Online Dental Marketing Opportunities for Orthodontists by Casey Bull

Categories: Marketing; Orthodontics;
Online Dental Marketing Opportunities for Orthodontists 

High-traffic in-person events like open houses used to be the orthodontic marketing norm, but now the digital world is the logical venue for building “community” referrals. Here’s how to get started


by Casey Bull

Patient referrals and dental referrals are key components of any successful orthodontic practice, of course, but to unlock true potential for long-term sustainable growth, it also must have robust community and digital marketing strategies.

Community outreach in 2021 looks very different from years past: We don’t have the luxury of community events and high-traffic opportunities. In the digital marketing space, the options are ever-increasing—and so is the cost—so let’s focus on the most time- and cost-effective strategies to help encourage growth in 2021.

Community referral strategies

Before COVID-19, the best community referral lead-generation strategy involved open houses. Some of our clients reported having as many as 40 starts from a single event! If you’re in an area where restrictions are lifted and community confidence is high, this is still a great way to get a lot of production in a single day.

But over the past year, a few other community referral strategies have proven to yield great results without the requirement of face-to-face events.

Facebook Live events

The three main reasons a practice would get started with Facebook Live events:

  • Grow engagement and exposure. Since COVID, face-to-face engagement is limited, and social media platforms give practices the ability to engage with current, former and prospective patients.
  • Beat the algorithm. Video is very prominent in social media, and live events give you the opportunity to not only engage live but also generate video that can then be repurposed later.
  • Competitor pressure. Competition in the orthodontic market is increasing and whether you’re feeling competitive pressure from a local dentist, orthodontist, DTC provider or other, Facebook Live events give you an opportunity to capture the attention of prospects who may have ended up going with your competitors.

There are various approaches to Facebook Live events, and ultimately only trial-and-error will determine what the people in your area are most interested in, but a good starting point is providing the information that a new patient would get in a new-patient consultation. This should be done by the orthodontist and a treatment coordinator.

Think of this as an opportunity for shoppers or those still in the research stage to have direct access to the doctor. Sometimes people can feel intimidated or slightly insecure in a dental practice or talking with a doctor. But when you give people the opportunity to converse behind the safety of Facebook and a keyboard, they will engage more openly and you can turn that trust into a booked consultation.

Be sure to keep the sessions short— around 15 minutes. So if the above topic would normally take you 45 minutes, then break that up into three 15-minute sessions, a week apart.

Promotion of the Facebook Live event(s) should come in multiple forms. All promotions should happen within a week of the event and focus on email marketing and social media. Paid advertising is not recommended; I recommend ad spends be reserved for lead generation. (I’ll discuss that more in a bit.)

  • Send an email blast to any new patient inquiry who never completed a consultation, as well as to those who are uncommitted to treatment, one week ahead of the event and again one hour before the event.
  • Post to social media profiles (organically) and ask your team members to like, comment and reshare. You can even share the post to local Facebook mom groups (and others).

For your first few Facebook Live events, you do need to stack the deck in your favor a bit, so select a few team members (and rotate it every week to evenly disperse responsibility) to bring five friends to attend the event. This is to ensure that there is some attendance at the event; everyone does not need to be a real orthodontic patient prospect.

And finally, have a giveaway—people love social media giveaways—and offer a prize like whitening treatment, a Visa gift card or a tablet.

This is more of a brand awareness strategy, so metrics of success should be live attendance and recording viewings. You should also see new patient inquiries increase over time as your brand awareness increases (from a range of referral sources, not Facebook Live specifically). This increase is typically delayed by three to six months.

Microinfluencer marketing

This type of strategy is so important because data has proven that word of mouth generates the best returns, and social media influencer referrals are nearly as good as the typical patient word-of-mouth referrals. Also, Facebook’s organic post reach for small businesses is only 2–6% of your audience, so these influencers will help push your messages out for you.

First, identify whom you should partner with—you need to find people your audience will trust and will respect the opinion of. You should be looking for these three things:

  • Relevance. These influencers should be sharing content and have a following relevant to your business and the market segment you want to target.
  • Relevant reach. The number of people you can reach through the influencer’s follow base will only bring value if it is a large, local following. Microinfluencers typically have 10,000–100,000 followers, but can have more or less and still add tremendous value.
  • Resonance. The influencers must be engaged with their audience in a way that’s valuable and relevant to your brand. Do they reply to comments and have two-way conversations with their followers?

To find the right influencers, start off by looking at your existing and previous patients, as well as your team members and the people they know. Websites such as Scrunch, Tinysponsor and will also be able to connect you with influencers, but starting off with people connected with your practice is going to be the best way to ensure real results.

Once you’ve identified the people you’d like to work with, set up an agreement with them. This will vary depending on the particular influencer you choose, but these are the most common models:

  • Full Invisalign treatment at no cost, in exchange for:
    – Images for the practice website and social media advertising.
    – Posts about Invisalign treatment on their own social media pages.
    – Page takeovers on the practice’s social media accounts.
  • Invisalign treatment provided at discount (and possible free Acceledent and whitening), with the monthly fee waived for each person they refer who signs up for treatment.
  • For existing patients who have large followings, offer small discounts for a single post where they mention and tag the practice.

Digital marketing strategies

When it comes to digital marketing, the possibilities are nearly endless and it can be difficult to know where to start. Of all of the options out there, I recommend every practice makes sure it’s doing these three in 2021.

Local SEO

Search-engine optimization (SEO) refers to increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through search engines such as Google. Full SEO optimization is expensive and measurable results typically are delayed for months— sometimes years. For orthodontic practices, that’s not an effective approach.

You run a local business, so you should focus instead on local SEO, the type of optimization that ensures you show up in local listings such as the Google Map Pack (Fig. 1).

Online Dental Marketing Opportunities for Orthodontists
Fig. 1

To increase your ranking in local SEO, general SEO principles are always helpful but I think the most important is optimizing your Google My Business listing. Log in to your listing by visiting, and take at least these five basic steps to optimize your listing:

  • Upload a new photo every month.
  • Upload a new video a minimum of once per quarter.
  • Update your “Make an appointment” link.
  • Preload 10 questions and answers.
  • Consistently obtain a minimum of two positive reviews per month per location.

Paid social

It’s important to distinguish exactly what your goal is before launching a social ad campaign. There are two primary objectives when it comes to why someone would start paid social:

  • Build brand awareness, so people will think of you when considering treatment in the future.
  • Generate leads: people who’ll take action right now.

Ideally you can do both, but budgets don’t always allow for that. If you need return on investment now, focus on the lead-generation approach, which ideally incorporates an offer as well as a very clear call to action (CTA), such as, “Free virtual consultation and $750 off treatment: Book now!”

The types of ads that work best on social platforms are videos and static images. Here are some tips to get you started:

Video ads: A 30- to 45-second video montage of patients and orthodontist(s) with background music and text overlay. Something like:

  • Slide 1: Ready for a new smile?
  • Slide 2: Book a free virtual consultation and get $750 off Invisalign.
  • Slide 3: Send us a selfie. We’ll send you a treatment plan!
  • Slide 4: Book online today! (With practice logo.)

Static images:

  • Use some stock images in addition to actual practice content. This is a great way to test whether or not your practice content resonates with your market.
  • Be sure to include a text overlay indicating the offer.

When it comes to paid social, you want to always have around four different creatives going at once—you’re testing to see what resonates with your audience. Test video versus static, stock imagery versus actual practice photos, and as you track the performance, replace underperforming creative with new variations. Always maintain a healthy amount of variations and refreshed content.

Virtual-consultation widget

Having a virtual consultation on your website won’t increase traffic to your website, but it will likely improve your website conversion rate.

Paid ads and other promotional efforts are how you drive traffic to your website or various landing pages. Once the traffic is on the site, you need to have mechanisms in place to ensure your website converts the traffic into a lead, in the form of a click-to-call, text, email or “contact us” form submission.

Adding a virtual-consultation widget to your website provides another opportunity to convert traffic. It’s important to distinguish the difference between the virtual consultation in terms of facilitating a consultation online and the virtual-consultation widget as a marketing tool!


For your 2021 marketing planning, consider a balance of marketing channels, “lead gen” versus brand awareness campaigns and, most importantly, identify your goals in relation to your budget.

Start with setting the goal, then work backward with the aim to launch two new tactics per month. Along the way, some will never get off the ground and others will fail, but by the end of the year you will have tried 24 different tactics, and five to seven of those should be slam-dunk campaigns to continue through the next year.

Part 1: Building patient and dentist referrals

Did you miss part 1? To read the first installment of Casey Bull’s series about marketing an orthodontic practice in 2021, click here.

Author Bio
Casey Bull
Casey Bull, the global director of content and community at The Invisble Orthodontist (TIO), drives TIO’s efforts to provide member practices with marketing and business management expertise. Bull began her career in the orthodontic industry working for Dr. Alexander Waldman in Beverly Hills in 2014. While working for the practice, she developed a range of practice management processes encompassing tracking and reporting, management systems and templates, treatment plans, marketing programs and more.

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