Marketing for dummies

There is no magic needed to provide effective marketing and a few simple steps can take your practice to the next level

31 March, 2015 / management
 Mark Fowler  

Marketing your practice is an often-misunderstood activity, notwithstanding that dentistry is a conservative industry and any kind of activity that is seen to promote what you do can lead to discouraging remarks from your peers.

However, in recent memory, dentistry was awash with money, patients were plentiful and you only had to open your doors and patients would visit you. You would earn good money without having to try very hard to attract and retain customers (yes, customers) and that was it.

Times are different now. Patients are better educated about what they need, leading to less asymmetry between the client with a problem and what you had to offer to solve it. Patients expect more and are less tolerant of poor service, they have high expectations of added value thanks, in part, to the raising of the consumer game by successful businesses such as supermarkets, Amazon and many others.

You don’t need to act like a big supermarket or a flash online retailer to make a similar impact. Marketing is, in fact simple

Mark Fowler

For example, in your personal life, you perhaps now routinely get a text to remind you that your car is due its service, an email reminder that your house insurance is up, a message to your phone that a hair appointment is looming or your dinner reservation is confirmed. Convenient.

What these businesses are doing is, in fact, marketing. They are creating an experience that is associated with their brand, identity and product or service that leaves a positive impression on their customers and will, hopefully, make them want to go back to them and tell their friends about them.

However, you don’t need to act like a big supermarket or a flash online retailer to make a similar impact. Marketing is, in fact simple and cost-effective to do if you know how to effectively allocate your resources.

Here is an example. A young dentist was visiting a practice in Glasgow. He was thinking of buying a (private) practice in England and his attitude was that people would just visit his practice and pay his prices. He looked around at the (NHS) practice in Glasgow he was visiting and was totally blown away by the small stand of business cards prominently displayed at the reception desk. He asked: “Who does your marketing?”

Now, that suggests that you don’t need to do very much to stand out from the crowd and, in fact, the humble business card is a much-overlooked marketing tool. Here’s why.

  • Business cards are cheap to buy.
  • They can be placed prominently at your reception.
  • They can be given to every clinician in your practice. Why?

Because after each patient who leaves, assuming they are happy, clinicians should be giving their patient a card or two and asking for a referral. For example: “We would love to grow the practice and I would like more patients like you. Could you tell your friends and family about us?”

This will stick in their minds (after all, their dentist has just asked them to take some action that is not to do with brushing their teeth) and may well lead to one of their friends or a family member walking through your door and, hey presto, a new patient for a few pence and a recommendation from someone who has actually been to you. What could be better?

Extend this to your reception team. Get them into the habit of asking for referrals and handing out cards at the end of treatment. This is a very powerful and inexpensive way of growing your practice and widening your service delivery.

So, in the conservative world of dentistry, while the mere presence of a business card blows some people away, get a step ahead and use the cards as a referral tool. Cheap and powerful. You can’t lose.

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