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from Galen Stilson



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

Give Your Prospective Dental Patients
To Make An Appointment With You

Here's a little poem written decades ago to introduce the theme for this issue. I've taken a few liberties with it to make it more applicable to the dental profession. 


I see that you've spent quite a big wad of dough to tell me the things you think I should know.

How your practice is so big, so fine and strong ... and your history so rich and long.

So you started your practice in '82? How tremendously interesting that is to you.

You built up the thing with the sweat and blood of your life. I'll run home like mad and tell that to my wife.

Your equipment is modern and, oh, so complete! Your "rep" is so flawless; your employees so neat.

Your motto is "Quality" with capital "Q" ... damn I'm getting tired of hearing about "you."

So tell me quick and tell me true ... or else my friend, to hell with you! ...

Less about you and your practice and how it came to be ... and more about what you can do for ME!



REMEMBER THIS: The prospective patient's single overwhelming concern -- if s/he takes the time to read your ad -- is clearly reflected with this question ... "What can you do for me and how will it better my life?"

When reading an advertisement, a prospective patient has very little initial interest in you, your background, your beliefs, your equipment etc. What s/he is most interested in is HOW CAN YOU HELP ME?! How will responding to this ad benefit me?

Only after deciding that you do, in fact, offer something that is of potential personal benefit will s/he switch into this thinking mode: "What's this person like and why should I trust him/her?"

It's a "HEART then HEAD" Process ...

People generally make the initial decision to respond to an ad based on their heart (emotions) ... which is triggered by clearly and powerfully stated benefits. Then, once the initial decision is made, they look for practical justification ... "am I right to make this decision." This is where the prospect's "head" kicks in and your education, background, equipment, etc. have some relevance.

It's a facts/features versus benefits game. Benefits target the heart/emotions and create the decision to respond. Facts/features target the head and help the prospect justify the response decision. But to win the game consistently you must focus on benefits.

As indicated above, most dental ads are FACTS/FEATURES loaded. For example: Here's where we're located. Here are the procedures we do. Here's a picture of me. Here's one of my staff. Here are the organizations I belong to. Here's my motto. Here's a list of the equipment we use. And so on.

Now, IF the readers are actively seeking a dentist at the precise moment they see your facts/features-only ad ... you'll probably get a response. But that type of ad is unlikely to persuade someone to call you if, let's say, they're occasionally bothered by loose partials. Or they have worn down teeth. Or if they get depressed because of their less-than-attractive smile. Or if their breath smells. Or if hot/cold causes a tinge of pain around one of their teeth a couple of times a day. Or if their gums bleed when they brush. They simply won't make the leap from sterile dental ad to "Oh, I have this problem that this person can probably fix for me ... quickly, safely, painlessly. I should call and make an appointment." 

DON'T EXPECT prospective patients to consciously translate your dental degree, marvelous facility, state-of-the-art equipment, personable staff, etc. into specific solutions to their oral problems. It seldom happens. Instead, you need to "YELL" in some in-print design way to get their attention and then focus their attention on a specific problem -- or problems -- in such a way as to get them to say, "YES ... that's me."

"But," you ask, "why wouldn't they go to their own dentist and ask him or her to do the same procedure you'd be doing ... rather than make an appointment with you?" Some probably will. But many won't ... for a variety of reasons ranging from being less-than-thrilled with their current dentist, to not having one, to rewarding you for bringing a possible solution to their attention. Of course, to improve your chances of getting their response you must clearly tell the prospect HOW to contact you (don't hide your phone number) AND tell them to respond. Yes, tell them -- in effect -- to pick up the phone now and make an appointment. You'd probably be surprised by the "power of suggestion" and the effect of "directed action" when made appropriately in a print ad.

Before I close this issue, here's a little story about the importance of selling specific benefits to a specific target audience ...

When Michael Faraday invented the first electric motor, he wanted the interest and backing of the British prime minister, William Gladstone. So Faraday took the crude model -- a little wire revolving around a magnet -- and showed it to the statesman. Gladstone, obviously not interested, asked "What good is it?" Faraday, instead of going into a long spiel about it's various uses and quality, said simply, "Someday you will be able to tax it!"

It was the perfect product benefit for his politician audience. 

What benefits do you have to offer your target audience? They are numerous. Beauty. Romance. Comfort. Confidence. Freedom from pain. Higher quality of life. And the list goes on. Of course, how you present those benefits to the reader will have a real impact on how persuasive they are.

Until next issue ...

Continued Success,


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