The Biggest Marketing Mistake: the ETLID Fallacy

What is the biggest blunder in practice marketing? Is it not answering the phone properly? Or not tracking your advertising man stepping off cliffresults?  Perhaps not having a good, dynamic website? Nope. Those are all up there, but the biggest marketing mistake that business owners make is thinking that everyone thinks and acts like you do.

Why is that so bad? Because it influences all your other marketing and advertising decisions, and it’s not based on statistical data.  I hear these opinions all the time from dentists and, to a lesser degree, office managers.  Things like, “I believe in calling all our patients rather than texting them. It’s more personal,” or “People are tired of surveys.”

What the person saying this means is that he thinks phone calls are more personal than texting, or she is tired of surveys, and therefore everyone is. The reality is that 30% of people who use texting prefer it to a phone call.  So they don’t find a phone call personal, they find it annoying.  And when it comes to surveys and reviews, if you get 1 out of 20 people to respond, that is an excellent result and will boost your SEO considerably.  So what if some people have “survey fatigue”?

In the early years of 1-800-DENTIST I would have dentists telling me all the time what TV shows I should be advertising on.  This was based on the shows that they liked to watch.  Instead, I used the statistical data that told me which shows got the most response and the best quality of patient.  Call me crazy.  I never watched an entire episode of Oprah, but she got several million dollars from us over the years.  Why? because I didn’t use my opinion as the paradigm.

I don’t mean to sound all high and mighty about this.  It’s a reflex response.  I recently spoke to the dental students at Harvard, and one of the students remarked, “I’m not attracted to all that personal stuff on Facebook business pages. It seems frivolous and irrelevant.”  She may be right about that with regard to many other businesses, but the fact is many people are looking for exactly that on a dental practice Facebook page, because the experience of being a patient is what influences them to go, stay and accept treatment, not clinical skills. They see a video of your best crown prep and they’re gone.

I have a name for this: the ETLID Fallacy. (Everyone Thinks Like I Do).  Hey, it’s not catchy, but it fits.

Some other classic ETLID assumptions :

“Facebook is kid stuff.” The fact is that the largest group of Facebook users is 25-34 and the fastest growing group of Facebook users is the over-60 population.

“People don’t care about design when it comes to spending.”  Really?  Look at the pricing difference between Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks, or Apple versus Dell, and tell me if that opinion passes the reality check.  We spend based on packaging, and that goes for your dental office just as much as a bottle of Grey Goose.

“My patients don’t use email.” Wrong. 97% of Americans have email, and over 90% check it every day.

“No one is going to pick a dentist on Facebook.” Except that 25% of Facebook users said they would be willing to find a dentist that way.

“My patients love me.” Some do, for sure. But when we have clients using our ReActivation Pro product, where we use live operators to call dormant patients, how is it that 32% of those patients have found another dentist? That doesn’t count the 14% who have moved away.

“Website design doesn’t matter as much as content.”  Just the opposite. Research has shown that consumers are making judgments about your clinical skills based on the appearance of your website. I know that those two things are unrelated.  And in this example is another important point: many times those ETLID opinions are based on logic or reasonable assumptions.  The truth is that consumers don’t always act rationally or logically especially when it comes to dentistry.

“People are flakes when it comes to keeping their dental appointments.”  Okay, this one is true.

It isn’t just small business owners that make this mistake. I know executives as very large organizations making the same sort of “gut” decisions and putting millions of dollars behind it. With the same sad results.

Statistics tell you what most people do. I’ve been doing advertising long enough to stop trying to figure out why. I just go with the data. I accept that people act irrationally, and that most people don’t think the way I do about most things. And the numbers tell me that website design matters, social media is important, digital communication is the new norm, reviews influence consumers,  and everything a patient experiences in the practice influences their acceptance of treatment.

Valuable data is easier to access than ever. Use it to balance your opinion.  Hey, you may even be right sometimes!


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How NOT to Do Patient Videos

Video is more important than ever in marketing your dental practice.  And video testimonials from your patients have two extremely valuable aspects: their credibility and their versatility. They are credible because they are real, spoken endorsements of your practice experience.  They are versatile because you can use them in so many places: your website, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, your Yelp and your Google+ page, and in email marketing to new and existing patients.  That’s a lot of exposure.

Videos are also quite easy to do.  But there are several mistakes that people make when doing patient testimonials. Wait, you say, they’re not easy–they take time, they cost money, and people don’t want to do them.  Which leads me to…

Mistake #1. Over-producing your videos

Patient testimonials should be done with a smartphone.  You don’t need extensive lighting or an expensive camera.  Getting fancy actually diminishes the credibility of the video.  Keep it simple and un-intrusive, and people will be much more willing to do them for you. (This is in contrast to office tour or the dentist videos, which I discuss in this post, which should have higher quality.)

Mistake #2. Doing multiple “takes”

Part of keeping it simple is to do it once. Don’t make it complicated or involved. Just ask the patient if they would be willing to do a simple video testimonial.  If they are reluctant, just say, “If you don’t like it, we certainly won’t use it.  But just say in your own words what it’s like to be a patient here.”

You’ll be amazed at what people will say when they speak from the heart.  Every time I’ve seen this done, the person does their most genuine testimonial on the first try.  After that, they tend to overthink it.  Of course, if they want to do it over, let them.

Mistake #3. Making the video too long

Most people can say what they think in 30-45 seconds, which is perfect.  If it gets longer than a minute, people stop watching.

Mistake #4. Editing the video

Along the lines of Mistake #3, trying to do longer takes and cutting them down drastically diminishes the credibility of the testimonial.  People will assume you’re cutting out the bad parts.  A natural flow in a single take is the best.  You can put titles on the front and back, using something like iMovie, with the patient’s name and your practice name and contact information, but that’s it.  No cuts.

Mistake #5. Bad sound

This is the only part of the “production value”, as we say in Hollywood, where you do want to improve the quality.  Either use a very quiet room, with little to no background noise, or use a simple boom microphone that attaches to your smartphone.

Mistake #6. Shaky cam

Hold still.  You’ll make people sick with unstable camera movements.  Which can be solved if you use to hands, which you need to do if you are avoiding the next mistake.

Mistake #7. Framing vertically

Frame your video horizontally.  That’s the aspect ratio used on YouTube, so conform to it.  Holding your phone horizontally with two hands will also keep the image stable.


Mistake #8. Not tagging the video

When you post the video on YouTube, be sure to add the proper notations, or “tags”, so that Google knows what the video is about.  The tags should include “dentistry”, “dental patient”, your practice name, and anything specific regarding treatment that the patient may mention (like braces or veneers).

Mistake #9. Not getting a patient release

Don’t use the video if the patient won’t sign a release.  This is true of all photos and video that you do with patients.  And the language should include “for use in all media, including social media, in perpetuity.”  Use LegalZoom or an attorney to make sure you are conforming to the rules in your state.

 Bonus idea:  Show patient videos to teams in your morning huddle. What a great way to inspire the team and let them know how much your patients appreciate them.

You don’t need to shoot a lot of these videos.  Doing one every two weeks gives you 25, which is plenty in a year. If you have a dynamic website, like we make with WebDirector, you can post them easily, along with posting them on social media.  And you know what else this process does? It reminds patients to talk about your practice.  Even better, the dentist and the team gets to hear how much patients appreciate them. It’s a nice thing to watch in a morning huddle to get fired up about your day.


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Dental Blogging Made Easy

You may be asking, “Do I really need a blog?  Who the heck is going to read it?” For most of you, the answer is, “Nobody. Except Google.”  In other words, you’re doing it for SEO, the Google juice. You are creating content relevant to dentistry that links back to your website and practice.  Google likes that a lot.Blog for theGooglejuice!

As far as consumers–patients–not that many are willing to read blogs written by dentists.  They like food blogs a lot more (like my wife’s, The High Heel Gourmet).  But if your blog is displayed in your website they will be more likely to at least glance at the posts.

But because search engines like Google are looking outside your website to see what other content or mentions there are about your practice, then a blog is critical, especially since it is unique content, and by that I mean not just content supplied by your website builder. Your blog doesn’t have to be brilliantly unique, just written by you or someone on your team.


Step one is to pick a blog hosting site.  I recommend WordPress or Blogger.  These are free, and if you pay a little, they don’t run little ads inside your blog.

Step two is to pick a theme.  Many of these themes are like online magazines, which is overkill for what you are intending.  Pick something simple, and also “responsive”, which means it adapts easily to any device and still looks good.  Something like “2011” in WordPress or “Simple” in Blogger.


As you set up your blog, they will ask you what you want to call it, and specific questions about how you want it to look.

You will need a name for your blog. Nothing long or elaborate, but not just your practice name or your website domain name.  More like this: “The Blog of Ed Flynn, DDS”.  Part of it should have “dental” or “dentist” or “smile” in it.  You want to be identified as dentistry, not just health care, or just you.

Then you will choose a domain name.  It’s going to have “blogspot” or “wordpress” as part of it right now. Let them add this. Don’t worry about your own domain just yet.  This domain name can be something shorter than your blog title, and they will show you if it’s available. Here again try to get “dental” or “dentistry” into it.

You can choose your favorite color palette and upload an image, possibly your practice logo or a picture of you or your team or even something that just looks good.

As part of your setup, you want to connect your blog to Google+, which you should already have a profile on for your practice. If not, you need to claim your business on Google, which means you need to read this blog and the blog it links to.

Believe it or not, you’re ready to start blogging.  You can tinker with the settings later, none of that is really critical at this point.  And you can even change the theme later on, and everything will change and nothing will be lost.


This is where you are going to write about dentistry, any way you can think of. Two short paragraphs, two or three sentences each.  You don’t need a lot of content here to be effective.

So write about:

  • Your technology
  • Your training
  • Your favorite electric toothbrush
  • Managing gum disease
  • Bad breath
  • Etc.

Get it?  Pretty much anything.


Weekly, ideally.  But you don’t have to do it every week. The beauty of blogging is you can schedule when they post.  In the “Publish” section on the blog composing page you can see where you can edit whether or not to publish immediately.  So you can write five or ten blogs at a time and schedule them to publish in sequence.

I don’t necessarily recommend the dentist be the author.  I think it could easily be the social media designee in the office.  Remember, you’re not publishing a paper for JADA.  You’re writing for spiders. (That’s the term for the Google robots that “read” everything on the internet.)


If you have a website that is dynamic, your blog can feed into it automatically.  This is one of the many reasons why you want a website like we build with WebDirector. To learn more about dynamic websites read this post.

You can also post your blog on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. There is a button in the blog editing page called “short code”, which gives you a simple code to put into a post on social media, and it doesn’t just provide a hotlink but also the title and beginning of the blog, as well as any picture you posted.

This is Blogging 101, to get you in the game.  You can certainly take it to the next level if you find it interesting to do.  An excellent example is Dr. Charles Payet’s blog, Smiles by Payet, which he has been writing for years, and doing a marvelous job.  In fact, he has multiple blogs, some for patients, some for dentists.

So get started. It will take months for Google to index your blog, and you can always go back and re-edit them after they were published.  You can do very little harm and eventually get a lot of Google juice out of it.

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Want More Reviews? Make It Easy!

There is a simple principle to apply when you want someone to help you out–make it as easy as possible for them to do so, and the number of people who do it will increase exponentially.

For example, when the Red Cross was raising money for Haiti after the hurricane, they made it possible for people to simply send a text that would charge their phone bill.  They raised $5 million in the first day!  Just because it was easy.

One of the best ways to raise money for a charity is to ask people in the checkout line at the grocery store if they want to add a dollar for breast cancer research, feeding the homeless, or whatever cause is supported at the time.  It’s a tap of the finger, and it yields millions, one buck at a time.

The same is true for patient reviews.  Most of your patients are more than willing to do one if you ask them, but the easier you make it, the more likely they are to get it done.  The less steps involved, the higher the percentage will complete (this is true of just about everything, now that I think of it!)

Okay, how?  First, remember the four key places you want reviews to appear: your website, Google, Yelp and Facebook.  And with Google, and I believe with Yelp, patients cannot do those reviews from any device in your office, including their own if they’re using your office WiFi, because Google and Yelp will discard them. (Yelp has other filters, too, and this post talks about that.)

The easiest way is for a patient to be able to click on a hyperlink (you know, when the text is blue rather than black in an email, or this blog) that takes them straight to your Google Place or your Yelp page.  Obviously you need to have claimed those already. (If you haven’t, despite my nagging, read this for Google or this for Yelp.)

To do this, you need to have patient emails. This is one of the two main reasons you want all your patients’ email addresses. The other is for appointment reminders, of course. Then you use your automated digital communication software to send a specific email requesting a review.  For Google, you would only send this email to patients who have a gmail address, because they are the only ones that Google allows to do reviews.

PatientActivator and some the other apps have a pre-written email form that you can use, and all you have to do is put in your Google or Yelp URL (and we’d help you with that, too.) It looks like this:


Send a few dozen of these out a week, and you’ll have a steady stream of reviews on both those sites.

You can use the same application to email requests for posts, likes and check-ins on Facebook, but I prefer that you do that in the office.  You can either have a tablet that you have for patients to use while in the chair, with a label on the front with your Facebook location, (you can get really nice ones done at, or you can simply ask them to do it on their own phone. Half of them will already be on Facebook anyway 😉

PatientActivator, RevenueWell and all the other apps also survey your patients and elicit reviews from them, usually three days after their visit.  You can post these reviews on Facebook, usually with one click, and if you have a good dynamic website like we build with WebDirector, those reviews can appear automatically in your website, which is good for both SEO and for patients visiting your site.

You can also build in a page where your Yelp reviews appear within your website. That may seem crazy, but you don’t want people leaving your website to go to Yelp, which many of them will do to see what your reviews are. It shows confidence that you are willing to post your unvarnished Yelp reviews right there in your own website, and then they won’t go to Yelp and see adds for 13 other dentists at the same time.

I should also mention that a product like ReputationMonitor allows you to keep close track of everything that is being said about your practice online, and can send you alerts whenever a review is written about you, so you can either thank the patient or fix it, depending on what it says.

You need a pro-active, systematic process for gathering positive reviews on a regular basis. One, because people are definitely reading them more and more for every business and product that they use, and two, because the best strategy to counter negative reviews is an overwhelming number of positive ones.

Make it as easy as possible, and the results will be steady and stellar!

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Should You Advertise on Facebook?

Even though there are some distinct advantages to Facebook advertising, I would say that for most dental practices, the answer is probably not yet. Marketing is about properly sequencing your efforts, as much as it is about spending wisely. Even if you already do Google Adwords, you would need to alter your strategy and plan if you want to spend money effectively on Facebook.Facebook like button cash

The difference between Google and Facebook advertising

The main, and huge, difference, is that Google ads appear in response to a search, while Facebook ads are presented (pushed, as we say in the ad biz)  to people who fit certain criteria and have recently posted or liked something relevant to your ad.  The second big difference, which relates to the first, is that you can be very specific about who is shown your ad, what their interests are, and even what time of day it displays.

All that sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Except very few businesses are raving about their success with Facebook advertising, and even fewer dentists are. My theory is that Facebook users find the ads invasive or invisible. Neither of those are good. It could also be that 50% of Facebook usage happens on smartphones, where ads are really not appreciated. (Okay, Facebook made $5.4 billion last year in ad revenue, so I have to admit it probably works for somebody!)

Also, as with Google, you are paying for clicks, which is a long way from a real patient. So if you are going to test Facebook advertising–and most of you know I believe in having an experimental budget as part of your marketing–then here are the elements you need in place beforehand:

  1. A robust Facebook business page, with lots of likes, check-ins, and posts from patients, and plenty of before-and-after photos, and ideally some videos, most of them testimonials;
  2. A rock-solid,dynamic website like we build you with WebDirector;
  3. A detailed system for tracking results, which starts with entering the source of each new patient into your PMS;
  4. Money to burn; you cannot be upset about this not paying for itself. It’s an experiment.

Why do you need a good website?  Because when they click on your ad, that is where they will be sent by Facebook.  There are different campaigns you can do on Facebook. You can advertise just to build “likes”.  I do not recommend this.  You can promote specific posts that you’ve done. I don’t recommend this either.  You want to promote your practice, which means promoting your website.

If you do decide to try it, go here: Facebook/advertising. You will be led step by step through the process of creating an ad, selecting your audience, and setting up your budget.  I’m going to take you through the process, but more as an overview.

Your Campaign Type. You will choose “website conversions” as the purpose of your campaign, and put in your practice domain name. (You could technically put in your Facebook URL, but those generally are not as comprehensive as your website.)   As part of your setup of your ad campaign, you will be able to add a little marker called a pixel that tells if people went to your website, and if they requested an appointment. (This requires web code–not complicated, but you’re not going to be able to do it yourself.) It’s a nice feature for tracking results.

Create your ad. You should be doing the image of your ad ahead of time, and uploading it. (Try if you’re a real novice at this. I’ll be blogging about that site next week.) You need a good ad message, with an image. Because it’s going to be small, it needs to catch their attention quickly. This is usually some kind of new patient offer.  As a word of warning, don’t use an image that is eye-catching but totally unrelated to dentistry; Facebook often shuts those off.  I’m talking about things like a girl in the tube top that takes you to a car insurance site.  Not that I’ve clicked on that.

Connect your Facebook page. This will let you track exactly where people came from.  It’s mostly if you want to have ads appear in your news feed. That’s not you.  Put in your Facebook page, but you want new patients to see you, so you’re going to “turn off news feed ads”.  If you have a lot of likes on your page, I’m talking hundreds, you can leave that option on so that people can see those next to your ad.  Otherwise unclick it.

Choose your audience. You can limit it to zip codes, and put multiple ones if you so choose.  I wouldn’t restrict gender yet. Age group I would start at 25+.  Pick languages you want. Under “More Demographics” you can get pretty specific about educational level. This will shrink your audience–Facebook is going to show you how many people that will be as you add filters. Under “Interests”, you can add as many as you want.  These are essentially keywords, like dentistry, toothache, whitening, Invisalign, etc. but for now I’d leave that blank for now.  People are only going to click on your ad if they are interested in dentistry, so don’t narrow it too quickly.

Select your budget. This is your daily amount.  You can change it whenever you want.  Under “Bidding”, leave it at “clicks”, not “impressions.”  I wouldn’t test less than $500 in a month. Place your order and see what happens.  I suggest trying it for at least three months.  You can vary your campaigns and test different  audiences, but don’t expect instant results.

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