Be yourself, it’s what patients want

Last week we delivered two workshops on marketing for our Business Club clients in London. As you know, before you can go marketing you have to get clear about what you want to sell. This is known as your proposition. Your business proposition differentiates your practice from all of the others in your catchment and your proposition is the main reason that new patients will come to your practice.

So, worth spending some time on then?!

It’s not always easy to find the right words to articulate a proposition, particularly one which is subtly different to your competitors. It’s also not easy to articulate a proposition when all dental practices essentially deliver the same thing, “dentistry”, but, of course, they deliver it at many different levels of quality, with many different services and in many different styles. All car manufacturers are selling cars but they manage to separate themselves from their competitors so that their customers understand the differences. (But car brands have huge marketing budgets whereas dental practice owners have to do it themselves or with the help of a marketer who understands what and how they deliver.)

Many principals have made this more difficult by taking (what seemed to be) the easy way out and cutting and pasting a nice proposition from a website of a distant competitor. If you doubt this, try putting the phrase “quality dental care in a comfortable, relaxed and friendly environment” into Google and count how many dental practices are listed!

So, we can agree that it’s much easier to sell a compelling and possibly unique proposition to your new patients than some hackneyed, same-old proposition available on a thousand dental websites! And, consider this: it’s easier to sell patients what they want rather than what dental practice principals think they need. I’ve yet to meet a patient who truly wants “a preventative dental practice” or one that is particularly bothered about “a relaxing and comfortable environment”. I promise you that nobody gets up in the morning saying, “Whoopee, I get to have some preventative dentistry today!”

So what do patients want?

Well, if you ask them they will tell you they want this:

  • Good, skilful, experienced, painless, problem-solving, long lasting, good-value dentistry
  • At times to suit them
  • With easy access (car parking)
  • Wide choice of treatments
  • At a fair, appropriate fee
  • In a clean, professional environment
  • Delivered by friendly, kind people

That’s it.

And the “skilful, experienced, painless, long lasting, good value” bit is far more important than the “friendly, kind people” bit. So, if this is what your patients (and more importantly your prospective patients) want then maybe this should be something you put forwards and articulate as your practice proposition (providing your practice can deliver it!).

The first item, the bit about having a practice with good dentists who know how to fix problem teeth is super important! Many people are scared of dentists and dentistry and some of those that aren’t have been convinced by the Daily Mail that dentists are out to line their own pockets at their patients’ expense, so why not tell your patients that in your practice you have terrific, highly skilled, trustworthy dentists who put their patients first?

It’s clear what patients want from a dental practice and yet dentists still insist on telling anybody who will listen that what they focus on is customer service, rather than painless, long lasting fillings! (Maybe it’s the fault of many years of dental coaches telling dentists that they need to get a great patient journey…) In my view great dental practice propositions have two key elements:

  • What they can deliver well
  • The style in which they deliver dentistry

Corporate dentistry will reduce the quirkiness and individuality of dental practices and homogenise them. They have to do this to reduce their dependence on named dentists and so here is an opportunity to make more of your named dentists and their individual skill set and style. I’ve met a dentist who had bits of steam train in his practice, a dentist who had Damian Hirst artworks on the surgery walls, a dentist who played rugby for his national side and had a display of autographed rugby shirts, and a dentist who displayed loads of pictures of the rally cars he’d raced. All of this is a lot more interesting than the dentist who insists on laying out all his dental awards trophies on an old velvet curtain…

Dentists, eh?

If you would like some help in identifying and marketing your practice proposition, contact me for a chat.


m. 07770 430576


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