On Marketing Dentistry and Running the Business

  What you read from me here is a big push against the current of popular marketing theory – that we dentists need to appear cool and current to the public and that we need to embrace social media in all its permutations because, after all, so many people (we are told through social media) are having wonderful success “connecting.” You see, I don’t think the question is, “How do we enhance our message in order to attract patients?” The real question in my mind we should be asking is, “How do we return to the compelling message of dental health?” By attempting to be like other businesses, we often lose what is most unique about who we really are, and that would be professionals within the field of dentistry. Certainly people need to find us in the market place, but it won’t be because we have the biggest spread in a magazine, or because we have the most followers on Twitter. I take that back. A few might. They may be caught up in celebrity spin, but most normal people see past this and really want to know if we are (1) nice people and (2) competent at treating the dental problems they are facing. Go ahead and have an announcer claim that you are a nice person and competent in what you do while they are waiting on hold, but I really think they would appreciate (1) not being left on hold too long and perhaps a little soft music to indicate that they have not been cut off (note to self on this one). I guess...

Team Meeting: Chronic Periodontitis Treatment Approach

Respect Permission Responsibility Recently I had the opportunity to speak to a dental team of nine people in their office at a lunch hour. Around the table sat the dentist/owner, a new dental associate, a dental hygienist, front office personnel and dental assistants. The dentist/owner wanted to know my opinion about treating periodontal disease and I am sure anticipated that I would talk about the disease. I did in a sense, but not in the normal way. Instead I wanted the team to see the problem as one involving all of them, not just a few, and that the best treatment for patients is a team effort requiring a great deal of cooperation and communication among all the team members. Years ago I remember my brother telling me about a neuroanatomy lecture he attended in his freshman year of medical school. In the hour allotted, the professor went through the material three times. His purpose in doing so was to help the students learn the most important material in the lecture through repetition. As he went back through it each time, he elaborated a little more in order to drive home some useful details that would help lock in the underlying information. That was the pattern I decided to use for this talk, so I put it in three rounds, like a prize fight. I explained to them, as they were eating, that this is what I was going to do and that they would hear the most important ideas I had to tell them three times. At the end of the presentation I provided them with a copy...

Note to Self

I just got finished reading someone else’s bio on their website. He sounds important but I’m not warmed for some reason… Marketing is a tricky business and sometimes things are not received as intended. We want people to feel comfortable and safe when coming to see us, so we tell them that we are well trained and are up on the latest technologies. The problem is that our competency, as dentists, is actually assumed. In other words, if we have to tell people we are talented and highly competent, it brings into question our competency. They wonder why we have to mention it. Is there a problem? On the other hand, every message constructed to help people navigate in the complex world of dentistry – without self-promotion – is usually appreciated. Which brings me to this observation. We all are by nature and past experiences generally suspicious that we are being marketed to, even when the information is free of self-promotion. I am constantly looking for hooks myself. We also, by nature, need and enjoy connecting with others. It is a healthy thing to do. Conclusion. Go slowly. It’s messy. People will misunderstand. Keep working on relationships. It’s important and also one of the hardest things to do...

Telephone Tips for Dental Practices

I frequently have to call dental offices in order to speak with dentists about specific care of mutual patients. So I have clocked a lot of time talking with receptionists as well as listening to recorded messages while on hold.  Out of all of this I have formed a few pretty strong opinions. But I’m not the only one. You, on occasion I am sure, still have to use the phone these days even though email and texting are all the rage. There is something about the human voice and the amount of information we can send and receive that will continue to make Alexander Graham Bell’s invention absolutely vital to our practices for the foreseeable future. For this reason let’s have a conversation about the use of the phone in the dental practice, and I will start. Here are a few suggestions. Slow down. People somehow equate talking with typing. The faster a person speaks, the more efficient they are being. But does talking faster (and listening faster) really result in more work being done? More importantly, could the amount of work be less because people are deciding not to come into the office because it’s too much of a hassle trying to understand what people in your office are saying? Think of all the potential problems someone might have listening to a stranger’s voice on the phone. They may not be native born speakers. Accents and dialects may be a problem. They may be hard of hearing. They may not be able to process information as quickly as someone in the office can mindlessly rattle off standard...

People-centered Versus Procedure-centered Dentistry — A Story.

Just had an interesting conversation with a fellow dentist and good friend in his office. He expressed interest in my thinking about people-centered dentistry. One thing led to another and he shared a story I think you will find interesting. It involves his fairly recent interactions with a younger dentist. He told this to me because he believes it underscores my point that a people-centered, rather than procedure-centered focus, makes a real difference whether or not we enjoy and are successful in dentistry. Less than a year ago he brought in an associate. This young man came with highest recommendations having just completed a general dental residency program in a nearby hospital. My friend did not send him procedures to perform on existing patients, but instead permitted him to see all new patients as they came in until he had enough to do. Unfortunately he didn’t stay with this very talented and highly respected dentist but a few months. His reason for leaving was because there just wasn’t enough work to do. So after the young dentist left, naturally my friend took over the care for all of his patients. It turns out, based on patient interviews with him, that many of this young dentist’s treatment plans were simply not accepted. Patients did not understand why any of the work he proposed was necessary. The care that he had planned to do involved a great deal of cosmetic modification to anterior teeth, yet people were not stating that they had any problems with how their smiles looked. My friend took a different approach. He just listened to what patients...

An Interesting Dental Marketing Approach

In my travels around the city visiting dental offices I came across this one. You might think I’m going to be critical just for the fun of it, but that really is not my intent. Instead, I am intrigued by the marketing strategy and business model. After all, when someone creates the front of his business to communicate in the way this dentist has, I believe he is inviting reactions and responses. First, obviously, this is an attempt to attract patients and the dentist has an idea who it is he or she wants to attract. As to the dentist’s skills, the front of the building doesn’t tell us this. We might make a few assumptions, but whatever those assumptions are, are unproven. Neither gender nor ethnic background have anything to do with the skills of the dentist. I know this based on working with a wide variety of dentists throughout my career. And there is nothing wrong with choosing to work with low-income groups as a personal calling. However, public presentation with regards to signs, office location, external and internal lighting, color selection and the rest all have affects on potential customers/clients/patients. I am curious why he came to promote his practice in the way he has. He certainly is outside the norm, which can be good or bad depending… Of course the biggest attractant to the marketplace for this dentist is his practice’s title, “Mr. Dentist.” This might not be that provocative in other countries where dentists have the title mister and not doctor. Again, it is the level of training and licensure that are important when...