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I spend a lot of time looking at print marketing from dental practices all across the country. Whether it is Internet, yellow pages, a mail campaign, billboards, newspapers, or a brochure, there are a few things most of us miss when we design them. Our first inclination is to put everything we can in the ad copy which is a huge mistake. This is “direct response marketing”: You are trying to influence the reader to pick up a phone and make the call. 92% of the time it will be a woman who responds and you have less than 3 seconds for them to recognize it is a dentist, like the layout, and read the offer. This is not your resume or professional CV. You are not trying to educate them to the point of making the top 10% on their DAT exams. You want to make a favorable impression and have them call in a timely fashion. You need to have everything you need and nothing else, and because this is a consumer, you might be surprised at what they want to see:

Choose the correct colors. Yes, color is important and every color means something to us humans. I would stay with the blues, and teals because they mean safety, comfort, etc.

Use a picture. Unless you look like a movie star, it won’t be a picture of you. A lot of things can be said with the right photo. A picture of a grandparent, a couple of children with mom and dad means that you welcome the whole family and this is exactly what females want to see. Let’s go the other way. Not many people want to select some tired old 70 year old dentist for their family. Why give them a reason to choose someone else just from your photo? Age, race, and gender can polarize some people’s choice in doctors. At least give them a chance to show up and fall in love with your office rather than alienating them due to some preconception made from your photo. Every consumer judges a book by its cover.

Eliminate the unnecessary. If you are reading a print ad and thinking, “of course they do”, then lose it. A list of normal things every dentist does is a great example: Root canals, extractions, white fillings, bleaching, x-rays, etc. You get the idea. Lose it. If you saw this you would think, of course they do, they’re a dentist. Pictures of credit cards. Of course they do, everyone takes credit cards. Anything at all that rings of commonality with every dental ad you have ever seen needs to be dropped. You should strive to be different, not the same as every other dentist.

Lose the inane. Using the logos from Fast Braces, Invisalign, Care Credit, the ADA, etc., is just stupid. No one knows what they are anyway. Instead substitute phrases like: interest free financing, straight teeth without the wires, and white teeth in about an hour. Clean up your copy to show them the really important things that they want to see: Offers, convenience, caring, and compassion.

Lose the Platitudes. We cater to cowards, gentle care, caring staff, etc. Kind of makes you want to throw up. Every two-bit business uses these. They don’t work and they are probably the best example of lack of truth in advertising. They further detract from the information the recipient needs to see and read.

Highlight the offers. Not only do the offers have to be something of value to the potential patient, but they need to stand out more than anything else in the copy. Remember: They need to see it to respond to it. White box, with dark border, the use of the word “free”, and a concise, easy to understand offer of less than 5 words will do the trick. Lose the “X percent off” because they will just think you raised the fee prior to giving them a discount. Free beaching, free or dollar emergency exam and necessary x–rays, free second opinion, etc., all work well if included with consumer hours (early and late and Saturdays) and the right services.
Choose the right offers. Unless you have been under a rock for the last couple of years, you know that the number one thing people are looking for is a low cost, low stress way to meet you, and find out what’s wrong. In other words, give them something of value that is inexpensive so that you have the opportunity to get face time with them in order to inspire them. The examples above do just that. One word of caution: Only 1-3% of potential clients are looking for anything cosmetic, sedation, or implant related. It is not that they don’t need it. They just are not looking for it right now. A decade ago, these procedures were seldom marketed and usually relegated to a few high end practices. This has changed. Every dentist claims to be a cosmetic, implant, smile changing, sedation dentist with fifteen consonants after their name signifying the special one weekend training they received at the hands of some other dentist with illusions of special expertise. Spend your money and time attracting the low hanging fruit and use that as the springboard to brand your practice, and attract more crown and bridge than you could imagine.

Tell them you take (this means you are in network) their insurance. Sure, the last time you opened any magazine or listened to a speaker, you’ve heard the strategy of telling every new patient that calls, “yes” we take your insurance. Only problem is that when they come in and find out that you were out of network (you lied) they are not happy and usually tell a few hundred others what a slimy, two-faced, money hungry, degenerate you are. In addition, the insurance companies send their clients letters about how they would have saved $$$$$$ if they had gone to an in network dentist and here are the names of five of them located two hundred yards from your current dentist and they all have better online reviews. Bottom line: People with insurance want to use and maximize it. From the Journal of Duh: Insurance is not going away, just the practices that don’t take it.

Finally, make sure to have a prominent phone number and web site address to direct them to follow up their search and reinforce what you began in the marketing piece. Make the phone number a number other than the one in the phone book. Use your last rotating line, so that when the phone rings, everybody knows it is a new patient. You spent the money on the marketing, don’t lose this opportunity by quickly answering the call without knowing that it’s show time: No “can you hold please”, no stress in your voice, no lack of engagement, no juggling two patients checking out and one checking in. You need to be 100% in the moment with no distractions. After all, the phone is the most important piece of technology in the office. Learn to use it to your advantage. When that number rings, it is not a distraction to what you are doing, it is a lifeline for your practice growth.

Max has a few DVD’s of “Does Your Marketing Have a Pulse?” ( In addition, we will have a new book out in the fall on how to market the Super General Dental Practice. Watch this blog for availability.

Michael Abernathy, DDS
972-523-4660 cell
[email protected]

PS. Thanks for all of the supportive emails and comments. We still need everyone to say “YES” in order to put together a purchasing Coop. We are trying to come up with a Domain name. Let me know if you have a name that would immediately say dentist and forward it to us. As soon as we hit about 500 doctors we will go active. We have contacted a print marketing company that wants to participate. We have a source of discounted supplies, and are in the process of trying to add equipment purchases to this. We believe that we can lower supply costs at least 35%. If you have any sources of labs, supplies, or anything else that most dentists routinely purchase, just let me know and I will do all of the legwork. This should cost us very little and mean a huge difference in our bottom line.