How to Choose the Right Direct Mail Marketing Partner for Your Dental Practice

Choosing the right direct mail marketing partner can be the difference between the success and failure of your dental practice’s direct mail marketing campaigns.

As part of the process, you will want to identify and thoroughly vet the industry’s top dental direct mail providers.

However, it is challenging for most dental practices to inherently know the right questions to ask these potential direct mail partners. For this reason, the dental marketing experts at Mail Shark have created a list of some important questions for and answers you will want to hear from the companies you are considering.

Use this list while interviewing your prospective direct mail marketing partners and you will be on your way to making a strategic, fact-based decision that will set your practice up for success.

1. How do you know what works for dental practices?

dental practices

The response you are most likely to hear is: “We work with other dental practices.” This is, of course, something that you want to hear, as it demonstrates this prospective company has some experience executing direct mail marketing campaigns for other dental practices.

However, what this doesn’t provide is any real transparency to the actual strategy that is used to create effective direct mail marketing campaigns for dental practices.

There is one strategy and set of best practices that should be used for just about every single dental practice, which is that your prospective direct mail partner has done their research in order to understand what is most important to the dental patient consumer.

Once these important consumer details are identified, you can begin leveraging this information to align with what your practice offers in order to craft strategic ad copy that will resonate most with these dental patient consumers. The importance of producing this kind of focused ad copy cannot be understated.

Below is a list of many important factors that influence consumers during their decision-making process. If your prospective direct mail partner does not provide you with several of these factors from our list below, they are more than likely not the right partner for you.

  • You accept their insurance or have other options.
  • You have financing options available.
  • You are conveniently located.
  • Your use of advanced technology.
  • You take immediate appointments.
  • You have extended and convenient office hours.
  • You have great customer ratings or reviews.
  • You offer the ability to schedule appointments online.
dental target

2. How many prospects should I target?

This is something of a trick question, as it cannot be answered without two pieces of additional information. If the company you are vetting tells you how many prospects you should mail without first asking for information from you, they are not the right partner.

The two pieces of information needed to be able to strategically answer this question are as follows:

A: Identify your budget, or a ballpark figure, to determine how many prospects you can afford to target with direct mail.

B: Complete a full market analysis to determine how many viable prospects are in your local trade area.

Once you have solidified a budget and have completed a comprehensive market analysis, your direct mail partner can begin to provide you with some concrete numbers that will make the most sense for your practice.

3. How many times should I target these prospects?

You are looking for your direct mail partner to have a conversation with you regarding frequency and reach. Frequency refers to the number of times you plan on contacting each prospect with your direct mail message and reach refers to the number of prospects you plan on targeting with your direct mail message.

You may have heard marketing statistics like, it takes 8 times for a prospect to see your advertisement before reacting. There are all sorts of numbers floating around out there regarding how many times a prospect needs to see your message before reacting to your advertisement. The actual number is up for debate. However, what I can tell you in no uncertain terms is that this number is definitely more than one.

That being said, you can still send out one postcard and get a return. However, the more that you mail to the same people repeatedly, the more your response rates can significantly increase.

Here is an analogy that we love to use to help demonstrate the importance of finding the right balance between frequency and reach.

If you were a farmer and given 100 seeds after being supplied with only enough water to water each seed once, what would you do: plant all 100 seeds and water each seed one time, or plant twenty-five seeds and use the water on those seeds four times each?

The same principle applies to your dental practice’s direct mail marketing campaigns. For example, let’s assume that you have an annual budget to target 30,000 of your best prospects. When faced with the decision of either mailing one direct mail piece to each of these 30,000 prospects or mailing 5,000 prospects six times, think about the fate of those 100 seeds that you can water only once. Your decision should be to choose a balance of both frequency and reach.

You must keep this in mind when comparing the suggested strategies from each of the vendors you are vetting to determine which one you feel has the right mix of frequency and reach. This will set your direct mail marketing campaigns up for success. Just remember, Reach without Frequency = Wasted Marketing Dollars.

4. What type of mailing is best for new patient acquisition?

There are two types of mailings for a new patient acquisition strategy. (Not including targeting the new residents that move into your area)

Option 1: Carrier Route Mailings

Carrier route mailings allow you to reach all prospects in a specific area by strategically targeting postal carrier routes. A postal carrier route is simply a further breakdown of a zip code and the route your USPS postal carrier walks or drives each day to deliver the mail. This averages about 500 addresses per route.

Mailing carrier routes allows you to be very strategic about the areas and neighborhoods that you would like to target.

With a carrier route mailing, you are choosing to target most of the residential addresses in the postal carrier routes you choose. I say most because you can remove certain types of dwelling units such as apartments, drop addresses, trailers, college students, seasonal addresses, etc.* Furthermore, you can also remove your current patients from your mailing. Below is an example of a carrier route map.

*The only caveat here is that removing these types of dwelling units is unavailable with the USPS EDDM program. This is one of the reasons the EDDM program is not typically recommended.

Option 2: Targeted Consumer List Mailing

A targeted consumer list consists of developing a profile of what your ideal patient looks like. This is typically done by applying several demographics such as age, gender, income, presence of children, etc., and then procuring a list and targeting only those individuals.

Which option is best for your practice?

To truly answer this question, a consultation is required. However, for general dental practices, I typically recommend a carrier route mailing, compared to targeted consumer list mailing.

Here are a few reasons why:

  • Cost Savings: One thing I can assure you is that you should never shop your marketing on price alone. However, a carrier route mailing can cost over 20% less than a targeted mailing because the cost of postage and consumer mailing lists are both much higher for a targeted mailing.

For example, if your practice had a $3000 budget and wanted to mail an oversized 5.5×10.5 postcard, a carrier route mailing would allow you to target 1472 more prospects than a targeted consumer list mailing for the same budget.

Product Type Of Mailing Budget # Of Prospects Targeted
5.5×10.5 Postcard Carrier route $3,000 6,977
5.5×10.5 Postcard Targeted list $3,000 5,505

Additional # of Prospects Targeted with Carrier Route Mailing: 1472

  • Although you are targeting everyone in a specific carrier route, the carrier routes are still selected very strategically. For example, quite a bit of demographic information is available to help select the best carrier routes, including median or average income, age, % of children, % of owners vs. % of renters, and education.

All that said, I would like to reiterate that some practices would benefit from a targeted consumer list mailing. This should be easily determined by your direct mail partner during your consultation. Use the above information to explore both options if what your provider is recommending doesn’t seem like the best fit to you.

5. How much will it cost?

Request all quotes and proposals to include your pricing expressed as an all-inclusive price per piece. The only thing that matters from a cost perspective is your total net costs, inclusive of all costs and fees. This will also make it much easier to compare quotes with other vendors you are vetting.

Below is a list of the line items that should be included in your total cost per piece:

  • Custom Design (unless you plan on providing your own artwork)
  • Printing Costs
  • List Costs
  • Addressing Costs
  • Handling Costs
  • Postage
  • Any additional fees

6. Who owns the design you create for me?

As crazy as it sounds, there are quite a few companies out there that will hold the rights to the design that they create for you and will not allow you to use that same design unless you are using their services. The only answer you are looking to hear from your vendor is that you have full rights and ownership to the design and ad copy created for your dental practice.

7. Do you offer flexible mailing options and payment plans?

Most dental practices don’t want to mail and pay for their whole direct mail marketing campaign in one shot. Paying all at once in a larger lump sum certainly isn’t budget-friendly. Furthermore, most dental practices prefer a drip marketing plan that allows them to send out and pay for their direct mail marketing on a spread out, weekly schedule of their choice. This means a steady flow of marketing going out each week, which can also make it easier to schedule patients in a timely manner.

8. What type of return should I expect?

Many direct mail companies will provide you with response rates based on the DMA’s (Direct Mail Association) latest statistics, which show household direct mail average response rates are 5.1% (Site DMA Source Here).

Unfortunately, there is very little transparency as to how this number was calculated, what industries it was based on, what calls to action were used, what duration of time these figures were calculated over, what mediums were used, how many touchpoints were executed, etc. Therefore, these figures cannot simply be arbitrarily applied to your practice.

You want to hear a response that is based on your industry specifically. For general dental practices, the minimum expectation for direct mail response rates is between 0.25%–1% over the short term. The short term being a 0–3+ month period from the time your mailers are sent out.

It is also important to note that these are minimum expectations. Practices that are consistent with their marketing and have the right creative, ad copy, call to action, mailing list and strategy can exceed a .25%–1% return on their direct mail redemption rates.

9. What is the best direct mail piece to use for dental practices?

Postcards around the size 5.5” x 10.5” have been a direct mail staple for dental offices, as well as many other industries, for years. However, today there are more direct mail options than ever. There are many other products that should also be considered and evaluated. Below is a list of some specific direct mail pieces that you should consider and request samples of:

  • Plastic Mailers
  • Postcard Magnets
  • Jumbo Postcards
  • Brochures
  • Envelope Mailers

That said, I highly suggest creating a strategy that consists of targeting your prospects with different pieces to keep your prospects engaged and your marketing fresh. This strategy has been proven to work time and time again.

10. Does your company do printing and mail, or do you act as a broker and outsource this?

Many marketing companies don’t print and mail anything and outsource this to other 3rd party companies that fulfill the actual printing and mailing. There is certainly nothing wrong with this business model. As a matter of fact, Mail Shark acts as a print and mailing service for many marketing agencies and brokers.

However, the concern is that when you outsource the fulfillment side of the printing and direct mail, there is less transparency and accountability because your agency or marketing company does not have hands or true visibility on each project.

If you are between two companies that you feel are at the same level, this could be the deciding factor.

11. How long have you been in business?

There is nothing wrong with selecting a startup company or a newer business if they meet all the criteria you have set for a direct mail marketing partner. However, you may have more confidence and comfort in partnering with a company that is well established and has a long-standing, proven track record of results.

Reach out to Mail Shark today to get a custom quote or request samples! With over 12 years of direct mail experience we are more than just a printer. We have all of the instruments you need to design, target, and track your customized Dental direct mail campaign!