Silver bullets, magic wands and crystal balls – dental marketing by another name…

I met a client recently who was looking for some help with their dental marketing -the stress from insurers, and new dentists opening up nearby, had caused them to get in touch. Marketing equivalent of a patient presenting with serious gum disease hoping that a clean and scale would fi it all. During the conversation, I had the It’s true that a decent marketer should be equipped with a certain set of tools in their virtual tool belt.

For me at Dental Profit System, this includes a master’s degree in marketing, co-authorship of a kindle-crushing business book and a talented team providing full service dental marketing. However, in this instance, I discovered that what the client really wanted was access to a silver bullet, a magic wand and a crystal ball.

In this article, I uncover some of the myths surrounding dental marketing and give you a clearer way forward to produce the outcomes you want for your practice… without the fairy dust.

Silver bullets

The concept of a silver bullet is simple enough. It’s the single solution, the next “big thing” that will solve all your problems in one foul swoop. Dentists can relate to this I’m sure. There are few industries I can think of where the level of new technology being introduced is as steady as it is in dentistry. It’s perhaps no surprise then that dentists may expect the same in marketing.

In this context, I’m often asked about the next big thing. The biggest potential candidate in this context is social media. In recent times, there’s been a huge range of social media that has come into the public consciousness including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat to name a few.

Reality check: the problem with such “shiny objects” in marketing (or dentistry?) is that in 99.9% of situations, these do not provide the effect of a silver bullet. This is because these items are just the medium rather than the message and it’s usually the messaging that sets a business apart.

Magic wands

The next item in the imaginary toolbox is the magic wand. The magic wand scenario is understandable for the busy dentist. You have potentially so many hats: chief clinician, HR manager, CEO, problem solver, etc and you want your marketing sorted.

With this in mind, the magic wand philosophy is “just wave your magic wand and make it all go away, or appear” (as the case may be). The problem with this approach (apart from the fact that magic wands are in short supply) is that there is, unfortunately, a degree of complexity about getting your marketing right.

No one expects an unschooled novice to be able to practice dentistry after attending a 2-day course to cover the basics. The same is true in marketing – otherwise the multi-annum training that universities are offering in that regard is a complete sham!

Reality check: at the heart of marketing is a deep understanding of human psychology. And despite the fact that humans have been around for a long time, we are, nevertheless, highly complex beings whose behaviour can be unpredictable and constantly changing.

Instead of waving a “magic wand”, the best marketing outcomes draw on inspiration, research and systematic implementation to create the best outcomes.

Crystal balls

The final marketing myth relates to the crystal ball. There is a tendency to want to know what the outcome of marketing will be before it starts – a kind of “what does the crystal ball say about the likely success of my new logo/brochure/ external sign?”.

This approach is understandable because no one wants to waste money on marketing that doesn’t work. Fortunately, marketing principles effectively applied at your practice will improve the chances of success.

However, in terms of guarantees about a result from a particular marketing effort, that would be optimistic at best. In this regard, the only benefit your crystal ball will have is as a paperweight to ensure your marketing materials don’t fly away. Reality check: the best way to predict future winners in the marketing sphere is to look at what’s working now. As a rule of thumb, stick with tried and true for 80% of your marketing efforts and experiment with the other 20%.

Where reality starts

Over the past few years of working with a range of dentists, all round Australia, this is what we’ve discovered: There is no silver bullet and magic wands and crystal balls are in short supply.

However, the practices that have had the best results are those that have consistently applied a broad range of marketing activities to achieve a steady improvement.

To keep you on your toes, this is not one size fits all. What works at some practices doesn’t work at others and vice versa. The key is setting up a comprehensive and adaptable marketing system which generates a range of activity simultaneously across a range of areas.

The elements can include external marketing (digital and traditional), reviews, patient referrals, signage, internal promotions and so on. As long as these activities are tied to a measuring system that checks what’s working, the prognosis is good. Otherwise, the only patients you’ll be seeing are those flown in by the tooth fairy and we all know how reliable she is.

* This article was first published in Australasian Dental Practice magazine.