10.23.09 Issue #398 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

#1 Marketing Must For Your Practice
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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It is the most important marketing tool you have. It’s consistently the most effective means of setting your practice apart from the others. It is the unique feature that no one can duplicate. What is it? You are it. You are the most important marketing tool in the practice, regardless of whether you are the dentist, the hygienist, the assistant, the scheduling coordinator, or the business manager.

In the eyes of the patient, dentistry may be the service delivered, but it’s the team of people who deliver that service that are, in many respects, “the product.” Patients are hard-pressed to judge the quality of the dentistry. But they certainly can and do judge what they perceive to be the quality and competency of the team, which is all the more reason you need to be marketing yourself in every interaction with patients and prospective patients. Self marketing is nothing more - and nothing less - than continually strengthening the practice’s relationship with each patient. It sounds simple, but in reality it takes a conscious effort. The key is in controlling the marketing messages that you don’t even realize you are conveying to patients.

For example, when dental assistant Ellie enters the operatory and begins her preparations without acknowledging the patient, she is subtly “advertising” that she doesn’t want to be bothered. She is not encouraging conversation, discussion, or creating an atmosphere in which the patient is comfortable asking questions. The patient, already anxious about the procedure, isn’t put to ease. It may be an unintentional message that Ellie is sending, but it is the wrong message nonetheless. Ellie is focused on her tasks, yet she’s overlooking one of her most important responsibilities, connecting with the patient.

Business employee Ruth is working diligently at her computer. She just wants to finish this one little project before she “deals with” the patient standing at the counter. She is “marketing” herself in the worst possible way, yet she is completely oblivious to the negative message she is sending. Meanwhile, the patient becomes more frustrated with each passing second. This same patient sat in the waiting room an extra 20 minutes while Ruth was busy, again working at the computer. Ruth didn’t think to mention that the doctor was running behind.

Rather than continually reinforcing positive relationships with the patients, Ruth and Ellie are eroding them because they are not paying attention to their own poor self marketing. It’s essential that every member of the dental team consider the intentional marketing messages they will deliver with each patient in each interaction. For example: welcoming messages, calming messages, helpful messages, and concerned messages.

Your “welcoming messages” tell patients that you are glad they chose your practice. When they walk in the door they are greeted promptly with a smile and “good morning, Mrs. Smith. Thank you for coming in today.” Take a page from the big-box retailers. Everyone on the team who encounters Mrs. Smith, be it in the hallway or in the treatment room, should acknowledge her with a smile and “good morning.”

Your intentional “helpful messages” consider the patient’s time, payment concerns, their ability to get an appointment, etc. In these interactions, you are clearly and intentionally conveying an attitude of helpfulness. If the doctor is running 15-20 minutes behind schedule, apologize to the patient up front. “Mrs. Smith, the doctor is running a few minutes behind. He should be able to see you at about 10:15 rather than 10:00. I apologize for the delay and hope that this will not be an inconvenience for you.” In most cases, the patient will say, “No problem. I understand.” But if the patient is on a very tight schedule, she needs to know the situation immediately, and the dental team needs to know the patient’s circumstances as well.

Your intentional “concerned messages” demonstrate to patients that you are focused specifically on them when they are talking to you or you are talking to them. You look them in the eye. You don’t look past them to see what is happening in the treatment room, hallway, or waiting area behind them. Your focus is completely on the patient. You listen carefully to what they are saying rather than thinking about how you will respond. You address their questions and concerns with sincerity and understanding.

Ultimately, self marketing is presenting yourself in the best possible light to patients, and demonstrating this through your genuine concern, positive attitude, and delivery of excellent service every day.

Interested in speaking to Sally about your practice concerns? Email her at sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com. Interested in having Sally speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.

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