When it comes to spreading the word about your dental practice, it's important to consider both marketing and advertising. If you've always lumped them together in the past, you might be surprised to learn how effective they can be as two separate entities. Get to know the differences between marketing and advertising, and discover ways to put both methods to work for your dental practice.

Marketing Means Knowing Your Clients

One of the most complex parts of your practice, marketing involves researching, planning, and implementing a combination of activities that will drive business. Advertising is just one component of marketing, which also includes market research, branding your business, developing offerings, and creating buzz. To market to your customers effectively, you need to know who they are, what they want and need, how to connect with them, and how to win their business.

How to Market to Your Customers

Start your marketing efforts by studying your customers and determining which segments they belong to. Are your potential clients defined by location, age, income bracket, or another demographic? Do market research to understand who your customers are and what makes them tick.

Next, craft a marketing strategy that will appeal to your target demographic. If you're targeting pediatric patients, for instance, you might craft a brand that includes plenty of colorful animations, offers basic kid-focused treatments, and advertises in family-friendly outlets. In contrast, if your demographic includes patients in upper income brackets seeking the perfect smile, you might craft a brand that offers cosmetic dentistry treatments and advertises in high-end outlets.

Advertising Comes at a Price

A major component of marketing, advertising is all about communication. Essentially, it's the practice of selling your business through print, digital, broadcast, and any other potential outlets. Though your business might gain free advertising by word of mouth, most advertising comes at a cost and should be part of your larger marketing budget. In fact, for many dental practices, advertising comprises the largest portion of that budget.

How to Advertise Effectively

Successful businesses typically treat advertising as a key element in an overall marketing strategy, approaching this component after they've already done market research and have an awareness of their client base. To create effective advertising campaigns, use your knowledge of your customer base to determine where you can best reach them.

Depending on your client demographics, your practice might have the most success with traditional media, like a TV commercial on a local channel, a print advertisement in the local newspaper, or an ad in a national magazine. In other cases, paying for ads on Yelp, sending out a newsletter to an email list, or building a social media following and creating a paid advertising campaign on Facebook or Twitter will have a greater impact.

Whether your dental practice is brand new or long-established, both marketing and advertising are important to its success. Follow these steps to implement both methods in your practice, and modify your efforts to get the best results for your business.

Image via Flickr by La Citta Vita