Don’t Be Haunted by the Ghost of Success Unrealized

Colin Receveur


When you were going to dental school, what really excited you?

It might have been the opportunity to apply your newly learned skills to solve your patients’ dental problems. The chance to make a real and tangible difference in people’s lives is very rewarding.

Maybe it was the idea that one day you’d be running your own business. You might have seen yourself taking charge, making the decisions, and reaping the financial benefits.

Or maybe it was some mixture of these possibilities. You might have envisioned having a practice that allowed you the opportunity and time to pursue the cases that really interested you. Of course, you’d spend some non-clinical time dealing with practice management issues. But you’d have plenty of time for leisurely vacations.

That last one sounds pretty much ideal to a lot of dentists. Unfortunately, it’s not what most of them are living. Those doctors are wearing too many hats, they’re working too long and too hard, they aren’t enjoying themselves, and they hardly ever get time away from the business.

They feel trapped, and they don’t know what to do about it.

That’s not how dentistry should be. It’s not the way that dentistry has to be.

The Dental Practice Trap 

I hate to say it, but dentists are largely responsible for the trap they find themselves in. 

The vast majority of dentists market their practices the same way as their competitors—on low prices, discounts, specials, and insurance acceptance. For decades, it’s been pretty much the only marketing approach that most dentists know. 

With competition for dental prospects at an all-time high, those dentists are forced into a price war. They market to price-conscious, price-shopping, insurance-driven prospects. Of course, their competitors are doing the same thing. One dentist undercuts another on price and is in turn undercut by yet another competitor.

The race to the bottom on price is a competition that only the practices with the deepest pockets will “win.” The winners of this misbegotten race win by putting their competition out of business.

That can happen more easily than you might think. 

Getting low case value patients (price shoppers and the like) means that dentists and their staff usually have to work longer and harder to make any money. Over time, the stress of those long hours can take a toll on everyone. Morale suffers, and it’s fairly common for that discontent to eventually impact how patients feel about the practice.

No dental practice can survive losing too many existing patients. 

The race to the bottom is a slow downward spiral. If that’s happening for your practice, you’ve got to pull out of it before it’s too late. Stay in the race and you’ll hit bottom. It won’t be pretty.

Let’s get you out of that race to nowhere and put the fun and profit back in dentistry.

Changing the Paradigm 

Dentists today are universally viewed as competent until proven otherwise. That’s a problem, because when all dentists are competent, one is as good as another. The reasons for choosing a particular dentist come down to price, insurance, and convenience.

The first step in escaping your downward spiral is rejecting the idea of marketing like your competition. That’s not to say that you can’t run an occasional special. But you’ve got to give your prospects reasons to choose you that won’t break the bank. 

Begin by considering your unique selling proposition (USP). You might not think your practice has a USP, but you’d be wrong. There’s something unique about you, your staff, your practice, the comfort measures you offer patients, the outcomes you achieve, the follow-up you do, and so forth. 

Dig deep. You and your practice are unique, and you have to embrace that uniqueness and stop being “just another dentist” and dental practice. 

Once you have your USP, your marketing needs to change. Notice that I said marketing, not advertising. Advertising chases dental prospects. The attitude is “Act now and save!” Advertising works but not well enough. Remember, too many low case value patients isn’t good for you or your practice. You’re not targeting those prospects any longer.

In fact, you don’t want to chase prospects at all. You want to attract them. That’s the change in paradigm, switching from chasing to attracting the new patients you want and need. Start with your USP. Include it on your website, in your social media posts, and on your blog. Put it on your practice letterhead, appointment cards, and email template. 

Putting It Into Practice

Once you’ve established a clear differentiator between you and your competitors, the next step is to create an ongoing stream of helpful, informative, and engaging online content that reflects your unique selling proposition. 

Why online? Because more than 90% of prospects use Google or another search engine to begin the process of finding a dentist.

According to Google, people consult an average of 10.4 sources of online information before making a buying decision. Your content needs to be most, if not all, of those sources.

To ensure that people who need a dentist will continue to consider you while they’re deciding, give visitors to your website a reason to opt-in to receive additional communications from you. Depending on your state’s regulations, you can offer a coupon toward the cost of a cleaning and exam; a free e-book or article authored by you; or anything else of value that you’re legally allowed to offer.

Once you have your prospects’ email addresses, which you obtained when they opted-in, send them emails at regular intervals that are relevant to their concerns and desires.

Take these steps in marketing your dental practice, and you’ll attract the patients you want and need. You don’t have to be haunted by the ghost of success unrealized. 

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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