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Dental Marketing Agency vs. Growth Partner: Which Should You Choose?

This short guide will help you decide whether a traditional dental marketing company or a growth partner is a better fit to help you reach your new patient goals.

Ian Cooper

Senior Copywriter

You lead a practice, dental group, or emerging DSO. You want more new patients. And rather than try to tackle that in-house, you decide to save time and effort by finding an outside marketing company to do it for you.

Typically, your next step would be to hire a traditional dental marketing agency. A traditional agency might make you a new website, refresh your logo and branding, and run ads or do email marketing to get your name in front of potential patients.

These are all good things! But there’s also another option. If you’re an ambitious practice leader looking to significantly expand both your patient base and your business, you’d be better served by working with a specific type of agency: a growth partner.

We’ll walk you through the differences between the two, plus the pros and cons of each.

What’s the difference between a traditional dental marketing agency and a growth partner?

Unless you’re deeply engaged in the nuances of dental marketing, you probably haven’t thought much about the different types of marketing companies you can choose from. 

But not all dental marketers take the same approach. Depending on your goals, you might need to seek out either a:

  • Task-based traditional agency
  • Results-based growth partner

What is a traditional dental marketing agency?

When you think of a marketing agency, you probably envision a company that will make you a new website, run some ads, punch up your SEO, or delivers a beautiful new logo. 

That’s the traditional marketing agency business model: task-based marketing. You’ll hire an agency like this to complete specific tasks designed to promote your practice(s) and help you stand out to potential new patients.

Typically, you’ll pay for these at an hourly rate or on a project-by-project basis. However, if you’ve hired a traditional agency to oversee an ad campaign, you’ll normally fork over a percentage of your ad spend as a management fee.

What is a growth partner?

Growth partners are a type of marketing agency that does most of the same things that traditional agencies do. But there’s a key difference: rather than being charged for individual tasks, you’re investing in achieving specific new patient results.

This means that you’re not paying your growth partner based on the projects they deliver. Instead, you set specific, measurable, time-sensitive growth goals and pay your growth partner to achieve them by whatever means necessary.

Because this is a more comprehensive service, a growth partner will work under an all-inclusive monthly retainer rather than an hourly or per-project fee. Growth partners are also typically bigger, which means they have the resources and knowledge base to wrap lead-gen, operational consulting, and conversion coaching into one holistic package.

👉 Read more: Our complete guide to choosing the right dental marketing agency.

When should you choose a traditional marketing agency?

A traditional marketing agency is a great fit for practice leaders who want to roughly maintain their current growth trajectory or achieve short- and medium-term tactical goals like: 

  • Generate leads
  • Improve branding
  • Get social media attention
  • Create a beautiful new website
  • Invest in SEO

Most traditional agencies are particularly good at one or two of these different elements. Some agencies are branding-focused, for example, while others specialize in lead-gen, but depending on the specific job you’re looking for, you can always find an agency that knows how to do it well.



Get skilled professionals to do specific tasks while you take the lead on strategy.

Depending on your needs, you may miss the forest for the trees.

Per project or hourly pricing means more flexibility around when and how you spend.

Your agency will be more focused on completing tasks than on your big-picture results.

Build an attractive, compelling brand or drill down on a particular growth area like SEO or leads.

Paying per project means your agency is less likely to argue with you when you’re wrong.

Often a smaller financial investment.

You may end up wasting money without a coherent strategy.

Great if your operations are already performing at a high level and just need more leads.

Won’t help you improve your operations or solve in-house barriers to growth.

When should you work with a growth partner instead?

A growth partner is a better fit if you’re aiming to take your practice or dental group to the next level as a business. Seek out a growth partner if you’re to:

  • Get many more new patients
  • Improve operational efficiency
  • See serious, long-term revenue growth
  • Add more doctors, specialties, and locations

A good growth partner won’t just deliver you a bunch of leads or boost your SEO. Instead, they’ll optimize your entire new patient journey — which means they won’t just make your phone ring, but help your call handlers turn more of those calls into appointments and then your doctors turn more of those appointments into starts.

If you do high-dollar specialty treatments like implants, a growth partner can also help you conduct the long-term lead nurturing you’ll need in order to convert your leads into starts.



Set big goals and achieve long-term growth.

Usually more expensive.

All-in-one monthly retainer for predictable costs and consistent ROI.

Waste of money for practices that want to maintain or have only small growth goals.

Improve your operations and conversion rates as well as your marketing.

Requires a certain level of integration with your own team.

Because a growth partner makes money off your long-term success, it’s in their interest to tell you when you’re wrong about something.

May ask you to change how you approach training and operations.

You’ll gain access to a large, experienced team.

Big and ambitious isn’t always the right fit.

👉 Read more: Trying to decide between two different dental marketers? Ask both to answer these 5 questions.

Your decision comes down to your personality and big-picture goals

Obviously, SMC is a growth partner. But we want to be very clear — a growth partner is NOT better than a traditional marketing agency. 

Both have strengths and weaknesses that we’ve tried to convey above.

In fact, most dentists will actually be better off working with a traditional agency. If you’re looking to run a great single-location practice, maintain an appealing brand, and make sure that you’ve got enough patients to stay comfortably in business, working with a growth partner is usually overkill.

However — if you’re an ambitious dentist or dental group leader who is laser-focused on growing your revenue and the overall size of your business, then a growth partner would be a natural fit to help you do it.

Bottom line: if you’re a dentist who happens to run a business, you probably don’t need a growth partner. If you’re an entrepreneur who happens to own practices or practice dentistry, you’ll love working with one.

SMC = growth partner. Find out if you’re a good fit👇

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