Should Dentists Use Patient Testimonials in Marketing?

According to NeilsenWire, 90% of people trust their friends’ recommendations for services and products. A shocking 70% of Americans trust recommendations they find online from people they may not even know. There are plenty of places to find recommendations online: YouTube, Yelp!, Twitter, Facebook, Google Places, DemandForce… the list goes on and on. These patient opinions on the Internet are indexed by search engines so that anyone can find them – and there’s not a thing you can do about it.

Positive testimonials are great, and in fact, today more than ever, dentists across the nation use testimonials in marketing. But are they supposed to?

I was recently asked this question by a client, and he mentioned that he’d heard some chatter on the issue lately. When I first began copywriting for dentists, writing websites and blogs years ago, one of the most important topics I investigated was the ADA’s guidelines for dental advertising, marketing, and promotions. In my career, I’ve seen a handful of dentists receive a letter from their state dental board stating that particular language or references must be taken off the dental practice website within 10 days. Now, I’ve never seen a dentist actually have his license suspended for an infraction, but it could happen. If you don’t want to get a warning from your state dental board, there are a few things you need to do.

First of all, contact your state dental board or go online and find the bylaws that address marketing and promotions. Most states adhere to the ADA’s guidelines, but some have added stipulations. For instance, in California, dentists cannot use the term “sleep dentistry.” Ohio, Georgia, and Texas are also known to have guidelines that extend beyond the ADA’s mandates.

When it comes to testimonials, all dentists should be very aware that they cannot:

  • Compare themselves to other dentists;
  • Use statements of superiority;
  • Promise predictable results;
  • Misrepresent themselves or their services;
  • And, in Texas, dentists are not supposed to use testimonials in marketing.

That said, “testimonial” is not defined in the Texas Dental Association guidelines. As a result, the guideline begs the question, what is a testimonial? Is it a quote from a patient? Is it a written statement? A video? Is a news article featuring a patient interview considered marketing? Is an interview considered a testimonial? What if a patient testimonial video doesn’t reside on a dentist’s YouTube channel, but on the patient’s? Is that considered marketing? It boggles the mind.

My opinion is, in the near future, the rule banning testimonials will become history. For right now, know what you’re getting into. If you use testimonials and someone rats you out, you may get a letter from the Texas Dental Association requiring that you remove the testimonials.

However, if you don’t use testimonials, you’re at a disadvantage against those dentists who do use them. So what should you do? You really have three options:

  • Check with your state dental board
  • Wait and see if anything happens
  • Don’t use testimonials at all

I just want to present you with the facts. The decision, ultimately, is up to you.

At Modern Dental Practice Marketing, we help our client dentists leverage positive testimonials. We even work with DemandForce to publicize positive patient reviews. If you’d like to use patient testimonials as an integral part of your online marketing strategy, call Jill at MDPM (972-781-8861) for guidance. With publicity on your website, blog, social networks, and Google Places, positive testimonials can help your dental practice rank high on search engines.