Dental Marketing Lowest Common Denominator Dilemma
After viewing four or five coupons on a dental flyer with BOLD lettering and lots of dollar signs ($500 OFF!), what else is the consumer going to remember about it? When buying garbage bags and gas, focusing on price makes a lot of sense. These are simplistic items and easily made decisions. They are ‘commodities’ of short-term value.
Dentistry is complex and always on the periphery of the consumers’ understanding so even intelligent and upscale people are often in the dark. Piling discounts on a complex service like dental care puts the learning curve on a slippery slope. It also stagnates the value of your dental expertise (or worse). For example, if the barbershop is doing coupons for haircuts AND dentists are also doing coupons for a some hair-raising procedure – is there any reason for the consumer to believe dentistry has changed much since the day when the two (hair removing and hair-raising procedures) were both under one roof?
Okay, the barber/dentist comparison is a bit of a groaner, but there is reason for concern… Maybe giving money-off is good for the lower income person who might not go to the dentist without a ‘cheaper’ version? Yet, many of these offers are for the new dental patient, which means the lower income person is often out of luck in the next round. Then patients are jumping from one deal to the next and the dentist is only providing another lily pad band-aid, not a real dental care home.
Another not-so positive way ‘it works’ is to draw in the price-conscious person—who believes in dentistry – but will wait for a ‘deal’ before they do anything. The hope here is that these patients will become better dental consumers once the practice and its team mesmerize them. It works for some dentists more than others and but mostly on the fringes. Plus it is NOT what most consumers would expect from a ‘doctor’s’ office—discount bypasses, this week only!
Businesses that know exactly who they want as a clientele, speak directly to those consumers. Dentists who want patients who will stay in the practice--but market to the discount group--will find it difficult to upgrade care to those consumers. Dentists with selling prowess will do better when starting with the discount crowd, but why put start with a deficit when it can be avoided. The dental marketing (or communication) dilemma is: how do you attract new patients without hammering the discount angle?
One thing to realize is that patients and consumers only get scraps of information during the dental visit. The dentist or dental team member presents a lot of it verbally. The dental appointment is not the best environment for absorbing complex ideas. If most of it is verbal, then 'in one ear and out the other' is usually the effect achieved.
If discounts are all they are seeing outside of the dental visit, then their concept of dentistry is not unlike the dollar store perspective. If it is not CHEAP or on SALE, it is overpriced!
With most dental marketing campaigns there usually is nothing coming their way that builds value. Once in a while a small percentage will see an ostentatious dental ad in an upscale city magazine or some dental technology news blip. The advertisements and messages have nothing in depth or value building besides cool technology or Hollywood smile makeover concepts, which an even smaller number of people will relate to. This improves advanced dentistry’s value around the edges, but for most it is pushed out into the realm of expensive, elective and extra.