We’re all involved in dental marketing, and we’re usually focused on the present and the future – for good reason.
But, today, let’s take a short stroll through the history of dental marketing and see what we can learn from where we’ve been.
What has dental marketing been like through the years and how has its message and methods changed over time?
Freedom for Dental Marketing
One highlight of dental marketing, now taken completely for granted, is the freedom dentists enjoy to actually market without undue interference from regulatory bodies.
This has not always been the case. As recently as the 1980s, the issue of who should have oversight of dental advertising was a significant issue. Dentists were subject to many directives that contained specific instructions on how large their signs could be and what information could be included on them, etc., etc.
Thanks to a series of court cases that included Bates v. State Bar of Arizonaand CDA v FTC, the professional associations lost most of their advertising oversight to government organizations although they retained the power of licensing. Although this licensing power does still include at least a certain amount of advertising guidance, and this guidance always exceeds the bare minimum of FTC regulation, dentists have far more freedom to advertise their services than ever before.
Another interesting issue is difference in cultural attitudes about marketing by learned professions such as dentistry. Here in the USA, professional entrepreneurship is taken for granted and is encouraged.
Professionals such as dentists are expected to reap the rewards of greater expertise by marketing themselves and seeing more higher-paying patients. In countries such as Great Britain for instance, this is not the case, and advertising by private dental practices is seen largely in a negative light.
Dentists still need to be careful what claims they make, however, or more oversight could again be necessary. Some dentists, for example, make claims to pediatric or implant expertise that they cannot completely back up. These statements have the potential to not only confuse consumers but also might place the practitioner in danger of being convicted of putting out false advertising. No matter how long dentists may get away with it, claims of care that cannot be substantiated or fulfilled are a recipe for eventual investigation.
Message of Dental Marketing
So how has the message of advertising changed over the years? Here’s a look at some examples of dental marketing from the 1940s and 1950s. Due to the above-mentioned regulations, these advertisements are for products rather than the practice itself, but they reflect the dental marketing message of the time.
These ads reflect the change to what is often called lifestyle advertising in reaction to the article-style ads, written on a specific subject by a medical expert, that had predominated before WWII.
(Radio advertising had emerged in 1922, but in its early years, it too had followed the pattern of the printed advertisements.)
The late 1940s and early 1950s marked the beginning of the modern consumer economy. Pictures began to be used predominantly (as can be seen from the ads above) and TV advertising, for the first time, surpassed print and radio advertisement revenue levels.
Dental ads tended to focus on specific ailments with messages such as the following:
- “Save the life of your tooth enamel.”
- “Stop bad breath with Colgate. Fight tooth decay all day!”
- “Teeth whiten – 3 Shades in 3 Days.”
Methods of Dental Marketing
Hard selling tactics, although always used in one form or another, began to grow in importance over the next three or four decades. Door-to-door selling was followed by telemarketing, and in the 1990s the beginnings of electronic versions such as spam emails and online ads as the Internet began to be utilized. The frustrations of consumers over these marketing methods found expression in “No Soliciting” signs, the Do Not Call list, and finally, the Can-Spam Act, signed into law by President George W. Bush in Dec. 2003.
Clearly, many dental practices, as well as many businesses in general, were more focused on promoting products and strong-arming sales than they were on creating goodwill in their community through their use of these hard selling tactics.
Strategic marketing – using demographic-specific and opt-in mailing lists, Google Ads triggered by chosen keywords, and sidebar and banner ads related to online searches – has contributed to a much more targeted consumer focus. While strategic marketing is not without its privacy dangers, it provides a much better framework for promoting goodwill if the content is truly helpful and patient-focused. This approach is also much more cost-effective for dental practices and businesses in general.
The current stage of dental marketing could probably best be described as a combination of strategic marketing and relationship building. While relationships have obviously always been integral to dentistry success, social media- Linkedin profiles, Facebook posts, Twitter tweets, and Yelp reviews, to name a few – has allowed relationship building to be integrated into dental marketing in a more powerful and immediate way. If a dental practice can maintain their end of this new relationship structure by posting helpful content, long-lasting dental relationships can be developed.
Truly, dental marketing has come a long way from the days of those newspaper ads! Where might it go in the future?
But unlike dental procedures, dental marketing is not an exact science. Considering how much it has changed in the last 100 years, it’s vital that your practice stays current on best marketing practices and works hard to maintain the goodwill of your community.
Sometimes an expert can help with this.
If you are serious about improving your dental marketing, consider reaching out to Client Connection Group today.
We have a wealth of experience with dental marketing on social media and dental implant marketing in particular.