Forward by Steve Parker, TPD Editor-in-Chief:
I recently interviewed Sean Hamel from The Art of Dental Marketing about a concept that has been extremely successful in many industries over the past several years, story-based marketing. The idea is to use storytelling to build and promote your brand. Rather than ads that an audience often ignores, story-based marketing engages the reader, listener, or viewer in your messaging. For dentist-owners looking to attract new patients and keep them longer, the results have been astonishing, and Sean has been gracious enough to share his knowledge, experiences – and a special offer – to help you transform your practice marketing! Let’s hear from Sean…
Hi Sean. Dental marketing is somewhat unique, in that many patients have fears or apprehensions about visiting the dentist. How can owner-dentist use story-based marketing to help create comfort for potential patients?
First, thanks for giving me the opportunity to share what I’ve learned about story-based marketing and some of the results I’ve seen when used properly.
Marketing a dental practice requires “a particular set of skills.” There’s a chance you heard Liam Neeson’s Taken movie voice when you read that, but the point remains. Dental marketing is unique. Statistically, most people are fearful or apprehensive about visiting the dentist. There aren’t a lot of things in life that consumers willingly buy with a heavy sense of dread. Fortunately, story-based marketing can go a long way in creating comfort for potential patients. Differentiating your practice in a crowded market is important. If your marketer doesn’t understand how to do that, you could be in for a very difficult road.
Storytelling has been a part of human culture since the beginning of time. We are naturally drawn to stories because they captivate our attention and evoke emotions. You can tap into this innate human tendency by incorporating storytelling into your marketing strategies. Rather than merely listing services or your credentials, create and share narratives that resonate with your audience and leave a lasting impression. Your human side will always be better received by your audience than your clinician side. Being likable is the key!
Traditional marketing will say you should consider promotions, discounts, and gimmicks to grow your practice. Marketers will never run out of things to sell you. The truth is, story is the strongest and most often omitted part of practice marketing strategy.
Do dentists even know when their marketing isn’t working?
Most dentists feel forgotten, abandoned, taken advantage of, or a combination of the three. You may have a gut feeling that something with your marketing is “off”. You may not be able to put your finger on it. I hear that a lot. I try to encourage practices to stop chasing this silver bullet strategy and get back to basics. Tune in to your story, create an effective brand, then communicate and engage with your community to build credibility and affirmation your patient experience.
How can dental practices differentiate themselves in a crowded market using story-based marketing?
Your story as a dentist is unique and can serve as a powerful tool for connecting with your patients. By sharing personal anecdotes, such as your journey into dentistry as a profession, or the experiences that shaped your practice. You can humanize your brand and create a sense of authenticity. Patients want to feel a personal connection with their healthcare providers, and storytelling allows you to establish that bond. It will also differentiate your practice, drive referrals, and build strong brand evangelists in your local community.
To effectively tell your story, you need to understand the desires and needs of your target market. Identify the patient types you hope to attract and tailor your marketing messages to resonate with them. Consider their pain points, aspirations, and preferences when crafting your brand narrative. By addressing their specific needs, you can position your practice as the ideal solution and create a stronger emotional connection with potential patients. Too many times dental practices accept mass-produced, template, duplicate copy and imagery from their marketing agency. You don’t have to! When you infuse all of your marketing with your unique story and patient experience, you naturally maximize conversion of your web traffic to actual patients.
What are some common mistakes on an average dental website?
One key piece of advice, stop making everything about you and make it about your patients. Is your website all about you; how smart you are, how capable you are, and what gadgets and goodies your office is outfitted with? That’s great, but people want to know what’s in it for them. Make your patient the center of your messaging. Make your website about them. Make your ad copy and imagery about them. Focus on what they will gain by being your patient and what unique experiences await them. Make your patient the focus of your story and you will win time after time.
Also, stay away from template designs, stock imagery, mass produced content, and websites that you don’t own. Cheap websites can end up being very expensive once you read the fine print. Expensive websites don’t always correlate to being valuable websites. Try to find a marketing partner that can explain their process, how they design, what their anticipation is for conversion rate, and… make sure you own the content and that it goes with you if you leave. If you don’t, RUN!
How do patient stories and testimonials contribute to the effectiveness of story-based marketing?
While your own story is important, your patient stories are more impactful. Video testimonials, in particular, provide a platform for patients to share their transformative dental experiences. These testimonials not only serve as powerful marketing materials but also demonstrate the real-life impact of your services. By showcasing the positive outcomes and changed lives of your patients, you can build trust and credibility while also highlighting the unique patient experience you and your team are offering.
Online reviews play a significant role in shaping a dentist’s reputation. Positive reviews can be a powerful tool for attracting new patients and providing social proof that your patient experience is as advertised (or better). It is essential to actively manage your online reputation by encouraging satisfied patients to leave reviews and promptly addressing any concerns or issues raised by dissatisfied patients. By showcasing your commitment to patient satisfaction and demonstrating that you value patient feedback, you can build trust and credibility in the eyes of potential patients.
Creating an emotional connection with patients is vital. How can dental practices leverage this emotional connection to establish trust?
It’s no secret that many patients experience anxiety when visiting the dentist. By creating content that makes patients feel safe and comfortable, you can alleviate their fears and establish a positive connection with your practice. Use storytelling to convey a warm and welcoming atmosphere, showcasing your office space, friendly staff interactions, and patient-centric approach. This will help potential patients envision themselves as part of your dental family and encourage them to choose your practice over others.
Remember, the average patient is fearful of the dentist. When we ,as humans, are fearful, we like to seek out commonality. Extend the olive branch and showcase yourself as the person you are. Who you are is much more important than what you are… a dentist.
What if a dentist doesn’t feel they have a unique or exciting story? Will this approach still work?
Every dental practice has something special to offer. It could be your commitment to a certain specialty, your high-end concierge service, your expertise in certain treatment, or your reputation. Notice I did not mention your academic accomplishments? Sure, where you went to school matters, and you should be proud, but don’t spend a lot time (and your website copy) talking about how smart you are. You’re a dentist, of course you’re brilliant. Patients simply expect that.
Potential patients want to know you care about them. That they connect with you as a person. They want to buy into what your brand stands for. Define what you want to be known for and craft your marketing messages accordingly. This will attract patients who align with your unique value proposition and increase the likelihood of converting them into loyal advocates for your practice.
Can custom photography and videography enhance story-based marketing efforts?
Custom photography and videography provide an opportunity to showcase the true essence of your dental practice. Use video to tell your story, feature real patients, your team, and your office environment. Seeing familiar faces and genuine interactions allows potential patients to envision themselves in your practice, fostering a sense of trust and familiarity.
Your personal journey as a dentist is an essential part of your brand narrative. Highlight the experiences and challenges that have shaped your career and led you to where you are today. Explain why you chose your current community to serve and share your passion for dentistry. By letting patients into your world, you can establish a deeper connection and inspire confidence in your abilities.
To wrap up, what are your final thoughts on the potential impact of story-based marketing on dental practices?
Dentistry is a unique niche, and your marketing needs to adjust to the unique difficulties that dentists face in order to grow. Story based marketing offers an effective conduit to engage with potential patients. By harnessing the power of storytelling, dentists can create emotional connections, differentiate their practices, and foster patient loyalty.
Crafting a compelling brand narrative that leverages patient stories and personalizes your marketing efforts are essential steps in implementing story-based marketing strategies. By sharing your unique story and connecting with patients on a deeper level, you stand out in the sea of competitors and attract patients who align with your values and expertise.
If you can’t say definitively that your current marketing is working, it probably isn’t. Maybe it’s time to explore the power of storytelling and unlock the potential already hiding in your story to transform your practice marketing efforts.
Special offer for TPD Readers
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To learn more about how story-based marketing:
contact Sean directly: 816.631.0954.