1-800-DENTIST founder calls dentistry 'misunderstood'

By Kathy Kincade, Editor in Chief

May 27, 2009 -- At first glance, you might be put off by the title of Fred Joyal's new book, Everything Is Marketing.

But if you can get past that initial reaction, you may find yourself pleasantly surprised by the pearls of wisdom he shares from running 1-800-DENTIST for more than 20 years.

Fred Joyal, CEO and founder of 1-800-DENTIST.

In fact, the dental community's general aversion to sales and marketing is one of the core themes of his book, and Joyal addresses it head on -- with compassion.

"Dentistry is one of the greatest professions on earth," he said in an interview with DrBicuspid.com at the recent California Dental Association (CDA) meeting in Anaheim, CA. "It's also one of the most misunderstood."

And he believes it's the responsibility of the dental community to change that perception.

"It's up to dentists to convince their patients that there is no better thing they can spend their money on [than oral care]," he said. "But dentists don't think this way, and the book really emphasizes this -- the need to change that mindset."

For example, "If you don't believe that for a patient in need of major restorative care, $20,000 is better spent in their mouth than on anything else they can think of, then that's your first problem because that's the fact," he wrote in Everything Is Marketing. "You need to realize it, believe it, make it part of your being, be proud of it, and surround yourself with a team that believes exactly the same thing."

Founded in 1986, 1-800-DENTIST is contacted by more than 4 million people in the U.S. annually who are looking to be matched with a dentist, according to the company.

At present, approximately 3,000 dentists pay $1,000 to $2,000 per month to be part of the 1-800-DENTIST service.

The problem is that too many dentists find the idea of selling their services offensive, Joyal added. They want to be perceived first and foremost as the medical professionals they worked so hard to become. But dentists are also entrepreneurs, and to be a successful entrepreneur requires understanding and accepting the importance of sales and marketing.

"Dentists don't want to sell, they want patients to buy," he said. "But selling is merely communication with a purpose." In fact, he added, dentists shouldn't even look at it as selling. "It is facilitating treatment acceptance."

It starts with understanding that every interaction with a potential patient is critical, from the first time they contact your office to the moment they walk through the door and sit in your chair, he said.

"Every aspect of your practice has some component of marketing, something that attracts or repels patients, builds or destroys trust: every word, every smell, what they see, what they hear, your intake forms, your technology, how you collect money," Joyal said. "Everything in your office is critical."

For example, he recommends that front-office personnel be hired not because they know how to use your software or have experience in dentistry, but because of their personality.

"You need them to be nice," he emphasized. "Too many dentists have someone terrible at the front desk answering their phone."

Other pearls from Everything Is Marketing:

  • "Deep down, every dentist wishes patients would just ask what your dentistry can do for them. But the really successful dentists have accepted that this is not human nature."

  • "The most valuable piece of technology in your practice is not the high-speed drill. It's not your computers or your digital radiography. It's the telephone."

  • "A team with a great attitude is the best marketing there is."

  • "In a dental practice, you only have two ways to attract and keep good employees: love or money. I recommend both."

  • "There is no scarcity in dentistry -- there is only abundant opportunity."

Copyright © 2009 DrBicuspid.com


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