Dentists can be tricky customers to catch. Here's how it's done—frequently and effectively.
Have you ever learned something new, only to notice it suddenly appearing everywhere?
There's a name for that-the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, or "frequency illusion." It happens when you encounter something interesting and start unconsciously keeping an eye out for it. Then, when you see it again, your mind views that as confirmation that it's suddenly all over the place. (Now you'll probably start to see the term "Baader-Meinhof phenomenon" everywhere—sorry.)
As sellers and marketers, we try to use this in our favor. We aim to break through the noise and permeate the consciousness of our target customer. We try lots of different mediums and messages in hope of building customer awareness and positive perceptions of our products and services.
It's a battle for customer mindshare. We all want to figure out how to get our potential customers to consider us. We want them to know who we are and what we offer, even before they are looking to buy anything.
To do this requires frequent and effective communication that, over time, builds brand awareness. It's all about effective frequency, defined by the American Marketing Association as "the optimum number of exposure opportunities required to effectively convey the advertising message to the desired audience." (1)
Why is frequency just as important as effectiveness? Consumers may not even be in the market for a product yet, but, when ready, they are naturally inclined to choose the products they know best. It takes creativity and persistence to stand out. Marketers follow a three-step process:
- Obtain a deep understanding of your target customer.
- Develop effective messaging for that target customer based on that understanding.
- Distribute your effective messaging to the target customer.
A classic example of effective frequency is the use of embedded marketing (i.e., product placement). For example, the main character in a movie might be drinking a Coca-Cola. This isn't by accident. It's an intentional-if somewhat subliminal-exposure that, consciously or subconsciously, drives awareness of Coke's brand in the mind of the consumer. Companies pay large sums of money to have their products displayed in this manner online, on TV, and in movies, even in subtle ways, because they understand the power of both individual impressions and repeated exposure in the aggregate.
Dental companies can start building a competitive edge by first understanding how their customers (dentists, dental professionals, or patients) make decisions about their products and services. What factors are important to them when making a purchasing decision? And how do they perceive your offerings versus those of your competition?
This understanding of how decisions are made shapes effective marketing and sales messaging. Communication should stress the factors most important to customers, highlighting your competitive advantage and how you "win" over the competition.
Finally, dental companies and organizations should look for ways to drive frequent exposures to prospective customers. Exposures may come in the form of ads, articles, whitepapers, press releases, social media conversations, advertisements, word of mouth, webinars, and seminars. Ultimately, the desired results are increased sales and overall business growth.
Once dental companies understand the choices that impact a customer's decision making, they still face two big sales and marketing challenges: (1) consistently getting enough exposures, or impressions, with potential customers; and (2) converting those exposures and impressions into actual leads.
When it comes to effectively building exposures and impressions, our industry is rife with idiosyncrasies. For dental companies, the seasonality of dentistry often means that it can be exceedingly difficult to get dentists' attention during certain times of the year. Most notably, dentists tend to be spread thin in the summer, as they attempt to balance staff vacations with the rush of summer patient flow.
During these months, trade publication readership declines, tradeshows are nearly nonexistent, and e-mail open rates plummet. As a result, getting exposures and impressions-let alone warm leads-often seems impossible. (Let's not even mention the six weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day.)
Additionally, normal day-to-day and week-to-week lead flow is almost always erratic for dental companies. Immediately after a successful tradeshow or e-mail blast, there may be a temporary surplus of leads, but dentists (like most people) have short attention spans and leads go stale quickly if the company's sales organization isn't prepared to respond to a lead spike within the first 24 hours. If you can't respond within that critical timeframe, you might as well not have spent the time, money, and energy to generate the leads in the first place.
And what is the sales team supposed to do the rest of the month, when lead flow is barely a trickle? Make seemingly pointless cold calls? As every experienced sales executive knows, it's challenging to reach sales goals when there isn't consistency or predictability in lead flow.
There has to be a better way for dental companies to reach the right customers with the right message (frequently!), and do so in a way that results in a reliable, consistent lead flow that turns into sales . . . right?
It all starts with the customer. Create and execute your marketing and sales strategy with a one-two punch by using a growth strategy platform combined with a targeted lead generation platform. The strategy platform gathers insights into how your customers make decisions within your competitive market and then uses them to develop effective marketing and sales strategy. This means that you can create exactly the right message for the right customer. When coupled with a lead generation platform, you can drive a consistent flow of dentist leads to dental companies.
How? Dentists are exposed to your company's messages where they spend much of their free time: online. This is accomplished through a highly targeted content amplification network, which ensures that just about anywhere dentists go online (e.g., scrolling through social media, searching Google, reading the news), they encounter attention-grabbing ads that promote your dental products and services. What's critical is that this occurs not only on dental-related websites, but also on nondental websites, where they are acting like regular consumers but still thinking like dentists.
Then the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon kicks in. Dentists are intrigued because they feel like they've seen your company everywhere, and after a while they can't help but click to find out more. These content-rich ads direct dentists to educational articles about the product or service's unique benefits that dentists care most about (based on your customer research), and online contact forms convert them into leads that feed into your contact management software. To compensate for the natural spikes and declines in the dental industry, exposures can be increased or decreased, resulting in a steady flow for the sales team.
Combining growth case software with a lead generation platform compounds effectiveness and creates an unstoppable force. Ultimately, it all comes down to winning the customer. As marketers, we do that by building brand awareness so that customers recognize you and can align their needs with your value proposition.
There is nothing more important than understanding how customers make decisions and being able to leverage that information to effectively and predictably drive inbound leads to increase sales. Can you afford not to?
1. Effective frequency. American Marketing Association Dictionary. https://www.ama.org/resources/Pages/Dictionary.aspx?dLetter=E. Accessed October 9, 2015.
Rachel Mele is a dental executive, author, and international speaker. She runs the dental division at Vennli, a cloud platform for creating and executing growth strategy by understanding customer choice. She can be reached at [email protected] or at rachelmele.com.
Naomi Cooper is CEO and cofounder of Doctor Distillery, president and founder of Minoa Marketing, and chief marketing consultant for Pride Institute. Naomi can be reached via email at [email protected], and she blogs regularly at minoamarketing.com.