As the UK comes out of lockdown and dentists are beginning to think about what happens from here on in. I’m seeing more practices (and indeed more marketing agencies showing me adverts on Facebook) talking about selling more treatments.
Facebook seems to be awash with marketing agencies exclaiming they can make you £X,000 by selling specific treatments using their magic formula. If only you knew the secret!
In this blog post I’m going to explain why this is a damaging and wholly inappropriate marketing strategy for dentists.
The thing is, selling treatments is what is known as transactional marketing.
Transactional marketing is a business strategy that focuses on single, “point of sale” transactions. The emphasis is on maximizing the efficiency and volume of individual sales rather than developing a relationship with the buyer.
Transactional marketing is used in the high Street for selling things like computers, mobile phones and sofas. In transactional marketing we focus on:
- The features of the product we are selling.
- The benefits of the product we are selling.
In such transactions the customer is able to undertake certain key functions:
- Know that the product can be made ‘reliably and repeatedly’ (known as the ‘promise’), they can verify this because they can see the product on the shelf.
- They can try the product before they buy, this, therefore, reduces the risk to the purchaser.
- If, after purchase, the product does not live up to expectations they can take the purchase back. This ultimately reduces risk to an extremely low point, regardless of the value of the purchase.
For these reasons, a transactional sale is low risk to the purchaser and requires little trust in the person making the sale. Remember this, as I’m going to come back to it later.
Transactional marketing’s focus is simply “buy my product and sod off!” A little bit blunt, but you get my point?
Let’s flip the tables on this. Now we know what transactional marketing is about let’s ask those same questions about dentistry.
Key questions to ask in dentistry about transactions
- Can the purchaser know that the person delivering the dentistry can ‘reliably and repeatedly’ perform the ‘promise’ over and over again? No. The purchaser will inherently know that dentistry is performed by a unique individual every single time and therefore the quality of service will inevitably fluctuate. This is known as a service heterogeneity.
- Can the purchaser try before they buy? No.
- Can the purchaser take back the purchase (think about a white filling for example) can they ask the vendor (YOU) to take the filling back and restore all of the decay so that they can go elsewhere? No.
One can easily see that these questions are almost completely the opposite to those posed in a transactional sale.
Thinking about the questions above one can also easily notice that the 2 factors, risk and trust are also completely opposite to a transactional sale.
In the example given above risk to the user is high (because they cannot try before they buy, they know that the promise delivered can vary and they can’t take their purchase back afterwards for a refund)… Because of this they will require high trust in the person making the sale – that’s you!.
We are now no longer looking at transactional marketing… We are looking at relationship marketing and it is this we should focus on in dentistry.
What does this mean for marketing?
In simple terms, a transactional marketer will offer sweeteners (pardon the pun) and incentives in order to reduce the risk of the purchaser to such a point that they cannot refuse to buy.
Think about purchasing a sofa, a salesperson may include an extra armchair, free cleaning after a period of time or discounted insurance. All of this is done because the salesperson knows that trust doesn’t need to be very high and that purchasing risk is low.
Relationship marketing is almost the complete opposite.
In relationship marketing we can’t use the same (high pressure) incentives because the purchaser needs to develop trust with the person making the sale, coupled with this the purchase is higher risk.
Relationship marketing is about marketing the RELATIONSHIP between the players, not the goods/services being exchanged.
What should dental marketing focus on?
Dental marketing should therefore only focus on 2 things:
- Increasing trust.
- Decreasing risk.
So, stop selling treatments – PLEASE!