Dental practice marketing: Be less like Superman, more like Roger Federer

Dentists: It's tempting to think there is a "silver bullet" solution to your marketing problems. But as Angus Pryor explains, success comes to those who approach marketing like Roger Federer approaches tennis. Federer does the same things everyone else does—only better.

Aug 29th, 2017
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As a dental marketer who speaks to (mainly Austrailian) dentists on a regular basis, there's a trend I’m seeing that's unhelpful and, frankly, a bit disturbing. But before I uncover this sinister trend, let’s take a trip down memory lane that, for some of us, might be a really, really long way.

It’s a bird!

Back in the 1950s, one of the most popular shows on television was Adventures of Superman. To give you an idea of just how long ago this was, the show was filmed in black and white.

Personally, I loved Superman. The shows were filmed well before I was born, but I got a good dose via reruns. The part that really stuck in my mind was the show’s introduction. You probably recognize these famous lines:

Look up in the sky!
It’s a bird!
It’s a plane!
No, it’s Superman!

The introduction went on to say:

Faster than a speeding bullet,
stronger than a locomotive,
able to leap tall buildings in a single bound!

It’s really that last bit—the part about speeding bullets—that I want to highlight.

Bright, shiny objects

In my consulting work, what I often come across is an unhealthy desire for a Superman-like marketing solution. Superman was a superhuman force—a "speeding bullet" who saved the day. Today, I see more and more dentists looking for a "silver bullet"—a singular, superhuman marketing activity that will to generate Superman-like results.

The problem I have with this approach is that silver bullets really don’t exist, just like Superman. There may be isolated cases in the business literature where a singular marketing tactic has generated dramatic results, but these cases are rare. Instead, the most effective marketing plans by far are those that coordinate a series of efforts that are implemented across a range of platforms. I'm sorry to disappoint you, but silver bullets in this context are just not real.

The practices I’ve worked with that have had the most success are those that have faithfully worked on their marketing across multiple areas simultaneously. This approach focuses the dentist's mindset on cumulative and steady growth rather than an unrealistic hope for a massive outcome resulting from just one activity.

The Roger Federer effect

Even those who are not sports fans can appreciate the significant achievements of tennis player Roger Federer. He recently won the men’s singles championship at Wimbledon for a record eighth time. He may not have a cape, but on the court he’s pretty close to Superman.

When considering his success, I want you to think about something. Ask yourself, did Federer win because he did any of these?

  • He created a new tennis shot: a patented, double-handed, between-the-legs-while-humming-the-Swiss-national-anthem cross-court shot. (Nope.)
  • He introduced a new racquet that whispers motivational quotes to him during key points. (Nein.)
  • He pioneered a new app that gets his fans to shriek at officials any time they call his shot "out." (Nyet.)

If Federer didn't create a new shot, use new equipment, or excel thanks to a magical app, how has he been so successful when the rules of tennis basically haven’t changed?

The reality is that he does the basics very, very well. He serves, he volleys, and he hits his forehand and backhand very well. He uses the same basic shots as everyone else, but he executes them extremely well.

In my experience, this same principle is true in marketing. Your forehand might be a patient referral system. But just because you have a referral system doesn’t mean you do it well. The same is true for converting calls to appointments, for social media, for direct mail, and for a range of "heard-it-all-before" marketing activities.

Time to call in the cavalry

What if you don’t have the time or knowledge to put something in place that really works? In this case, the best approach is to get these activities coordinated by an expert. This approach may seem self-serving (pardon the pun) in my line of work, but suspend your skepticism for a moment. Let me explain . . .

When a business is brand new, there’s a tendency (and a financial need) to do everything yourself. However, no one is good at everything, and so your part-time efforts on marketing and various other activities generate part-time results.

I’ve seen this in my own business. Initially, I was doing my own graphic design work. This produced reasonable results. Then, I got a professional on board, and we started generating excellent results. The same thing happened for my video editing, pay-per-click advertising, and so on.

If you study people who are successful in business, you’ll see that they recognize their weaknesses and surround themselves with others who are highly capable to get great results.

Summary

As part of your efforts trying to boost the results at your practice, do yourself a favor: forget the silver bullets. Instead, build a coordinated program of marketing activities across a range of areas. If this seems like too much, it’s probably time to get some help from a professional.


Angus Pryor is a dental practice growth expert. He holds a master's degree in marketing from the University of Southern Queensland. He is founder and CEO of Dental Profit System, a Sydney-based full-service marketing agency. He can be reached at thrive@dentalprofitsystem.com or by visiting dentalprofitsystem.com.


Editor's note: This article first appeared in the Apex360 e-newsletter. Apex360 is a DentistryIQ partner publication for dental practitioners and members of the dental industry. Its goal is to provide timely dental information and present it in meaningful context, empowering those in the dental space to make better business decisions. Subscribe to the Apex360 e-newsletter here.

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