Company: Synergy Dental Center
Contact: Dr. Anthony Newkirk
Location: Portland, Oregon
Industry: Medical, B2C
Annual revenue: Confidential
Number of employees: 5

Quick Read:

Synergy Dental Center, a dental practice based in Portland, Oregon, wanted to increase its existing base of clients. Owner Dr. Anthony Newkirk had purchased the practice in 2003 from an 81-year-old dentist who was retiring. Though the company had an existing client base, it was stagnant, and there was no marketing strategy in place to attract new patients.

In summer 2007, Dr. Newkirk hired Portland marketing firm Sente Creative to develop a strategy to attract new clients and increase revenue. Dr. Newkirk's goal was 25 new patients a month. The firm launched an Internet-based strategy that relied on measures used by some of the larger businesses and Internet-based companies, including search engine marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), geo-targeting and landing-page techniques.

Synergy Dental's client base has begun to grow, and Dr. Newkirk has nearly reached his goal of attaining 25 new patients a month.

The Challenge:

Synergy Dental Center had an existing base of clients when it was bought in 2003 by Dr. Newkirk. But the high-end dental practice had neither a brand identity in the community nor an established marketing strategy. Dr. Newkirk tried to boost revenues by placing radio ads on local stations and print ads in local Pennysavers, but that only seemed to draw in enough patients to counteract the dental practice's rate of attrition.

"It was a situation where I was putting money in every month without getting anything back in return," says Dr. Newkirk.

The challenge for Synergy Dental Center was to find a way to reach a broader population of individuals—hopefully those not being reached by competitors—in order to boost revenues.

The Campaign:

Dr. Newkirk faced numerous challenges when developing his marketing strategy, including how to gain a foothold and name recognition in a saturated urban market and create an effective strategy to get new patients in the door—without going into debt.

Dr. Newkirk had an interest in the Internet and in Web site optimization—he had even taken some continuing education classes on the topic. So he decided it was worth a try to improve return on his Web site, which was not bringing in new customers. He hired Sente Creative, a Portland marketing firm, to retool his marketing and branding strategies, with a focus on the Internet.

Sente Creative's first step was to register "" to Dr. Newkirk, knowing that some potential clients, particularly those new to the area, might search under that term or domain.

The agency suggested that Synergy Dental Center use search engine marketing as its primary method for attracting new business. Moreover, some of  the techniques it suggested are used primarily by larger businesses, such as, but Sente Creative recognized that they could be effective even for a dentist's office.

Dr. Newkirk agreed to Sente's proposal, which included the following:

  • Search engine optimization. This strategy improves the quality and amount of traffic to a Web site by increasing a page's relevancy on various search engines. Synergy Dental Center is number four on the Google search result page for a search on "Portland Oregon Dentist."
  • A new Web site. was redesigned with a better navigation path and search engine optimization (SEO).
  • Cost-per-click advertising and advertising on "Synergy uses a blended a strategy for Yahoo and Google," said Bryan Howe, the Web director at Sente Creative. "For instance, Google seems to have a much different algorithm for ranking sites than Yahoo. Synergy Dental appears number 4-8 for most of its keyterms on Yahoo with the SEO efforts we put forward, while Google still favors CitySearch, doctor directories, and much more 'linked up' sites in its top 5.
    "So, we focused most of the cost-per-click on Google since we got good traction on Yahoo and MSN organically. On CitySearch, we solicited customer reviews to get a bounce in exposure for Portland dentists. On Google, text ads make up 100% of the spending. No banner advertising was used on any of the media."
  • Geo-targeting. In the various campaigns, geo-targeting was used to help Dr. Newkirk specifically target potential patients in the Portland, Oregon area. Doing so keeps his advertising focused, ensuring that he reaches individuals who are more likely to become clients.

Moreover, Sente Creative researched landing page techniques and realized that Synergy's contact form was both too long and took too many clicks to find.

"Research has consistently shown that every time you add a field for someone to fill out, you reduce your conversion rate by 25% for each question after three that the person must answer," said Howe. "We vastly increased his (Dr. Newkirk's) conversion ratio by putting the contact form on the homepage and cutting it to just three lines."

Indeed, the form on the homepage just asks for a person's email address, name, and phone number along with an optional line asking him or her to "briefly describe the services you are interested in."

The Results:

In the first week that the new Web site was fully operational, Synergy Dental Center received 10 queries from the site. From those contacts, the practice gained seven new patients. "I am very pleased," said Dr. Newkirk. "My goal is 25 new patients a month and I am quite close to that."

Synergy Dental's conversion rate of almost 50% means nearly one of two people who visit its Web site fill out its contact form, giving it a good number of leads. According to Howe, that rate is very high for the medical industry.

Lessons Learned:

  • Think beyond traditional marketing. Most dentists, doctors, and other small proprietors don't always consider new Internet strategies. But as this example illustrates, even a family-run dental firm in a medium-sized market can successfully use these Internet techniques. While more traditional strategies still work, it's worth considering some of the newer technologies when marketing a business, no matter the size.
  • Learn how to reach new customers. Sente Creative helped Synergy Dental Center figure out ways to reach new customers that the competition hadn't considered. While some Internet strategies are typically employed by large Internet businesses and major corporations, most local businesses haven't tapped the Web at all for business. Dr. Newkirk was able to capitalize on this weakness in his competitors' strategies.

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Case Study: How a Dental Office Attracted Clients Using SEO and Other Internet Marketing Strategies

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