A chat with Minal Sampat, a hygienist, marketing guru and author, sheds light on how dentists can set themselves apart and earn the loyalty of fickle modern consumers.

I OFTEN SAY that patient experience is your best sales and marketing strategy. After all, what’s better than someone else recommending you to their friends and colleagues?
I recently sat down with Minal Sampat, a marketing strategist, social media coach and the best-selling author of Why Your Marketing Is Killing Your Business—and What to Do About It. She’s also a hygienist with a client list full of practices, and she knows how to attract (and retain) the allegiance of patients who want a dentist they can like, admire and trust.

Is the saying “happy employees equal happy customers” true in dentistry?
Minal Sampat: Absolutely. If you’re unable to connect with your team and keep them happy, how do you expect your team to connect with patients and keep them happy? The caveat is that you want patients to fall in love with your practice even before their appointment. In health care, patients come in because they want to see the doctor—it’s not like retail, where they can decide “I’m never going to shop here again” and just walk out. So that relationship has to start much earlier.

What can one do during that “courtship”?
You need to have your patient journey lined out: How are they finding you and making first contact? Patients will usually google “dentist in my area” or “highly reviewed dental practice.” You need to figure out how to show up digitally for them even to consider you, because if you’re not, you’ve already lost them.

The second part is how good your reviews are. And here’s the biggest mistake dental practices make: They’ll hire a review company and pay hundreds of dollars a month. They’ll train their team to ask for reviews. Then a patient writes a review, and . . . crickets. Nobody’s replying, nobody’s saying thank you, nobody’s giving the patient a high five.

Reply to every single review. (Be mindful of HIPAA, of course, and keep your responses simple.) Potential customers will say, “Wow, they actually read all these reviews and take time to reply. Their culture is strong and patientcentric. This is somebody I want to go to.” Then, even if a competitor has more reviews, but you’re the one replying, patients will come to you because you’ve shown you care.

What are innovative examples you’ve seen?
So many practices have become viral. The Singing Dentist—he’s hilarious. He makes popular songs into dental parodies, and they’re great. But then every Tuesday, he comes online and answers dental questions. Where it goes viral are videos. Videos work because they take away all the negative connotations of how dentists are scary and tooth pain sucks. Now consumers are seeing dentists in this funny environment, thinking, “Oh, these are great people. They’re chill, they’re hilarious.”

What about in the office once the patient is there?
What I’ve seen work well is the technology dentists use. Having technology and knowing how to use it is one thing that makes patients say, “Wow, this is incredible.” As soon as you change your language internally and make it patient-centric—“what do patients hate about the dentist, and how can I fix that?”—using technology and showing it off the right way has been vital for a lot of them.

DAN GINGISS is the Interim Director of Brand and Communications at Benco Dental, and an independent speaker and customer- experience coach. To learn more, please visit dangingiss.com.

Minal Sampat recently launched Marketologist (marketologist.com), an online program that will teach dental professionals how to build marketing campaigns, leverage social media and create marketing plans for conversion. The program consists of 12 lessons, eight of which will be taught live via Zoom between March and June 2021. All lessons are recorded and will be available to the Marketologist community alongside downloadable worksheets, checklists, tools and other resources. Enrollment opened February 16 at $2,297. That launch fee will be available until the end of March. Thereafter, general enrollment is rolling and always open at $3,297. For more information, please visit marketologist.com.