Service Versus Price: A Dental Perspective

Ever go into a big box store and look around for a service person to help you, and then after having no luck in this endeavor, send out a search party (on Sahara-tested camels) to find one? While this is barely an exaggeration, it shows what happens when you let price and volume take over from service and quality.

Obviously, there are some big boxes that do a better job than others, but as the old adage goes - there is only so much milk you can put in a gallon jug. Dental marketing is no different. Actually, most dentists know this is true for their delivery of dental care as well. Every dental practice has a level of service, which determines what their dental patients can access.

A simple way to express these limitations is the days and hours a dentist practices or how long or short consultations with the dentist are. Lowering prices at some point means reduced service capabilities no matter how long the practice is open or how much the patient sees their dentist. The limitations might come in how nice the environment is, what technology is available, what kind of dental lab they use or how well the dentist is trained.

My business also has certain limitations. However, few are related to service. While I can try to get the lowest priced vendor for the dental marketing I do for my dentist clients, to offer prices low enough to standout I would need to flat line my service strategy, creating a very rigid structure.

The rigidity of the low price dental marketer is centered around flexibility (lack of it). Unless you purchase exactly what the low priced marketer offers - with maybe a few minor customized elements - the marketer cannot provide the service (at anywhere near the price advertised). Let alone help you (the dentist) with a tangential dental marketing need.

Dentists who are looking for one marketing product, want the lowest price, and have no need for advice can use these services to meet some goals. However, many dentists want to navigate many marketing concepts and challenges at one time and will struggle to meet any longtime goals using these limited groups.

The biggest reason these groups fail dentists is because they perceive dentists as the same: "Our concept works for all dentists." That is like saying one form of TMJ treatment works for everyone. After the meds wear off, the pain will be back.

Unfortunately, these limited groups often do not get dentists the right "therapy" for many reasons including...
  • There is already heavy competition using the same (often generic) method in the dentist's area
  • The method while "cool" and having gains in other industries, is not as valid for dentistry
  • There are not enough "ready" dental patients viewing/listening to/or receiving that media
There is already one way to get all the dental patients you need: The Yellow Pages! Before your local rep sells you that bridge, we should talk.

Dental Marketing Commentary by Dick Chwalek
Dental Marketing Consultant
Niche Dental President-Owner


Value and Advanced Dentistry

Working with dentists and dental laboratories since 1996, I have actually learned something that might be helpful. Most dentists know these things, but few consumers get the depth of what is going on in today's dentistry.

Most consumers see a cool new dentistry technology promoted on some TV news segment and that is all they get: 3 minutes of glitz with nothing to sink their teeth into. Unless they need it or pursue it within a few months of the broadcast - the concept evaporates from their knowledge base. Extreme makeover shows are a boost to the cosmetic possibilities of advanced dentistry; porcelain veneers got their 15 minutes of fame.

Yet even these 'popular' hits are seen by a small portion of the population and the depth bottoms out very quickly. While the value of a 'Hollywood smile' is greatly enhanced, the true value of advanced dentistry is almost non-existent. Of the 100 million people in the U.S. that need more dental treatment than they are getting, maybe 1 million people are going to get, or ask for anything, cosmetic. Many might want cosmetic dentistry changes - but few come in for that and say, "I want to look beautiful".

But if consumers knew all the things that are possible and how much more healthy they could be - even reducing their chance for a heart attack or stroke - the tide might turn. Right now the tide is mostly on the cosmetic WOW rather than on restorative and renewing VALUE. As a marketer, I know the value of WOW - but as a father and someone who focuses specifically on dentistry as a marketer, I also know that WOW can get in the way of what is really important.

Consumers not overtly interested in the "cosmetic" too often see this WOW as a reason to discount the value of what is underneath. When it comes right down to it, WOW is not what they will value. Getting in between this dichotomy (of the WOW that excites us and the lasting value we really need/want) and making headway is not easy.

What dentists should do to improve the value gap...
Start communicating in a wider sphere. It is not one mailing sent in vacuum of value ignorance. It is not a dental website consumers see before the their value base is improved. It is getting out in front of the consumer and pro-actively, consistently stating your position; whether it is a series of postcard mailings or walking back and forth with a sandwich board in front of your dental practice.

Otherwise, sit back and watch things happen the way they will without you doing anything. Of course, each choice has a cost.

What consumers should do to increase the value of their dentistry...
Ask for more than what you got yesterday. Do not assume your dentist is doing everything they can do or that is possible. Even ask how they work with their dental lab to make sure your treatment is how it should be. Let cost and insurance be a guide - but make sure these 'guides' do not entrap you in a valueless experience.

What I will do...
Be more concerned about dental care than dental marketing. Explain real value better and be more creative than simply hitting the superficial WOW button. Think beyond the status quo even though upsetting this applecart is fraught with difficulty as well.

While advanced dentistry provides many great obvious benefits, most people need its basic health improvement components. To get your attention, dental marketing will often 'suggest' it is all about whiter, beautiful smiles.

Yet just as beauty is skin deep, realize it is the next level of what we are doing that is more important. The higher value of dental marketing is when it gets you to visit a dentist or your dentist sooner than later. Thinking beauty rather than cavities can put people in a better mood to move forward and throwing in some health reality is effective for others.

While dental marketing is a small piece of the solution - it can help tip the balance in favor of action over inaction. This faster action can save teeth, smiles and maybe even lives.

Posted by Dick Chwalek of Niche Dental