At Search Starts Here: Aspen Dental Shows a Laser Focus on Local

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Mary Boysman, VP of brand marketing and advertising, demonstrated that Aspen Dental clearly get the big picture on how to succeed with local media. Aspen Dental is the fastest growing dental practice company in the U.S. with 380 locations spread across 23 states. With growth plans of 60-plus locations added each year over the foreseeable future, it is poised to be the largest branded dental practice in the U.S. Aspen Dental’s goal is to focus on secondary markets that may be underserved with affordable dental services. Rather than focus on office districts, Aspen seeks out highly visible retail locations to ensure traffic and visibility of its brand.

While brand awareness is important to Aspen Dental, audiences are the main focus of its local marketing efforts. The bulk of its targeting is focused on boomers who are 45 plus and seniors, all of whom are seeking affordable dental care but may not have dental insurance or have let their dental care lapse. While its initial focus was those who were too afraid to come to the dentist or embarrassed because they had not taken care of their teeth, its strategy is now focused on providing affordable and accessible dental care to the 45-plus market.

When seeking markets to enter, affordability of media, particularly television and directories, is a factor as is the number of locations it must open to support a viable local media plan. Over the past seven years, Aspen Dental has evolved its media mix from a heavy newspaper focus to a more balanced media mix that focuses on TV, directories and digital options. Digital is used in a tactical manner to test messages and to better understand how best to reach its key audiences who will spend on multiple services or major treatment plans. When asked about the company’s use of mobile marketing, Boysman replied, “mobile is here and all marketers should be able to adapt and build from mobile’s capabilities.”

Aspen Dental is able to take feedback from online media, and particularly social media, allowing it to test new concepts and identify unmet needs. One example shared was using feedback from its dentists about appointments cancelled at the last moment and customers wanting to make appointments online. Using this feedback, Aspen Dental was able to implement testing of an online appointment setting system paired with an email alert system that let customers know an appointment time was now available because of a cancelled appointment.

“The keys to our media success, said Boysman, is being nimble and understanding the interrelationship of all media types. Our goal is to use a multimedia approach that assures our patients know us.” Aspen Dental employs a three-pronged approach to its media planning using a blend of what it calls above the line advertising (broadcast, online display, PR, OOH); targeted advertising (sponsorships, sports, partnerships); and hand raiser activities (SEM/SEO, print and online directories, mobile and live chat).

Its laser focus on local and hyperlocal media usage makes Aspen Dental well-positioned to not only serve the marketing needs of its dental practices, but also assure its success in each of its markets.

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