Welcome back!
In our last article we discussed the great marketing mistake. If you didn’t get a chance to read it follow the link and take a look.  In that article we talked about how marketing messages are not about you but about your patients.  And it’s this patient centric approach to messaging that will land you the big cases. Today we’re going from principles into action.  We’re taking the next step and discussing what those messages should actually say in order to get attention and serve up more dentistry to paying customers. At Grammar School I was ‘Teddy Tombstones’ on account of some seriously dodgy centrals and an eleven millimeter overjet. I hated my ortho treatment and didn’t comply.  I had no confidence and didn’t believe what they were doing was going to help me.  It’s not my teeth that’s the problem, I thought, it’s just me.  My orthodontist nagged and nagged and my mum and dad did the same. I didn’t care.  Then finally my orthodontist ask my mum to leave the office. I’m in real trouble now. He asked me what my favorite TV show was and asked how it was going at school.  I said I liked ‘Hollyoaks’ and wished I was handsome like the guys on there.  Then the magic happened; “Kid, if you wear this thing for 23 hours a day you’ll be as handsome as those guys on the TV.  I can see how it’s going to look in my mind, you’re jaw will square off you’re teeth will line up and you’ll be fighting the girls off.” He rolled his chair right up to mine, looked me in the eye and put his hand on my shoulder. “I promise you”. He said. Confident guy. By the time I was in the sixth form I was indeed dating nice girls and people sometimes asked whether I was new and had arrived from another school to join the sixth form?  They’d literally not noticed me for 6 years.
So with this story in mind we’re going to talk today about how to make people do the things you want them to do.

NHS or private? This works for both NHS and private practices and it’s the NHS dentists who need this advice the most.  NHS dentistry is in crisis.  And the lifeline for many practices is attracting more privately funded patients. I like to think of NHS dentistry as about providing vital healthcare services and fixing broken things.  It’s about providing an essential and noble service to the public and making sure they stay healthy and keep their teeth.  I’m over simplifying but please hear me out.  To effectively market dentistry you have to think differently.  Notice I didn’t say ‘sell dentistry’.  Selling is something sales people do to achieve their targets and make money.  Marketing is the art of making people want things.  Sales is about you and marketing is about them. People need the NHS but they don’t need private treatment.  So what’s the solution?  Well you have to change your mindset from fixing broken things to making people want things. Creating demand Private paying patients want private treatment.  Just like they want a new car or a new coat.  People frequently ask me,  ‘who are your competitors’?  Expecting me to start shuddering at the thought of a corporate moving in next door.  But I always tell them what I truly believe.  Our competitors are companies like Amazon, Audi, Kuoni and Pandora.  Our competitors are Boodles, Bentley and British Airways.  These are the places our patients are spending their money. Why do patients say yes? It’s trite marketing lore that people don’t buy what they need they but what they want. In fact, the most recent research (too numerous to mention here – just google it) shows us that a great deal of decision-making is emotional.  The part of your brain that wants things is not the rational part, it’s the emotional part.  The part of your brain that wants things is so basic it doesn’t even have language.  Why do you think love poets struggle?  There literally is no language to describe a feeling.  This is a neurological certitude. The yes process The first thing that happens is patients decide they want something.  They might even get their ‘heart set on it it’. Shortly after the logical, executive brain kicks in and starts proposing logical reasons to justify the emotional decision.  What usually follows is advocacy of that decision to wives, husbands, mums and dads. Why do you think the idiom is ‘heart set on it’ and not ‘head set on it’  Because decision-making is emotional and not rational.  Decisions are made with the ‘feeling brain’ not the ‘executive brain.’ I’ll admit the neuroscience behind how we make decisions is a little more complex than this but you don’t need to know everything.  Just accept the paradigm. So how many of you have listed off all the great clinical reasons why someone should get an implant and been turned down.  The patient says no to the £3,500 treatment plan and you come away feeling bad and blaming them.  “They don’t care about their dental health.” Or “this marketing company is bringing in bad patients”.  But in reality you’ve not been speaking a language your patient’s decision-making brain can understand. Emotional engagement How do you figure out what to say to make someone want something?  How can you knock at the door of this almond-sized bunch of ancient neurons, so basic and they don’t even have language? Here’s how.  A very famous marketer once said, “People don’t want a quarter inch drill, they want a quarter inch hole.”  This is great insight.  But I don’t even think people want a quarter inch hole either.  Unless there’s some creepy Bates Motel stuff going on at the practice! What people want is to hang a picture of their kids graduation on their living room wall. 
They want to do this so that they can remember a wonderful day for the rest of their lives.  So that when they see the smiling face of their daughter clutching the little paper tube they can feel pride and delight.  They want to achieve the status of a family that has kids who are graduates.  This will not only give them happiness but make them feel confident and proud around their friends who also see the picture. So tell me again?  Why did you really buy the drill?  Answer: So I can re-live a beautiful day, feel proud and achieve better standing in the eyes of my neighbors and work friends. This is what they want.  And this is how you need to talk to private patients.  It may seem like a massive leap and it takes confidence, rapport and finesse to get it right.  What do people really want? So let’s apply this thinking.  People don’t want an implant they want to replace a lost tooth.  But they don’t really want to replace a lost tooth, they want a functional bite.  Why?  So they can chew their food or not have to put their teeth into a glass of water each night. Patients don’t want braces?  Are you insane?  They don’t even want invisible braces.  They couldn’t care less about the ‘clin check’ or any other wonderful piece of technology we marvel at.  A clin check is good because it tells a story.  But patients don’t really want to have to go through all that Costa Rican animation, they just want the finished product with no root resorption and no sneaky hidden fees.
To create an emotional impact and make a patient want that Implant or those braces you need to add something more.  You need to creatively imagine what that patients is going to feel when they get their desired outcome.  You need to describe it to them.  Or at least have a chat about it. Just like that wonderful orthodontist did for me that day over 20 years ago. 
So as you can see – this is not groundbreaking stuff.  I’m not innovating.  I just think all this NHS crisis has caused you all to lose sight of what you’re trying to achieve. Some truly marvelous examples Dove personal care sells soap and deodorant.  It’s FMCG but it’s hardly sexy.  But walking through Liverpool One today I saw a digital image of this very average looking kid.  The sort of kid that might get bullied or not be very popular at school.  The headline?  “Dove helps 40 million children a year grow their confidence.” Simply genius - and a carbon copy of their real women campaign of a few years back.  They’re not selling soap or deodorant they’re selling body confidence.  And they’re manipulating our emotions and using every tool in the box.  The campaign influences and pulls on the heart strings of soap-buyers everywhere using the childhood obesity crisis, negative body image, vulnerable kids and unrealistic advertising expectations.  And it does this with unabashed authenticity, determination and authority.  In this campaign, Unilever are leveraging the greatest issues of the moment.  Next up on the ad screen was a Cadbury’s Chocolate ad.  It was re-stating the 50 year old claim that “there’s a glass and a half of milk in each bar”.  So we’re trying to say chocolate is healthy now are we?  It’s a message from the days of ‘Guinness is Good For You’  It’s inauthentic, hopelessly outdated and utter rubbish.  Sometimes I think if chocolate wasn’t addictive they’d be in real trouble. So don’t worry if all this feels a bit much for you -  Cadbury’s doesn’t get it either. How can this work for me?
If your focus is on selling benefits and not on telling impassioned, personal stories about the possible futures of your patients then you’re private practice doesn’t stand a chance. Placing implants = gifting youthfulness. Ortho =  giving kids the opportunity to be popular at school. Whitening = feeling confident on dates You just have to build rapport with the patient and leverage the greatest issues in their lives.
What business am I in?   The real Rockstar dentists at our practice don’t just say this stuff they truly believe it. So ask yourself; are you a dental hygienist or a healer?  Do you ‘do orthodontics’ or ‘life-changing smile design’  Are you an implantologist or an impassioned improver of self-esteem? How you frame your job in life – what business you believe you’re in – has a bigger and more far-reaching consequence than you can imagine. The same guy who wrote the quarter inch drill thing, Theorore Levitt, also said; “The history of every dead and dying ‘growth’ industry shows a self-deceiving cycle of bountiful expansion and undetected decay.”  The problem for businesses throughout history is that they didn’t really understand what business they were actually in.  It’s easy to look back and see the errors.  So why can’t we see them now?  Right in front of our faces? The railway business famously suffered with an identity crisis.  They thought they were in the railway business and enjoyed a monopoly on rail. But in fact they were in the transport business.  So their demise was irrefutably settled the day the first Model T Ford rolled off the production line. Or when TWA or Howard Hughes turned their minds to airfreight.   Henry Ford get’s it.  That’s why Ford is still around today.  It was (debatably) he who said of his Model T, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” So what business are we in?  Dentistry?  Orthodontics?  Or making people feel good? Are we in the business of self esteem?  Are we in the business of oral healthcare? I get frustrated by this constant talk and fear of corporate dentistry.  Mark my words, it’s not the corporates that are going to put you out of business. They are like the rail tycoons. They are the flabby, greedy, poorly managed and sluggish Carillions of this world that will eventually fail.  Just take a look at some of the accounts published on companies house if you don’t believe me.  Corporates just sell, sell, sell.  It’s not going to last. The people who will put the pressure on are the up and coming new dentists.  The new thinkers who understand how to market and understand the digital world.  Those who wish to change how things are done and put the patient at the centre of what they do.   Did you know men and women buy adult ortho for very different reasons?  Are you aware that women’s motivations are intrinsic – ie they do it for themselves, whereas men’s are extrinsic, meaning they care more about how others perceive them?  We do.  How do we know this?  We speak to our patients and we discover the greatest issues in their lives.  And our communications with men and women about their ortho treatments are polarized accordingly. So the lesson here is to find out what business you are in and communicate (by telling stories) the wonderful effects that your work will have on the biggest and most impacting elements of the lives of your patients. That is how you market dentistry and that is how you will save yourself from the ‘undetected decay’ present in your business right now.
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.

Ed's forst blog can be read here - The Great Marketing Mistake
Dental Marketing 101: What to Say to Private Patients
by Ed Challinor
Spring Publication