Marketing Information

Love My Dentist


I love my dentist! When is the last time you could say thatabout yours?

True, dentists do tend to get a bad rap (remember Steve Martin's sadistic character in the movie, Little Shop of Horrors?). But even real-life visits to the dentist aren't high on the list of relaxing things to do.

So what does my dentist have to do with marketing? Everything.And the reasons why my dentist has more private pay clientsthan they can handle and is a referral-receiving machine, aremarketing lessons we can all take to the bank.

This is not so much about how to market a dental practice, asit is an illustration of how smart marketing strategy canpermeate every aspect of a busy professional service firm.

During my last appointment, Dr. Penski and I talked about herpractice and approach to marketing. Here's what I learned:

Clear Positioning:

Fresh out of Georgetown University's Dental School, shecouldn't get funding for her vision of a practice that wouldcater to women. In her words, "Anger was a great motivator," soshe set out to fulfill her dream by catering to private-payprofessional women and moms, two very influential forces when itcomes to how families spend their dental dollars.

From the start, she and her business partner knew they wouldbest serve this niche by offering "dentistry with a caringtouch." This vision permeates everything, setting a baseline forhow they package and promote their services, their approach tosales, the care they provide, and day-to-day performance forthe entire staff.

Thoughtful Packaging:

Dr. Penski explained how they created their practice "identity"on a dime. Over dinner with spouses, the couples discussed howto "package" the new practice including uniforms, office decor,business stationary, and welcome brochure. A husband suggested they use the symbol of a fern, since it was "old, natural, and graceful -- just like they were!" The silhouette of a fern, plucked from Dr. Penski's garden and created on her copy machine, shows up everywhere.

Nature is also the theme in the waiting room where you canrelax browsing nature art books, listen to soothing spa musicand a fountain, and enjoy an herbal neck wrap. The caring touchis reinforced with an album bursting with patient letters, babyannouncements, wedding photos, and thank you cards. A photoalbum of before and after shots demonstrates credibility in yetanother way.

Smart Promotion:

I found Dr. Penski on the Washingtonian Magazine list of topdentists. A smart place to appear, if you're catering toprofessional women in DC. I immediately knew something wasdifferent when the receptionist told me that my firstappointment would be for the doctor to get to know me first, aswell as assess my dental needs.

The day after I made my first appointment, I received a "Welcometo our Practice" package, that included a simple but sincerewelcome brochure, medical and insurance forms to completebefore my appointment, a health assessment that also asked me,"If there was one thing you could change about your smile, whatwould it be?" and clear payment policy.

All of these things served to set a standard, manage myexpectations, welcome me, and connect with me before myappointment. It was also a smart way to start up-selling meeven before my first visit.

Sophisticated Persuasion:

The practice takes a phased approach to bringing a new patienton board. This is also a sophisticated way to build trust and encourage further use of their services. The first appointment was all about assessment and relationship-building. In addition to the most thorough, tooth-by-tooth assessment and set of x-rays I've ever experienced, Dr. Penski took her time getting to know me as a person, about my background, and my concerns or fears about going to the dentist. When I mentioned an interest in whitening my smile, she talked me out of it, showing me how itwould look unnatural. My trust in her credibility and interestin my wellbeing continued to deepen.

I asked Dr. Penski why, in 30+ years of regular dental care,was this the first time I'd ever received this thorough of acheck-up? Her response: they break all the prescribed rules forhow much time to spend with each patient, which gives them thefreedom to be as thorough as possible.

The business model works because they spend more time withhigher-paying clients, who specifically value the approach Dr.Penski and her partner take. They don't have to make up forlower insurance reimbursements with a higher volume ofpatients. There is an overall atmosphere of calm, nurturingfocus on each patient. Everyone wins.

Before leaving, my second and third appointments were set upfor cleaning and another minor procedure. I was up-sold on thespot and happy about it!

Relationship-Building Performance:

Dr. Penski explained that the cornerstone to the practice istheir daily all-staff meeting. Held every morning, they discusseach patient coming in that day as a whole person: her dentaltreatment, what's going on in her life, what issues or fearsshe might have about today's procedure, and other things thatmatter to her experience and treatment. The meetings serve tocenter and refresh the doctors and staff every day, so thatthey're really focused on each person as an individual when shearrives.

The caring approach and relationship-building performancecontinued with a follow-up call to see if I had any questionsfrom my first appointment and to provide me contact info for anew doctor referral I mentioned needing as I was leaving.

Never did I think I'd become a raving fan of my dentist, butthere you have it!

When I asked Dr. Penski about what they specifically do tomarket the practice, she said, "We don't have to market!" Thetruth is, they market every day because of how they choose torun their practice.

Here are some ideas you can borrow to create your own raving fans:

1) Pick a clear niche that you really want to serve and goafter it. You've got to really love your niche, or your efforts to penetrate this niche will ring hollow and fall flat.

As important: make sure your niche has money to spend and is willing to pay for what you can deliver.

2) Think of ways you can start the marketing process before youeven meet new prospects. How do you want them to first knowabout you (i.e., on the Top 10 List of something that matters to your target audience)? What will build your perceived credibility in the eyes of your target audience (i.e., the album of patient thank you notes and photos in the waitin room)?

Surprisingly, Dr. Penski's practice does not have a website,which is an essential marketing tool for any professionalservice firm! But that doesn't stop them from doing the samethings offline through low-cost printed materials and othercredibility-raising, trust-building tools. It's how you usethese tools that matters.

3) One you've got their attention, what can you do, say or sendthat will invite prospects to connect with you and set the standardthat you are different (i.e., a Welcome Package,self-assessment or maybe a "Checklist to Help You Pick the RightCPA for Your Business")?

4) Be consistent. Does what your firm stands for permeateeverything you say, do, offer, print, show and produce? Youdon't have to have a big marketing budget to infuse your visioninto everything you do.

5) Invest in relationships. Would you rather have as manyhigher-paying, appreciative clients as you choose or beconstantly running to keep up with lower-paying,high-maintenance volume? It's a choice you have.

6) Pay attention to the details. Clients who are willing to paygood money for your professional services will not stick aroundif you don't attend to the details. Dr. Penski's daily staffmeeting is her vehicle for making sure nothing falls throughthe cracks. What's yours?

No website, home-grown graphic design, far fewer patients perhour than recommended, chatty staff and personal relationshipswith patients...

Is this any way to run a professional service firm? You bet!

(c) 2004 TurningPointe Marketing, Inc. All rights reserved.
Marketing educator, Kelly O'Brien, is creator of the "Create a
TurningPointe!" Marketing Bootcamp. To learn more about this step-by-step
program, and to sign up for FREE how-to articles and 20-page marketing
guide, visit http://www.turningpointemarketing.com


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