What it Takes To Succeed at Marketing for Dentists II

Part 2 of 3

By Daniel A. Bobrow, MBA (University of Chicago) & MBA (K.U.L. Belgium)

There are three paradigms used to describe the dentist-patient relationship.

The Guild Model views the patient as incapable of making judgments, not only about treatment modalities, but the need for therapy in the first place. Since there is deemed to be no justification for decision making by the patient, there is no justification for attempting to educate the patient or differentiate the practice.

The Commercial Model holds that the relationship between dentist and patient is simply that of producer and consumer. The watch phrase here is caveat emptor, buyer beware.

The April, ’95 issue of CDS Review elaborates on the Commercial Model as follows:

Dentist and patient are viewed as equal bargainers who have no obligation to one another, except for a prohibition of coercion, an obligation to truth (not necessarily the whole truth), and a duty to keep contracts once made.

The goal of the dentist, according to the Interactive Model, is to enhance patient autonomy. This assumes both that the patient is capable of understanding, and the dentist owes a duty to assist the patient in making, his or her treatment choices.

What distinguishes the Interactive from the Commercial Model is its belief in the moral, not merely the economic, equality of the doctor and patient, and it is the model we believe ought to characterize the patient-provider relationship.

Awareness and Persuasion

Most marketing programs consist of two components: an awareness creation component, and a persuasion component. There are those who maintain that persuasion has no legitimate role to play in dentistry marketing. In our view, persuasion has a valuable role to play, provided it has as its primary objective providing necessary and high quality services to the un-served and under-served public.

It may well be that very little persuasion is necessary to achieve your practice growth objectives. We work with a number of practices where, for example, owing to the shortage of providers or rapid population growth in the area, all the practice need do is create awareness of it’s existence. An excellent example of this was a doctor in (pre-Katrina) downtown New Orleans who merely needed to inform businesses of his location to realize a substantial influx of new patients. The state of the economy also has a significant effect on the extent to which incentives are indicated as part of the message directed at prospective (and even current) patients.

Another example of the awareness-creation component of marketing is related by a Member practicing just north of Chicago who invested a lot of money to make his office wheel chair accessible. “I just assumed people knew about it. Apparently, they didn’t, and I no doubt missed a lot of opportunities to treat these people.” By simply mentioning this benefit in the copy of his mailings, the response among senior citizens increased markedly.

STS III concerns examples of and distinctions between Internal and External Marketing

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