Why your advertising fails, Part 1

April 1, 2006
Acommon (and often fatal) mistake in most advertising is a failure to choose a specific product or service to advertise.

A common (and often fatal) mistake in most advertising is a failure to choose a specific product or service to advertise. Sure, that seems like common sense. It is ... and it isn’t. This single, simple error is responsible for more wasted dollars than any other.

Grab a copy of your local Yellow Pages. Open it up to the “dentist” ads. As you wade through them, you’ll find that the majority are nothing more than a laundry list of “what we do here.” In the coming months, through this multi-part series, “Why Your Advertising Fails,” I’ll reveal a number of counter-intuitive but proven-effective strategies to correct these common traps.

My greatest concern with wasted ad dollars is not the money spent on the ad, but the fact that you stand to lose multiples of that amount in “lost opportunity” costs. What you’re missing in lost opportunity will trump what you lose on wasted ad dollars every time.

The appearance of expertise

Your prospective patient glancing at your ad wants to know that you are “the expert” at whatever it is he or she seeks. This is a vital concept to embrace.

Mrs. Jones is thinking about having her smile redone - a makeover. Using words such as “family dentistry,” “general practice,” “we love kids,” “we treat all ages,” or anything else “off message” with respect to cosmetic dentistry will reduce or suppress Mrs. Jones’ likelihood of responding to the ad.

Conversely, the more specific credible allusions you make to cosmetic dentistry within your ad, the more likely Mrs. Jones will be to pick up the phone and call your office.

Now let’s look at Mr. Jones. He fractured his front tooth this morning. It’s 7:45 a.m., and he’s chairing the company’s annual board meeting in less than three hours. He opens the Yellow Pages and calls the first office whose ad includes in gigantic bold letters:

“Embarrassed by Your Stained or Chipped Teeth? EMERGENCIES SEEN IMMEDIATELY, 24/7, 365

Then there’s Mrs. White. She has always been embarrassed by a breath malodor. Yesterday, she was distraught when her 4-year-old granddaughter bolted from her lap, remarking about “Grandma’s bad breath.” Children don’t mean any harm when they speak their minds, but it can be devastating to the person on the receiving end. In this case, it also can be motivating.

Today is the day Mrs. White will make the call to correct this problem. She flips through a number of the Yellow Pages dentist advertisements, and pauses at the one with the following headline:

“Experts in the Diagnosis and Treatment
of Breath Disorders"

Devil’s advocate

The devil’s advocate may be concerned with the strategies we’ve discussed, worrying that this type of focused approach may decrease the number of patients the advertising might attract to a general practice. After all, if dentists list everything they do - i.e., “Cosmetics, breath disorders, kids, adults, braces, gum care, dentures” - won’t this appeal to a broader cross section of potential patients? Wouldn’t it make sense that the more services dentists list, the more people they will reach and the more who will call and make that first appointment?

It’s a myth, a fallacy, and just plain bad advice to suggest the longer your list of services, the more potential response you’ll capture. Response to marketing is highly sensitive and directly proportional to “credible specificity.” In marketing, unlike fishing, the wider and grander the net you cast, the less likely you are to have anything for dinner that evening!

Dr. Tom Orent, the “Gems Guy,” is a founding member and past president of the New England Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. His “1000 Gems Seminars” span five countries and 48 states. He is the author of five books and hundreds of articles on practice management, TMJ, and “Extreme Customer Service.” To receive three free issues of Dr. Orent’s “Independent Dentist,” “Mastermind of the Month” CDs, and other special offers available for 21 days after this article appears in Dental Economics®, go to www.GemsInsidersCircle.com, and type “DentalEcon” in the yellow “Special Code” box at the top. You may also call (888) 880-4367 and ask for the “Free GIC Silver Test Drive.”

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