Make your patients an offer they can't refuse

2008 06 19 01 03 13 507 000001821496b

Editor's note: As part of an occasional series featuring advice from dental consultants, marketing expert Richard Geller offers a key concept for successful advertising.

2008 05 07 09 59 10 706
Richard Geller has advised thousands of dentists on practice marketing and case acceptance, and has written a book on the same topic. He helped launch the first popular intraoral video camera.
Are you tired of paying for advertising that doesn't work? One secret can get you all the dental patients you can possibly handle: Make an irresistible offer.

Whether you are putting up a sign, advertising on a pay-per-click basis on Google, or placing a newspaper or Yellow Pages ad, you will know that your ad will work. And I am talking about measurable results. You spend $500 and you get back $5,000 in dentistry.

To see how an irresistible offer can help, let's look at the techniques employed by one of the greatest marketers of all time: Claude Hopkins. Hopkins made millions of dollars in the early part of the 20th century by investing in the Pepsodent company and advertising the toothpaste.

In those days, lots of toothpastes were on the market, and all made claims for getting brighter and whiter teeth. You couldn't imagine a more competitive environment. No regulations restricted dishonest advertising, and companies promised anything just to make a sale. So Hopkins decided to try something no one else was doing: He began offering free samples.

Hundreds of thousands of sample tubes were sent out, and many people got the toothpaste and loved it. They then requested that their grocer or druggist carry Pepsodent, and the company became one of the most popular brands.

Although that was a long time ago, it has been proved again and again that to be successful in advertising you must make an irresistible offer.

The wrong way to advertise

Yet most dentists advertise without making an offer. To get an idea of this, try Googling "cosmetic dentist" for a specific city, doesn't matter which.

Look at the right column, the "Sponsored Links." Those are the paid ads. Each dentist is paying perhaps $2 or so for every person who clicks on one of those ads -- not patients, clicks. So they are spending $50 or even $500 per month on advertising, so you would expect them to have good ads.

They don't.

When I tried this recently, the first ad I found read, "Implant Dentist -- Replace Missing Teeth & Smile Again. Call for a Consultation." A consultation is an offer, but not a strong one.

Another ad says, "Smile Makeovers by a Top Cosmetic Dentist. Call Now!" They expect me to call for a $20,000 smile makeover just from an ad? There is no offer, and nothing irresistible about that. I am sure very few people respond to it.

I call ads like this "services" ads. No offer, really, just an explanation of services that you perform. A services ad can work. If your sign says "Dentist" and your phone number or Web site is displayed clearly, you will get people driving by who occasionally will call -- but not very many.

Offering cut-rate dental work

Instead, design your ad around a specific call to action. That could be to telephone for an appointment, request a brochure, ask for a free book, or ask for a free DVD.

One Arizona dentist offered an exam, x-rays, and prophy, all for $59. I can hear you now, saying, "I didn't go to dental school for all those many years to do cut-rate dentistry." I know you didn't.

But if you are fully 100% behind this, you will get a lot of people in your chair. Once they're sitting down, you can sell them other dentistry that they need. It's much easier to sell someone dentistry when they already:

  1. Like you.
  2. Like your team.
  3. Have paid you something, even $59.
  4. Have experienced your wonderful dentistry.

Getting someone to respond to a services ad is very hard because you are asking them to take a great leap of faith. In the $59 example, the only thing they have to know is that you are offering them a great deal at $59. That is pretty much an irresistible offer.

The other thing I hear you saying is, "I will get nothing but cheapskates with that ad. Just bargain shoppers who take advantage of my low price entry level offer, then won't spend another dime."

I don't think that is so. Yes, you will get some students on a budget. But you will get some baby boomers who are interested in changing dentists. And some elderly people who have money to spend and need work done. Your offer makes it easy for a variety of people to come in -- and many of them will spend a lot of money with you.

Free information

Other dentists offer a free book, DVD, audio CD, or report. This works if the information is substantial. A brochure isn't enough. It must be information that people will feel grateful to get.

You can produce a book in a few days -- and you don't need to do any writing. I work by briefing a writer on my topic. She records and transcribes the conversation, then turns it into a report or book. So don't worry about it being hard to do.

So your ad can read "Don't buy veneers until you read this book." The ad can promote the book rather than your veneers. Lots of people will call to get the free book. They will experience your friendly front desk, and they will get your book. Insert into the book a pamphlet that explains the free consultation process you offer for veneers.

When I've done this type of advertising, I get a lot of folks who call the front desk, then the front desk sets an appointment with them. The book made them comfortable, but they are ready for an appointment to get veneers. In cases in which they aren't quite ready for the appointment, the book goes out and the front desk follows up with a phone call in a week. You can also add them to your e-mail list and send them regular newsletters.

You do send e-mails out regularly, right? These should be e-mails that aren't always pitching. They should inform. And occasionally you can make an irresistible offer, like free in-office whitening. Then people who have received your e-mails again and again will come in and get whitening, and they will -- guess what -- often get other work done and become loyal patients.

But let's go back for a moment to the free book. Why should you offer a book instead of free services? Because offering someone $15,000 worth of veneers is a hopelessly expensive proposition for you. But offering a book that would interest people who want veneers is quite another matter.

The free book will attract veneer prospects. Then the sales process will continue. And over time you will get a lot of these folks into the chair for veneers -- and probably for a crown, bridge, and a lot of other work. You'll have all the patients you need.

And now it's my turn to make you the irresistible offer. My book on marketing and case acceptance usually sells for $59.95. I'll give it to you for free. Just go to and provide me with your e-mail and first name. I will never share your information with anyone. And you will gain instant access to a book that thousands of dentists have shared with their staff and used to raise case acceptance by as much as 30%.

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