“There is a salesperson on Line #1, Doctor. Would you like me to take a message?”
This verbiage is repeated daily at dentist offices all over this country. For this particular dentist, it is especially challenging. Eight years of college and a PhD do not net anything less than a very fast pace! Even three years in the military, and responsible as the primary dental surgeon for an Air Force base does not prepare a dentist for this. A high volume of sales calls is the norm. Even when a call comes from a vendor wanting to market his practice, there is no time for him or his staff to field the calls.
Welcome to the wonderful world of dentistry. In four years of graduate school there was not one class on marketing a business. He was taught the fine art of dentistry but not how to get patients to his chair. That knowledge has to come from the ‘hard knocks’ school of experience.
Dr. Mike Glasmeier is not alone. Most young dentists struggle with this very issue; how to market their practice and get the volume of patients they read about in dental school. This is Dr. Glasmeier’s first year in business in the civilian world. His three years in the military, he had a ready-made client base! The disadvantage of those years practicing is an inability to build up a client base from the outside world. Now he is starting from the ground up.
When Dr. Glasmeier decided to buy a practice in Antioch, Tennessee he was sure word of his superior bedside manner with patients and his special credentials – IV sedation certification – would get out in the community. The ability to put patients under local anesthesia is beneficial for people who find the dentist chair one of the most stressful chairs they sit in. This preparation and foresight would help future patients who fear going through lengthier procedures, giving them a safe alternative.
Fast-forward to today. A year has gone by since First Impressions Family Dentistry has opened. This doctor has learned about marketing from his successes and from his failures. He knows now is the most critical time for him to market his practice and build up his clientele but therein exists the irony. He has very little time and capital to invest. Hence, he does his best with intuition born out of the desire to succeed. He knows his little daughter Ava wants a solid future, too and he wants to provide it!
What truly makes this dentist different is something the military awarded him for; superior customer service. He was rated, in all branches of the military personnel, as the second best dentist in service skills! Dr. Glasmeier is able to connect with all patients (young and old) and make them feel they are in good hands. His bedside manner is the best. He is gentle and confidant. As one patient recently stated, “He is the best dentist that I have ever been to in my life. He really does have a knack for making you feel comfortable and relaxed.” He does not have a salesman mentality as do many dentists, but he cares. That mentality comes through when you are being treated by him. He is in the field solely to provide a service that we all need but don’t want.
Marketing to a niche market is indeed more challenging when there is little time, money or experience. This doctor has found, as he puts it, the number one mistake is “Signing contracts with no guarantee of return on investment.” There is no book to show him the right or the wrong way to decide on these types of investments – remember he went to school to master dentistry, not business marketing concepts. His marketing dollars may generate about a 25% return on the dollar, if he is lucky.
For dentistry, it does not matter how great the skill sets are, how educated the doctor is or the certifications. He has to be marketed. All small businesses are in this predicament, but most have not spent eight years of college to get there. The best way to conservatively grow a business is through “word of mouth referrals,” as he puts it. But let me pose this question, how often does that happen when you work in a profession that no one enjoys talking about, dentistry? Let’s grit our teeth and then open up and spread the good word for someone like Dr. Mike. Besides, who wants to smile with bad looking teeth!
Written with permission of Dr. Mike Glasmeier