In part one of our blog series on dental practice marketability, we discussed what makes your practice attractive to the consumer and the damage that can be done by using price as an incentive. In the final part of our blog series we are going to share with you a list of the top marketable attributes that consumers find attractive. We also provide recommendations that can be implemented over time and will continue to add to the marketability of your practice.
Conveniences, technologies and 10 other reasons for patients to pick YOU
Now that you’ve discarded rock-bottom prices as your key differentiator, let’s replace price with a list of other competitive advantages that will actually draw business to your practice.
In our experience, developing this all-important list of marketable attributes is probably the most difficult thing for a dentist to do. We are going to spend a lot of time here, most likely attempting to convince you that your dental practice is definitely marketable beyond just offering a “deal.”
At least five marketable attributes are staring you in the face:
CONVENIENCES: As we learned from the survey covered in the previous chapter, conveniences really resonate with the dental consumer. So, let’s think about the conveniences YOUR dental practice offers. If you can think of one or two—you’re thinking like a dentist! Take a look at the list below and check off every convenience your practice currently offers. You are likely to possess at least five of them.
By now, you get the idea. And once you get the hang of it, you’ll probably think of even more convenient services and amenities your practice offers.
Now, we’re not suggesting you fill your ads with long, bulleted lists of conveniences (boring!), but you should definitely highlight those that you think will resonate with your audience.
Pretend your customers are stuck in the 1950s…
TECHNOLOGIES: In the previous chapter, you learned how incredibly important technology is when the consumer chooses a dentist. (We bet that was a bit of a surprise to some of you.) But what exactly can you say about technology to elicit a positive response? Do you just list all the technology you have in an advertisement? Do you just put a name to all the gizmos and lasers and radiography? Of course not.
Dental technology is another area where the dentist’s reality and the consumer’s perception are greatly confused. The consumer perception of technology is that a ‘good’ dentist knows all about the latest technological advancements. But their understanding of what those ‘latest technological advances’ actually ARE is many years behind the times!
The consumer reality is largely non-existent—unless that consumer is a patient at a dental practice that actually explains the benefits of their technology. (And that’s a rare instance, indeed!) The dental consumer still thinks you practice 1950s dentistry, simply because NOBODY IS TELLING THEM ANY DIFFERENT! (There’s that value gap again.) You’re certainly not telling them any different, because you take the technology you use in your profession for granted. It’s old hat. It’s yesterday’s news. Boring!
Remember, what’s boring to you is brand new information to 90 percent of the dental consumers out there. They don’t know anything about the benefits of your technology. It’s time to educate them about what’s possible in dental care today!
Let’s dive into a couple of common technologies that are very marketable. We already looked at CAD/CAM technology. Let’s take a look at a couple of other common technologies that most dentists use, but would NEVER think of marketing.
Consider the Diagnodent™. Thousands of dentists use a Diagnodent on a daily basis. Few dental consumers have a clue what the heck a Diagnodent is, what it does, or how it benefits them. Remember, we are bridging a value gap. So how do we close that value gap? How do we describe the benefits of a Diagnodent to the dental consumer so they understand and see the benefits?
It’s not easy. It took us several tests to finally get it right. Here is what resonates with the dental consumer regarding the Diagnodent:
“Laser scanner finds cavities years earlier than before! No painful poking, scraping, and prodding involved! Dr. Smith has invested in this amazing new tool in support of his commitment to keeping his patients healthy and keeping their dental costs down. We can detect decay that is often the source of tooth sensitivity before it spreads from within the tooth allowing us to alleviate your discomfort.”
Didn’t know a Diagnodent did all that, did you? That’s ok. That’s the difference between living with and using a Diagnodent all day (and being bored with it) – and promoting its use effectively to the dental consumer.
Almost all of your marketable attributes can be made to sound exciting, new and unique. Remember, it’s the perception of you and your dental practice that we are trying to build/improve.
Now, how about the intra-oral camera? Yes, the same intra-oral cameras that are about 25 years old in dentistry. Remember when they first came out? Heck, even dentists were excited about them. So many dentists have them that it makes sense that a dentist wouldn’t think of actually marketing the fact that they use one. Why would they? It’s old right?
Not to the dental consumer it’s not. Check it out:
“See EXACTLY what Dr. Smith sees! Dr. Smith has invested in an amazing new technology—the mini intra-oral camera–that actually allows his patients to see what he sees inside their mouths during the examination. Dr. Smith says, “It is sometimes difficult for patients to understand the need for care or home maintenance when they can’t see it for themselves. Our patients can see everything we see so they completely understand our treatment recommendations.”
Instead of a dull, decades-old dental practice mainstay, the intra-oral camera has become something new and interesting. Even more important, it addresses one of the biggest barriers to forming good dentist-patient relationships—lack of trust. By describing the ways the camera helps patients ‘look over the dentist’s shoulder,’ this old technology becomes a powerful way to establish trust and confidence. One of dental consumers’ biggest fears is that dentists over-diagnose and over-treat their patients. As a consumer, isn’t it reassuring that Dr. Smith invested in technology that allows them to see what’s going on in their mouth before he recommends treatment? Consumers think so, even if the technology is years old!
Growing your marketability for a successful future
Conveniences and technologies are two areas that are like ‘found money’ when it comes to marketing your practice. You don’t have to do or invest in anything new. It’s all right there waiting for you to use in your marketing strategy. You’re just looking at what you already do with new eyes and identifying the benefits to your target market.
But there are also things you can do to take your marketability to the next level. New technologies (REALLY new, not ‘new-to-the-average-consumer’), new services, new conveniences, new payment plans, new amenities and even new little luxuries can make your dental practice more marketable now and ensure that you stay competitive in the future.
To make it easier for you, we’ve prepared a master list of marketable attributes that a dental office can possess. Go ahead and put a check mark next to the boxes that already apply to you. Anything that’s left blank at the end of the exercise is a viable way to improve your marketability! Once you’ve finished filling in the boxes, we’ll explore some of the options in greater depth.
All right, now take a look at the boxes that do NOT have a check mark next to them.
Which of these “blanks” will resonate best with the dental consumer? Take a look at the survey results presented in the previous chapter and think about which services would be a strategic addition to your current offerings. Which ones do you think would have the greatest impact, and which of these could be implemented for a relatively modest expense?
You’ll have a sense of which offerings will work best for your market, but we’d like to share some of our experience, collected throughout many years of helping dentists improve their businesses.
Try adding sure-fire, business-boosting services
Rounding out your service offerings is a fantastic way to increase production in your practice AND make your practice more marketable. If you are a general dentist who does NOT do pedo, endo, extractions, implants, or basic ortho, you might consider starting here first. We can affirm that a broader service mix results in better productivity as well as better marketability.
There are no magic formulas for the perfect service mix, but we can recommend three service areas that resonate particularly well with dental consumers. If you’re interested in expanding your service area, take the following offerings into consideration.
Sedation: Sedation dentistry isn’t new—to you. To the general public, however, it’s still pretty advanced stuff. If promoted properly in the right market, sedation dentistry adds a very valuable and very promotable tool to your list of marketable attributes. There is a segment of the consumer demographic that is still very concerned about the pain involved in dental procedures, and they will respond very favorably to this new service offering. This demographic segment includes people aged 55+, who may have painful memories of going to the dentist 20 or more years ago, when painful treatments were much more common. Sedation may also appeal to the children of the 55+ set, who have probably inherited their parents’ anxieties. The remaining slice of the sedation market includes people who have neglected their dental health in the past and are now confronted with the need for extensive dental work. Sedation is a very attractive option, and usually a deciding factor for consumers in need of major dental repair.
KoR Whitening™1: The market for incredible whitening results is vast, and shows no signs of diminishing. In fact, a recent study by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry revealed that the majority of respondents would choose teeth whitening as the first thing they would do to improve their smile. If you’re anything like the dentists we consult for, you may be worried that the market has shrunk because of all the over-the-counter whitening products available at any drugstore or supermarket. We’ll tell you the same thing we told them when they came to us in a panic: cheap, take-home teeth whiteners are the best things ever to happen to your business! Sure, anyone can try to whiten their teeth with a $20 kit—and millions do. But these products do not result in the dramatic differences the consumer is expecting. So now there are millions of people who know they want whiter teeth, and realize they need to see a professional to get the results they desire. It’s a major opportunity to acquire new, long-term patients.
If you offer KoR Whitening, there are two attributes that are clearly unexpected to consumers, and which you should discuss. The first is that it has been successful in whitening tetracycline stained teeth – a problem that even previously tried professional systems have not been able to fix. Furthermore, it has eliminated some of the other shortcomings of earlier whitening systems, such as tooth sensitivity, uneven results, or results that fade. As with over-the-counter whitening, the fact that a patient may have tried something before and you can now overcome their prior failure is something that positions you further in their mind as a leading professional.
Short-term orthodontics: Short-term orthodontics is a rapidly growing service area that’s popular with dentists and patients alike. It is starting to replace the aligner market as a lower-cost alternative that gets better results, and patients who resist using aligners are more likely to accept short-term orthodontics. Adding this service to your practice and promoting it properly in your marketing materials can be a very profitable move.
Sleep apnea treatments: Sleep apnea is an emerging treatment trend in dentistry, and it has the potential to increase your business. Sleep apnea can be a devastating condition that affects people’s psychological and physical well- being. Positioning yourself as a sleep apnea treatment provider allows you to connect with new patients who are not currently looking for a dentist. It allows you to attract new patients for something perceived to be outside the scope of dentistry, and once you treat them, you have every opportunity to keep them as your dental patient.
Consider a modest investment in technology
Is technology the best investment you can make in your practice? Not always. As you learned in the previous chapter, consumers do value the benefits of technology, but as you also learned, their idea of what constitutes the cutting edge is often pretty backward. However, it is important to present yourself as a dentist who is aware of, and uses, the latest equipment and techniques in your practice.
New equipment is by no means the best way to improve your business in every case—or even in most cases. However, if you are in the market for some additional technological solutions to add to your practice, we recommend CAD/CAM and laser dentistry as the most marketable technological innovations. In our experience, these are dental technologies that impress consumers and offer benefits to which they can relate.
Improve the level of convenience you offer
If you’re looking for new benefits to market to potential clients, there’s no more cost-effective way to create them than to add some conveniences to your practice. No expensive new equipment needed; no costly training required. Just spend some time thinking about what will make it easier for your current and potential patients to use your services.
Conveniences are particularly popular with busy mothers juggling work and family priorities, and as you discovered in the previous chapter, women are the primary decision-makers when it comes to the family’s health care. Never underestimate the power of convenience on today’s busy mom. If you are a dentist/mom yourself, you know how crazy your days can be. If you are male and married with children – you know how crazy your wife’s life is these days. Today’s mom really appreciates almost anything that will make her life easier.
Here are two conveniences that are very popular and easy to add to your marketing materials:
Convenient hours of operation: We can’t tell you how many times a dentist will tell us that they have very convenient hours of operation. Then, they tell us they work Monday through Thursday from 8am to 4pm. Those office hours are ONLY convenient to YOU! As a rule of thumb, we recommend offering four hours per week outside the 8am to 5pm. Monday through Friday timeslot. You don’t have to add extra hours to your schedule: just rearrange those hours to accommodate people who can’t get away during normal working hours. Then promote your ‘convenient morning and evening appointment hours’ in your marketing materials—and keep those special hours for appointments with new patients only.
If you want to determine just how important this marketable attribute is, you need not go very far. Just go and look at your current schedule! If you are like most dental offices, the appointment times that are filled first are early in the morning, in and around lunchtime, and late afternoon. That is the dental market sending you a clear message. They really prefer convenient appointment hours that better fit their lifestyle. That single marketable attribute alone can increase the response/inquiries from your promotion by 10 percent.
Convenient location: If your dental office is located close to a landmark that will be familiar with the women in your community, we want you to say so in your promotion! For example:
- We are three doors down from Prescott High School.
- We are right next to Curves, across from Richland National Bank.
- We are across the street from Wildwood Day Spa.
Why? It’s called familiarity. Familiarity breeds comfort. The human brain does not like uncertainty: it’s attracted to the familiar and the predictable. Marketing research shows that people will often drive a little further to buy something in a familiar area, even if there is a comparable option nearer to home. Because they are extremely familiar with the area, they prefer to make their purchase there. You probably do something like this several times a week and aren’t even aware of it.
In the final posting of our blog series, we introduced you to a list of marketable attributes that you can use to promote your services to dental consumers in your area, and we provided insights and recommendations on how to improve your marketability in the future to stay competitive. Hopefully the checklists we provided have opened your eyes to the marketability of some of the ordinary, day-to-day services and amenities you already provide, and given you ideas for new conveniences and technologies that will open up new and profitable possibilities in the future.
The next step is to start with the easy ways to improve your marketability first. Try getting through the list at a pace of one per month. Some of them require time, money, or continuing education; so, take your time but stay with it. At a rate of one item per month, you’ll have a dozen more reasons for consumers to choose your dental practice each year!
1Rod Kurthy DMD, owner of KoR Whitening & Evolve Technologies, is a dear friend of Howie Horrocks, one of the authors of this book. However, neither New Patients, Inc., nor the officers of NPI receive any financial benefit from recommending this service.