Epic dental advertising fails

Posted on May 22, 2017 POSTED UNDER:


(This article is a 5-minute read)


1. The difference between your services and patients’ desires

2. How to talk to patients about outcomes

3. Why you should always proofread your ads carefully

I got a flyer in my letterbox today from a dentist in the next suburb. I won’t name the dentist. Because it struck me as an example of everything you can do wrong in dental advertising.


It was a card about the size of a Do Not Disturb sign on a hotel door. On one side, the headline screamed ‘Comprehensive Examination, Scale, Clean and Two X-Rays!” and the price.


On the other side was list of services (cosmetic dentistry, implants etc). Then it had a health fund logo, and a headline saying they were “Preferred Porviders” (what’s a porvider?), along with some plugs for Invisalign and Zoom.


Let’s leave the spelling errors aside for a minute.


Have you ever—and I mean, ever—had a patient ring up and say, “Hey, I’d like TWO X-rays, thanks!”?



When dental advertising doesn’t work

There are various local marketing ideas that work better than this. But if you’re wedded to dropping a generic flyer in letterboxes, this is still far from best practice. Other than looking a bit cheap and amateurish, the biggest problem with the flyer is its selling stuff no-one cares about.


No-one cares about getting an X-ray. No-one cares about getting a comprehensive examination. They’ll be sitting in a chair with their gob open. They have no way of knowing if you’re doing a comprehensive examination of their teeth or your own fingers. No-one knows what a scale is. Something on a fish? Something you learn at piano lessons?


Words like ‘crowns’, ‘implants’ and ‘cosmetic’ are as meaningless as being a “preferred porvider”. Or provider, even.

The real problem with this flyer

This is a poor example of dental advertising because it is selling tactics, not outcomes. A tactic is a way you reach an outcome. It’s interesting to you, because you’ve studied these tactics for years at uni, and you implement and test them every day.


It’s fine for you to have tactics (in your work as well as in your advertising). They will help you achieve good outcomes.


But patients want outcomes. If they knew how to get those outcomes, they’d just go do it themselves. In fact, they do. We’ve all heard stories of people ‘curing’ their chronic toothache by wrenching the tooth out with pliers.


Fact is, they know the outcome they want and they expect you to have the best tactics to achieve it. Their outcome might be a dazzling smile in their wedding photos. Or it might be to stop their partner snoring. An outcome is having fresher breath, or less jaw pain, or being able to chew comfortably.

Focus on outcomes for patients

How do they get to that outcome? Well, hopefully they call you. But there’s a good chance they won’t. Mainly because they don’t understand how you can help them achieve it. Because they’re not a dentist.


So next time you knock together a flyer to drop in letterboxes, sit down and ask yourself, ‘what’s the outcome for my patient if I’m a preferred provider?’ Or, ‘why would they care about the child dental benefits schedule?’


Then instead of offering a Comprehensive Examination and two X-rays for a set price, try something different. Offer ‘the healthiest mouth’ or ‘a glowing smile’ or ‘a kid-friendly dentist’ for that price.


And rather than trying to cram every service you offer into a flyer that will go straight in the bin, try focussing on one message per ad. One outcome per patient.


Not only will you get more customers. You’ll find snarky potential patients won’t make fun of you for not being able to spell ‘provider’.


100 keywords for dentists

Rob Johnson

Rob is the co-founder of Bite magazine and Vet Practice magazine. He writes and gives talks about content marketing, and leads a team of good-looking and stylish content folk from their Sydney HQ.

# dental