Orthodontic marketing used to be as simple as motivating patients to refer and having referrals from referring doctors. While this strategy was effective for many years, today’s orthodontic practices face new challenges. Competition is increasing and non-traditional orthodontic treatment, such as direct-to-consumer orthodontics, is beginning to have a growing effect. Just this month, another direct-to-consumer company announced that they are opening 100 stores throughout the United States. This situation requires that practice owners take a new strategic approach to orthodontic marketing.

A New Orthodontic Marketing Strategy

In last month’s issue, we talked about the following FIVE FOCUS AREAS that we recommend every practice apply to their marketing strategies:

  1. The Branded Patient Rewards and Referral Program
  2. The Parent Ambassador Program
  3. The Social Media Interface
  4. The Referring Doctor Driver
  5. The Community Full Awareness Program

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5 Reasons Why You Need A Branded Patient Rewards Program

Every orthodontic practice needs an outstanding patient rewards program to help increase referrals. Are you operating without one? Here are five reasons why you need a branded patient rewards program in your practice:

  1. People love rewards, surprises, and gifts. If I gave you a beautifully wrapped box with a nice ribbon on it, you would be excited. Your pulse would rise. Your stomach may even get butterflies in anticipation. And if you really like the reward you’ll stay excited, tell others, and generate referrals.
  2. Rewards generate “buzz.” Buzz is a level of excitement that causes people to tell others about something. Practices that generate buzz feel exciting, noisy, energized, pleasantly frenetic, and fantastic. Kids come in and love it. They interact with the staff, fist bump, slap high fives, and leave really happy. If you don’t have buzz, an effective patient rewards program will give you some.
  3. Rewards brand your practice. If properly designed, your rewards program will cause patients (and others in your community) to identify you with a specific concept, image, or experience. When you carefully brand, target, and manage your patient rewards program, your referrals will increase in a very short period of time.
  4. People like to belong, but it has to be real.  Make sure patients know that your rewards program is a real program and not just you periodically distributing unrelated tchotchkes. If it’s a real program with a clear path to interesting contests, lotteries, concerts, events, educational opportunities, and charitable activities, people will have a strong desire to be part of it and tell others about it in-person and on social media.
  5. Parents love to see happy, energized kids. Let’s face it. Mothers don’t get up in the morning and think to themselves: This will be a great day because I get to leave work early, rush somewhere to pick up my kid, drive them to the orthodontist, wait until they’re done, and then race home so I can figure out dinner, homework, etc. At least make the visit at your practice better for the parents by showing them that their kids are having a great experience and getting great orthodontics. They will tell their friends.

A fun, energized, and branded patient rewards program will immediately set you apart from others and gradually make your orthodontic practice the office of choice. OP


In this article, we will focus on the first area—The Branded Patient Rewards and Referral Program. Most orthodontic practices have some level of marketing already directed toward patients but believe that what they’re currently doing will continue to be effective. Again, the increased level of competition requires a change in marketing strategy. In devising new strategies for patient marketing, it can be helpful to consider the common mistakes that practices are making. These include:

  • Not doing enough. This refers to orthodontic practices that don’t have enough strategies that are geared toward patients. They are under the illusion that what they’re doing is sufficient and that their strategies truly energize and excite patients. Nothing could be further from the truth. We now live in a world where kids have 24/7 access to the most amazing video games, social media, and software. A couple of marketing strategies such as gifts, raffles, or debonding parties no longer fit the definition of excitement or energize patients to refer.
  • Confusing customer service with marketing. In the 1980s a customer service revolution took place. Companies started providing high-level customer service that consistently led to referrals. The idea that because you treat patients well everyone will refer, needs to go out with the floppy disk. Today, excellent customer service is an expectation not an exception, and no longer directly creates referrals.
  • Social media posting. Social media is now a required part of any marketing program. Unfortunately, the rules of social media marketing change constantly and most orthodontic practices are falling short. Simply posting lots of photos on your social media accounts won’t create a long line of new patients at your door. Social media is its own unique strategy that needs to be applied carefully using the right psychology and methodology. There is no single “home run” process that ensures referrals.
  • Not having a brand. Most orthodontic practices are known for orthodontics only and don’t necessarily have a brand that patients can recognize. Practices believe that because they are a long-standing member of the community, have the right location, or give gifts to kids that they have a brand. This is simply not true. A brand is what you’re known for. If you don’t shape your brand, it will be shaped for you and it will simply be orthodontics. In the face of competition, being known for the same thing as everyone else does nothing to help.

Avoiding these pitfalls and starting with the first of the FIVE FOCUS AREAS—The Branded Patient Rewards and Referral Program—will help revamp your patient marketing strategy. This program becomes something that patients can recognize. It may be a club that patients belong to or a benefits package that you can access. The key is to have a brand and then communicate that brand to patients, parents, and the community.

Getting Started

The new Levin Group Orthodontic Referral Marketing Program starts by identifying a specific brand and building at least 15 strategies around that brand for patients only. If you truly want patients to understand the power of your practice and refer others, you must do much more than give out gifts or have contests.

We recently met a new orthodontic practice that was very proud of its patient program. Unfortunately, their referrals were declining. All aspects of their patient marketing focused on shaping patient behavior. Patients earned points for coming in on time…points for good hygiene…points for everything except referrals. When we explained to the practice that their program was robust but focused on shaping behavior and not motivating patient referrals, they began to understand why referrals were declining.

The first thing this practice did was create a branded patient program called the Ocean Club with a seagull as its mascot. This created an image that people could understand, belong to, and relate to others. By focusing on patient interaction, fun, and rewards for referrals, the practice was able to increase referrals within a very short time. This is how a brand can help grow an orthodontic practice.

In today’s hyper competitive world of orthodontics with new service models emerging regularly, practices can’t afford to employ the same old marketing strategies. By creating The Branded Patient Rewards and Referral Program for your practice, you will have a new opportunity to increase referrals. OP

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Levin_OrangePromoCode_webNew Levin Group Program

We are pleased to announce the launch of the New Levin Group Orthodontic Marketing Program. This breakthrough program includes FIVE FOCUS AREAS—Patients, Parents, Social Media, Referring Doctors, and the Community.

Levin Group has been the leading orthodontic management and marketing consulting firm since 1985. We have worked with thousands of orthodontic practices.

If you would like to have a 30-minute discussion about your unique practice situation and how the New Levin Group Orthodontic Marketing Program can benefit you, please visit levingroup.com/orthodontic-marketing-program or contact Angela Pickett at [email protected].


Roger-LevinRoger P. Levin, DDS, is a third-generation dentist and the founder and CEO of Levin Group Inc, a dental management consulting firm that has worked with thousands of orthodontic practices. Levin, an internationally known orthodontic practice management and marketing speaker, has written 65 books and over 4,300 articles. He is also the executive founder of Dental Business Study Clubs—Dentistry’s only All-Business Study Clubs, the next generation of dental business education.