The joys of database marketing

Database marketing is information management in its purest form. Companies constantly use database marketing to target you for products or services they believe you will buy. Have you ever noticed that once you buy from a catalog you immediately receive similar catalogs or direct-mail solicitations? That`s because you have exhibited a buying pattern that other companies want to cash in on.

Larry Emmott, DDS

Database marketing is information management in its purest form. Companies constantly use database marketing to target you for products or services they believe you will buy. Have you ever noticed that once you buy from a catalog you immediately receive similar catalogs or direct-mail solicitations? That`s because you have exhibited a buying pattern that other companies want to cash in on.

Businesses use database marketing to target you in many ways. They can segment the population by age, sex, locale, occupation, prior buying habits, or hundreds of other categories. The needs, wants, and buying habits of each group are analyzed, then these groups are offered products or services they are likely to buy. This is a good thing. It limits the solicitations you receive to items you might actually be interested in, while saving businesses time and money by targeting likely buyers.

Once you begin using a complete patient-centered computer-management system, you will accumulate a patient database which you can use in similar ways.

A simple example of database marketing would be sorting your recall lists by age, then sending a recall card to each age group designed to appeal to their interests. Older adults would receive a card completely different than children. Children would see a different card than young adults. Each group sees you as "tuned in" because you present an image, even in something as simple as a recall card, which appeals to them.

A more advanced example would be segmenting patients based on psychological or motivational factors. You could designate the prime motivator for people as one of four factors - money, appearance, health, or fear - then address that person`s primary motivator with marketing information, such as:

- Money - Dear Patient ... In order to keep the cost of dental treatment low and reduce the likelihood of expensive treatment in the future, regular check-ups are required.

- Appearance - Dear Patient ... In order to keep your smile bright and your teeth looking and feeling their best, regular check-ups are required.

- Health - Dear Patient ... In order to keep your mouth healthy and reduce the chance of cavities or gum disease, regular check-ups are required.

- Fear - Dear Patient ... In order to keep dental treatments quick and easy with a minimum amount of discomfort, regular check-ups are required.

You could also use one of the well-known personality style systems, such as DISC, to identify each patient and develop messages that appeal to them.

Even though this is not mass marketing, some people may not feel comfortable with this approach. There can be a feeling of reducing people to a statistical set. But, in fact, just the opposite is true. In a sense, what you are doing with this information is saying to each person that he or she is a unique individual and "I want to know about you so that I can better serve you. Once I know about you, I will treat you with special care." Database marketing is not mass marketing where everyone is treated just the same.

Another sophisticated approach would be to search the database for specific people and then send them a marketing letter. For example, you could search for all single women between the ages of 25 and 35 and send them information on whitening and other cosmetic dental procedures. Then, to add further sophistication, you can track any treatment performed as a result of the mailing to evaluate its effectiveness.

You also could have the computer search the database for all patients with insurance who have not exceeded their annual limit and have pending treatment. Then, send them a letter and create a phone list for follow-up calls. Using the computer system in this way will increase income, which will help pay for the technology.

As you can see, there are many creative ways to use the information you gather once you start using a computer. That`s the essence of the information age - those who understand and use information will profit from it.

The future is coming and it will be amazing.

Dr. Larry Emmott is a practicing general dentist in Phoenix, Ariz. He also is an entertaining, award-winning professional speaker. He has addressed hundreds of professional groups. He is a featured speaker at the Las Vegas Institute, and is a member of AADPA. He has written many articles for national magazines on dentistry, computer use, and management. He produces a monthly newsletter on management and computer use in the dental office. He has developed and maintains an Internet Web site at www.drlarryemmott.com; his e-mail address is emmott@primenet.com. Dr. Emmott is a member of the American Academy of Dental Practice Administration.

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