As per my previous blog, I’m writing about some of the things I learned about dental practice marketing after attending a seminar hosted by Laurie Slater of Fortune Management at a Hilton hotel in Vaughan last Friday. Laurie and the guest speaker, the electrifying Fred Joyal (co-founder of 1800Dentist in the U.S.), gave fantastic presentations about marketing your practice. And I don’t want to steal their thunder. But I do want to point out a thing or two which I picked up along the way which made me pause for thought.
Now, first thing’s first… get this book from Amazon right now:
This is Fred Joyal’s book and it basically contains everything you need to know to get started on marketing your practice.
Now, back to what I learned by listening to Laurie and Fred.
Some dentists believe they don’t sell anything. They provide a service to the public. But they are professionals. They can’t engage in the low-brow antics of marketers. No signs on bus stops, thank you very much! No YellowPages. No website or Facebook page. That’s very unprofessional, they might say. But the reality is, in this day and age, with all the practices popping up everywhere, and with so many choices for the public, dental practices need to acknowledge that they are competing in a very tight industry. And if they happen to have started many years ago, they probably didn’t do much marketing because they didn’t need to. It was all based on word-of-mouth referrals. And perhaps they were the only dental practice within a certain geographic area. And things worked out for them. Perhaps they’re thinking of slowing down or retiring now.
But things have changed – especially for those who are acquiring existing practices or starting up their own. Now, with more practices around them, there are more dentists per population than ever before. And this has heated up the industry as dental practices try to attract new patients and keep their existing ones.
And this leads me to conclude that, while dentistry is a noble profession where dentists can make a profound impact on their patient’s lives on a daily basis, it is still a business that needs to earn a profit to survive and thrive.
But the thing that is being sold is not the service of dentistry. Let me repeat that: dentists aren’t selling dental treatment. Truly, even I can’t figure out if what I’m buying is any good. I am not a dentist and cannot distinguish between a good and bad job. What I can do, however, is purchase dental services based on other factors – such as how much I trust my dentist, how comfortable I am with my dentist, how much I like their staff and the office, whether I believe my dentist truly cares about me (and not my chequebook).
And the same thing goes for lawyers. We don’t really sell legal services. You won’t find me talking to a dentist about how good one of my agreements is. Dentists can’t judge those types of things. They’re not trained to know the differences. But if they trust me, they’ll go along with my recommendations.
So what does selling dentistry really involve? It involves tangibilizing the intangible. Patients value things that cannot be readily seen. They can’t see your staff on the phone, but they can assess them based on their tone and demeanour when speaking with them. Remember to get your staff to smile when talking to patients! It makes a huge difference. When patients walk into your office, if it smells nice, they’ll remember that and be more relaxed. Be sure that the lighting and spacing of your office also makes patients feel at ease. If the dentist takes a little bit more time to explain things, that extra time will create a stronger trust relationship. If the dentist’s website has tons of free information to educate the patient, they’ll like that too. And a lot has to do with the attitude of the dentist and their staff. Fred Joyal had a great saying: “Patients don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”. Since the general public can’t assess a dentist’s competency easily, dentists have to persuade patients into accepting treatment by doing little things right to show patients that they really do care about them as human beings.
And this is where Laurie Slater’s WOW factor comes into play. It’s about understanding what patients Want and then delivering it On time With attention to detail. Patients remember small moments of wonderfulness. This could include sending patients a signed card for their birthday. Or giving a patient free teeth whitening. Or perhaps it’s a call from the dentist just to check up and see how things are going. Or giving a patient a gift card for Tim Horton’s. You get the idea…
All products and services have packaging to some extent. And before you purchase anything, you already have a sense of whether it’s going to be good or bad simply based on the package. You can tell the difference in packaging, for example, when looking at something that has the “No Name” label on it, versus an “Apple” computer (which is the most valuable brand in the world at this time). Apple can command a premium on its phones and computers and tablets because of its brand name. And a lot of it has to do with how it is packaged. Apple focuses on sleek, sexy, simple. Apple uses the latest technology for what may appear to be the simplest of things (e.g. the cord is magnetically attached, the power supply doesn’t get too hot, etc.). And these same packaging principles apply to selling dentistry.
How are you packaging your dental services? Think about:
- Your stationary (business cards, letterhead, envelopes).
- Your office layout and furniture and fixtures.
- The colours/sounds / smells of your office.
- Your advertisements.
- Paintings on walls.
- Your website and social media.
- Your team’s attitude (smiling while speaking on the phone?)
- Your use of technology (e.g. appointments by e-mail and online)?
- The way you and your staff dress.
- Free parking.
- A great location.
- A newsletter.
If you have what I like to call the “Apple” packaging, then your dental services are more likely to be accepted. Your patients will be more relaxed because of the environment you’ve created. You’re making the relationship stronger by tangibilizing the intangible. Remember: you’ll have a difficult time convincing anyone that you are a competent dentist (the public just naturally assumes this). So you need to focus on your packaging instead. And the packaging that you decide to go with will depend on your branding.