted to a smaller area, so when you place an ad, you won’t be wasting as much of your budget. It makes no sense to invest in a print ad in a newspaper with a circulation of 250,000 if your primary draw area only has 15,000 people in it. The other 235,000 people will likely never choose you because of the geographic disadvantage in choosing you (from their perspective).
  3. It means you’re likely to get a great deal on your ad these days. As small, local papers pop up all over the country, they are vying for the same readership. Now obviously, no one is going to read four local newspapers every day. Eventually, some of these papers will consolidate. But for now, these smaller local papers realize they are in direct competition for ad dollars and most are eager to cut you a deal to get your business. (Of course, once the consolidation happens and the competition… is gone, the prices will climb again!)

Tips:

  • Keep in mind that newspaper readership tends to be older. Make sure your ads are geared towards this audience.
  • Run each ad with a call tracking phone number so you can track the response rate.
  • Plan to run at least 10 placements of the ad.
  • If you’re not happy with the response rate, run the same ad in your second choice of newspaper for the same number of placements and track the response rate.
  • Compare each placement and continue advertising in the paper that generates the best return on your investment.
  • If neither ad run produced good results, consider transferring your ad dollars to newspaper inserts.

Here’s a sample of a newspaper ad:

Newspaper Inserts

Who it’s for:dentists who already have Internet and direct mail marketing in place
Pros:good demographic profile; excellent potential for geographic targeting and reduced ‘waste’; relatively inexpensive
Cons:one-time or seasonal ‘boost’ only—not a long-term strategy

Newspaper inserts are those annoying things that fall out of your newspaper onto your lawn on Friday and Saturday mornings. They can also be viable marketing tools for your dental practice. In our capacity as dental marketing professionals, we have seen newspaper inserts outperform every other viable medium—except for direct mail—in some markets. In fact, our well-designed and strategically deployed inserts are successful in 62% of the US markets, making them a fairly low-risk, dependable form of marketing.

Inserts have a characteristic that no print ad will ever have—they can be geographically targeted! This means you can tell the newspaper to insert your ad only in certain zip codes or “zones” where they deliver the paper, so you waste less of your advertising budget in reaching people who are too far away from your practice area.

Newspaper inserts are also relatively inexpensive. Once they are designed, you are looking at 10 to 12 cents each to print and distribute one newspaper insert. That’s pretty cheap! You can literally drop tens of thousands of inserts on a local market without breaking the bank.

Newspaper inserts are not typically a promotion medium that you would use on a consistent, timed basis. You wouldn’t use inserts each month, every month to increase business over the long term. They are best used as a short-term, strategic supplement to your existing, longer-term strategies. Let’s say you already have an Internet presence and a direct mail campaign, and each is attracting new patients each month. In this case, newspaper inserts can give you a ‘boost,’ attracting a quantity of new patients in the short term.

Inserts are ideal for capitalizing on seasonal opportunities, too. One classic example is an insert distributed during the summer when the kids are off from school. If you don’t mind treating children, newspaper inserts in the summertime are a great way to take advantage of the seasonal opportunity. Moms know how crazy it gets in September when their kids start school again. If you tailor your ad to remind mom to make an appointment before school begins again, you are likely to see a flurry of appointments. This works especially well for pedo and pedo/ortho practices. If you talk to an orthodontist, most will tell you that they do the majority of their case starts during the month of September. That’s because the examinations were conducted during the summer, when it was convenient for mom to get the kids to the office.

Tips:

  • As with every external promotion, make darn sure you have a tracking number on those inserts so that you know EXACTLY how many inquiries your investment created.

Deploying your inserts on Tuesdays or Wednesdays create the best return rate for two reasons. First, inserts typically generate inquiries within 24 hours of delivery—if a dentist schedules inserts on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday, there is minimal phone coverage to respond to these inquiries. Second, Fridays through Sundays are the days that other local advertisers prefer to insert their offerings into the same newspaper, which means YOUR insert is likely to get lost in the shuffle. On Tuesday or Wednesday, your insert is very likely to be the ONLY one, reducing your risk of dilution and poor returns.

Sample of a newspaper insert – backside

Sample of a newspaper insert – front side