The Great Marketing Mistake
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Ed Challinor
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Here’s why your marketing messages are not working and what to do about it Introduction There are actually two great marketing mistakes. One is very famous and the other I just made up. The one I made up is this: marketing is hard. It’s just as hard as dentistry. It requires not only a high level of intelligence but also superb analytical skills, a creative mind and sometimes some pure magic. You don’t often meet intelligent and truly analytical people who are also creative – let alone who can do magic – so this is a pretty tall order. I always wondered at university why they had courses like ‘Creative Writing and Chemistry’ or ‘Law and Fine Art’. I thought they were for people who just didn’t know what they wanted to do. But once I was working in the City I’d see these degrees popping up all over the place. They’d often have first class honours and be applying for jobs like senior brand manager or global account director. Marketing is hard. In my experience, crafting successful marketing messages that resonate with your patients is more difficult than writing pleadings in Court. Honestly, I’m not even kidding. Thinking that advertising is easy is your first big error, and probably one of the reasons things aren’t going so well. So is there any good news? Marketing is hard, but so are you The good news is this. You’re a dentist. This means, among other things;
  • The real great marketing mistake is this: it’s not about you, it’s about them. Please read that again slowly. Go on and write it out fifty times.
  • You’re a scientist
  • You’re intelligent
  • You’re analytical
  • AND you’re creative
So believe me when I tell you this is within your competency. Or at least within your understanding. How you choose to execute is up to you. So let’s now get onto the real great marketing mistake.
Everything is marketing Imagine you’re on a date. You want this beautiful, intelligent person to like you even though they hardly know you. So you start talking… Oh my god that was the worst date ever! He’s some fancy implant dentist and just droned on about himself all night. Epic fail, right? Ok, let’s try it again… Your new patient sits down in the chair looking like a wounded animal who hasn’t quite decided whether to run off and hide or maul you to death. So you tell him where you went to university. Who your Professors were, how you’re working towards an MSc and that your dental chair is self-cleaning. “Oh did you also know that Molly here has done her impression course? And we do dental implants, braces, veneers, and have a CBCT scanner? Pretty awesome, right?” It’s probably at this point your patient chooses the mauling option. And the date? Let’s just say she wishes she’d swiped left. So if you don’t do that in real life then why am I reading it right now on your website? Why on Facebook? Why in almost every piece of print or digital communication you’ve ever created? It’s not about you. It’s about them. What seems to be the problem? What brought you here today? How can I help? These are much better ways to start the relationship. Write your marketing communications like you’re talking to a real person. Or in the dating example, ‘tell me all about yourself? What makes you happy? What music do you like? These are all great places to start a relationship. So we’re going to stop talking about ourselves and start talking about our patients in all our marketing communications. This, ladies and gentlemen is lesson one. Important exceptions As always, there are exceptions: Exception one - I care about you. It’s always ok to tell patients how much you care about them or that you’ll look after them. Patients are probably sick and tired of hearing about how much Smileworks are going to look after them. And that’s ok. Exception two - What you believe. It’s ok to tell patients your why or your raison d’être. Or your higher purpose or whatever you want to call it. “Hi, My name’s Mary and I’m going to look after you. I love helping patients feel great about themselves and can’t wait to get to know you better. So what brings you here today?” Sounds too cheesy? Well go home! It’s better than banging on about how you studied occlusion in America and how you have an MJDF (I think that’s the one everyone has but no patient has ever asked about since the Worshipful Company of Barbers). I’m not against learning, far from it, but most of your patients simply just. don’t. care.

So how do we do it? The ‘before and after’ exercise So what does it mean, ‘talk about them’. This is a difficult concept. It’s marketing, remember? In a nutshell you have to figure out what their real problems are and figure out how they hope to solve those problems. Then you have to write in their words how you’re going to solve those problems. Sounds complicated, right? Well here’s an easy way to bang out a solid-as-a-rock-marketing-message in about ten minutes flat. It’s called the before and after grid and is stolen straight from Ryan Deiss. Sorry Ryan – if you want to do his CDMP course it’s awesome and only costs a few grand. Not a penny of which he’ll give to me for referring you. Ryan says marketing is telling the story of how someone gets from a before state to an after state. And you have to include what they have, how they feel, their average day and their status in your story. So you want to sell some whitening? Let’s go.
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Ed Challinor LL.B, LL.M Dental Marketer and Co-founder at Smileworks Liverpool Ed believes all your problems can be solved with marketing and will help you navigate digital media so you can get the business you deserve and start living the life you imagined. He’s going to help you get better at business and much better at marketing so people will start wanting to make appointments with you and wanting your best dentistry. This is going to give you more time and fewer worries so you’re free to think critically and make all the right decisions. Ed is the co-founder of Smileworks Liverpool, a three year old, four surgery and seven-figure independent dental practice. Originally qualifying in commercial law back in 2005, Ed is not a dentist but a digital marketer, analyst and small business fanatic. He’s run thousands of ads on every platform imaginable and has tested pretty much every headline, word, image and audience under the sun. He knows what your patients want and he knows what works. He’s not a consultant and doesn’t want your money. He just wants to show you how marvelously lucrative and fun dentistry can be. He wants to show you how all your problems can be solved with marketing.
Spend a bit of time on this. There’s no fixed plan, you just pick out some of these words to fit into your story – and whammy! We’ve got a marketing statement that’s going to resonate.
Most marketers stop at the have part. On a good day they might break out some feel. But if you’re really going to start getting through to people you’ll need to spend most of your time in feel, average day and status. If you’re talking to patients about improving their status, whether it be social, work or relationship, then you’re going to be winning every time. So here’s how it works. Most ads go like this, “Do you have yellow teeth? We have the best whitening gel and 3D printed trays that are awesome. You can have BL3 teeth in under a month.” Sometimes you might get added to the end: “and all this will make you feel good. Or feel confident.” So you’re literally missing out on most of the good stuff and talking in emotionally superficial terms. Nobody is going to connect and feel motivated to buy. So let’s forget have altogether. After all I’m not blind, I can see the picture of the white smile, I know what you’re trying to sell me. Let’s start with feel. “Are you feeling helpless because you’re looking after your teeth but they’re just not as white as they used to be? With teeth whitening we can achieve bright, white shades so you can feel beautiful and live a confident and successful 2018. This is better, we’re grabbing stuff from the feel column and from average day and from status and it’s looking much better. Because when you think about it do people want whitening gel or whitening trays? Last time I checked, putting bleach in your mouth was how people committed suicide. They don’t want your stuff and I’m sorry to say this, they don’t really want you either. They want things like confidence, success and happiness. They want the promise of a better life. And together, over the next few months we’re going to get it for them.
Over to you.

Our next article is on a core principle of dental marketing almost as important as this one. We’re going to talk about how nobody ever wanted a dental implant. Ever. They wanted to be able to chew their food. About how nobody ever wanted a root canal but instead just wanted to go to the beach with their kids and enjoy a sour raspberry two-ball screwball without passing out from pain. There’s a famous and trite marketing expression by the Harvard Professor, Theodore Levitt. It’s that people don’t want to buy a ¼ inch drill, they want a ¼ inch hole. This will be the topic of our next lesson. And only then, when we know what we’re actually saying, are we going to discuss some ways of putting those messages out there in the big bad world. It’s not about you, it’s about them. This is the first rule of successful marketing. This is the great marketing mistake and this is your first chance to shine.
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