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Channel your inner Gandhi: The power of patients (and patience)

May 6, 2022
Gandhi is an excellent role model for dentists for many reasons—he was a natural leader, he was known for his patience, and he embraced people.

As a dentist, chances are pretty good you’ve never compared yourself to Gandhi. Consider how Gandhi’s influence can affect your dental practice and business skills.

Gandhi: A natural leader

Born in 1869 in India, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (later known as Mahatma Gandhi) was a lawyer, politician, activist, and writer.1 He was a leader of the nationalist movement against British rule in India and the father of his country. He is among the most well-known influencers in history. “Mahatma” means “great soul” and describes the essence of Gandhi’s being. He did not lead by force but instead with nonviolent resistance. His name is synonymous with stories of his peaceful protests, fasts, and even his arrests.

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Gandhi was a good leader not just because of his nonviolent methods but also because he understood people. Everyone has a purpose. He was a lawyer and relied on his clients. He formed relationships with those clients while working with them. He came to see them as friends, not just customers who paid for his services. He realized that customers were the purpose for his work, not an interruption of it. Gandhi knew how to speak to and inspire people and also how to connect with them. Isn’t that necessary to be a good businessperson?

Use strategic marketing by channeling your inner Gandhi

A business owner is expected to be a leader and wear many hats. Owning a dental practice puts you in numerous roles besides being a dentist and performing treatments. You’re a business owner, head of your team, salesperson, coach, friend, and confidante. When it comes to selling or marketing your services, you need to channel your inner Gandhi. Embrace patients (and patience), educate others, form relationships, be understanding, and make a difference. Gandhi was not just a peaceful protestor; he was a leader and businessman. Now it’s your turn.

Understand the power of patients

Where would you be without your patients? You certainly would not have a business without this crucial piece. Patients can go to any dentist in town for their oral care. You actually need them more than they need you, and you want them to “need” you. 

Why did you become a dentist? I assume you wanted to treat patients and make a difference. Embrace that. Make your patients your priority, get to know them, and meet them on their level. Show your human side through availability, communication, and addressing them by name. Develop those long-lasting relationships based on the trust that patients need from a caregiver.

You can do this in the office but also outside the office as part of marketing. Become involved in your community. Make yourself visible. Give back to the local area where your patients reside. This may also involve stepping outside of your comfort zone and trying something new. Get on social media. Posting on social media is not only a way to promote your practice; it also shows you and your team as individuals. Social media is an easy way to meet patients on their turf.

Sell your dental services

Gandhi understood sales and the importance of knowing what people want and need. He listened to others, met with them, and lived with them. As a dentist, you’re a listening ear and confidante for your patients. From the staff member who answers the phone and hears a patient’s initial concerns to the staff in the treatment rooms, your team works as one unit with patients. You understand the oral health concerns of patients in your area, so use this and market it!

Perhaps your patients want preventive care or need to restore their smiles. Maybe they have concerns about insurance or affordable treatments. Learn their needs and find a way to meet those needs with your services. In marketing terms, this means creating a list of your top treatments and locations. Today’s world is technologically driven, using computers, tablets, and smartphones to find services, including dentists. You need to have an online presence that is optimized for your target locations and keywords. 

A website and updated Google My Business (GMB) profile are necessities. Your GMB profile pops up in local searches and funnels patients to you. Patients use Google to learn more about you, your hours, contact details, reviews, and website. Make sure your GMB and website are up to date and optimized with your targeted treatments and locations. 

Remember, approximately one-third of Americans perform local searches online each day.2 Half of searches are done on a mobile device.3 You need to be online to reach these patients. Are your profile and website up-to-date and visible?

Remember the value of patience

Marketing is not an overnight success that immediately puts new patients on your doorstep. It is a process. Updating profiles, websites, and social sites does not bring instant gratification. There are strategies, keywords, and optimization tactics at work to boost your presence. 

From Google and Facebook Ads to promote your business, to heat maps to track traffic and usage on your website, there are fine details to online growth. Using local search engine optimization (SEO) strategies, analyzing keywords, and improving website speed and user experience are crucial factors in your website’s performance. 

Remember that even digital marketing takes time. Your marketing team can determine the best tools for design, development, and optimizing your website. Using an SEO dental marketing agency with experience in websites, ads, social media, and reputation management can provide balance and growth across various marketing channels.

Educate your patients

Like Gandhi, a dentist is a guide, coach, educator, and leader. However, your area of expertise and leadership is in oral health. Being a coach, guide, and leader is important when speaking directly with your patients. When you meet with them one-on-one in the treatment room, you can answer the questions and recommend the best services. But what about the patients who haven’t been to the office in a while or those you have yet to convert? 

Marketing is an opportunity to educate. What is oral health and why should you protect it? What are the best treatments to restore your smile? What are the best cosmetic dental treatments? Your patients are asking these questions and many more. Are you heeding the call? 

Aside from the website, social media, and profiles, you could set up an email marketing system. Send weekly or monthly emails with tips, services, and advice from your latest blog post. The emails can be a way to reach inactive patients or those who have expressed interest in your practice. Teach them, guide them, and keep your name on their radar. 

Sometimes in business, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the hats, roles, and obligations. You can forget the reason why you became a dentist—to treat patients and make a difference. Embrace your inner Gandhi and focus on your patients. Then, you can recapture the spirit of your dental practice, your purpose in business, and meet your bottom line. 

Find your patients (and patience) today. 

Editor's note: This article appeared in the May 2022 print edition of Dental Economics magazine. Dentists in North America are eligible for a complimentary print subscription. Sign up here.


  1. Nanda BR. Mahatma Gandhi. Britannica. Updated January 26, 2022. www.britannica.com/biography/Mahatma-Gandhi
  2. Frequency of online searches for local businesses according to consumers in the United States as of November 2021. Statista. www.statista.com/statistics/315709/online-local-business-search-frequency-us-canada
  3. Clement J. Percentage of mobile device website traffic worldwide from 1st quarter 2015 to 4th quarter 2021. Statista. February 18, 2022, www.statista.com/statistics/277125/share-of-website-traffic-coming-from-mobile-devices
About the Author

Lamar Hull, MBA

Lamar Hull, MBA, is the founder of Med Rank Interactive, a full-service digital marketing agency  that specializes in local SEO exclusively for dentistsorthodontistspharmacists, independent physicians, and multi-location medical practices. Hull has an MBA in internet marketing and uses much of his time learning new strategies in online marketing and health care. He attended Davidson College where he played basketball for Bob McKillop.

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