Dr. Joe Blaes discusses how his practice changed its approach to marketing whitening to patients
My most rewarding memories in dentistry are life-changing events I’ve witnessed. I have seen my patients become more self-confident, more enthusiastic, more outgoing, more excited, and more passionate about life simply by changing their smiles. A smile creates an immediate, subconscious, visual impact on the people we meet. A bright smile is perceived as healthy and happy. A brighter smile gives the impression of youth, vitality, radiant well-being, cheerfulness, and warmth. Sometimes, however, we have to take a look at our practice systems and see if we’re getting in the way of those life-changing events.
Years ago, during a team brainstorming session, we discovered that when patients’ questions were answered with a “no,” this led to unexpected results. For example, when a new patient called and requested an appointment to have their teeth cleaned, our answer was that they first had to see the dentist for an evaluation. In doing so, we found that some patients chose not to book the appointment! We conducted an in-office review to determine how many times we said “no” to our patients, and we were unpleasantly surprised. So as a team, we made the decision to answer all patient questions with a “yes” whenever possible and then strive to meet those requests.
Currently, our number one request over the phone is for whitening. In agreeing to provide thosewanted services, we know the needed services will follow. We found this change in communication to be surprisingly easy, and we created likeability, believability, and trust simply by working harder to give the patient what they asked for.
In reconsidering our approach to whitening services, we had the opportunity to try a number of new products and marketing systems. One of these was the Philips Zoom WhiteSpeed lamp. After our Philips Zoom WhiteSpeed lamp arrived, we whitened every staff member’s smile. The whitening treatments preceded a team meeting in which we discussed how we would present whitening to our patients. Every team member had multiple ideas to leverage the value of a bright smile based on their own experience. Some ideas were to offer the gift of a brighter smile as “A Holiday Package for the Person Who Has Everything.” For spring and summer, we came up with “Spring Fling Brightness” and “Fourth of July Glow.” And more simply, we offered the gift of “Birthday Brilliance.” We promoted these opportunities using office banners, social media, e-mail blasts, and an empowered team. We saw amazing engagement with our patients and an increase in requests for whitening, and we continue to use these ideas today.
When treatment planning for a patient with gingival or early periodontal involvement, we prescribe therapy that includes periodontal debridement, strict home-care protocols, and frequent recare. After the patient completes the second three-month maintenance visit and presents with healthy periodontium, we tell them, “You’ve done a terrific job and your gums are much healthier. You should reward yourself with a brighter smile. While you are here is a good time to do this. Would you like to have your teeth whitened?”
When speaking with a patient who has taken time off from work to see us, we say, “I know you are busy, but since you are here now, let’s take advantage of your time and brighten your smile. We can complete this in less than 30 minutes with Philips QuickPro. Is this something you would like to do?”
We recently started a Bright Smile program and set a specific monthly goal. When this goal was reached, we rewarded team members with dinner certificates at a nice restaurant for them and their significant others. We didn’t just gift the rewards to the hands-on team members. Rewards were given to everyone in the office to encourage full-team incorporation of our Bright Smile program into daily patient discussions. For every monthly goal that was reached, we rewarded everyone on staff and raised the next goal by 10% for the following month. When we reached the second goal, everyone received dinner and a movie. Our goal is being raised continually. The whitening benefits are enjoyed by our patients, and our team takes pride in being part of this great program.
To further meet patient demands for whitening, we offer the Philips Zoom Endless Whitening program. Our patients respond to the promise of “a brighter smile forever,” and we give it to them! Philips Zoom now has available a dental practice marketing tool to help support our strong, year-long activities to increase whitening demand. It’s called the Philips Zoom Success Guide. Established and new practices can benefit from this tool to help them reach more patients and make a positive difference in their smiles.
For me and my entire team, these have been fun and very rewarding patient opportunities. We know that building trust with our patients empowers them to make better and more informed treatment decisions. In the end, we want to give patients what they want, which contributes to dentistry’s financial rewards. But it is truly the life-changing moments we see in our patients that we remember, making dentistry emotionally and spiritually rewarding as well. Confidence, vitality, health, and youthfulness really are more noticeable in a brighter smile!
Joe Blaes, DDS, created an innovative, insurance-free, fee-for-service practice in St. Louis, Missouri. He now lectures and serves on the Board of Directors of the American Academy of Practice Administration.