(This article is a 6-minute read)
THREE THINGS YOU’LL GET FROM THIS ARTICLE
1. The difference between your goals and your patient’s goals
2. The logic of marketing a dental practice with honesty, not product
3. Three ideas for executing this in your marketing
The key to marketing a dental practice successfully is simple. You just align your goals with your patient’s needs. You know patients have oral health problems. Your goal is to treat oral health problems, or help people’s teeth look good. So why is it that your marketing seems to have a poor response rate?
The short answer is, you can see how those goals are aligned. But that doesn’t mean the patient can.
A few years ago now, I had a shocking toothache, and didn’t have the time to schlep over the other side of town to see my regular dentist. So I made an appointment at a local dental practice. It was a lovely, schmick-looking surgery, and the dentist himself was a nice, friendly person.
He took some bite wings, and an OPG scan, and snapped a couple of pics with his fancy intraoral camera. Then he told me I needed an implant, he couldn’t treat it at all, and he’d only charge my insurance company for all the X-rays etc.
I appreciated his thoroughness. But I was also a bit suspicious. I had noted how much my insurance company was being charged for the X-rays (not that I care about my insurance company, they’re doing fine, thank you).
I walked out of there with a prescription for Panadeine Forte and a niggling feeling that the dentist’s goals were being met. But I still had a toothache.
I ran my regular dentist that night. I didn’t ask for an appointment—just a second opinion. I described what I’d seen on all the X-rays etc, and he said, “Come in, I’ll have a look, you may well need an implant but we’ll just check”.
Forty five minutes later, I was in his practice, and he was saying, “You don’t need an implant. We can fix this.” And he did. By 8 o’clock that night, the toothache was gone.
My goal was fixing my toothache. Both of the dentists in that story had the same goal—to treat my oral health problems, and make a living out of doing it.
The difference between the two of them is my regular dentist seemed to care about my goal. Making that connection between what I wanted and what he wanted is pretty easy when the patient is sitting in your chair. And of all the professions, healthcare professionals are best suited to making this connection. Because your business is entirely about solving your patient’s problems.
But very few dentists make that connection through their marketing.
The most common dental advertising I see involves posters for treatments like Invisalign or Clear Connect, or flyers that promise a free X-ray and examination. Those are fine services to offer, and I’m not criticising anyone who offers them. But they have nothing to do with my goals as a patient.
No patient has a goal to get an implant. No patient has a goal to get an X-ray. I have never met anyone who sets a goal to have a scale and clean regularly. I’m not against getting any of those things. They’re just not on my short-, medium-, or long-term bucket list.
Marketing, whether it’s through ads or blogging or search engine optimisation, will always be more effective if it focusses on your patients’ goals, not your own. If your marketing recognises what their problems are, and what they want to achieve, it’s far more meaningful than the means you use to meet those goals.
Where is the dentist blogging about how a whiter smile is not going to fix your whole life? Or writing about the limits of oral health? There was a great recent story in Bite on aggressive strains of S.mutans—explaining that on your own blog may help the mum who has delayed the next appointment because her kids keep getting cavities even though she tries to do everything right.
It’s okay to admit that some problems can’t be fixed by dentists. But there are a lot of problems that can be as well. Spelling that out for patients is so much more powerful than presenting them with products.
And the thing is, you already do it. You’re already honest with your patients when they’re in your chair.
Try having those same conversations with them in your marketing. See what a difference it makes.