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Connective Elements Improve In-Practice Dental Marketing Effectiveness

Posted by niche on Feb 08, 2009

You’ve developed your expertise to pursue and promote advanced dentistry. Now, you are building a matrix of external marketing strategy to actively educate consumers. To guarantee new patients are familiar with your dental brand, the internal part (the face to face interaction of it) must be harmonious in look, feel and tone with your external presentation and dentistry expertise.

When the in-practice portion is not cohesive, the 'new’ patient can be bewildered or hesitant or unwilling to accept your dental treatment plan (smile makeover, restorative, cosmetic dentistry, implant) recommendations.

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The Prospective Dental Patient Perspective

Because this interaction is strategic to a high-value dental practice brand experience it is probably inaccurate to call these dental consumers ‘new’ patients. It is probably more precise to call them ‘prospective’ patients until they have a deeper understanding of your dental brand. 

If your brand is “Comprehensive, Aesthetic Dentistry” and patients are only proceeding with some of your dental treatment recommendations or are still using insurance in their negotiations, they are ‘general dental consumers’ not patients of your brand.

This can include patients who have been in the practice for many, many years. From an advanced dentistry marketing perspective they are still prospective patients until they take advantage of your highest-value dental expertise. Imagine a patient of 20 years (in their mid 40s for example) explaining your highest value expertise when they have never experienced – either themselves or a family member – because you have kept them very healthy.

How are they able to explain the value of dental implants or complete smile makeovers? “He is good dentist” just does not cut it. Their dental referral competency is very low beyond the generic dentistry level: cleanings, etc.

Viewing patients as ‘prospective’ emphasizes the value and importance of internal dental practice marketing. Dentists who present a haphazard brand interaction struggle to achieve the revenue levels commensurate with their expertise. They turn away what could be some of their best smile makeover oral rehabilitation prospects.

While being nice and friendly can engender loyalty, it usually will not overcome traditional dental notions of cost versus benefit value. If you are attracting prospective patients who believe in PC value and you offer Apple value, being really nice or overloading them with logic is blunt instrument at their juncture in value understanding. Your dental brand identity needs to be deftly displayed, specifically portrayed and communicated in an effective way.

There are three sources from which internal dental marketing is generated: verbally, visually and environmentally. Each advertising or promotional source needs to interact with the other in a way that constantly reemphasizes your dental practice brand.

The biggest obstacles to achieving your branding goals during an in-practice interaction are time and opportunity. The in-practice educational experience can be intense, but is severely limited by the extended cyclical nature of the patient/dental visit interaction. This reality is difficult to overcome without significant external dental brand education, but it can be improved and strengthened to make your core brand identity more evident and easier to decipher before the prospective patient attends a comprehensive plan consultation.

Spoken Brand Expressions

The verbal source is usually the first in-practice, brand encounter the prospective patient experiences. While this occurs mostly as a phone call and not as an internal experience, the prospective patient has gone beyond the one-way interaction produced by external marketing.

This two-way communication is helpful in explaining and validating the dental brand. This entails more than the mentioning of a tag line when answering the phone - “Cosmetic Dentistry Center: WOW Smiles - Advanced Solutions. Hi, I’m Sam. Can I help you?” Without external dental marketing, the tag line is basically a throwaway line.

With extensive external dental advertising, mentioning the tag line confirms that they have the right place, but it can’t overcome any long held beliefs about dentistry. Big splash and discount marketing can bring in dental patients, but it is a connective advertising campaign that will turn ‘traffic’ into comprehensive care believers.

Dental practice team members that answer the phones and interact with patients in other ways, and the doctor, need to be acutely aware of how their words, use of facts and personalities contribute to a successful consultation. Knowing how to appropriately “counsel” (converse with) each patient is a requirement for high-value dental practices that promote implant dentistry and smile makeovers and such.

Your strategy can include creating a full time client coordinator position. This dental team member should be able to empathize with and “advise” just about any personality type no matter their high-value dental IQ. Developing a client coordinator type role to the point where they function as the practice brand educator and case presentation screener can help bring greater efficiency to the dentist’s interaction with the patient.

Visual Brand Expressions

This arena provides the most excitement for the prospective patient and the dental practice team. Visual brand-marketing sources include diagnostic/previewing technology, before and after smile makeover photos, and various other consultation presentation techniques.

Visual dental marketing sources within the office help to further establish your brand and offer evidence of your cosmetic dentistry and restorative skills. These sources help provide a positive presentation buffer between the time the patient arrives and the time they meet with the coordinator or cosmetic/restorative dentist. Instead of meeting and starting cold, the patient is warmed up for the CLOSE.

The major elements of this strategy are before and after posters, framed photos, Website marketing pieces, and digital presentations that ‘tour’ your services, expertise, quality of care and smile design abilities. Presentations (digital or print) that are specific to your practice (have your designs/logo) make your brand noticeable/memorable. The more unique to your practice each marketing concept is the more focused patients will be on your cosmetic dentistry brand, and thereby, help legitimize the value you offer and thereby validate your fees.

Smile imaging, before and after photo albums and digital displays all help summarize the value of the practice services and expertise. While some offices might provide a health assessment during the same appointment, this promotional presentation is a key introduction before they see the graphic evidence of their needs. Going right into the “reality aspects” of the patient’s needs reduces the ‘dream about your smile’ effect.

Giving the patient a glimpse into their ‘future smile’ makes it all the more difficult for them to say ‘no’ to your dental treatment plan. However, this is a strategic point where the cosmetic/restorative practice needs to prove its expertise and value because paying for it isn’t the same as dreaming about it.

Therefore, the ‘show’ has to be impressive. A digital presentation is more exciting than a dog-eared photo album. The more beautiful your photos (not cut at the forehead), precise your dentistry, perfect your artistry and how you present all this can play into their believing in your value and, more importantly, buying the high-value dental services you offer.

Dentistry technology like Diagnodent, CAD/CAM imaging, intra-oral cameras, digital x-rays, lifelike wax up models, and other modern diagnostic tools can present dentistry in a way that increases dental IQ and value appreciation. While some diagnostic instruments might not provide a significant leap over older technology, their marketing and educational value can outweigh the minimal diagnostic improvements touted by their manufacturers or consultants.

Many technologies such as intraoral cameras are perceived to be and are promoted as devices that are able to 'sell' cases without much human ‘selling intervention.’ This denies the fact that some people don’t need or don’t want to rely on hard facts or images to make their decision and are sometimes confused or thwarted by too much data. While it is important to offer health evidence of need and value, the avalanche of this information too early in the process can be disconcerting.

Since case presentation is the last chance the practice has to make an impression before the patient has to make a significant decision about the value of the services and expertise promoted, it is vital this presentation is reviewed thoroughly, and updated and improved when necessary. Determining how well your ‘intake process’ is doing with different patient personalities is crucial to achieve the level of success promoted by these techniques.

Your Internal Dental Brand Statement

Updating the practice environment should always stay in the forefront of your branding experience. However, inability to change locations or remodel should not prevent you from making other less expensive improvements. Focus on comfort and amenities that make sense in your current environment.

Maybe it’s adding a sofa and removing a few “waiting room” chairs. Bring in plants and fresh flowers. Create a room for confidential smile makeover consultations and oral health reviews with the patient in a comfortable chair viewing with you. Offer refreshments and other amenities to provide a calming environment. It is vital that during and after treatment the patient has digital and diversions and other pleasant elements to anticipate.

Place/position your dental logo on as many external sources as possible: a hallway door or even a small sign in the lobby or on the grounds. The quicker “the general dental consumer” recognizes your pleasant and positive brand the faster you get them comfortable about their experience. If you are promoting advanced, high-value dentistry, make sure it is an obvious trait - not just in the type of cosmetic smile makeover techniques you are able to provide.

CONCLUSION – In-Practice Dental Branding

Don’t let your dental brand fluctuate during the ‘prospective’ and current patient experience: this economic situation also requires that you don’t waver. Yes, being ostentatious will turn off many consumers, but being steady at the helm is a must. Once the wavering starts, dentists will be ‘bailing out’ their dental brands, not boosting them.

Practices that effectively develop and present all the marketing cues will see more educated patients and a brighter future.

Article/Blog by Dick Chwalek

Dental Marketing Coach and Dentistry Communication Consultant

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