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Dentistry and the Extreme Makeover

Oct. 1, 2003
In this final installation of his three-part series, Dr. Hedge discusses the pivotal role that marketing plays when implementing the "Extreme Makeover" concept into a cosmetic practice.

by Tom Hedge, DDS

Click here to enlarge image

The "Extreme Makeover" phenomenon has hit the country and dentistry by storm. The show's popularity means ABC will bring it back for a second season on the popular Thursday nightspot. Like all television shows, the popularity will wane. Seize the moment!

Dentists from every state have seen the opportunity and are acting on it. The most prominent and visible effort was put forth by The Las Vegas Institute. Mike Gergen, Director of Marketing for The Las Vegas Institute for Advanced Dental Studies, coordinated a marketing effort funded by graduates of The Advanced Functional Aesthetic Program at LVI. Mike employed the help of Xana Winans of Golden Proportions Marketing to create a slick print and video package for the graduates.

Gergen arranged for six 30-second commercials to air nationally in the time slot occupied by "Extreme Makeover" in August. Ivoclar funded production of this spot.

Two full-page ads were also secured in People magazine, as well as one in Oprah magazine due to the overwhelming response from LVI graduates. Each graduate who wanted to be involved contributed $2,000 to the cause. The entire campaign was a huge risk, and there were only five days for LVI to wait for 300 graduates to enroll. Over 600 enrolled in five days. One million dollars was raised in no time to support the cause of dentistry.

LVI set up a national call center and Web site to channel the calls to local LVI graduates who contributed to the effort. The Web site is www. com. Referrals were based on zip codes and distance from the inquirer to the practice.

Mike Gergen commented on the response following the third week of shows in August: "This past week, the call center was on fire from the show! On Thursday we received 821 calls — almost all of these came directly from the show. Most important though, a lot of the participants are getting calls and setting appointments!"

Call center totals to date: 1,690 (with the blackout week included), while Web site hits (not including this past week) total 3,143 unique visitors so far.

Bill Dickerson, founder of LVI, states, "It is going way better than I ever expected! All of the contributors should be very proud."

Other dentists are pursuing this momentum too. I receive calls daily from practitioners who are attempting to arrange their own "Extreme Makeovers." Most have created an alliance with a plastic surgeon or news media.

A Las Vegas dentist (not affiliated with LVI) sent me this email:

"Hi Tom,
I have not yet posted anything about the "Vegas Extreme Makeover," but will let you know what is planned. I have put together a group of professionals: a well-known Vegas plastic surgeon, a medical spa (that does botox, laser hair removal, and facials), a very famous hair salon in one of the hippest hotels in Vegas, our dental practice, a photographer, and a very well-known Southern California dental lab, and have tied it into the entertainment newspaper here in Vegas. They (the newspaper) have taken the idea and linked it all into their 15th anniversary. Their publicist and marketing department will take this to the next level starting in September. We expect to hold the final night in one of the top hotel lounges. Between all of the parties involved, we expect the "Grand Prize" winner to receive approximately $50K in services and treatments. Due to the fact that we have not started our marketing plan and agreements have to be signed, I can't mention names yet."

I also received the following from a dentist and LVI alumnus from Spokane:

"This just keeps getting better! We had a consult today from a patient who saw us on EM last night. . He was in Spokane visiting, though he lives in Seattle. Anyway, he saw the show and wanted to see what could be done. After listening to his wants, I gave him his options. He is scheduled for full-mouth restoration next Friday!"

Attention nonbelievers: Target marketing works! I have had a consistent media message for nine months now — TV, print ads, billboards, and a bus, and I am just now starting to reap the benefits. What the LVI/EM marketing has done is enhance my message — giving people the urgency and desire to get started.

Remember: Marketing is all about Educating, Positioning (ourselves), and Frequency, Frequency, Frequency. I encourage everyone who isn't marketing now or who is just doing the LVI EM to increase your message now! It does work. However, you must be patient. Remember, as Mike Gergen says in his lecture, the real prospects do not come until after six to eight or more months (at least!) of marketing.

What can you do? The first step is to make your current patients aware that you offer the kind of dentistry that they see on TV. Utilize visual marketing in your office. Put up "before and after" pictures of your own cases. Frame them and hang them on the wall. Have a recall card made up with the same picture. Make sure you have a Web site with lots of information, and tell your patients about it. Utilize this picture as a screen saver on computers throughout your office. Have CAESY and the Smile Channel playing in your office.

In order to do this, you must possess the skills to perform the dentistry and be able to take great pictures. If your skills are unrefined, there are numerous resources, like hands-on courses similar to those taught at LVI, books, videos, etc. Invest some money in your education. I have had a great experience learning aesthetic techniques at LVI.

After letting your patients know, let other professionals know as well. Have you sent the specialists in your city a letter explaining some of the new procedures that you are doing? This letter should include pictures. Have you established relationships with plastic surgeons?

Prior to my realization of the importance of this phenomenon, I don't think a plastic surgeon in Cincinnati knew my name. With a little effort, I now have a personal relationship with many of them in my city. Who will they think of when a patient asks them for a referral to a good cosmetic dentist? I bet not their own dentist, who they will think of as "their regular dentist."

The last step would be to spend time visiting day spas, top hair designers, and other appearance professionals. For the cosmetic dentist, it is far more effective to visit other professionals who will come in contact with prospective patients than, for example, handing out toothbrushes with your name on them at Halloween.

Dentistry has traditionally been a "no advertising" profession. That is because people knew exactly what traditional dentistry of the past did - extractions, root canals, dentures, pain, etc.

Modern dentists can do so much, yet the public is unaware of our range of expertise. It is our duty to educate the public. LVI took the lead and made the leap to put on a prime-time public awareness campaign. I hope other leaders within our profession will take notice and get in step with the times.

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