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The Formula for New Dental Patients: CPA + CPL = $$$

dentist writing formula on white board

When I explained this formula during my keynote at the North American Dental Sleep Medicine Symposium earlier this year, I got some funny looks from the audience. They were some of the same looks my dog gives me when I talk to her about math:

Stitch the dog

“Dad, please stop with this “cost per acquisition” nonsense.” –Stitch Cote.”

When you hear from a Marketing Guy, you expect to hear about “design” and “wow factor” and “top google ranking” and “facebook ads”…not the need for a mathematical balance between cost-per-acquisition and cost-per-lead.

But I’m not your typical Marketing Guy.

In the spirit of full transparency, I’ll explain how this simple formula can help you measure the effectiveness of your campaigns so that you can make the most of your hard-earned marketing dollars.

What is Cost Per Lead (CPL) and Cost Per Acquisition (CPA)?

CPL is measured by the money you spend to get someone to make an interaction with your practice. This could be an interaction with your website—like a form they filled out after they clicked on a “contact us” or “appointment request” button—or a phone call to your practice.  

CPA is measured by the money you spend to get a new patient.

Let’s imagine that you spend $1,250 each month—or $15,000 annually—on some form of online advertising to attract new patients.

In the example below, I give you two possibilities for how that might play out, and I show you how to calculate CPL from traffic (website visitors) and conversions (measurable interactions).

In possibility #1 (column 1, below), $15,000 gets you 3,000 site visitors. This means your CPL would be $5 ($15,000/3,000 = $5).

In possibility #2 (column 2, below), that same $15,000 might only generate 1,000 site visitors, or a CPL of $15.

breakdown of traffic conversions and ROI with two different ways to spends $15,000 on ads

At first glance, it may seem like column 1 is the more effective choice, because $5 per lead is ⅓ the cost of $15 per lead. Easy-peasy-nice-and-squeezy, right?

Not so fast, Skippy. When you then measure the effectiveness and quality of the leads—in other words, how they convert from a lead to a new patient, a new picture emerges. 

Look at the return on investment (ROI) row, above. Spending $375 per new patient is way better than spending $750 per new patient.

The beauty of this math is that it can be applied to ALL your advertising spend (even non-digital marketing tactics!), as I demonstrate in the image below:

3x return on CPA chart breakdown

*This is a sample CPL and CPA calculation, not based on a specific client’s results.

For a deeper dive on this topic, the best-selling book, Measure What Matters is a masterclass on how companies like Google scale quickly. 

Consider applying the idea of the title and measure what matters when it comes to your advertising spend, CPL, and CPA. The resulting data can give you meaningful insights that help you make smarter, more cost-effective decisions.

And if your dog, or your fellow dentists, look at you funny when talking about advertising math, just rub their belly.*

*Proceed at your own risk.

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