Dentists Should Play To Their Strengths

Colin Receveur


Have you ever heard of the halo effect? 

It’s a psychological phenomenon where someone who is perceived to be an expert in one area automatically is perceived as having the “halo” of expertise in another area. It’s like expecting an accomplished Cajun chef to cook a restaurant-quality four-course Italian meal. Or an experienced auto mechanic magically being considered an expert in the repair of steam engines. Or expecting your general practice doctor to be an expert in autoimmune disorders because, after all, he or she is a doctor.

It would be wonderful if that expertise actually transferred over, but it doesn’t. Or it does, but only very rarely. And that’s a problem for quite a few dentists.

Dentists are highly trained, advanced-degreed professionals, and many are also small business owners. They’re experts in their own discipline. But the vast majority of those dental practice owners don’t have training in practice management, any more than they’ve gone to electricians’ school.

Unfortunately, a whole lot of those dentists fall victim to their own halo effect. After all, they might think, if they mastered a discipline as technically demanding as dentistry, how hard could running a business be?

The short answer is plenty.

When Determination Goes Wrong

It takes drive, commitment, determination, and even sheer stubbornness to complete dental school. Running a successful business requires the same traits. But an unyielding determination is rarely a business owner’s friend.

Let’s be clear. There are a few dentists who are talented amateurs at running and promoting their practices. However, they’ll almost certainly never equal the expertise or insight of an experienced practice manager or an expert in dental marketing.

It’s typical for dentists who are just starting out to wear multiple hats while getting their business off the ground. It’s not optimal by any means, but financial considerations usually drive that multi-tasking. At some point, wise dentists will delegate non-clinical responsibilities and play to their strengths.

Not all dentists decide to let go of responsibilities that don’t directly make them any money. That might be due to habit, to stubbornness, or to the belief that they’re the best-qualified person to handle those duties.

When it comes marketing their practices, those dentists typically get less—in many cases, far less—than they could get from retaining the services of a qualified dental marketing firm.

Let’s Talk Money

There’s no “average” return on investment (ROI) for dental practices when it comes to marketing. There are some practices that get a 3:1 return, or even less. Some are doing okay, getting 5:1 or even 7:1. And some are absolutely killing it, with returns firmly in the double digits—10:1, 20:1, or even 40:1.

You might find those figures improbable, but SmartBox has the data to prove it.

Some of those differences in ROI can be chalked up to market variables. Most of the time, the difference is in the marketing approach. The old adage that “you get what you pay for” holds true for dental marketing. If you’re paying for ads that promote your practice based on low price, specials, and insurance acceptance, which is the traditional dental marketing approach, you’ll get new patients who are price-shopping or insurance-driven.

Your average case value will typically be much lower with these patients. So, you’re spending the same amount on marketing but getting a lower return on each patient. You’ll have to see quite a few of those patients to realize any significant profit. And speaking of return, those patients will likely have little or no loyalty to your practice. You’ll have to continue to put out marketing dollars month after month to keep getting new patients who pay too little and keep you working too hard. 

There’s a Better Way

Dentists do much better when they focus on doing what they spent four long years in dental school to learn how to do, provided they have a competent marketing firm to handle their practice marketing.

You’re an accomplished professional in a field that commands respect. Let that be enough. If you’re still handling your own marketing, you might want to rethink staying hands-on. Even if it means you have to take off that halo.

You can get more and better patients, patients who stay, pay, and refer, while focusing on doing what you love.

Mr. Receveur, a nationally recognized dental marketing expert and speaker, is the author of several bestselling books on internet marketing, including The Four Horsemen of Dentistry: Survival Strategies for the Private Dental Practice Under Siege. His company, SmartBox, helps more than 550 dentists on three continents get more patients, more profits, and more freedom. Reach him at

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