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Word of Mouth Marketing: Lessons from “Contagious”

By January 14, 2014June 27th, 2023Practice Management

These days, I’m pretty addicted to researching why certain things catch on. I previously blogged about a book I read entitled “The Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell and how your practice could benefit from the lessons in that book.

I just picked up another book written by Jonah Berger entitled “Contagious: Why Things Catch On” and it offers additional lessons into why things go viral via word-of-mouth. In a nutshell, there are 6 principles or STEPPS (as the author calls them) of contagiousness:

1: Social Currency

People talk about cool and remarkable things. And they want to show them off as part of their social status.

2: Triggers

Triggers are stimuli that prompt us to think about related things. Eggs and ham. Cats and dogs. Dinner and a movie. You get the point. So you need to design a product, service, or experience that is frequently triggered by the environment, and you also need to create new triggers by linking to prevalent cues in the environment.

3: Emotion

Emotions like fear, peace of mind, frustration, etc., make it easier to remember messages.

4: Public

People need to be seeing what your customers are doing. That’s why car license plates have dealership names on them. That’s why businesses put their names prominently on shopping bags (to alert others where you have shopped). That’s why dental offices on the ground floor have large windows and signs for those passing by to peer into. Make your practice observable.

5: Practical Value

Make your offering useful. Will it take the pain away? Will it improve your lifestyle (e.g. a big, bright, beautiful smile will help get you a better job, a beautiful date, make you feel more confident, etc.)? Will it save you money? Will it improve your health?   The benefits of what you’re offering need to be concise and packaged neatly so that others can pass it along.

6: Stories

Your message needs to have a human context. The benefits of using a product, service, or experience needs to have a place in our daily lives. And we connect with other humans through stories that contain morals and lessons.

Bottom Line

Look at your dental practice. Look at your branding and your messaging. Think about your target market (i.e. your ideal patient) and the distribution channels in which you attract them (e.g. you’d be focusing on your connectors, mavens, and salespeople if you read the previously linked blog!).

Now re-read the above 6 STEPPS… Your dental practice experience needs to be cool, different, and remarkable (social currency).

People think about going to the dentist when they are in pain or to do some active care treatment typically every six months; you need to focus on these and other types of triggers (e.g. wedding = teeth whitening) in your environment (triggers). By the way, are you targeting couples about to get married? They need to have their teeth fixed (e.g. perio work + teeth whitening + a crown to fix a nasty tooth?)  What a great idea!

Now, you need to tie your product or service offering into an emotion. What about the fear of smiling with crooked and yellow teeth at your wedding? What about having a better chance of landing a job when you expose a beautiful set of pearly white teeth? (emotional).

Next, think about how you can encourage your patients to tell others about your practice when they show off their perfect smile (public). If it’s a wedding, there will be plenty of opportunity because of the pictures being taken, videos being recorded, and attention being paid to the lucky couple. But who else should you think of? Why not those who the wedding couple typically meet in preparation for their wedding – like photographers, wedding planners, caterers, cake makers, flourists, graphic designers (for the invitations), etc. These are all individuals who the wedding couple will typically see on their question to getting married. And if these individuals all have beautiful and nice teeth, and you’re the practice that provided those services (because you did so deliberately), then you’ll be more visible to your target market (i.e. ideal patient).

Your service offering must have value. This is probably the easiest part when it comes to pitching your offering to patients. They want exceptional service by a competent and trustworthy professional in a timely and cost-certain manner within a clean and aesthetically pleasing environment where the team members care about their interests. These are all values that patients care about (practice value). In certain unique practices, for example, the values may require further competencies (e.g. specialty practices) or further accommodations (e.g. in the dentist’s schedule for emergencies).

Finally, you need to be able to wrap everything up in a story or two. What kinds of funny jokes or interesting stories do you have that include important lessons? Are these about you, your practice, a former case, etc.? (stories). You’ve got to tie everything in with cool stories that trigger emotion, include your practice values, and which leave patients with social currency (so they feel compelled to tell others about how great you and your practice are)!

In future blogs, we’ll take a look at these 6 STEPPS in greater detail.

And by the way, you should definitely pick up your copy of “Contagious” from Amazon.

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.