Market Segmentation: Why You Need It and How to Get Started

Think about your patients. Who are they? What do they do? What motivates them? Depending on your patient base, the answers to these questions are about as random as the people walking down the street—everyone needs good quality dental care, after all.

But this leaves you with a question: how do you create an effective dental marketing campaign for such a diverse group?

A well-formed digital marketing plan isn’t one-size-fits-all. And if you know anything about promoting a dental practice, you know your target market is any human being with a mouth, which means you’ve got to market your practice to everyone from mothers of small children, to single men in their 20’s, to retired seniors.

Don’t you?

Well, not necessarily. While everyone needs good quality dental care, your practice can’t be everything to everyone. By focusing on your target patient profile, you’ll be able to craft more effective messaging tailored for that patient avatar. But your work doesn’t stop there. Even then you’ll be speaking to many different types of patients at different stages of their decision-making journey. 

The methods for capturing the attention of these divergent groups are as unique as the groups themselves. So how do you appeal to everyone in your ideal patient profile?

The answer is market segmentation.

What is Dental Marketing Segmentation?

Market segmentation is the process of dividing your patients and prospects into specific, predictable groups based on what they have in common. Factors like a patient’s age, where they live, and how they buy goods and services all contribute to their market segment.

All of this is valuable information that allows you to fine-tune your marketing efforts and improve your messaging for these different groups. For example, parents of teenagers won’t respond to the same kinds of marketing as parents of toddlers. In fact, maybe you should be targeting teenagers or college-age young adults directly. If your ideal client is a family with children, segmentation will help to hyper-focus your dental marketing campaigns to more effectively reach your target market.

Market segmentation is what happens when you put your market research into action. If you’ve already looked into the kind of patients you have (which you should), then you have a good idea of who your target market should be. Marketing segmentation takes that knowledge even further by grouping similar patients together and adjusting your marketing efforts and communications that speak to each group.

What are the Types of Market Segmentation?

There are many ways to segment your market. The most popular are based on demographics, geography, behaviors, and psychographic information. But customer groups should also be divided by life stage and seasonality..

If you don’t currently collect the following information from your patients, you should start. The more data you have on your market, the better equipped you are to segment and develop an effective dental marketing campaign. Here are the types of market segmentation you should consider.

Market Segmentation Category 1: Demographic

Using demographics is the most popular way to group patients because the information is generally accessible. Most dental practices already collect demographic data. This information includes, but isn’t limited to:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Marital status
  • Race,
  • Ethnicity
  • Income
  • Education

Demographics aren’t just the easiest patient information to collect. They’re usually the most telling. For example, if you’d like to target senior patients needing dentures, the obvious way to segment your market is by age.

Conversely, if you want to focus on pediatrics but have few patients under 18, you could concentrate on marketing to the parents among your current patients. Target them with pediatric marketing, and your practice will be an easy choice for their child’s dental health needs.

Market Segmentation Category 2: Geographic

Some marketing professionals consider this to be a part of demographics, but geography should stand on its own. Unlike many demographic factors that cannot be altered, geography is capable of frequent change. Here are the leading geographic factors to consider:

  • Municipality
  • ZIP code
  • City or town
  • Radius around a particular location
  • Climate
  • Urban or rural classifications

Geographic segmentation is valuable because your patients may have dental health variables based on where they live. For example, not every municipality has water fluoridation, so if your service area includes a section like this, you should target patients there with education and offers for additional fluoride treatments.

Market Segmentation Category 3: Behavioral

This part of market segmentation is all about what people do and the lifestyle choices they make. Behaviors you should track for your patients include:

  • Tobacco use
  • Diet
  • Regularity of dental checkups
  • Dental hygiene habits
  • Nail-biting
  • Thumb-sucking

These behaviors all directly impact the quality of a person’s dental health. As a dental practice, you should target certain behaviors for specific treatments. For instance, more than 40% of American tobacco users aged 20 to 64 have untreated tooth decay.1 To capture more of this market, your dental marketing campaign should segment smokers and other tobacco users.

Market Segmentation Category 4: Psychographic

Psychographic factors are all about the psychological aspects of patient behavior. These are often subjective and difficult to discover on your own. Luckily, social media offers some great segmentation tools where you can find this information. Psychographic data includes:

  • Lifestyle
  • Personality traits
  • Values
  • Attitudes and opinions
  • Interests
  • Psychological influences
  • Subconscious and conscious beliefs
  • Motivations and priorities

Think about this. With 60% of the population having a negative attitude toward dental visits, you have a huge segmentation opportunity. What are the pain points (literally) for those who don’t like to go to the dentist? How will your dental marketing campaign ease their concerns? Answering these questions and responding by adapting your marketing efforts is precisely why market segmentation is worthwhile.

Market Segmentation Category 5: Lifestage

Life stages offer another segmentation opportunity. While these categories have some overlap with demographic information as age can often be a contributing indicator, the correlation isn’t direct. It’s worth taking a look at life stage categories on their own merits, including:

  • College
  • Parenthood
  • Empty-nester
  • Engaged or newly married
  • Homeownership

Patients will each need or want different services based on their stage of life. College students might be looking for affordable treatment or are researching a new dental provider on their own for the first time. People who are engaged might be considering teeth-whitening or other cosmetic procedures so they can put their best face forward for their wedding day. Parents are looking for quick service in a kid-friendly atmosphere.

Market Segmentation Category 6: Seasonal

The seasons should also affect your marketing efforts. While  people need dental care all year long, some focus on different services at different times of the year.

For example, invasive procedures like crowns and root canals may be more prevalent at your practice during the winter when people are shut in and have little else to do. Conversely, you may notice an uptick in teeth whitening and other cosmetic procedures in spring and fall, to prepare for the summer vacation season and holidays, respectively. And, there’s also the summer rush when school-aged children come in for checkups over summer break.

Of course, seasonal patterns are different for every geographic area and practice. Take a look at the work you’ve done in the last few years and identify trends. When you know them, lean into these market segments to maximize production during these busy times.

Why Should Dental Marketing Campaigns be Segmented?

Segmentation lets you leverage your marketing strategy to target specific products and services to designated groups, and those groups are the ones most likely to convert.

This is especially important for healthcare providers, like dentists, who treat such a wide swath of the population. Unlike a tattoo shop or children’s toy store, which have more narrow markets based on people’s interests, everyone has teeth. And everyone with teeth needs to go to the dentist. 

That’s why you need to segment your markets. Everyone falls into different market segments. Yes, you may specialize in certain areas of dentistry which will make your targeting a little easier. But no matter your specialty, people need your services regardless of their demographics, geography, behaviors, or personal interests.

And there’s one more reason you should segment your markets—the results. According to Harvard Business Review, 81% of executives believe segmentation is crucial for growing profits.2

Will Segmentation Help My Dental Marketing Campaigns?

Increasing profits, while extremely important, is only the first of the many benefits of market segmentation. Segmentation goes much further than that.

Benefits of Market Segmentation: 1. Driving Growth

The goal of every dental marketing campaign is to attract and retain new patients. Market segmentation delivers by introducing personalized marketing to specific segments that are already primed to convert.

According to a recent study by McKinsey, businesses that segmented their marketing earned 3 to 5% more sales than businesses that didn’t.3 And this shouldn’t come as a surprise because not only is targeted marketing extremely persuasive, but it’s also what your patients want. 

Benefits of Market Segmentation: 2. Meet Patient Expectations

Digital marketing has become so sophisticated that four out of five customers expect a personalized experience with a business, and 51% of people expect a business to make the first move.4

These expectations extend from the retail markets into the healthcare sphere. Your prospective patients carry over these expectations to their search for a new dental provider. Without market segmentation, adequately personalizing your promotions would be challenging. And ignoring this opportunity will be detrimental to your practice. 

Benefits of Market Segmentation: 3. Better Email Campaigns

Showing up in a prospective patient’s inbox is still one of the best generators of inbound leads, and marketing segmentation is a huge part of email marketing. Marketers who segment their email campaigns report a 77% return on those campaigns.4 That’s because when customers receive those emails, 46% of them open and 27% click through.

Why such a high response rate? Because people are more likely to engage with content—even marketing content—that’s obviously designed for them.

Interested in learning more about how dental marketing segmentation can benefit your dental practice? Contact us at 888.307.7304 to schedule a strategy session. Our industry experts can help you develop a segmentation strategy that best supports your goals and most effectively reaches your ideal patients.


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