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


How To Get Higher Quality Prospects
To Respond To Your Advertising

As we discussed last issue, how you construct your ad -- and how your prospects perceive that ad -- will determine in large part whether you generate lots of respondents (many of whom will not be high quality) or whether you get less numbers but a higher percentage of quality prospects

If you'll recall from last month, here's how we defined a quality prospect:

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

 ... has a self-identifiable dental problem or desire, and,

 ... is looking for a solution to that problem/desire, and,

 ... has the money to pay for the solution.

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

 ... doesn't have the money to afford quality dental care, and/or,

 ... is only looking for a cheap solution, and/or,

 ... is only looking for information.

So, how do you go about increasing the number of quality prospects your ad draws ... and decreasing the tire-kickers? 

Stated as a generalization, the more difficult you make it for a prospect to respond ... the more narrow the appeal and targeting of the ad ... the more conditions you put on a respondent ... and the more you demand from him or her ... the higher the quality of response.

"Great,"  you might be thinking.  "Let's make the ads difficult to respond to, narrowly focused, highly conditioned, and very demanding so that I only get prospects who are ready to act right now ... with their wallet open ... without my having to do any persuading."

Sounds good.   Doesn't work.

Like virtually everything else in life, this quality vs. quantity issue is not black-and-white.  In fact, it's mostly shades of grey.  If we were to rate ALL dental prospects on a 1 to 10 scale (10 being the highest quality) what we'd find is that most people fall into the 4-7 range.  And the higher we go on this quality scale, the smaller the pool of prospects we find.

And that's the problem with going after only the 10's (those who walk in your office with their wallet open and a no-questions-let's-do-it-now attitude) ... there aren't many of them.  So, if you created your ads with that seeking-only-the-best approach, you'd likely be very disappointed with the results.  And you would be throwing away hundreds-of-thousands of dollars.

The real money is in the mid-to-top range of the prospect pool.  Granted, these people are more cautious and maybe a bit fearful and/or skeptical ... and, therefore, they may need to be sold on the benefits.  But, these are the prospects you need to bring into your office if you're looking to maximize your practice profitability via advertising.

So, how do we get prospects from that #6 through #10 group to respond?  Here are a few tips ...

1.  Use the problem/solution approach.  It's much more likely that you'll convince a quality prospect to come see you IF you give them a compelling reason.  To give them that reason, identify a dental problem(s) they may be experiencing ... promise a solution  ... and explain how their life will be better because they took action. 

When I talk about dental problems, I'm not referring only to the obvious.  Keep in mind that someone who is simply not thrilled with the look of their teeth or smile will see that as a problem.

2.  Focus on the prospect, not yourself.  Don't clog up a big portion of your ad with "look, aren't I wonderful" illustrations and copy.  The ad should be about how the prospect can benefit by making an appointment with you so you can explain the solution(s) to his/her problem.  That's basically it.  And the best way to do that is to talk about the prospect, his/her problem(s), and the benefits s/he'll receive by visiting you.

That's not to say that you should not include some copy which reflects your skill and professionalism.  But it should represent just a very small percentage of the ad space.  You'll have plenty of time to impress the prospect with your skill, reputation and professionalism once they are in your office.

3.  Referring in the ad to the fees you charge can have a major bearing on response and quality of response.  The more you make it sound like your prices are low, the higher the response is likely to be and the lower the overall quality of prospect.  The  perception of premium prices will produce fewer prospects but higher quality.  (Of course, the demographics of the geographic area you serve will have much to do with how you handle this aspect of your ad.) 

The perception of high fees, high quality can be built into the ad in numerous ways ... including illustrations, type style, layout, etc.

4.  Using larger ads gives you a better opportunity to educate and persuade the quality prospect of the benefits of making an appointment with you.  Most people with a dental problem have to be persuaded to take action (unless they are in pain).  They need a little prompting, a little persuasion, a little push.  They need justification for taking their time to visit you to discuss their problem.  That justification can often be made only through a compelling story.  And to tell a compelling story, space is required.

5.  The smaller the ad, the more narrow the focus.  The smaller the ad, the more you need to zero in on just a single problem/solution/benefit and forego the supporting copy.  In fact, in small ads you often have to simply state the problem in such a way that it infers the solution/benefits.  Example:  "FINALLY ... You Can Have Drop-dead Gorgeous White Teeth In Less Than One Hour."  Then add the contact information.

6.  Make the ad stand out.  If your ad is not noticed, you won't get either quantity or quality.  So try to design your ads so that they stand out in some way.  You can do it with borders, unique photos, type style, size, reverses, bursts, white space, etc.  The easiest way to check this is to take your finished ad and lay it out on a page full of ads in the newspaper in which you plan to advertise.  Will it attract the reader's eye?

7.  Offer a free consultation/evaluation.  Because we're dealing mostly with people in the 6-7-8 range of our quality scale, you're going to find some skepticism, some anxiousness, some financial cautiousness.  The best way to overcome that is to give them the opportunity to talk with you at no cost ... without any obligation.  That meeting gives you your opportunity to WOW them with your knowledge, skill, personality, and persuasiveness. 

Please note that only consultations, initial evaluations and/or computer images are offered free in the ad.  Once you get into offering free dental services/procedures you will generally find that you end up with more tire kickers or bargain hunters.

Also, I discourage discounting service/procedure fees in ads unless one is willing to build a practice on lower income, bargain-oriented patients.  Location and demographics may dictate it, but I wouldn't willingly go that route ... especially if you want to prosper as a fee-for-service practice.

8.  Be sure your phone number is obvious.  While it's true that the more difficult you make it for someone to find your phone number/address, the higher the quality of respondent  ... it's also true that if you make it too difficult, you'll miss out on most of the 6-7-8 people.  So, don't hide your phone number. 

In many ways, prospects will treat your ad and making the appointment like they do buying an impulse item at the grocery store.  If the candy bar wasn't right next to the checkout counter, they usually wouldn't go out of their way to buy it.  Similarly, if the phone number doesn't stand out at the moment your prospect thinks, "This makes sense," there's a good chance the moment will pass and you'll miss out.

9.  Ask prospects to call you ... now.  Remember, people often need a little push ... even when they know what would be best for them.  And you'd be surprised how effective *suggestive* copy can be.  So, suggest they call you.

"Don't wait.  Call now to set up your free consultation appointment."  Just adding a little suggestion like that will often be enough of a push to cause some people to pick up the phone.

10.  Test various offer conditions ... like time limits and new patient limitations

For example, you might advertise a different dental problem every couple of weeks and put a time limit on when prospects can take advantage of your free consultation offer.  "This offer is good until {date}."  Time limits add perceived value ... which tends to boost response. 

You might advertise a limit to the number of free consults every month.  This will often cause people to pick up the phone *now* so they can be one of the lucky few.  But, you have to be careful with the way you word this.  It should be stated in such a way that the prospect perceives it as a reflection of how busy you are and that you are only able to accept so many new patients each month.

Make sense?

Those are just a few of the techniques you can use to produce a nice prospect mix of quality and quantity.  In one of the future issues I'll share a few more tips ... plus ... give you my ideas on what to do if you're getting too few or too many responses to your ads.

One other important element of the quality/quantity mix before I close this issue.  If you are a skilled case presenter who is able to convince a high percentage of prospects to say YES to your recommendations (especially on high fee cases) ... then you'll need fewer responses from your ads to make them pay.  Conversely, if you don't close a high percentage of your case presentations, then you'll need more responses.  You would adjust your ads accordingly.

If you have any questions about any of my comments or recommendations in this issue, do not hesitate to contact me via email.  I'll try my best to answer (either directly or in a future issue) any questions you have.


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