As of 2019, there are approximately 68,000 orthodontic practices in the U.S. alone, and while only a few years ago most orthodontists just had to worry about their local competition, that is no longer true. With the advent of companies like Smile Direct Club and their many copycats, the ability to compete in an increasingly crowded field, even in their local area, has driven many orthodontists to rethink their marketing strategies. But before developing a new digital marketing plan for their practice, orthodontists should consider reviewing what they’ve done to understand their ideal customer.

Of course, many Orthodontists think they know their patient base more intimately than anyone. While there is a healthy heaping of truth to that statement, there are various considerations to think about first. If you’ve never taken the time to quantify systematically and categorize your ideal patients, you may not know them as well as you think. Going through a formalized process of getting to know your existing patients and target customers better may spur new insights into your business that you’ve never considered.

The Impact on Your Digital Marketing Campaign

Any successful digital marketing campaign relies in part on having the right data on-hand to implement the correct strategies and tactics that will have the most impact. This is particularly true of understanding the core nature of your target demographic. Campaigns informed by strategic research into your objective demographics are much more likely to succeed and ultimately provide a better return on investment. This is why it’s so important to do the work up-front of getting to know your clientele.

Common Orthodontic Patient Demographics

The most common demographic groups of patients for orthodontic practices typically break down into the groups listed below:

  • Kids (starting around age 7)
  • Teenagers
  • Adults

Those groups are reasonably broad, thereby demonstrating why it’s essential to get a much deeper understanding of specific sub-groups of your primary demographics. While there is some debate in Orthodontic marketing circles on whether the first two main groups should be targeted directly, I believe that it’s much more efficient to focus on the parent/guardian making healthcare decisions for their young child or teen.

How to Find More Granular Demographic Info

Start with your data

Hopefully, your orthodontic practice has already gotten into the habit of collecting detailed demographic info from your patients. Even if you’ve compiled only the essential information about your patients including their names, email addresses, and physical addresses, this can be used to suss out further info about them. More on this later. Whatever patient management software your practice is using will most likely have an export or reporting function that will allow you to gain some instant insights into the constitution of your existing clientele. Alternatively, you may have to get a bit more familiar with Excel if all your software spits out is a .csv file.

This source can often be the most valuable in terms of providing you with a starting point for figuring out who your patients already are. If you’re already happy with the makeup of your clientele, this data source will prove even more valuable in informing the type of patient you want coming through your doors. Going through this process should further highlight for you the need to begin collecting more demographic information from your patients which can take form in the following ways:

  • Collecting more data at the point of patient registration
  • Collecting more data from your existing patients during follow-up visits
  • Offering incentives to your patients to provide more data about themselves either during an appointment or through direct e-mail solicitation
  • Send out an online survey that will allow you to track that data and attach it back to your patient records.

One final thing to consider: Data collection should be an ongoing process. The more you can refine your presuppositions about your target demographic, the more success you’ll have with all of your marketing efforts, including those limited to digital initiatives.

Publicly Available Data

Most cities and even smaller towns now collect and publish detailed demographic data online through their official websites. Most of this data is simply a few google searches away. You can integrate this data into the buyer personas that you create for each of your target demographic groups. Other fantastic public sources of city, town and neighbourhood demographics include the following:

Facebook

One of the true modern wonders of demographic and psychographic profiling is Facebook’s built-in Audiences feature Not only can you get a better understanding of who the people that follow your Facebook page are, but you can also import an audience (by way of email addresses, names, physical addresses) and then get a summary of various demographics and likes/interests of the imported group. Of course, not everyone has a Facebook account, but Facebook’s algorithms will do a reasonable job of matching as many Facebook accounts to the contacts that you imported. Like it or not, Facebook probably has the most comprehensive demographic and psychographic database in known existence. You might as well take advantage of this. Having this data in hand, it will help tremendously in filling out a psychographic profile of who your existing patients are.

Now you might be wondering what psychographics is? Simply put they are a set of criteria and facts about various aspects of a person’s preferences. A psychographic profile can include interests, likes, dislikes, media preferences, habits, skill sets, lifestyle choices, social class, political and religious views as well as struggles and challenges.

Google Analytics

Another source of demographic and psychographic data is your website’s Google Analytics account. Beyond providing statistical information on your website visits, Google Analytics provides demographic data such as age, gender, and geographic location of your visitors. Additionally, the Audiences portion of your Google Analytics account can give some insight into their interests by way of affinity categories and in-market segments. You can even discover the browser and computing devices they most often use to access your website.

Your Own Eyes and Ears

Sometimes anecdotal data has no value. But when it comes to local businesses like an Orthodontic clinic, often the anecdotes you may hear or see may prove more valuable to deciphering certain aspects of your target demographic than you might think. Consider that the location of your clinic will often define your patient demographic for you in many ways. After all, consumers still shy away from exceeding certain limits of geography and travel time beyond a certain radius.

That said, it doesn’t hurt to hit the pavement with your own two feet. Observe, hang out in a few nearby coffee shops, discover and talk to other adjacent business owners or managers. What are their collective impressions of the demographics of the area? Do they feel there is some massive change afoot in who works and lives in the area? Perhaps the neighbourhood will shortly be experiencing enormous gentrification. Maybe visit a few dentists and if they’re not competing with your business, chat them up, see what kind of valuable data they cough up. Sometimes to get the most useful data, you have to put on your Sherlock Holmes hat and become a sort of demographic detective.

Eavesdrop on Conversations Online

People like to gab. Nowhere is that truer than on the internet. That said, you can often glean tons of demographic information from merely listening to what people are saying. Start in these places:

  • Reddit (many cities, towns, and neighbourhoods have dedicated subreddits)
  • Facebook groups (Facebook groups exist for almost anything you can imagine, including cities, towns, communities, and all manner of niche topics – These groups can often be a gold-mine for not just keeping your ear to the ground, but also for promotional and sponsorship opportunities)
  • Your online reviews and that of competitors (Google and other review aggregators such as Yelp, Healthgrades, Facebook, Rate a Biz, and RateMD’s make it easy to see what everyone is saying).

How to Organize and Categorize Your Target Demographics

The first thing you have to decide is, who are your primary groups and sub-groups. Let’s take a look at an example.

Group = Moms

Location = Brooklyn

Sub-location = Park Slope

This grouping may seem like a somewhat narrowed down set of moms, but are there differences between moms in Park Slope, Brooklyn that would allow you to further sub-categorize them? In this example, you’d probably want to further sub-divide these groups by the following:

Age

Age of children

Household income

Once you’re satisfied with a sufficient narrowing of your target demographic here are the following data points, you’ll want to try and extract for that group. This knowledge should draw a larger picture for you of exactly who this sub-group is, and what kind of marketing efforts are most likely to reach them in the most cost-efficient way possible.

  • Gender
  • Age (age group)
  • Ethnicity
  • Job Role / Position
  • Education
  • Income
  • Location (as specific as possible)
  • Interest
  • Likes/dislikes
  • Media preferences
  • Habits
  • Skills / skill sets
  • Social class
  • Lifestyle choices
  • Political views
  • Religious views
  • Struggles / Challenges
  • Ambitions

Summary

Without a thorough understanding of ideal patient or customer personas, moving forward with any marketing effort will be a tricky proposition. It may seem like a lot of work, but it’s the foundation upon which many successful digital marketing campaigns are based. Don’t want to do it yourself? My digital marketing consultancy has worked with dozens of orthodontists in the U.S. and Canada to help them with their marketing efforts. Contact us to start the conversation.

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Sebastian Arciszewski

Author Sebastian Arciszewski

Sebastian Arciszewski is the Director of Digital Marketing at RocketFocus Consulting - an Ottawa, Canada based digital marketing firm with clients all over North America. With over 20 years of experience as a successful digital marketer, Sebastian has a proven record of helping companies of all sizes grow.

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