Technology Is Marketing
A new patient walks into your office, ready for his first appointment. Your receptionist welcomes him saying, ?Before you fill out the forms, I?d like to give you a tour of the practice.? As she shows him around, she points out the CEREC, taking a few minutes to explain how it?s one of the greatest conveniences that the practice offers. Then she shows the patient the VELscope, pointing out how the practice performs oral cancer screenings on every patient. Your receptionist goes on to mention the laser, and all the while your new patient is thinking, ?Wow! This is space age dentistry!? And the tour continues like that.
Technology Is Marketing
Is this happening in your office? I hope so, but if it isn?t, you?re not alone. Interestingly, it?s often not because practices don?t have the technology. Many times they do, but they don?t tell their patients, or more importantly, explain the benefits of the technology.
Technology Can Change Opinions
Technology sells dentistry. It?s that simple. We live in a fast-paced, every-year-a-new cell-phone society. But in the average person?s mind, dentistry hasn?t changed much in 30 years. When a patient walks into a dental practice and realizes that there?s an entire array of new technology capable of making their experience more comfortable and efficient, and their results last even longer, then their opinion of dentistry changes.
Much of the public isn?t aware of all the great benefits that dentistry provides. This isn?t new, and it continues for 2 reasons. First, people really don?t like to think much about dentistry, so the last thing they want to do is research its advances. Second, there is no one out there?no large advertising or public health campaign? explaining the recent changes in dentistry or even why oral health is so important.
You?re never going to be able to change people?s level of curiosity about dentistry. But you can tell them about your practice and technology. Dentists often approach adding new technology like an engineer? purchasing equipment that makes them faster or makes their work easier. But the most important role that dental technology plays is to increase case acceptance.
Embedded in this role is a very important and somewhat counterintuitive principle: Technology pays for itself as a marketing tool even better than it does as a time- or money-saver.
Put Patients at Ease
I received the following direct feedback from a caller to 1-800-DENTIST:
?I appreciated being given a tour of the office, seeing all the equipment, and getting introduced to the staff. It really made me feel more at ease. They were all extremely caring and the treatment was so comfortable that I nearly fell asleep while getting my teeth cleaned! Thanks for the fantastic referral to our new dentist.?
She was put at ease by the technology. That?s the sort of thing you want to promote. Making your patients more comfortable is always a worthwhile investment and if you don?t do it, you are going to suffer when it comes to case acceptance. People buy when they are comfortable, trusting, and think you care.
And here is the subliminal effect: none of the fancy technology was even used on her! She was put at ease by its existence, by the fact that the dentist showed it to her as a part of her office tour. Are you not the same way? When you walk into a hospital, don?t you want it to be the bestequipped hospital? Even though you don?t want them to use any of that equipment on you, you want to know they have it. Why not provide that for your patients?
Part of that is an emotional message?you have this equipment because you care about your patients. That?s what people want most in a healthcare professional, and frequently the thing that is the most difficult to find. Be the practitioner who cares and who demonstrates it by getting training, by buying technology and learning to use it, and by understanding that for most people a visit to the dentist is not fun.
Don?t Miss the Opportunity
Ask yourself how many of your patients know all the services that you have to offer and how all of the technology benefits them. Most dentists would say around 10%. Think of the missed opportunities here. In your patients? minds, nothing sets your office apart because they don?t know about all your great technology. What reason does this give them to recommend you to their friends and family? Even worse, it leaves the door open for another dentist who does promote his services and technology to draw your patients.
It?s remarkable how big an impact increasing communication between you and your patients can have on your practice? particularly when it comes to technology. A dentist recently asked me on my marketing site, GoAskFred.com, how she could stand out among her competition. I asked her if anyone else had a chairside CAD/CAM unit. She said no. ?Simple,? I said. ?Get one, and make sure every one of your patients knows about the advantage that you are providing them?and then advertise it. Technology gives you something unique to offer, and in a world where people think dentistry is pretty much the same wherever you go, this can make all the difference.?
Some dentists might say, ?Yes, but I?d have to do 20 crowns a month to justify the cost.? Okay, on a basic calculation maybe that?s true. It?s still only a crown a day. But what if you give your patients the option to have porcelain instead of composite whenever you do a filling or an inlay? Make sure they understand that it will match their teeth better and last substantially longer, and it only costs another $100. Combine these little upgrades with the crowns you?ll be doing and all of a sudden CAD/CAM is making you money. But equally important is that it?s making a powerful impression.
There are 3 things that patients hate most in the dentist office: drilling, shots, and having an impression taken. Today, the technology exists to replace them with more comfortable alternatives. Why not reduce the impact of at least one of them?
For example, The Wand uses a computer-controlled sensor to regulate the pressure of fluid flow when giving an injection, and it is more comfortable for the patient than a syringe. Some dentists complain that it takes longer to complete the injection. But in exchange, it makes the patient more comfortable. What?s really the priority here? Gaining a few seconds per injection, or giving your patients a better experience?
And what about impressions? This is the new frontier. Start asking your patients about impressions, and you?re bound to discover many of them who can?t stand the process. With the introduction of digital impression technology, you have an opportunity to make your patients? experiences more comfortable, and even better, to do it before most of your peers.
Cost vs. Marketing Benefit
You want to be known as the best-equipped dentist in the area. My advice is, along with the other devices I?ve talked about, have a laser, use a DIAGNOdent, do ultrasonic prophys, and stay current on all the latest technologies. There?s a cost associated with all of this of course, but always weigh the marketing benefit to your practice, not just the expense.
Stay current on technology, give tours, and explain the benefits of the technology to your patients. Then make sure you continue telling patients about your technology over and over again through e-mail, newsletters, and other forms of communication. And have fun using your new toys!
Fred Joyal is CEO of 1-800-DENTIST and author of Everything is Marketing: The Ultimate Strategy for Dental Practice Growth. As the industry?s foremost expert on dental consumer marketing, he has lectured at dental tradeshows nationwide and is a regular contributor to various print and online publications. He can be reached at www.goaskfred.com.