Skip to main content

Getting More High Quality Patients: Lessons from The Tipping Point

By October 23, 2013June 27th, 2023Practice Management

I just finished reading Macolm Gladwell’s National Bestseller The Tipping Point and thought about the various ways it could help you with marketing your practice. As per a previous blog I wrote, every dentist wants patients with high dental demand and high dental IQ. But these types of patients are already some other dentist’s patients, which means that it’s really a battle to persuade them to leave (which is difficult) or to target the other types of patients (low demand, high IQ; high demand, low IQ, low demand, low IQ) and to invest your time and resources into making them ideal patients for your practice.

Now, The Tipping Point basically deals with how things become epidemics. How small ideas go viral. There are lots of examples littered throughout the book. But the lessons to be learned are summarized as follows. For ideas to spread:

  • You need a few very important types of people to spread them (e.g. Connectors, Mavens, and Salespeople)
  • The message must be “sticky” (memorable and move us to take action).
  • The context counts.

So with these things said, here’s some more detail on Connectors, Mavens and Salespeople.


Page 38: Connectors are “people with a special gift for bringing the world together… they know lots of people”.

Page 46: “Connectors are important for more than simply the number of people they know. Their importance is also a function of the kinds of people they know.”

Page 48: “They are people whom all of us can reach in only a few steps because, for one reason or another, they manage to occupy many different worlds and subcultures and niches”.

Page 49: “their ability to span many different worlds is a function of something intrinsic to their personality, some combination of curiosity, self-confidence, sociability, and energy”.

Now think about yourself, your team, your patient base, your referring dentists… Who are the Connectors?


Page 59: “If you look closely at social epidemics, however, it becomes clear that just as there are people we rely upon to connect us to other people, there are also people we rely upon to connect us with new information. There are people specialists, and there are information specialists”.

Page 60: “The word Maven comes from the Yiddish, and it means one who accumulates knowledge”.

Page 63: “The critical thing about Mavens, though, is that they aren’t passive collectors of information. It isn’t just that they are obsessed with how to get the best deal on a can of coffee.   What sets them apart is that once they figure out how to get that deal, they want to tell you about it too”.

Page 69: “The one thing that a Maven is not is a persuader. [Their] motivation is to educate and to help. [They’re] not the kind of person who wants to twist your arm… To be a Maven is to be a teacher. But it is also, even more emphatically, to be a student.   Mavens are really information brokers, sharing and trading what they know.”

Now think about yourself, your team, your patient base, your referring dentists… Who are the Mavens?


Page 71: “In a social epidemic, Mavens are data banks. They provide a message. Connectors are social glue: they spread it. But there is also a select group of people – Salesmen – with the skills to persuade us when we are unconvinced of what we are hearing, and they are as critical to the tipping of word-of-mouth epidemics as the other two groups”.

Page 73: “[A salesperson] seems to have some kind of indefinable trait, something powerful and contagious and irresistible that goes beyond what comes out of his mouth. It’s energy. It’s enthusiasm. It’s charm. It’s likability. It’s all those things and yet something more.”

Now think about yourself, your team, your patient base, your referring dentists … Who are the Salespeople?

The Law of the Few, Stickiness, and Context

Page 139: “The Law of the Few looked at the kinds of people who are critical in spreading information. The chapter on Sesame Street…looked at the question of Stickiness, suggesting that in order to be capable of sparking epidemics, ideas have to be memorable and move us to action. We’ve looked at the people who spread ideas, and we looked at the characteristics of successful ideas…  But epidemics are sensitive to the conditions and circumstances of the times and places in which they occur.”

Page 166: “When we are trying to make an idea or attitude or product tip, we’re trying to change our audience in some small yet critical respect: we’re trying to infect them, sweep them up in our epidemic, convert them from hostility to acceptance. That can be done through the influence of special kinds of people, people of extraordinary personal connection. That’s the Law of the Few. It can be done by changing the content of communication, by making a message so memorable that it sticks in someone’s mind and compels them to action. That is the Stickiness Factor.”

Page 256: “The Law of the Few says that connectors, Mavens, and Salesmen are responsible for starting worth-of-mouth epidemics, which means that if you are interested in starting a word-of-mouth epidemic, your resources ought to be solely concentrated on those three groups. No one else matters.”

Page 158: “To make sense of social epidemics, we must first understand that human communication has its own set of very unusual and counterintuitive rules.  …change is possible… people can radically transform their behaviour or beliefs in the face of the right kind of impetus.”

Application to the Dental Office

Okay, so now you’re probably wondering: how do these things relate to my dental office? Well, the basic idea is that if you want to target certain types of patients, you need to create a miniature word-of-mouth epidemic among them. That’s right: word-of-mouth. In today’s age of advertising, little is retained up top. We see and hear ads everywhere, but their ability to force us to take action is somewhat limited. We’re just so bombarded that we become de-sensitized to the barrage. And with instant communication (e.g. emails, tweets, updates, texts, BBMs, etc.), we have less time to communicate with those around us. Our communication has become shorter than ever before (140 characters, anyone?). When we get together with family, friends, and acquaintances, however, we want to talk about and share our social experiences. And going to the dentist is one such experience. If dentists recognized that they were/are a talking point among patients who are Connectors, Mavens, and Salespeople, they would probably act differently. Indeed, dentists would think about the experience that they offer and how it can become a positive social experience for these types of patients, who will then spread your message.

So the bottom line is this: You need to make your Connector, Maven, and Salespeople patients say: “I wouldn’t dream of going to any other dentist for my treatment other than [your name goes here]. They make me feel very comfortable, show me how much they care about me and explain everything to me so that I can make an informed decision. The team at that office is friendly, patient, knowledgeable and caring. They take the highly complex world of dentistry and translate it into a language I can understand and which makes (emotional) sense to me. They deliver exceptional service and guidance and I appreciate their value.

In order to make these types of patients say these things, you and your team need to deliver on this value proposition. If you and your team strive to deliver, your patients will notice. And if they happen to be Connectors, Mavens and Salespeople, then you will find more of these types of patients at your office door.

So how do you communicate your brand (i.e. the experience you want your ideal patient to have from start to finish when dealing with you) to your ideal patient?

  • Sounds: on the phone (smiling + listening) / in person.  Have daily care calls (when’s the last time a dentist called a patient to just say, “How are you?”).
  • Smell: office, individuals (pleasant, but not offensive or over the top).
  • Appearance: you and your staff should appear confident, well-dressed; the office furniture, decor, lighting, signage, etc., should be new and attractive and match your brand.
  • Taste: some dentists offer their patients premium coffee (e.g. espresso) as they wait
  • Touch: are the reception area chairs comfortable, are the dental chairs comfortable, are the tools new and state of the art (less invasive, like laser), are you using sedation so your patient doesn’t feel anything?

Now think about who and what you depend on to spread your message:

  • You
  • Your staff
  • Your patients
  • Your referring dentists
  • Your website
  • Your social media
  • Your stationery (letterhead, business card)
  • Your signage
  • Your advertising (e.g. newsletter / brochure / ads, etc.)

All of these people and mediums need to influence your patients and prospective patients into buying into your brand.

The Content of this post is provided for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be legal, financial, tax, or other professional advice of any kind. You are advised to contact DMC (or other counsel) to seek specific legal advice concerning your individual situation.