An emotional decision: saying ‘yes’ to high-end cosmetic dentistry

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An emotional decision: saying ‘yes’ to high-end cosmetic dentistry

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An emotional decision: saying ‘yes’ to high-end cosmetic dentistry


An emotional decision: saying ‘yes’ to high-end cosmetic dentistry

The decision to proceed with cosmetic dental treatment is an emotional one. If you enjoy performing cosmetic dentistry, smile redesign, porcelain veneers etc, and if you would like to build your cosmetic practice up, you must understand why people choose to purchase cosmetic dental services.

During the last 15 of my 18 years in practice, I’ve studied the psychology of influence and persuasion in order to understand the logic behind the decision to purchase cosmetic services. What I’ve realised is, there is no logic.

Not long ago, I presented a two-day program, ‘Building the Ultimate Cosmetic Practice’, at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. For two long days we worked hard to detail all the steps required to build a thriving cosmetic practice. While we were there, we were pampered by the hotel’s staff and my choice of venue was deliberate.
Because, in order to understand the psychology and decision-making process involved in choosing cosmetic services, I needed to develop a love and appreciation for extreme customer service.

If you’d like to build a cosmetic practice, or, if you just want to increase the number of cosmetic services performed, read on.
Don’t let your geographical location fool you. Although one might initially expect that location is the reason some of USA’s top cosmetic doctors are so successful,
it’s not. That’s not to say that location doesn’t help, but there are many examples of incredible cosmetic practices being built in locations nobody would ever dream of choosing for a dental practice.

One could argue either way about my location of
Framingham. This is 30 minutes outside Boston, Massachusetts, and we have a wide demographic mix. It’s an industrial town and has lots of schools and universities. Once, we treated just over 1.1 million people on a three-and-a-half-day week.

If Framingham isn’t a strong enough argument, what about Bridgeton, New Jersey, or Uma City, California? Dr Rasner and Dr Reading have, in those two cities, created multi-million dollar cosmetic and reconstructive practices. What’s worth remembering is that these two towns were rated by Money Magazine as numbers 25 and 1 respectively as the worst places, economically, to live in the United States.

So what about emotion?
There are two main emotions coming into play when it comes to deciding to purchase cosmetic dental services. These include
the desire to eliminate a negative from one’s life and the desire to gain a positive.

The majority of patients who request our cosmetic smile redesign services feel extremely self-conscious about their smile. Their main motivating factor is to eliminate the negative feelings they have because they feel embarrassed about their smile. In fact, one of the most common things written on our cosmetic questionnaire is, ‘my smile is embarrassing. Having this work done would make me feel more confident.’ Hint: your questionnaire should ask: ‘If you were to have your smile improved, what might this do for you personally and/or professionally?’

The desire to gain a positive is along similar lines, but uses an opposing motivating factor. These patients seek to achieve their ultimate smile and their sole focus is what they would feel like when they get it.

On the surface these two types seem to be the same. They are not. The difference between the elimination of a negative in their life versus gaining something positive may be quite important. By watching how they react to looking at their image on the screen during imaging, you will often sense just which emotion drove them to your office. Whatever it was, be certain that you use it to your advantage by maintaining your focus on their key motivators.

Too often we get caught up describing the treatment, or even the benefits, yet they may not be the patients’ focus.
Identifying the patients’ key emotional reason for showing up in your chair is paramount. Lend a listening ear, and learn exactly which emotional key has driven them to your office. They are not there by accident. The secret to your cosmetic and reconstructive practice success lies in identifying the real reason they’re in your chair.

Let’s take a look at the steps needed to build your ultimate cosmetic practice:

Clinical skill development
Strupp, Nash, Rosenthal, Hornbrook, Mopper, Morley, Dickerson and Euban. These are a few of the folks who’ve mentored me. Learn all you can from them. Find out where and when they are teaching and take courses from them. All of them.

One of the worst things you could do would be to ‘sell the sizzle’ and not be able to ‘serve the steak.’ That is, build the ultimate cosmetic practice without being able to ace the clinical performance.

New patient portfolio
Take advantage of the fact that less than 5% of your colleagues have one. Differentiation (one important element of building your dream practice) is easiest in areas where the rest of your colleagues are sorely lacking.

Develop a high-image new patient portfolio that’s sure to start the relationship off with a ‘wow’. It’s a rare day when new patients don’t comment on our new patient portfolio. Over and over they remark about ‘that package you sent in the mail… it was incredible’.

Differentiation will be the key that determines your future practice success.

Develop protocol for new patients on the phone
From the moment the new patient makes the initial phone contact, everything should be scripted and consistent regardless of which staff member takes the call. What sort of information would you like to glean at this time? What should you be telling them about?

The use of a phone routing slip is very helpful. Develop a list of the key items you want covered during every new patient call.

A new ‘wow’ patient experience
Have a team meeting and agree upon a consistent series of ‘wow’ steps, not including ‘have a seat and fill this out!’ There are so many different things you could do during the new patient experience to dramatically improve the patients’ first impression of the practice. So many articles, seminars and books have touched upon the wow factor.

It’s not that I feel it’s been overused, rather, I just don’t think that folks really get it. It’s not whether or not you feel you’ve created the wow factor. Not at all. It’s whether or not patients actually say ‘wow.’ You’ll know if you’ve got it or not. Repeatedly folks come and say to us: ‘Dr Orent, it’s like being at a spa here’ or, ‘your staff are incredible! I can’t believe that they…’ And also, ‘Did you guys go to some sort of special training to deliver that level of customer service?’
These are not fabricated.

In fact, if anything, they’re muted. You should hear patients simply raving that you’ve created the Ritz, Carlton, Nordstrom or Four Seasons of dentistry and they’d like to help you tell the whole world about it.

Marketing plan Dabbling in advertising, by commissioning just one or two ads, will be unlikely to reap you the type of rewards you seek, either professionally or monetarily, for your practice.
Marketing is not easy for a small business such as a dental practice to go in and compete with the big guns. However, if you plan wisely and choose media with which other dentists have done well, you’ll begin some incredible growth. Lateral thinking is critical here. Don’t go by your own instincts.

One of my gurus (I’ve studied direct response marketing extensively) says that the last people you want to help you figure out your marketing strategies are your peers, associates, family, friends or team members. I suffered without this information for the first 15 years of practice.
I spent hundreds of thousands of dollars assuming that traditional marketing strategies would suffice. Wrong, what a waste. Not only the money spent on useless marketing but also the lost opportunity costs were astronomical.
Why reinvent the wheel? There are plenty of folk who’ve done tremendously well marketing dental services. Learn from us and when you do, follow marketing guru Dan Kennedy’s advice, ‘Have a propensity for massive action’. Don’t try this strategy, or that strategy.

Try them all and track, track, track! Unless you are absolutely certain where every last patient came from, you’ll never be able to make an intelligent decision on where your next ad dollar should be spent.

Offering extreme customer service
Have all your team members read ‘Pursuit of Wow’, ‘Raving Fans’, ‘Extreme Customer Service’ and ‘The Service Edge’? Reading is just the first step. When you ask your team members to read these books, be certain that they understand which chapters they personally will be responsible for and have to teach the rest of the staff.

If, at the next staff meeting, they each teach just a few chapters of what they read to the others, you’ll have the best educated customer service team on the planet. Excluding mine.

External marketing plan
Postcards, newspapers, radio and websites are low-cost strategies used to network with hairdressers, plastic surgeons and community groups.

As part of your overall marketing plan, external marketing is a magnet that can attract exactly the type of patient you are looking for. One of the most frustrating things for me since my AACD accreditation in 1990 was trying to convince my existing general dental patients how great they’d look and feel with a beautiful smile.

It worked, to an extent, and I’m not saying that you shouldn’t include a heavy internal aspect to your marketing. You should. But it’s nowhere near as exciting as having every patient who walks through the door asking you what you can do to give them their dream smile. Makes sense, makes money.

Millennial financial policy
How your staff handles payment plans, creative financing and accounts can make or break your practice. Everything has changed and it’s scary.

I asked a dentist recently what he’d do if a patient said they’d like to have a bridge done, yet couldn’t pay for the entire treatment in one lump sum. He told me he really didn’t know what he’d do. I’m not making this up. The dentist actually told me that if the patient didn’t have the resources to fund the treatment all at once out of pocket, he really didn’t have an alternative.

Just how friendly and creative is your financial policy? My private practice (in which I spend three and a half days per week, with help from a periodontist one half day each week) grew from 800,000 to 1.2 million in just over two years. It was the difference between a very tight ship and a comfortable well-deserved profit.

One key facet to this increase was creating strategies and training for staff, which allows patients a wide variety of options and rewards the staff for excellent implementation.

Imaging creates excitement and anticipation. It helps to identify the key emotion driving your patients’ desire for your services. It helps you to communicate what you believe you can achieve. Imaging takes some of the fear out of the unknown, intangible major purchase. Would you spend $40,000 on a luxury car without ever sitting inside of it? Or at least one just like it?

Patients have every reason to feel uneasy about the purchase of major cosmetic dental services. You have a picture in your mind of the final result. Put that picture on the screen and share it with the future owner.

We go one step further. We had our printer design and custom die-cut a two-part 100gsm cover stock folder with our URL on the outside. When open, it reveals framed windows. The window on the left displays the before photo, the one on the right, the ‘proposed after’.

Then we picked up a high-resolution photo quality printer. Every patient interested in improving their smile received a full face before and full face imaged shot on glossy photo paper. The results, inside our custom framed portfolio, have a wow impact which has helped to sell hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of cosmetic dentistry.

If you’re not ready to put imaging into your practice, consider Dr Larry Brook’s Smile Vision service. They’ll have beautifully imaged photos back to you (via the web) as quickly as you’d like (next week for next visit, tomorrow or even by the end of your consultation, if you prefer). Find them at

Find a ‘pipeline’
Like a website, the ultimate cosmetic practice is never static. Choose a pipeline to continue the ongoing flow of ideas, such as newsletters and mastermind conference calls.

With the number of newsletters, journals, mastermind and conference calls I participate in, it’s a wonder I get any sleep. Here’s a hint, try sleeping less. If you’ve got a passion for cosmetic dentistry you’ll not only excel at it, it’ll show all over your face. Your entire team will tell the world just how great you are at what you do, and why you are the only one they should ever consider to give them their dream smile. Continue your pursuit of the ultimate cosmetic practice, figure out what makes the individual consider your services, and put a smile on the face of the world.

Would you like a free ‘test drive’ of my Gems Insiders’ Circle Silver Membership? I’ll send you two recent free issues of my ‘Independent Dentist Newsletter’, two of my most recent ‘Mastermind of the Month’ Gems Insiders’ Circle CD’s, a number of free gifts, and much more. All you’ll need to pay is a $5.95 one-time shipping and handling fee.

 Posted on : Thu 20th - Jul - 2006


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