Category: Author: David Hall
It was several years into my dental practice when I learned this principle.
When I began my dental practice, I was, like many of my colleagues, I suppose, anxious about getting enough business to pay off my student loans and my dental practice loan. I launched out on my own right out of school and there were times when the going was tough.
I would get excited when I had a new patient who needed a lot of dental work, and when I presented the treatment plan I was hopeful that they would accept it. Most would. But, I stewed over those who didn’t.
I was an honest guy, and they really did need that crown or that bridge. It bothered me that these patients, even though they were a minority, didn’t believe me or that I couldn’t kindle the interest in doing everything I told them they needed. Ultimately, they’d be hurt by not doing the treatment. And, of course, I needed the money.
As I got busier, my mindset changed. I no longer felt the personal financial pressure for patients to do expensive dental work. I remember that there were occasional times when I would get tired just thinking about how much work a patient needed. I felt I was busy enough already and didn’t want to try to cram more work into my schedule. But they did need the crowns, so I needed to tell them.
That’s when I noticed something interesting.
My treatment plan acceptance rate improved to near 100%. It became uncommon that a patient wouldn’t accept work I recommended to them.
In thinking about this, I realized that while I had not consciously changed anything about my treatment plan presentation, patients had been sensing my “neediness” in the earlier days of my practice. This caused a credibility issue with some patients. When I was less eager, they became more trusting.
This conclusion is reinforced by a study performed by Sesame Communications several years ago, after which they published a white paper, “How Consumers Choose Cosmetic Dentists Online.” In this study, they interviewed a number of participants, all of whom were looking for a cosmetic dentist. These participants looked at various websites as part of the study and reported back their impressions to the researchers. On page 4 of the white paper, Sesame concludes, “Consumers are also sensitive to cues that the practice is desperate for new patients, which signals that the doctor is untrustworthy. Hard selling not only doesn’t work, it sends prospects running.”
One participant, when confronted with a popup inviting her to receive a free monthly newsletter, commented, “Pop-ups are kind of like, hey, don’t leave; give me your money.”
Another, when she encountered a coupon for an online special, commented, “If he has to give me a coupon to entice me, it makes me think he has to create an incentive—his reputation isn’t enough to get patients.”
Our own research and our experience validate these conclusions. We advise our clients and we train our content writers to be “welcoming but not needy.”
For high-end dentistry—smile makeovers and complex restorative work—this concept is the most critical. Our experience is that patients looking for basic dental care for their family will tolerate a certain amount of eagerness on the part of the dental practice, and may respond to coupons and other incentives. On the other hand, patients looking for a more sophisticated level of care tend to be more leery of these tactics. Using them will significantly dampen website conversion rates.
And, of course, the corollary to this principle is that the dentist needs to actually be trustworthy—be honest with patients about what they really need and be trying to get them to do the right thing. I think most dentists are trustworthy, but sometimes they get carried away in salesmanship.