Kicking it up a notch!

Create those delightful, unexpected touches that convey the message, ‘I recognize you; I acknowledge you; I value you; and I want you as a patient.

Create those delightful, unexpected touches that convey the message, ‘I recognize you; I acknowledge you; I value you; and I want you as a patient.’

For years, dentists and marketing made strange bedfellows. Many dentists looked askance at marketing. They saw it as something too aggressive for the healing professions. Although their negative image of marketing has diminished, dentists still feel uneasy about this profoundly important business tool. To tap the incredible power of marketing in building your practice, it is critical to define and use it correctly.

A great definition of marketing is the art of making something or someone well known and well thought of. Notice that this definition does not even mention the cursed word “selling.” Marketing involves not only delivering excellent clinical care, but creating impressions and experiences that exceed expectations. A good marketing plan creates memorable stories that customers want to pass on to others. These stories are generated internally through service and care and externally through unique marketing pieces that “wow” potential patients and influence them to call.

Studies prove that when customers have an experience or impression that exceeds their expectations, they judge it as excellent and tell an average of 25 other people about it. When customers have a good experience that meets their expectations, they judge it as average and tell no one. And when customers have an experience that falls seriously below their expectations, they judge it as poor and tell 50 people. (Yes, we communicate our anger to twice as many people as we do our satisfaction!)

These findings tell you that if a patient has a typical, good experience - which that individual has come to expect from your practice - the person will not be impressed or tell others. You must add enhancements to surprise and delight people. (The studies also show that falling below expectations is more damaging than anything.) Your continuously evolving internal marketing plan must create new ways to wow your patients!

Recent examples of this type of effective internal marketing campaign include a patient relating how she was “blown away” by a dentist who took the time to prepare a written treatment plan and explain it to her in detail in a private conference room. No other dentist had ever given her so much attention and care. Another patient explained how he was extremely impressed by a dental team member “going the extra mile” to get him a smoothie from a nearby shop while his temporaries were being made. A third patient was inspired not only by a highly collaborative new patient examination, but by the follow-up phone call she received from the dentist saying how happy he was to have her in the practice and the follow-up note from the team saying, “Welcome aboard.” These patients have a story to tell, so it is vital to follow up on the amazing experiences you generate with a focused internal referral campaign-and then watch your patients become goodwill ambassadors for your practice.

Once you have a strong internal campaign in place, then use the same definition of marketing as a filter through which to run your external marketing efforts. Whether you are using Yellow Pages ads, new patient direct mailings, practice brochures, Web sites, or any other advertising, ask yourself: “Am I creating an impression that exceeds expectations and makes me well known and well thought of to those targeted patients I want to invite into my practice?”

Learn to find the special, irreplaceable, unforgettable ways in which you and your team can strike a chord with your existing patients and potential patients. Create those delightful, unexpected touches that convey the message, “I recognize you; I acknowledge you; I value you; and I want you as a patient.” Then, à la Emeril, you really will have kicked your practice up a notch!

Amy Morgan is CEO and lead trainer of Pride Institute, the practice management firm helping dentists better their lives by mastering the business side of their practices. For more information on staff motivation, order Pride’s workbook/CD training resource, “Take Pride in What You Pay.” For information on Pride’s seminars, training materials, transition services, and management programs, or to ask Amy a question for this column, call (800) 925-2600 or see www.prideinstitute.com.

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