A couple weeks ago I had my six-month check-up. Like many people I wasn’t looking forward to it—lying on my back for 50 minutes while the dental hygienist tsked-tsked me for not flossing enough. That wasn’t all. She told me I needed to slow down while brushing and not press so hard against my gums. In addition, I should consider braces.
In the last few minutes of my visit the doctor came in, poked and prodded my teeth, and told me I had a filling that had chipped away. He directed me to return in a week.
So, the next week I returned because that’s what he told me to do. But will I return for my next six months check up? I don’t know. He’s a nice enough guy and obviously competent but his non-descript office is littered with outdated magazine geared toward pregnant mothers. It also features a TV that simply plays an infomercial on dental options. Plus, the waiting room chairs aren’t very comfortable.
Now, you may be thinking: You’re not there to watch television or read magazines. You’re there for dental care. But are clean teeth all I want out of a dentist? I have plenty of other options nearby. I know this because I searched Google for dentists within my city and found several dozen. I’m sure any of these would be just as competent. And, if they weren’t, I’d go to another dentist until one I found one I liked.
Is this a fear for dentists—that your clients might all pack up one day and go somewhere closer to their homes? If it isn’t, it should be. What are you doing to engage your patients?
My guy is giving me nothing. I return out of routine. And in this world of fickle consumerism, that’s not enough. He needs to develop a brand that his patients can embrace and because of that connection spread the good word on his practice. If a co-worker, who lived in my part of town, asked me for a recommendation for a dentist I doubt I would give him my guy’s name (Do you see a dentist’s name anywhere in my article?).
Remember that brands are like people. Good brands are the kind we want to hang around with—even when times are bad. How powerful is branding? Say you are flying somewhere new. You de-plane and in the concourse you see two coffee shops, one is named The Coffee Pot and the other is a Starbucks. Most people are going to walk straight to Starbucks because it’s a familiar brand. Now, The Coffee Pot might serve great coffee but it’s an unknown entity. Consumers know they are going to get the same type of drink and service from Starbucks wherever they go. They like Starbucks. They are friends with Starbucks. They are not adventurous enough to take a chance on a place as generic as The Coffee Pot.
So, what does your brand stand for? Do you want to be the The Coffee Pot, an unknown entity with limited range, or do you want your patients to think of you as a friend, their Starbucks?
If you do not already have a strong brand built, it’s time to start thinking: “What’s going to separate me from the other competent dentists in my city?” Are you going to be known as the dentist who installs TVs above each dental chair so patients can watch a show while the hygienist cleans their teeth? Maybe you will be the dentist with free video games and flat-screen TVs in the waiting room or the dentist who has set up a small library of bestsellers, which patients are free to borrow until their next visit.
Think about something that interests you, engages your patients and then be that guy. Be likeable, marketable, engaging. The key is to be consistent with your brand. If you want to be known as the baseball-history-loving dentist who displays antique pennants, gloves, hats and jerseys in the office, then carry that theme through all that you do in terms of promoting your business. Hold raffles for baseball tickets. Print up baseball hats with your practice’s name on them. Sponsor a Little League team.
You will create a brand that people can identify with and will set you apart from your competition. Word will spread and next time a recession comes around your patients will continue to be loyal to your practice.
— Dan Hauser is a senior-level communications consultant based in the Twin Cities. He has more than 24 years of communications experience working with a range of Fortune 500 corporations. Find his blog “Making Common Sense More Common” at http://makingcommonsensemorecommon.blogspot.com/.