Category Archives: relationship marketing

“I don’t do marketing because I don’t like that hard sell!”

“I don’t do marketing because I don’t like that hard sell!”

This is a genuine quote that was given to me recently when someone I know was talking to a dentist about what I do, I explaining that I was involved with dental marketing the dentist replied that they don’t do any because they don’t like the hard sell.

For anyone that knows me they will know that my belief is that hard selling, at any level, has no place in dentistry and all we need to do is to help patients with their dental problems.

In dentistry we are looking for a relationship with the patient which lasts for an extended period of time, over which we can help them achieve good oral health and then work with that patient to keep them in that condition.

Using that sales approach is what is used on the high Street in order to generate a transaction. Transactional marketing is exactly that, it seeks to engage a buyer to transact with the seller on a single purchase. I agree with the person that gave me this quote, this is not what want in dentistry.

So what is the solution?

My belief is that a relationship approach to marketing in dentistry is what is required. This involves increasing trust and reducing risk for your prospective patients, we do this by handing out useful free and relevant advice and not asking for anything in return!

It is marketing flipped on its head,YOU are the one that gives NOT the buyer!

When you do this you show that you genuinely care, you show that you genuinely want to help that person in their best interest – you show that you are not in the hard sell and only want a single transaction. In fact you show that you are genuinely caring dentist!

On a practical level we can use online marketing to help this relationship. We can use e-mail with automatic responses that seek to hand out useful, free and relevant advice will stop

We can use a Facebook page or twitter account to do exactly the same thing… We simply give, give, give.

When we engage in this giving we invoke what is known as the norms of reciprocity (such a great term isn’t it?). This means that the person you have been giving to will fill the desire to reciprocate your altruistic giving, so that when you do indeed ask for them to request an appointment or visit the practice for an open evening there is a psychological obligation for them to do so.

Marketing is simply the elegant process of communicating what you do and how could you do it to people with a problem. Now isn’t that something you want to engage in?

Why you need to stop that dental marketing right now!

As a dental marketing expert you might wonder why I am suggesting that you should stop your dental marketing right now. Well, I’m talking about a very specific type of marketing and that is marketing which treats dentistry like it is a product.

Buy one get one free.

Only 15 10  2 remaining Invisalign treatments available.

Both of these are examples of using ‘product’ style marketing techniques, these techniques work excellently if we are trying to shift products from our store as they incite the buyer to make a snap decision. Purchasing products is low risk because:

  • We can review the product prior to purchase to ensure we are happy with its quality.
  • We can take the product back afterwards if we are not happy with the quality.
  • The quality is almost guaranteed to be exactly the same between all products due to the industrialised manufacturing process.

This means purchasing products is generally low risk, even if price is high. Consider this, if I’m spending £15,000 on a new car I can test it beforehand and take it back afterwards if it doesn’t meet the agreed criteria all safe in the knowledge that every single car manufactured is almost the same. Purchasing a £15,000 car is, in general, a low risk decision. (It may have high-risk financial decisions but the actual decision to purchase the car is low risk)

Services on the other hand are high risk because:

  • The service cannot be reviewed before hand, as the service provider delivers the service, the user consumes the service at exactly the same time. Think about teaching, as the words come out of the teachers mouth the person listening absorbs and consumes the information.
  • Once a service has been delivered it cannot be given back. Think again about teaching, once you have listened to the words you cannot ‘unlisten’ and give the knowledge back again.
  • The service quality will change dependent upon the person delivering the service.

This is completely opposite to marketing a product.

So now think about purchasing a £200 treatment from the dentist. That new white filling cannot be reviewed before hand, you cannot make the white filling to stock and put on a shelf, the patient cannot give it back afterwards if they don’t like it and finally the patient will know that the quality of that filling can change dependent upon the operator delivering the service.

For this reason purchasing a £200 white filling from the dentist is a higher risk purchase than purchasing a £15,000 new car.

It’s not about the money, it’s about the risk.

Product marketing is about getting people to make a snap decision because risk is low, service marketing is about increasing trust and reducing risk and if we get the two mixed up we will end up commoditising the service..

We all know that dentistry is not a product, we all know the patient cannot review the treatment beforehand, we all know that the quality can vary dependent upon the operator, we all know the patient cannot give back the white filling afterwards so please stop treating dentistry as a product and trying to get patients to make a snap decision.

This is why online marketing is perfectly tailored for dentistry as it allows us to gently build a relationship with a patient, all the while demonstrating that you genuinely care for their oral health, we work on increasing trust and reducing risk not trying to get patients to make a snap decision.

Focus your marketing on increasing trust and reducing risk and the profits will follow.

This is in your hands, you decide how you want to portray your industry… Let the comments flow!

Here’s a video which explains this further.

Facebook Lists and Privacy Settings

Facebook’s new privacy settings have been all over the news recently, and I have to say I quite like the new way of posting status updates.

Historically if one had a load of ‘friends’ on Facebook, but only 100 were ‘actual’ friends (in the old style meaning of the word) and the rest were just aquaintances or business contacts it was difficult to really separate the streams of content that each group saw.

Facebook’s privacy has allowed you to block lists and individuals from seeing photos and updates for a while, but it was always generic – in other words if you block a list from your status updates then ALL your updates are blocked – not great really.

The new privacy settings now allow you to chose who sees what on an update by update basis – and this is direct response to Google +1 Circles I would imagine.

In this video I show you how you can manage this privacy setting, plus give a top tip for managing your list for business… enjoy…

And if you want more about Facebook for Dentists, do check out my website

If the video above doesn’t display, click here to watch on YouTube

Stop trying so hard to market your practice

When I present on marketing to dentists that don’t know me there is often quite a barrier to start off with… and that barrier is currently held Marketing Assumptions by dentists – see if any of these assumptions are held by you:

  1. Marketing doesn’t work
  2. Marketing is about special offers
  3. Marketing is the same as selling
  4. I’ve never done any marketing in my practice
  5. Marketing is telling people about new products
I want you now to hand over all those assumptions to me, to park them, to accept for one moment in time that you have no assumptions at all…and that we are working on a clean slate…
For me, dentistry is about the exquisite relationship that you have with your patient, it is built on trust and that trust is built over a period of time.
And this is what I believe marketing is, building relationships.
Modern dental practice marketing should be about building those relationships and allowing patients to relax with you knowing that YOU are the best dentist in town, so these are the assumptions I have about marketing:
  1. Marketing is about building a relationship, great relationships lead to a profitable business – so build relationships well and marketing will work
  2. Special Offers are what is known as ‘transactional marketing’, this certainly has its place, but comes AFTER the ‘relationship marketing’ to engender trust first.
  3. Relationship Marketing is about allowing people to ‘buy from’ you, rather than ‘sell to’ them. 
  4. You are constantly marketing, every time you speak to a patient you are marketing as you are building relationships
  5. When you talk to your patients you find out what they genuinely WANT, this allows you to mention products and services to them and they will ‘buy from you’ because they trust you
So, now you see that relationship marketing is effective, how do you go about this relationship building process?
There are many ways, but one of the most successful and efficient ways is online. Online marketing allows you to build relationships with many people at the same time. Online marketing should also be permission based… if a patient ‘likes’ your Facebook fan page, they have given you unique permission to demand a small amount of attention from them in their own personal space each day. 
This ‘permission’ to talk to them in their personal space (their Facebook friend stream) is uniquely powerful and can be used to gently and slowly build trust with potential patients whilst setting you up as THE expert in your local area.
Email works in the same way, if a prospective patient ‘allows’ you to send them an email, this is a unique opportunity to communicate with them in their own space (their computer) at convenient intervals…  but it’s a fine balance… too much information and you’ll be accused of spam…. too little and you’ll have no impact.
To find help you with your own relationship building process I’ve set up a new Social Media Kickstart course for dentists – I expect this to fill up fast, so please do book early to avoid feeling left behind.
The courses are on Thursday 12th May, Friday 17th June or Tuesday 20th September at Holiday Inn express in Watford. The price is £250 each, with a £50 discount if you book 2 or more places. Please contact Dawn on 0845 259 1232 or email her today to book. Further details are here.

Building Relationships on Twitter and Facebook – from Theory to Practice

I want to talk here about a theoretical model that I spent a great deal of time working with when I did my MBA, and that is the concept of building a relationships with marketing.

When I graduated in 2009 and started to look for ways to implement the theory I had learnt, this model gave me my first eureka moment when I saw Twitter and Facebook.

This post will be a walk through the theory and then on to the practice… you are all intelligent people, so I know you will find this an interesting journey to take with me.

The theory of building relationships is a 3 step process of Actor Bonds, Activity Links and Resource Ties. (1)

Actor Bonds
In any business relationship (in fact in most non business relationships too) there need to be a bond between the actors… in other words we need to like, and have some rapport with, a person before we will buy from them. This principle is especially true for businesses that have high credence (the buyer does not understand and finds it hard to evaluate the purchased services, e.g.a surgeon) and businesses that offer high involvement products and services ( i.e. not impulse purchases e.g. houses )… so think about dentistry, this is both High Involvement AND High Credence, so having good Actor Bonds is vital. We need to feel we like the dentist before we commit to the next stage… an activity link.

Activity Links
Once we feel we like someone we will take a first small step towards engaging with them more, and this is called an activity link. These could be things like:

  1. Reading a website
  2. Reading a blog
  3. Reading a leaflet
  4. Going to the practice for a free visit with a TCO
These activities all have a cost (mainly time) but will have no financial value, they are simply the buyer engaging in some form of activity with you as the seller.
Once an activity has occured, the buyer may move to the next level, a Resource Tie.
Resource Ties
This is the final stage of the relationship building process and is ultimately the destination. Resource ties could include:
  1. Commiting to read a blog every time it is published
  2. Coming to the practice for treatment
  3. Purchasing other goods/services
The key aspect to remember is that we all go through this process each time we commit to buy anything that is High Credence (we can’t fully evaluate) and High Involvement (non-impulse purchases). We will always go through Actor Bonds, Activity Links and Resource Ties.

Now this is where Twitter and Facebook come in, they are both ideal opportunities to work on these 3 areas:

  1. Actor Bonds – where you went on holiday, personal likes/dislikes, interests, hobbies. If buyers can identify with you through this personal information they are more likely to like you.
  2. Activity Links – Sharing links and other useful resources. Twitter is especially good for this. Once buyers click on the link they engage in an activity
  3. Resource Ties – Committing to read your blog posts each week OR coming to the practice and spending money

People won’t move directly to the Resource Tie stage unless they have moved through the previous 2 stages, I recommend spreading your Facebook and Twitter posts across these 3 areas fairly equally.

Many practice I see focus FAR too much on the Resource Tie section and don;t spend enough time working on the relationship by developing Actor Bonds and Activity Links.

…. so stop selling and start engaging!

(1) Hakansson, H. & Snehota, I. (eds.) (1995)  Developing Relationships in Business
Networks. London: Routledge

“Build Relationships NOT Transactions”

Look at the world today, we are a connected group of people organised in to a series of tribes…

Tribes that are young and want the film star Hollywood look.

Tribes that are older, have some money to spare and want to look younger but want it with a faultless service.

Tribes that have old amalgams and are concerned about their health and well-being.

The list goes on and on…

My question for you to answer now is ‘what is the best way to reach these tribes?’

Do you simply SHOUT THE LOUDEST and pay for the biggest ads in the local press, do you offer unrelenting SPECIAL OFFERS that are outlined in a fancy star to grab their attention or do you perhaps use lumpy mail, post it notes on flyers, stamps instead of franked mail and every other trick in the book to get your prospect to buy from you and enter into a transaction?

You know what, the answer is yes…. do those things because they work, BUT NOT for a transaction, do it to build a relationship. These are not prospects you are dealing with, they are patients… patients want relationships with their dentist… in fact the world as a whole want relationships, this is why Facebook is one of the fastest growing companies in the world.

When you do your special offers and use all the tricks to get that flyer opened make sure you build in a mechanism that helps you to develop a relationship with that person. If all you want is a single transaction (e.g. 2 for 1 whitening) then that is what you will get, some people will respond but many won’t, the ones that don’t out way the ones that do and it is often these that want the relationship not the transaction.

Relationship marketing is great for long term growth, building your brand and here’s the killer… getting patients to buy FROM you rather than being SOLD TO.

Transactional marketing is ‘selling to’, relationship marketing is ‘buying from’. Can you see the difference? Which would YOU prefer?

There are many ways we can use technology and the internet to help us build a relationship, so make sure you encourage your ‘prospects’ to join YOUR tribe on your:

  1. Facebook Fan Page
  2. Twitter stream
  3. Blog
  4. Friendfeed
  5. Linked in profile
  6. Website discussion forum

Tribes love the sound of the jungle drums, so get your jungle drums beating a catchy rhythm, get them to join in with YOUR rhythm and interact with them…. they’ll love you so much more than if you just try to sell them the latest special offer.