An Introduction to Dental Marketing: Find Your Voice

Podcast Transcription from Find Your Voice, Season 1, Episode 4

Good morning tribe, it’s Michael Fleming. How are you doing? I’m hoping that you can hear the smile that’s on my face because I’m just loving today, having an amazing day.

This is episode four of the podcast, and the first couple of episodes were a little content rich, obviously focused on culture, focused on lessons learned from playing Tic-Tac-Toe with a seven year old. But then I took that episode three as an opportunity to kind of introduce myself and tell you a little bit about myself. I’m taking the opportunity for episode number four now to kind of paint a picture of why I wrote Dental Marketing: Find Your Voice. So, this project, which is my very first book, was born from a desire to log what I do. For example, I am obviously in dental marketing, I have been doing this for 13 years now as the CEO at Innovate Dental Marketing, and over those 13 years, my business partner, Cody and I have had the good fortune of working with a ton of very amazing dental practices as well as dental service organizations.

What we do with dental marketing though, is such a niche that it’s often hard to replicate over and over. And what I mean by that is that so many practices are unique, right? There could be a single dental practice that is really focused on just general dentistry. You’ll have another practice that is really focused on cosmetic dentistry. You’ll have others that really like to offer general dentistry, but also teeth straightening solutions. You’ll have others that are really proud of the work that they do with pinhole dentistry, like with the gums or whatnot. I mean, everyone seems to have these different niches and what that means to them is that it attracts different demographics.

So, what Cody and I have been doing over this last 13 years is really crafting our support system around what their needs are, as opposed to opening up a shop and providing, “hey, here’s our flag, we provide marketing services. So whether you’re Joe’s Muffler Hut or Skippy’s Pizza down the street or Bev’s Nails, come on in and we’ll help you with your direct mail and your website and everything.” That’s not us. We could be, if that’s really what we wanted to do, sure. We could do junk mail for the nail salon and we could do a website for the pizza joint, but the value that we truly add is our tribal knowledge and our experience. And so although we’re offering those core fundamental marketing pieces such as website, search engine optimization, social media management, reputation management, as well as more tangible media such as direct mail, other print advertising, or even out-of-home buys, the message is what really makes us unique, because we have that understanding. What it takes to market a dental practice is much different than what it takes to market a Mercedes-Benz, and I talk about this in the book. One of the first stories I tell in the book, is that so many people come out of school with a marketing degree or they come out of a certain industry with their marketing experience and then they’ll get swooned by a dental service organization for example, or a multi-location dental practice and come in as that marketing manager, marketing assistant, marketing director, or whatever that marketing role is. And immediately what they’ll try to do is they’ll try to replicate what has been working for them in the past because obviously that’s their comfort zone and that’s what they’re comfortable doing. And if you’ve had success swinging a hammer in the past, guess what your favorite tool is? It’s going to be the hammer.

But when it comes to dentistry, it doesn’t always work the same way because you’ve got a product now that everybody needs, a total commodity product or total commodity service, but that nobody wants. And so therein lies the difference of marketing a dental practice, dental service or a dental service organization, for example. So that’s why I took the time to write a book because every time we were going and meeting with new clients, a lot of what we were talking about is, the – I used to use the word – “boutiquey”. And that used to drive my business partner Cody crazy because when we were looking to grow this thing, we didn’t want to be perceived as boutique-y, that implied small. But what I meant by that was that we were really customizable, and I think that’s where Cody kind of wound up embracing this and calling it a concierge type service. They’re both great analogies for the sense of providing a product and a service that are really unique for that business.

So, every time that we step into a new dental practice or a new dental service organization, every single one of them has core fundamental beliefs or ideas or targets about how they’re looking to take their product or service to market, and they’re all different and they’re all unique. It’s truly a matter of listening to what their needs are and responding to their needs based on the tribal knowledge that we’ve got. I think a lot of the value that we add is that, “oh wow, eight years ago we did a project very similar to this and it completely fell flat on its face, and here’s why we think that happened…” So if you’re going to look at doing that, learn from those previous mistakes and incorporate that tribal knowledge and shorten that learning curve and move forward from there.

Or, we’ve got the other end of the spectrum where, “oh my gosh, we did that three years ago and we absolutely killed it doing this…” and they can just jump on that in a non-competing market and do the exact same thing. No need to reinvent the wheel and instantly they’re making money! So whether it’s learning from prior mistakes or whether it’s dove-tailing on others successes in non-competing markets, that’s truly the value that we brought, and it’s a story that we love to tell. Whenever we get the opportunity to sit in front of a prospect, we love to tell that story and it’s always well received and that’s how we wind up getting the business because we are very hands on.

Again, I’ve talked about my customer service experience from Starbucks Coffee, and in the book I talk about my business partner’s customer service experience, and love for that coming from Nordstrom. We’re both very service oriented individuals and therefore, as you can imagine, our company is very service oriented. We pride ourselves on every client that we work with. They have my cell phone number so that, not that they ever need to call me, but if they do, they get my cell phone number and every time my cell phone rings, guess what I do? I answer it. That’s one of the things that’s very important to us, is that we never let a call go unanswered. And if we do, we call them back immediately. The reason I mentioned that, and I talk about this in my book as well, is that there are so many companies that are out there now that either aren’t built to take phone calls or they’re subcontracting out to other individuals that are not taking phone calls.

So you wind up getting these project management softwares that work amazingly for certain demographics, but not so much if you’re a dentist and you’ve only got five minutes to think about marketing and you type something into your Basecamp and click send. Who knows when someone’s going to see that? And so all of a sudden you’ve got weeks of lack of communication. That’s really where we kind of swoop in and gain new business; we come in and we talk. And we also talk on the phone, it’s not just in person for initial meetings, but after the fact as individuals or clients have questions, they’ve got our numbers. They can give us a call and they can shoot us a text, they can get that instant communication. There’s always e-mail and obviously we have other automated tools that if they choose to communicate with, we can totally do as well, but we don’t rely on that as our primary mode of communication. So that being said, we have so much tribal knowledge.

I’m coming back to the book now that one of the reasons that I wrote this book was that I was looking for a way to take all of that tribal knowledge that we’ve collected over 13 years and put it into a book almost as a manual form, where someone could literally read this book and they could get a good idea of what other people in their business segment are doing and how it’s working for them. And again, back to that idea of: take some of my tribal knowledge and learn from it.

And so the way that I broke down my book was in three different segments where the first segment is “Find Your Voice”. Surprise, right? From the name of the book. But then the next section of the book is to “Use Your Voice”. And in that first section of the book, you’re learning how to identify what your core strengths are, what your core competencies are, what your core culture is. Your mission statement, your values statement, what you embody and what you value inside of your four walls as your practice or your dental service organization. And that therefore creates your “voice” because now we know what you’re about and what products and services you’re going to be marketing. So at that point, when you did take that out to market and go find people that are going to be attracted to that, it falls under that second section of the book, which is the “Use Your Voice”.

In that section we really dive into the different communication styles, the different behavior styles; what type of communication resonates well with certain demographics of people? Then we move on to the implementation of how to share that story and what media we are using to share that story with those individuals. There’s all sorts of different media that I talk about, not just websites, not just search engine optimization, Google My Business and your local search, but also direct mail out and of home media. I even talk about Yellow Pages, 1-800-DENTIST. I mean, there’s all sorts of random stuff  in there, but this is all knowledge that we’ve collected over the last 13 years. And so whether or not the yellow pages is relevant to you, it’s completely not. Maybe. Again, if you read my book and no one else is doing it, it might be the perfect time to do it.

I also tie back to the analogy of what the Yellow Pages represented at that time during its hay day and what it’s been replaced with. So, same with 1-800-DENTIST. You know, whether or not you’re using that, some people think that that’s incredibly outdated as well. Until I tell you that one of the major DSS that we work with in the country, they use it and they kill it with it, so it’s just one of those. And of course we make no money off of that. It’s not like an affiliate program where you know if you go to 1-800-DENTIST after listening to Michael Fleming’s podcast, I get a cut. I’m just sharing tribal knowledge from my clients of what’s worked best for them.

Because at the end of the day, where I make my money is when my clients are making their money, right? I don’t need to make money on every single transaction. What I need to do is make sure that my clients are making enough money so that they’re here next month and that they’re here next year, and as long as they’re here and we’re building that longevity and that sustainability, I’ll know that my clients are going to be here year after year. I don’t need to make money off them right now at the expense of them being out of business next month. It’s creating sustainable partners so that they’re going to be here a long time from now so that I can be here a long time from now. So back to wrapping up that section to “Use Your Voice”. And then the final section of the book, I named that “Listen to the Crowd” and that really talks about the return on investment opportunities and measuring that.

A lot of this, and I think I mentioned this in a prior podcast as well, if you’re reading this book, there’s not much in this book that is profound. There’s not much in this book that you haven’t heard before. There’s not much in this book where you’re going to be like, “oh my gosh, it’s the most incredible chunk of knowledge that you’ve ever heard”. But what is profound about this is that it walks you through a process and encourages you to do these things. It’s not the knowledge of doing it, it’s the application of doing it. That’s awesome if you know all this stuff, but if you’re not doing it, what good is it knowing it? And so it really comes down to knowing the path and then learning how to walk the path. That’s really what the magic of the book is.

A lot of this stuff is just so simple and so rudimentary, but it’s really based on reality and it’s based on the tribal knowledge that we have collected over this 13 years, and it’s really what our clients are doing. So I guess the point that I’m trying to make is, and this isn’t just theory, this isn’t just ideas, this isn’t just, “oh my gosh, this is the greatest cutting edge theory that I think works,” this is truly 13 years of experience and stories from other clients that we’ve worked with. Because in addition to coming up with a bazillion great ideas for our clients, we’ve also had a lot of clients that have ideas of their own and we implement and execute their ideas as well. Some of those ideas have been amazing that we’ve actually learned from, and some of their ideas have been less than stellar that we’ve also learned from.

That’s the magic of marketing as well, is that every execution of a marketing plan is an opportunity to learn. Sometimes we hit it out of the park, other times the results are less than stellar. And whether or not it was our execution or our idea that made it fail, or the clients’, we are always about moving forward. So we’re always about learning from what has happened and improved. That’s kind of the stance that the book takes as well. One of the dental coaches that we used to work with, Bill Blatchford out of the Pacific Northwest, used to have this awesome statement that I loved and I still use today, which is “we’re seeking progress, not perfection.” We’re always looking to move forward, right? As opposed to waiting for something to be done perfectly, let’s get it done and get it out there so that we can start soliciting feedback and again, back to listening to that voice and seeing how people are reacting. And then at that point, what are some ways that we can tweak it? We can tweak the message, tweak the application, and make it better and improve upon that message or that process.

So, that’s kind of the foundation of the book. And this was a great way for us to formalize that process in our minds as well. It was a great opportunity to write this out so that we could literally sit down with a client and read word for word from this “manual”, if you will, that kind of walks through all the different stages of the marketing life cycle. So again, we can market all day long, but if you don’t have a good message to share with someone, those marketing dollars are going to be wasted. So again, back to “Finding Your Voice”. It’s really important that before we come out with an advertisement, that we know who you are so that when we put your brand out there, we have a very succinct message for the potential consumer to consume.

Because when it comes to advertising, and this is one of the activities I have in the book, as you’re kind of going through these different areas of learning to look at how other people are advertising themselves and how other people are taking themselves to market. Because oftentimes they’re so focused on the product or the service that they don’t take time to really analyze who they themselves are, and how they’re putting their foot forward in the best light. So that’s a little bit about the book. That’s a little bit about the reason that I put the book together. It’s really meant to be a walkthrough manual from, again, finding your voice, finding out who you are.

And back to a couple podcasts episodes ago, it really talks about the culture and the value of culture and your role in the culture, and the culture that’s around you. Then after that, then we can start to talk about marketing your products or service from that voice. Because again, you don’t want every client that could possibly come into your door, you want clients that you can actually engage with. Every single practice that I work with has a certain demographic that they are comfortable serving. So, for example, if I was a 50 year old white male dentist out of Ohio, my demographic might be completely different than if I was a female dentist that was just out of school, say 26 year old years old living in San Francisco. The two demographics that those two dentists are comfortable serving are completely different. I’m not going to even try to attempt to put labels on what those demographics might look like, but you and I can both agree that those are going to be different demographics and it’s okay.

You know, certain people are more comfortable engaging with other people that are more like them, and so we’re going to attract people like that. How this applies and why it’s relevant to marketing is if that a 50 year old white male dentist was looking to market, they’re not going to look to target the demographic that the 24 year old or 25 year old dentist out of San Francisco is seeking and vice versa. I’m not saying that these dentists couldn’t serve that other demographic, but we are naturally going to attract people or be attracted towards people that are more like ourselves than less like ourselves. And so that’s just an important thing to take into consideration when you’re putting your marketing together because you want to make sure that you’re reaching that target demographic and not someone and not just by location, or not just by service. “Oh, hey, I’ve got this Invisalign discount right now. I’m going to blast out to everybody,” but you may not like serving everybody. You might just like serving certain individuals.

And again back to once we take that out to market, learning how to do that and use your voice, that’s a very important part too because there are core fundamentals and foundations that need to be covered first before you move on to the next. Like we don’t think of much direct mail for someone if they don’t have a website, for example. There’s a certain order of how to build your marketing foundation, and of course we talk about that in the book as well. And then at the end, you know, back to “Listen to the Crowd”, that really comes back to the return on investment, the ROI. And that’s probably going to be its own series of podcasts because as much as people listening to this are going, “yeah, Jackass, we understand measuring ROI is really important”, you would be shocked at how many people either don’t measure return on investment, or the way that they’re measuring their return on investment is completely insufficient for the goals that they are truly looking to achieve. So that is a kind of the book in a nutshell and the reason for the book in a nutshell, and it really helped create a path for how we better communicate with our clients, but it also really kind of gives a guidebook for the marketer themselves to really dive in and look at what the life cycles should be. Not that everyone’s going to do everything that’s in that book, but it really helps.

Back to my analogy of the marketing, having those core fundamentals covered, and very similar with your marketing as well. There’s certain things that just need to be happening, and if they’re not, this is that great opportunity for you to start it now. So that’s a little bit about my book, I hope that offers some clarity on that. And if you’re listening to this, I’m very grateful for you as my audience and I hope that you’re gaining some knowledge out of this.

Until next episode! Have a great day. Take care.

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