DSO Marketing: How to Turn First-Time Visitors into Lifelong Patients with Insights From Melanie Basile

Chief Growth Officer at the Smilist, Melanie Basile sits down Cardinal CEO, Alex Membrillo, for an insightful discussion that explores the cutting-edge marketing strategies and technological innovations within the dental industry. Discover AI's potential to transform healthcare marketing by offering invaluable insights into patient preferences and bolstering the capabilities of marketing teams.

DSO Marketing: How to Turn First-Time Visitors into Lifelong Patients with Insights From Melanie Basile

Patient-centric marketing is key to growing a DSO.

Putting patients first means more loyal patients and steady growth in a highly competitive market – every brand’s dream.

How do you make sure patients are at the forefront of your strategy? 

We sat down with Melanie Basile, Chief Growth Officer at The Smilist (60+ location DSO) to pick her brain about how marketing can:

  • Improve patient care
  • Simplify the patient journey
  • Create a cohesive brand experience across channels

Each of these can result in growth for your DSO. With her extensive background in digital marketing across various industries, including beauty and consumer electronics, Melanie brings a unique perspective to DSO marketing. Let’s dig in.


Digital Front Door

As a starting point, we asked Melanie about the foundation of digital media. Where do you start, and how do you expand out from there? 

“One of the first things I did was set up PPC campaigns and worked on optimizing the website and thinking about user experience,” Melanie told us. “That was the foundation. A great website is locally optimized and optimized for keywords. I was thinking about UI, which is big in e-commerce. And then, how do you attract, convert, and retain? That was the foundation.”

One key ingredient many miss out on? Online appointments. While there is some resistance in the industry, as Melanie sees it, leveraging online appointments is essential for any DSO looking to create a great digital front door.

“Not every office, not every doctor and team wants to go on that,” Melanie shared, “but it’s really, really, a must have from my perspective. If we’re spending money online, we need to have online booking set up. That’s how people want to schedule appointments. They don’t wanna call. Some do, and that’s really important too, but we need both.”


Patient Journey & Content Alignment

Having established the right foundation, where do you go next? Melanie emphasizes the importance of delivering the right content at the right stage of the patient’s journey. High quality, educational content is a must, but you have to make sure it reaches your patients at the right time. “What we are really focusing on right now is ensuring that we have the right content at the right stage in the patient’s journey,” she told us.


AI Tech for Patient Insights & Social Listening

How can you determine what is the right content at the right stage? At the Smilist, they turned to AI, undertaking a social listening project to try and gain insights into what is motivating patients and also what may be holding them back. During this monthslong project, conversational AI analyzed 1,500,000 conversations in which people talked about their dental experiences and what they were looking for in care.

This approach proved fruitful, delivering key insights into patient drivers and allowing Melanie and her team to understand where and how they should adapt. “We engaged with this whole social listening project last year, which is really cool, really insightful to understand… What is motivating patients in the dental category? What are the decision drivers? What are the fears? What are the concerns? And then how do we adapt our voice and our brand and our content to be, you know, authentic and be an authority, across every single channel.”


Importance of the Dental Team/Hiring the Right People

Along the way, the Smilist team happened upon one surprising insight. While it’s common to assume that “the dentist is the MVP,” as Melanie phrased it, the dental team was actually front and center for many patients. 

“The entire dental team is significant in creating a positive patient experience, not just the dentist,” Melanie asserted. “It’s about the whole team. That full team in the dental office from the person answering the phone to smiling when the patient walks in the door to the dental assistant, to the hygienist.”

DSOs looking to convert first-time patients into long-term and loyal patients need to focus on finding the right team— one that focuses on patient experience and care, and works together to keep patients engaged and happy with their care. 


Learning from Other Industries

As we wrapped our conversation up, we asked: How do you stay on trend and get ahead of things for your industry? In response, Melanie emphasized the importance of networking with professionals in your region and industry. I think it’s just really important to find the industry leaders and groups out there…Attend those events. Stay connected through your peers and your colleagues.”

Don’t limit yourself to the DSO space, however. Melanie also stressed the importance of looking beyond healthcare for marketing insights, strategy, and processes. 

“I like applying my past life to Dental because it is retail-facing. Yes, this is a patient experience. But why does that have to be different than a customer experience in some ways? You just have to find for yourself what is out there and stay in touch with it.” 



All in, this wide-ranging conversation with Melanie Basile delivered a lot of detail into how DSOs can improve their digital marketing and keep those patients coming in the door. Thanks again to Melanie, and head over to her LinkedIn to learn more about her and her efforts at The Smilist.  

If you want to see how Cardinal is continuing to help The Smilist grow and reach even more patients, check out our case study here.

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