Dentists Have a Big We-We Problem

Colin Receveur


There’s a story you’ll likely hear if you visit university libraries across the country. It comes up often, and it goes like this: An architect set out to design a library but, in his or her starry-eyed effort to create an architectural marvel and secure a place in history, forgot to allow for the weight of the books. As a result, the library began to sink. The building failed. And millions of dollars went down the drain.

This story, though extremely popular, is an urban legend. There’s no record of it, but the cautionary tale extends far beyond the field of architecture.

The dental equivalent is when you build a practice and forget about the patients. At this point, you’re probably thinking something like, “Me? Definitely not! All I do is think about the patients. You need your head examined.”

You might want to revisit that. The odds are that you’re leaving the patient out of your digital marketing and don’t even know it.

Dentists rarely account for patients in their marketing. Rather than focusing on addressing the wants and needs of prospects, dentists talk about themselves or worry too much about the practice down the street.

The We-We Problem

Private practice dentists often are one-person shows. They treat the patients, handle the finances, manage day-to-day operations, hire and fire employees, and promote the practice. The list goes on and on. And with all of these hats, it’s natural to want to talk about yourself when reaching out to prospective patients. After all, you’re running the show. Your practice may even have your name on it.

That can lead a dentist to focus on marketing to impress other dentists. Have you filled your current web content with technical dental jargon, clunky scholarly terms, and information about your certifications? If so, your dental school professors would be proud, but this content won’t resonate with prospective patients.

You’ve become another casualty of the We-We problem. Once you know what it is, it sticks out like a sore thumb. Here’s the quick way to know whether you have this problem. Does your website focus on you and your practice, or does it focus on how you can solve your patients’ dental problems?

If a quick scan of your website reveals phrases like “We have the best, friendliest staff,” or “We use the latest technology,” then you have a “We” problem. All dental practices claim to have the best staff. They all also claim to use great technology. Online content like this gives readers no information about what makes your practice unique or why they should choose you to solve their dental problems. There’s nothing in it for the patient. This may sound harsh, but your prospects don’t care about you. They care only about how you can help them.

We-We content doesn’t influence patients to select your practice. A dental practice that fixates on talking about itself will sink behind its competitors and turn away countless prospects.  

It’s easy to fall victim to the We-We problem, but you also can correct it easily.

Focus on the Patient

What kind of content does attract more and better patients? Dentists with successful digital marketing write little about themselves and focus on the benefits to patients of the solutions they offer. If you want to mention technology, tie the technology into a patient benefit. What’s the benefit of using a 3-D scanner? It helps give you precise images, allowing you to achieve better results and reduce recovery time from restorative procedures.

Do write about how the technology can play a role in resolving the issue, but the patient benefit should always be the focus of your online content.

Here’s a great metric to follow. Focus on the patient at least 75% of the time in your content. Ask yourself how the treatment or technology will affect the patient. Make the benefit to the patient your focus rather than talking about yourself.

Drop the Jargon

High-performing web copy is written at an eighth-grade comprehension level. Anything that’s too advanced will bounce people from your web page in mere seconds. Achieving a great readability score means keeping things clear and simple. That kind of writing isn’t easy. There’s an important difference between being simple and sounding dumb. But remember, just because prospects may not read well doesn’t mean they will be bad patients.

Over the next few weeks, try to simplify your phrasing when treating patients. Periodontal disease is gum disease. Occlusion is the patient’s bite. Composite fillings are tooth-colored fillings. While these simpler terms may not be 100% compatible with the technical phrasing, there’s no penalty for using them. Technical accuracy simply doesn’t matter to your patients, and simpler terms are easier to understand.

Your website, blog, and social media posts need to include less dental or clinical jargon and more descriptive language. Simplifying your language in your practice is excellent preparation for revising your online content and writing winning content going forward.

Stop Writing for Other Dentists  

Part of the reason dentists use dental jargon on their websites is to impress other dentists. The desire to show up your competitors is understandable, but you’re not trying to attract dentists. Your goal is to attract new patients.

What the dentist down the street thinks about your site is irrelevant. Try pausing here and saying this out loud: “What the dentist down the street thinks about my website is irrelevant.” When you can honestly adopt that attitude, your marketing approach will change.

Look at it this way. For every dentist you’re worried about impressing, you’re turning away dozens of prospects by not making your content clear and relatable. At the end of the day, you’ll be left with an impressive practice with no one to treat.  

More and Better Patient Formula

If you’re starting a website or rebuilding a website, think about these tips. Focus on how your treatments can help patients. Forget about your competitors. And, keep it simple and straightforward. Every web page should focus on how your treatments will benefit the patient.  

Think about the patient first, yourself second, and your competitors last—or never. Do this, and you’ll be on your way to getting more and better new patients.

Mr. Receveur, a nationally recognized dental marketing expert and speaker, is the author of a number of bestselling books on Internet marketing. His company, SmartBox Web Marketing, helps more than 550 dentists on 3 continents to get more patients, more profits, and more freedom. He can be reached at

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