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Marketing Tips for Dentists
Published by Galen Stilson
Direct Response Copywriter/Consultant
Dental Marketing a specialty

PROSPECTS: Quantity versus Quality
Part 1

When asked what they would like their advertising to accomplish, most dentists say, "bring in lots of new patients."

But that's not precisely what they mean. The problem with "lots of prospects" (quantity) is that many of them may not be "good" prospects (quality).

How does one distinguish between a good prospect versus a not-so-good one?

The answer is obvious.

A good (quality) prospect is someone who ...

... has a self-identifiable dental problem, and,
... is looking for a solution to that problem, and,
... has the money to pay for the solution to the problem.

A not-so-good prospect is someone who ...

... doesn't have the money to afford quality dental care, and/or,
... is only looking for the cheap solution, and/or,
... is only looking for information.

This obviously doesn't tell the entire story of who are, and are not, good prospects and patients. But for the purpose of creating successful dental advertisements, the above definition will work just fine.

The question is, how can you construct your advertising so that you get primarily quality patients to respond?

Here's a rule of thumb: The more generalized your ad and the more you feature (or infer) low-price, the higher the number of prospects who will likely respond ... and the lower the overall quality of those prospects. (Of course, if your practice is geared towards lower income patients, this approach will work.)

Conversely, the more specific your ad message, without the inference or perception of bargain-basement pricing ... the fewer the responses but the higher the quality of prospect.

Example: A few years ago I met a highly skilled dentist with an upscale, high quality practice who had just started mass mailing in his community.  His mailer was a beautiful four-color postcard offering a set of x-rays for $10. The response was terrific. The problem was, the prospects who responded weren't. The overwhelming majority (almost 100%) got their -x-rays and left. Many made appointments and never showed up. High quantity response, but low quality.

There were a couple of problems with this particular dentist's advertising approach ...

1. The type of prospect that this type of ad appealed to was the lower income ... due to the x-ray price break. That is NOT the type of patient this dentist wanted to draw to his practice.

2. There was an image conflict. Four color printing generally reflects higher quality, while big-time discount pricing generally reflects lower quality. Thus, my guess is that the lower income group saw this as a good way to get inexpensive x-rays from high quality practice that they knew they could not afford long term ... while the higher income group avoided it because of it's pricing suggested cut-rate dentistry.

The result was a lot of advertising money (printing and mailing costs) being wasted ... in addition to the cost of staff time required to deal with the respondents, etc.

So, how does one go about constructing an ad message that brings in more high quality patients?

That will be my focus in the next issue.

But before closing this issue let me put you at ease IF you are offering free first appointments in your ads: Offering a FREE evaluation appointment or consultation does NOT reflect bargain basement pricing -- nor will it necessarily bring you a bunch of low quality prospects -- if you present it correctly.

Conversely, if you discount or offer a free cleaning appointment for new patients, you are likely to get lots of people responding ... and few sticking with your practice.

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Copyright 2006 by Galen Stilson. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.