How a dentist is rooting his new-patient strategy in TikTok
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What comes to mind when you think about your local dentist's office?
Most likely, you’re thinking of a grey aesthetic, maybe some generic artwork, and an hour of your life that you wish you could be spending elsewhere.
This is a reality that Dr. Suhail Mohiuddin—more commonly known as Dr. M—knew when he and two of his friends started a dental practice in 2013:
“If you look at NPS scores of dental offices, the average dental office has a score of one, which is somewhere between standing in line at the DMV and your cable company,” he joked.
That’s why Dr. M and his friends founded Dentologie: a practice to reshape people's thoughts about their semi-annual dentist trips.
“People hate going to the dentist, so our entire concept is to create an awesome experience that people don't hate. We tailor the entire business around amazing technology, beautiful locations, and phenomenal customer service.”
Today, Dentologie is the largest dental practice in Chicago, with a strong social media presence that drives 25% of its new clients.
How did Dr. M (a dentist with zero prior experience in marketing) pull this off?
It has nothing to do with luck—it’s been pure strategy since Day 1. Dr. M applies many direct-to-consumer best practices to his personal TikTok, driving almost 750K followers and new clients to his business.
We got the chance to ask him to share tips with our readers.
How Dentologie became a dental brand—not just another clinic
It’s not often you come across a dental office with a brand name. Usually, you’ll see “Dr. Mohiuddin Denistry,” “Queen Street Dentistry,” or “Chicago Dental.”
There isn’t a lot of creativity, which was the first part of Dr. M’s plan to build a dental brand, not just another clinic. Hence the brand name, Dentologie.
“The funny thing is dentists generally don't have to be good marketers because people always have bad teeth, and they drive a business through word of mouth. Dentists never have to spend time thinking about how to create a brand,” he said. “We did the reverse. Instead, we spend a lot figuring out how to build a brand to continue growing our business.”
While the services at Dentologie are similar to what most general dental practices offer, the business is unique in how the doctors care for their clients.
For example, they offer asynchronous virtual care communication with patients, and they built a consumer-facing app to make it easier to book appointments and get in touch with staff.
They also use vibrant colors to design each clinic—the overall aesthetic feels similar to the vibe of a spa.
Finally, Dr. M and the entire Dentologie team simply make visiting them feel fun by sharing videos of them dancing at the office, hygiene tips, and behind-the-scenes at Dentologie.
These strategies are a big part of Dentologie’s success, but, as mentioned, another strategy that’s working well is TikTok.
Adopting a direct-to-consumer model for Dentologie and TikTok
Over the past few years, there’s been a big shift in DTC channels. Dr. M has been paying close attention for a while.
“Something I find super interesting is this shift in the direct-to-consumer model. It used to be so easy to market through Instagram ads. What I think a lot of people didn’t realize is how being the face behind your brand drives tons of traffic to your door,” he said.
The truth is, he accidentally fell into the world of content creation. He was at a conference when he learned about TikTok from one of the speakers. Out of curiosity, he downloaded the app later that night.
At first, Dr. M sent dancing videos to his dental partners as a joke, but when he went home and started learning more about the app, he realized how valuable it could be to talk about dentistry.
He spent the next two years mastering TikTok as a channel to promote his business.
Going viral overnight
Dr. M’s first dental video was in February 2020. He shared tips on how to get whiter teeth, and within 24 hours, it had half a million views.
“I was like, ‘Oh shit. There's something here.’ Before that time, I didn't have any social media presence. I got good at it because I started creating tons of dental content a few times a week,” he said.
When the pandemic hit, most dental offices across the US were closed down. During this time, many of Dr. M’s patients would reach out asking questions about their teeth—people with tooth pain, with wisdom teeth issues, and who had accidentally cracked a tooth, for example.
He realized there would be other people with similar questions, so he used these to fuel his content for TikTok.
“I would like to say that I’m an engaging content creator, but the reality is that this type of content is so favorable to the algorithm. Over six to seven months, I gained a huge following,” he continued. “It took on a life of its own, and I don't take myself too seriously. I don't represent myself as a traditional dentist. I try to create educational videos, but I put a twist on them.”
At Dentologie, other doctors and dental hygienists also participate in some of Dr. M’s content. In his opinion, being the face of your brand and showing everyone behind the scenes is a great way to connect with your audience more authentically than other types of content.
“Within the first year of posting, I looked at the data of our intake forms. Only 2% of my following is in Chicago, but one of every four new customers who walk into our practice is from TikTok and Instagram reels—and we never spent $1 on marketing.”
- Dr. M
What DTC brands can learn from Dr. M and Dentologie
Despite being a local Chicago business, DTC brands can learn a lot from Dr. M’s social media success. Here are the key lessons to takeaway:
- Figure out how to reach your audience early
Dr. M’s audience is a young millennial demographic, which perfectly aligns with Dentologie’s target client. It took some trial and error to test various content types, but he eventually cracked the code to make the right content for this specific audience.
How? A few tips:
- When you have a video that does well, look at the type of comments you get and the people commenting. Do they match your target audience?
- Ask yourself what your audience wants to learn about and what they want to see. What are they interested in, and what’s something you can give them to make it worth their time?
- Don’t be nervous about getting in front of the camera and posting content. At first, it was daunting for Dr. M. He was worried about what friends and family would think, but that fear goes away when you start to grow a following and see the value you’re providing people.
- Forget the follower count and just provide value
In Dr. M’s wise words, people want value, so you must consider how you can personally create it.
“There are so many people who will give this advice, but I’m going to share it anyway because it’s really good advice: whether it’s TikTok, email, ads, or anything, you always have to put on the lens of why what you’re creating will be valuable to the person that’s going to see it.”
Even though Dr. M’s content works well for the TikTok algorithm, his goal was never to make content solely for it. Instead, he focuses on creating the type of content his audience wants to see and then optimizes it to do well in TikTok’s algorithm.
“I think there's this push for content creators to create content specifically for the algorithm, and it's going to generate views. But my business proves that if you can create enough value for people, even if they're not followers of your page per se, they can convert. For us, it’s getting them to come to one of our practices,” he explained.
- Don’t worry about localization to start
As we mentioned, only 2% of Dr. M’s TikTok audience is in Chicago, yet 25% of new clients come from these social media channels.
On channels like TikTok, it can be difficult to attract a local audience like that, which is why Dr. M focuses on value above anything else.
However, if you sell products in a few brick-and-mortar locations (or are operating one yourself), he suggests posting about it and showing off the neighborhood.
“You're going to drive tons of people by posting about your business in its neighborhood because local people like to see that one social media. When they do, they’re more likely to engage with it.”
- Use a personal account
Gone are the days when people care about what brands post (in most cases). Instead, they want to know you as the person behind it. That’s why Dr. M transitioned from using a brand account to a personal account for Dentologie on TikTok.
As simple as it is, “People care about who’s behind the brand and the why behind the brand,” said Dr. M. “As a founder posting from a brand account, I think there was this struggle that viewers had with relating to the business because it's hard to be a fan of a business versus being a fan of a person.”
Once he made the switch, he found building a community around people understanding his personality was much easier.
Using his personal account also means he can engage with his audience beyond just dentistry. For example, there was a point where Dr. M’s hair was longer, and 50% of the comments on his videos were from people asking about his hair routine.
Instead of ignoring these questions because they weren’t dental-related, he took a spin on how he could answer them to provide value to his audience while relating them back to his practice.
How? He would drop bits of information here and there, and it became an inside joke with his community about discovering his hair secrets.
Once in a while, he would create videos to tie the content back to dentistry. For example, he once dropped a nugget where he used a dental mirror to curl his hair. And when he decided to cut off his hair, he made a parody video about how his hair was making his business successful.
“I leaned into just making fun of myself, and I think it’s easier to do that with a personal account versus a business account. Posting from your account also allows you to be yourself and have your community engage with you as a person.”