The 11 biggest mistakes dental practices make

Our focus in this article will be on lead generation, your digital strategy, and converting leads into patients

Post by
David Nelkin
October 11, 2022

Having worked with over 200 dental practices has enabled me to understand the common habits of the best performing dentists and also common mistakes that hinder efficient growth. This isn’t to say every practice is the same, but despite these differences, there is a common thread throughout.

In this article I am going to look at 11 common factors that hinder growth, all of which I have seen in more than 90% of practices I have worked with. In an uncertain economic climate, getting these aspects of your dental practice right is more critical than ever, and for each point there are some takeaways to help set you on the right track.

1. Focusing on the wrong things

The issue

Most practices we speak to focus on metrics such as how many people visit their website, what their bounce rate is, or how long people spend on their dental practice website. However, when you think about it, these have no bearing on the growth of your practice. Let’s look at a couple of examples; let’s say you double the number of your website visitors - this doesn’t mean you will have any more new patient leads. In fact, they may not actually be relevant visitors. What is far more valuable is measuring the conversion rate of these visitors - i.e. what percentage of your website visitors get in touch with you to enquire about treatment.

Next, let’s say your reports show that people are spending half the amount of time on your site than they were before - this could actually be a great result; the reason for this is that if the messaging on your site and the way you enable visitors to navigate around the site is much easier that it was previously, it may now take them less time to find the information they need before they get in touch with you to enquire about treatment.

Bounce rate - this is a metric that even Google is no longer supporting in their new analytics platform so you will no longer be able to measure this, as there are many associated issues with it, such as a bounce being counted when someone spends more than 30 minutes on your site. Also, imagine someone comes to your website, dials your phone number into their phone and ends up being a £25,000 patient - they would have been counted as a bounce.


Focus instead on business goal metrics such as your website conversion rate, how many new patient leads you get, and how many of these leads convert into new patient starts and revenue.

2. Focusing on being number 1 in Google

This is the most common question we get asked and the most common goal we see dental practices asking their digital marketing companies to hit.

The issue

Being number one is largely what I’d call a vanity metric. Firstly, Google has changed their search results page (SERP) so much over recent years, that there are many parts to a SERP - so if you’re focussed on being number, do you mean in the paid ads, the results under the map, or in the organic results further down the page?

The next point is that being number 1 doesn’t grow your practice - for example, you can get to number 1 for terms which few people search for or that don’t result in buyers.

Lastly, being number one doesn’t always get you the click or conversion - we have found that being number 3 in the Local Pack (the results next to the map) will get more relevant people clicking it if it is well optimised, than the listing which is number 1.


Focus on how many new patient leads you get from the SERP. Also - and this is a hard one to do as a business owner (!) - stop regularly searching for yourself; firstly, everyone gets personalised results, so what you are seeing is unlikely to be the same as your patients, and secondly, Google looks at how many people click your listings as a measure of how valuable you are - so if you regularly search and are not clicking the listing, they may see this as a negative signal.

3) The practice owner/principal tries to do everything themselves

This is known as ‘small business syndrome’ and is very common and natural, in any small business.

The issue

As the owner, you try to manage everything and do not feel able to empower your employees or hire the right consultants to drive your practice growth. This typically manifests in various ways including focusing on weaknesses not strength, and cumulates in a negative culture in the practice


Share your vision with the team and work with experts to help focus your growth. Empower your team, celebrate wins, and make the practice a place where people look forward to coming to work.

4) You focus on short-term returns

Almost every practice we have worked with, starts by focussing on the immediate term. It’s not uncommon for us to get questions such as ‘how come I have had no new leads today’. This mindset will not result in sustained practice growth. James Clear puts this most succinctly in his excellent book ‘Atomic Habits’ - the focus should be on ‘incremental gains for sustained growth’.

The issue

Focussing on day-to-day or week-to-week results will not result in practice growth, but in artificial peaks and practices which are not sustainable.


To grow your practice, you need to look at modifying less productive, existing behaviours and processes, whilst creating new ones which then become habit and the daily way of working. This starts with having a strategy and working with consultants who can help you put this in place. Having a strategy means rolling things out in a way which gives the team time to learn and adopt new ways of doing this, so it’s important they are given time, and that your mindset doesn’t expect immediate results.

Also, try not to be too reactive. Results will fluctuate and you will see dips; this is the time to look at what needs to be done and why, rather than being too reactive which can then have unforeseen knock-on effects.

5) Using multiple digital companies

We regularly see a dental practice which has one company managing their website, one their SEO and one their paid ads.. and more beyond.

The issue

You will pay a lot more than you could be by streamlining things with one company, and you will likely have a disjointed strategy. To get  the best returns from a digital marketing strategy, you need a cohesive approach.


Work with a company who brings everything together for you in a cohesive strategy and that knows the dental market. Trust them to ‘do their thing’ and let them show you the results. Look for transparency - if you are shown nothing but positives every single month, the chances are something is amiss and that they are not looking at the metrics which count.

6) Not evolving

Behaviours change and the digital landscape changes, quickly. It’s important you are keeping up to speed with your offering and are not resistant to change. Industry leaders are those who are not afraid to take risks to get ahead of the curve, and who accept that not everything will work.

The issue

You will be spending more money than you need too, and the results won’t be what they could be. If you have one company managing your paid ads, and another your website, the chances are you won’t be getting the best results you can from your paid ads campaigns; this is especially true for high value cosmetic patients who need to be nurtured through content consumption on your website to ensure you are getting well-vetted leads


Make sure you are asking your digital partners/consultants questions to ensure that their goals are the same as yours

7) Ignoring people who want to contact you when the practice is closed

The issue

Anywhere from 10% to 50% of dental practice website visits and enquiries come out of hours when the practice is closed. Not having a solution to nurture these leads means you are potentially losing out on a huge amount of new patients.


The best way we have found to manage this is through implementing an out of hours Chatbot for our clients on their dental websites. The Chabot asks the website visitors a series of questions, so the practice team is armed the next morning with everything they need to give them the best chance of getting hold of this person and getting them booked in - such as what day and time of day to contact them. If you have an online booking system, this can also be integrated into the process.

8) Not following up with new patient leads at all, or in the right way

The issue

The first thing I do with any practice I work with, is get a full understanding of their current processes. I can’t tell you how many practices I have gone into who either don’t even attempt to contact new enquiries they get - they are just left sitting there for days - or that only make one attempt to call them. We know from the data we see that the average person wanting dental treatment will contact an average of 3 practices, and 75% of these will go with whoever contacts them first. Every lead is a potential patient, and if you look at the lifetime value of a patient, every lead should be nurtured and allocated a sufficient amount of time and effort to convert them.


This starts with understanding how people look for dental treatment and thus the best way to manage this. From there, there are various things you can do from having someone accountable for this, ensuring they are trained in converting leads, and then having a system - such as a CRM/lead management system - which automates much of the work to save you time and ensure no leads are left without their potential fulfilled.

Also, it’s important to adapt to people’s behaviours and preferences - more people than ever will ignore a phone call from a number they don’t recognise. Try using Whatsapp or SMS so that you are reaching out in the way that the person would prefer - this way you’ve started off by providing an excellent patient experience from the get-go.

9) Not educating prospective patients or building a rapport

The issue

When someone phones or submits an enquiry to a dentist, most of the time they do not know what treatment they need. They know they have a concern or issue and are looking for some help and direction. However, we tend to see people being booked in for consultations with no real rapport building or qualification. This has a multitude of impacts from taking up valuable in-practice time to people not showing up for their appointments.


Ensuring your team dealing with the new patient enquiries are trained and skilled to build rapport, and able to qualify the person as much as possible before booking them in. Once you have a new patient lead on a phone call, you want to be considering every single one as a potential patient - if they have contacted you, they are almost certainly going to choose someone to see, so if it’s not you it will be one of your competitors. You can only lose them at this stage.

One common thing we hear is ‘people are just shopping on price’ - this is absolutely the case, but also the nature of spending a lot of money on anything; it’s only natural, and the same applies here - if they are ‘shopping’ they are likely to buy, so it’s all about explaining why they should choose you, even if you’re not the cheapest.

10) Focussing on how good your website looks

The issue

The design of a website is subjective - you may love one design and your partner or colleague may think the opposite. The design of your dental website does not grow your practice. Don’t get me wrong, a professional looking site is important to convey the right impression and you should use your own photos and  creatives as much as possible  to showcase the practice - however this shouldn’t be the focus.  

You want to be looking at your website as a conversion tool to get more new patients - that is, your website conversion rate - in the same way that you might measure your new patient or TCO conversion rate.


Ask your digital company what your website conversion rate is and what they do on a regular basis to improve it. Just think, if you could double this number, you will have just doubled your new patient leads, and that’s before you spend a penny on marketing or advertising! Therefore, you will get better results from all of these things too as most of these people will end up on your website.

11) Filling your Instagram page with before and after photos

The issue

Prospective patients aren’t going to continue following a page and engage if this is all you are posting. Getting people to engage with your posts is key, as this is the measure by which Instagram decides how many people they will push your content out too.


Focus on posting content which will be of interest to people and gives them a reason to follow you and recommend you to others. Post about things going on in your local community - and it doesn’t just have to be dental focussed. Come up with events to engage people  - perhaps an afternoon once a week where you show children how to  brush their teeth, or host a chat about making your local business sustainable. Instagram can be a great tool to aid practice growth, but it needs time and a strategy, so if you don’t have this, work with a company for whom this is their expertise, and within the dental industry.

To bring this all together; focus on the things that matter, look at the returns on your digital marketing spend, empower your team, be open to change, and treat every lead like a new patient.

If any of the above sounds like you or your practice, give us a call on 01727 576041 or email and we can chat to you about how we can work with you to set you on the right path.

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