Does The Rule of Seven Apply in Your Practice?
For thousands of years, we’ve been trying to figure out how to persuade others to do what we want them to do. In the dental practice, the scheduling coordinator is trying to persuade the patients to make appointments. The collections coordinator needs to nudge some to make payments. The doctor needs to persuade “Mr. Jones” that waiting to treat the cracked tooth is a risk not worth taking. The hygienist must convince the young child that brushing and flossing are important.
Persuasion is the cornerstone of marketing. Few in the dental practice would consider these seemingly “routine” efforts to persuade patients as “marketing,” yet many of the same principles apply.
For example, take the “Rule of Seven.” It used to be said that marketing prospects need to see or hear a marketing message at least seven times before they will take action. This number has been estimated as high as 12 or even 20, and frankly, in today’s promotion-saturated world, it’s probably even higher. People are bombarded with an unrelenting stream of “must-do” “must-have” “must-try” messages. You must eat this for good health. You must have this new gadget. You must try this new store. You must take advantage of this special offer now. You must have the season’s latest and on and on and on. Yet in many situations, until the prospect is ready, the message won’t resonate.
Case in point: “Mr. Jones” doesn’t respond to the doctor’s recommendations the first, second, or even third time they are discussed. It doesn’t mean that the patient won’t pursue treatment; it simply means that he isn’t ready now. Persuasion happens according to the patient’s schedule, not the doctor’s. That being said, it also doesn’t mean that you stop discussing treatment needs with the patients who don’t promptly follow your recommendations. Nor do you stop looking for opportunities to educate them on oral health, new treatments available, as well as office policies.
Call it marketing, call it educating, and whether it’s the rule of seven or the rule of twenty in your practice, your messages merit repeating multiple times directly to the patients and using multiple media; namely, your practice website, a monthly e-newsletter or blog, and text messages.
The ability to communicate essential patient and practice information has never been easier. It’s also never been more important. If you don’t create an ongoing presence in your patients’ communication sphere, your chances of being overlooked, if not forgotten, increase exponentially.
I cannot count the number of times that doctors have shared stories about patients who saw another dentist for a specific treatment because they didn’t know their family dentist provided it. “Mrs. Patient” trots off to the doctor down the street for clear braces to fix the six anterior teeth on the top and bottom, only to learn later that her family dentist has been providing adult orthodontics for years. Her dentist is baffled. He cannot understand why Mrs. Patient did not know this. After all, he asserts, there’s information in each of the operatories in the brochure holders. That’s a bit like walking past a school and expecting an education. If you want your patients to know what you have to offer, you have to tell them and you have to engage them.
The doctor down the street engages Mrs. Patient. He makes sure that he has an ongoing presence in her communication sphere. He sends targeted mailings to specific prospective patient groups, which Mrs. Patient is part of. He keeps his website dynamic and ensures that it doesn’t look like every other dentist’s in the area. He provides useful information on the practice and procedures offered. He has a Facebook page. He sends periodic e-newsletters. Patients can follow him on Twitter. He is maximizing virtually every communication channel available. As a result, when someone searches for adult ortho, straight teeth, clear braces, etcetera, etcetera, it’s his practice that shows up number one on the search page.
When it comes to marketing and patient education, if you are out of sight you are out of mind.
Next week, how much marketing? What kind? When?
For more information on this topic, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
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