How to Market Yourself as a Cosmetic Dentist

March 5, 2020 by AACD Executive Office

By Michael G. DiFrisco, CAE

I rewatched the movie Ghost Town recently. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a pretty decent—if not predictable—tale of redemption starring Rickey Gervais as a cantankerous dentist, Dr. Bertram Pincus. As he leaves his New York City practice one day, we see that the brass plaque outside his door proclaims he is a cosmetic dentist, which caught my attention since I work for the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD).

That brass plaque also reminded me of a question that comes up often amongst AACD members and those who aspire to join the Academy: “How can I effectively market my cosmetic practice and differentiate myself from the others in my community—especially in a highly-competitive market?” After all, cosmetic dentistry is not a recognized specialty and virtually any dentist can claim to be a “cosmetic” dentist.
Here are five ways you can stand out in a crowded marketplace and attract and retain more patients. 

1. Have a Competitive Advantage

My dad practiced dentistry in suburban Chicago back in the 1960s-1970s. Back then, you hung out your shingle and hoped—between friends, family, neighbors, and occasional referrals—that your appointment book would eventually fill up. Today, if you don’t have a competitive advantage, you may as well not compete. 

Dr. Sheri Boyton-Love, of Love Dentistry in Wichita, Kansas, and her team talk to patients about whole body health, not just the health of an individual tooth. “Plus,” she says, “we have a tranquil office environment with modern colors and décor. Other offices in the area are more traditional. We give patients a warm towel after every appointment and host a beautiful coffee and tea bar.”

2. Sell Results, Not Services

It’s been said that people don’t buy drill bits and saw blades; they buy holes and cuts. In other words, people don’t buy products and services; they buy the results of what you’re offering.

So speak to a felt need. Your marketing should appeal to their emotional and social reasons for wanting a more attractive smile. Don’t offer treatments, like bonding or veneers or short-term ortho. What you’re really offering your patients is hope, self-confidence, and happiness. Maybe even a new job or a new relationship. Use show-and-tell by displaying portraits of patients who have had successful treatments and that new patients can relate to. 

"Speak to a felt need. Don’t offer treatments, like bonding or veneers or short-term ortho. What you’re really offering your patients is hope, self-confidence, and happiness."

“The ultimate outcome we can provide for our patients,” says Dr. Michael Sesemann, an AACD Accredited Fellow from Omaha, Nebraska, “is quality of life. We help people enjoy eating without restrictions; express their emotions without any inhibitions; live in mental peace knowing that their oral health is stable; and the physical peace of not having to deal with pain or limitations.”

3. Find Your Dominant Selling Ideas

Most dental marketing—heck, most marketing in general—is full of empty platitudes that don’t evoke an emotional response or cause people in your target audience to sit up and take notice. Another common form of institutional advertising is what I call “the laundry list”; ads featuring a bulleted list of offerings that pretty much any dental practice can claim. 

Here’s a test you can try with your latest advertisement or marketing piece: If you can cross out your name and write in the name of a competitor—and the ad still works—it’s probably not returning on your marketing investment. See if you can quickly, and with confidence, complete this simple sentence: “My dental practice is the only one in the area that ______________________.”

If you can authentically fill in that blank with an attribute or value proposition that’s relevant and differentiated, you’re on the right track to having a dominant selling idea to convey through your marketing. For example, Dr. Robert Berman, of Seattle, can say: “My dental practice is the only one in the area that has a trained and certified therapy dog named Humphrey, who can uplift and calm patients during treatments.”

4. Align Your Inside Reality with Your Outside Perceptions

Many dentists—especially those with advanced clinical skills or credentials—have made a huge investment in time and effort to build a really well-running and effective dental team, often using the latest in technology, and backed by a high level of competency to offer their patients the best treatment options. However, this “inside reality” is rarely conveyed through their marketing and communications. These make up your “outside perceptions.”

If you and your team have something unique to offer, if you have a focus or a specialty, shout it out in all of your marketing.

“My true passion is to do more reconstructive and cosmetic cases,” says Dr. John Kling, of Alexandria, Virginia. “My team is on board with this ‘low-volume, high-production’ business model, and this is the message we try to use consistently in our practice marketing. With my background in occlusion, my AACD Accreditation and MAGD, I am uniquely situated to capture the patient population that I desire.” 

5. Get Educated. No, Really.

I’m not talking about the CE you earn to maintain licensure, rather the competitive advantage that you can acquire through intensive courses of study in responsible esthetics, like those offered through the AACD’s Accreditation process. Dental professionals who have earned this distinction have been proven to see more cosmetic patients, and they typically see more revenues and greater practice production from comprehensive cosmetic, functional, and restorative treatments, leading to higher earnings.

When Dr. Jerome Cha, of Tulsa, Oklahoma, achieved his AACD Accreditation in 2013, he began charging higher fees for treatments—since his clinical skills and techniques had advanced—and he noticed patients would come from farther distances to patronize his practice.

You can be like Ghost Town’s Dr. Bertram Pincus and be “just another cosmetic dentist”. Or, you can step up, stand out, and really differentiate yourself from the competition by giving your patients and prospects a reason to choose Brand You over Brand B.

Michael DiFrisco is the author of How to Craft a RADICAL Brand for Your Dental Practice. 


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