It’s a mistake to think your client base only comes from your local area. One way to expand your reach is to market your services using your passion. By Frank Leggett
How a practice markets itself says a lot about the practitioner and the type of service a prospective patient will receive. Sometimes a dentist will use a personal passion— origami, motorcycles, astronomy—as a marketing tool in order to differentiate their practice from everyone else’s.
Promoting this passion appeals to like-minded people and can be an effective way to attract new clients. While this doesn’t detract from local trade, it can certainly extend the reach of a practice beyond its postcode.
If a connection is made with a client then distance is not an issue. Most practices have a few longtime patients who move away but still travel back to their familiar practice. When a dentist and client both share an interest in, say, music or sport, then even tighter bonds are created in the dentist/patient relationship.
“What makes a practice different is the team, their experience, the location and everything within those four walls,” says Carolyn Dean, founder of My Dental Marketing, a company specialising in marketing solutions for dental practices. “Being able to identify what makes them different and how they can stand out is absolutely critical to the success of a dental practice. It could be a practice that’s been there for 35 years or it has an amazing children’s corner. Anything that makes them different is absolutely critical.”
Problems can arise when a practice presents itself as a bland copy of every other dental practice. Without something to make it memorable, patients who move away can find something very similar in their new area.
“On the whole, people like to stick with what they know,” says Dean. “But in a competitive market, there are patients who are quite happy to move on to a different practice for any number of reasons, be it price, services or personalities.”
One dentist who uses his passion as an effective marketing tool is Dr David Kagan, who owns and runs the Dub Dentist in Sydney’s Paddington. The practice walls are adorned with the works of local artists, sculptors and photographers while music is ever present. The practice website is divided into the three passions of Dr Kagan—dentistry, photography and music.
“When I first started the business I thought, ‘Well, if I’m going to be here for the long haul, I may as well create an environment that makes me happy,’” he says. “Throughout my career I’ve played a lot of music at work and used to DJ regularly. I released a couple of albums several years ago. Over time I’ve also become interested in art and photography. It seemed natural to incorporate those passions with my dentistry.”
While the practice is located in Paddington, about one third of his clients come from all over the Inner West. Many of those patients are on his books due to a shared interest in the arts.
“Being able to identify what makes them different and how they can stand out is absolutely critical to the success of a dental practice.”
Carolyn Dean, founder, My Dental Marketing
“Obviously my client list is not exclusively full of artists but, over the years, the biggest growth of the practice has been through word of mouth,” says Dr Kagan. “You meet people, you take an interest in them and usually they’ll tell their friends. I don’t look at my patients as just mouths—there’s a story behind every person who comes and sits in my chair. If you take an interest in them and share a common pursuit, there is usually a stronger relationship than normal.”
Undoubtedly, the quality of the dentistry is the most critical aspect of keeping existing—and attracting new—patients. When that skill and care can be coupled with the dentist’s particular passion, it’s a value-added experience for the patient.
“People will travel a lot further for dentists who have very specific skills but also specific ways of delivering their dentistry,” says Carolyn Dean.
A good sport
For many people, sport is a passion away from the office so why not integrate it into their business? A perfect example is Dr Darren Ringelstein, the founder of Algester Dental in Queensland who stayed on as the primary dentist when it was incorporated into National Dental Care. He has had a long relationship with many premier sporting teams as the team dentist.
“Sport has always been a big part of my life,” says Dr Ringelstein. “It was only when I received a serious shoulder injury I decided to cease playing rugby league competitively and focus on my dental career.”
It was his friendship with many of the Brisbane Broncos with whom he had previously played that led to his initial involvement as a team dentist. Ultimately, Dr Ringelstein worked with the Australian Rugby Union Wallabies, the Queensland Reds Rugby Union team, the Brisbane Broncos Rugby League team and the Queensland Reds Rugby Union College. He also cared for players from the Australian Cricket team, Queensland Bulls Cricket team and touring International Rugby teams.
Of course, this professional association with sporting teams was promoted on the Algester Dental website and is still listed on the National Dental Care website today.
“I believe people are looking for external signs of validation of your reputation in offering quality care,” says Dr Ringelstein. “It helps in creating the confirmation for patients that you are trusted. Being actively involved in sports also provides a common thread for conversation with patients who have a similar passion for sport. It’s regularly the first topic spoken about when patients come in. Having a genuine interest in sports and being involved as a team dentist has had many benefits for our practice.”
While it’s true that the majority of your patient base will invariably come from your local area, it’s important to differentiate your business from the pack and expand your reach beyond your local area. Increasing your patient base with people who share your passions is a win-win situation—and a lot more fun, business wise, too.