On this page about relational marketing:
The Basics of Relational Marketing when creating trust is everything.
Note: I am using the story of a dentist named Marco and dental examples to illustrate the power of relational marketing. But I believe the principals I am talking about are the same for whatever relationship driven business you may have.
It was a routine sales presentation in 2008. I was telling my prospective client, a dentist in Tucson named Marco, how to powerfully differentiate himself by using the right words, the right pictures and especially the right stories. He said, “I’ve never heard of this before. What kind of marketing is this?”
I had never been asked that question before. I heard myself say, “It’s relational marketing.” The term just came to me. No one used the term in this way in those days. But I liked it so I stuck with it.
“Marco,” I said. “I have a question for you. There are more dentists than Walgreens. Why do people choose you?”
“Some of my patients choose me because of my location,” he said. “Some come from referrals, some come from insurance.”
“Marco,” I respectfully suggested, “that doesn’t answer the question. I asked why people choose you, not how they know about you.
People know about many dentists. But why some people choose you goes deeper than your location, or even who recommended you.
People find you the same way people find any dentist. But why they choose you, most of the time, is more about how they and their friends feel about you as a person than where you located your practice or the cool new machine you just bought.”
Marco sat silent, thinking about what I said. After a moment I went on.
“I believe people choose you because you’re different.” We both laughed. “Who you are as a person is different.”
How you are different is your most powerful marketing advantage.
How you are different from every other dentist people know about is why they choose you as their dentist. Location is important. Referrals are golden. Ultimately, though, people choose you for a deeper reason: who they are as a human being connects with who you are. It’s a relational thing.
“Do you agree?” I asked. “Well, since you put it that way, I guess I do,” Marco said. The light started to come on. “Yeah, I really do!
That’s why you call it relational marketing!”
And if that is true, then we need to work on making that difference obvious in your marketing message.
There are two types of marketing.
The transactional marketer goes after the sale.
The relational marketer goes after the long term relationship.
Most dentists I know are relational marketers. The same is true of owners of other relationship driven businesses. You value and work hard at the long term patient/doctor relationships, requiring everyone in the office to bend over backward to make every patient feel like family (even the cranky ones).
There are two types of website content.
Informational content contains the facts people need to know.
Relational content contains personal specifics that help people get to know you.
There’s a big fat marketing disconnect when it comes to how people market their relationship driven businesses.
I believe what I was telling Marco is true of most relationship driven business. We all work to make interaction with our clients and customers relational, but we tend to overlook the importance of giving our websites that same feel.
When that is so, we miss significant opportunity. Our website is the place where most people get their first impression? Will Rogers said, “You only get one chance to make your first impression.”
At J3 we say, “The impression they get when they visit your website should build trust and ignite a sense of relationship. You want to give them a taste of what will happen to them when they visit to your office.
When that happens, you gain a serious advantage over your competition.
It was on a Monday morning in 2007. We were having breakfast at Clair’s, a quaint locally owned restaurant in Catalina, Arizona. It was on that day I met Stan Hustad, an Executive Coach with whom I went on to work for a season.
As we enjoyed Clair’s pancakes, we discussed business, leadership, marketing and other things we had in common. At one point, Stan said something that arrested my attention. He said, “Johnny, the future belongs to the storyteller.” Deep down I knew he was right. I knew storytelling marketing was going to be one of the most important tools in my marketing tool box.
He went on to explain, “Storytelling is the oldest and most effective form of communication…and it’s making a comeback in the marketplace.” He was right. In ways you never saw it back then, some sort of storytelling is at the heart of almost every ad campaign you see these days.
In her book The Story Factor, Annette Simmons gave this striking instruction. “Use specifics,” She said. “It’s the specifics in your story that allow people to see that you are like them.” (You are their kind of peeps…of the same ilk…on the same wave length, so to speak.)
People prefer to do business with someone they trust. When they perceive that you are “like them,” their trust in you begins.
It’s win win. Your future customer finds the type of provider they will enjoy most and you attract the type of customer you most enjoy working with.
Like Stan said, “Storytelling is the oldest and most effective form of communication.” That’s because storytelling activates the mind’s eye and reaches the heart.
Marco, most dentists don’t show their uniqueness on their websites. With most dental websites, any dentist could put his or her name on it and it would be true.
When you do that, the truth about how you are different from every other dentist is not obvious. There is nothing specific to attract the kind of people you enjoy serving. But there can be and there should be.
The thing that is truly different about your business is you. The best way to make your difference obvious is to tell your story. Your website should contain some “who you are” stories.
Who you are stories take different forms.
Biographical stories picture your experience. Philosophical stories reveal what you believe and why that matters. Experiential stories picture what it’s like to experience your care.
Ultimately people aren’t that interested in your story, but people are interested in how working with you impacts their story. Let’s find a way to use the most effective form of communication ever to help people see how working with you will be one of the high lights in their story.
Here’s a cool story from a pediatric dentist that combines both the philosophical and experiential. A parent can read this story and get a pretty good feel for this doctor:
A little boy came in to have his tooth pulled. He was petrified. I took out his tooth and he didn’t even know it.
My lead dental assistant loved this. He said, “Are you ready? We’re going to take the tooth out.”
“No, no,” the kid says, “I’m not ready. I’m not ready.“
I held up the box with the tooth in it. “Too late, we already did it.”
The look on the little guy’s face was fabulous. The mom was blown away.
In the old days, because all the dentist’s hand tools were right-handed, you could tell a left-handed dentist. You’d see a line down his coat caused by his belt-driven hand tools. If Dr. Smith had practiced back then he would have had a line on his coat, as did his mom’s father and her brother, also dentists and also left-handed. You could say both handedness and dentistry run in Dr. Smith’s family.
Dr. John Hughes of Southern Arizona Endodontics tells the best “How-I-Got-Started” story ever:
As the story goes, Walter made a rather obnoxious show over getting accepted to dental school. John was planning to be a chemist, but he heard himself saying.
“Walter, you’re so full of hot air. Anybody can get into dental school,”
“I bet you $100 you couldn’t.”
“I bet you $100 I can.”
John explains how that was $100 he didn’t have. But Walter made a big deal out of it. A bunch of people were there to watch the scene go down.
“I had no choice. I applied to the University of Missouri Dental School in Kansas City. I got in for all the wrong reasons, but after the first year there, I felt it was good for me, and I just went ahead with it.”
Click here to read the entire story.
A picture, in a nano second, can communicate more than you can say with a thousand words. Use pictures that support your story.
“Use lots of pictures!
The modern website operating on today’s high speed internet provides expansive opportunity to use pictures.”
support the story
make the story.”
Finally, the words you use can enrich the relational flavor of your website. This is one of those little differences that makes a big difference that Malcolm Gladwell talks about in his book The Tipping Point.
Every time you can, use words like you, your, and yours instead of words like I, mine, we, me and ours, do that.
To illustrate, here is actual copy from a typical dental website paired with simple rewrite where I have replaced “I” words with “You” words. Which feels better to you.
“I” words: Welcome to our website. Please browse the pages we have prepared to show you our practice. Read about Dr. Deloch and our team of dental professionals. We are dedicated to providing the most personalized, state of the art dental care that we possibly can.
“You” words: You are the reason we built this website, so welcome! Make yourself at home. Meet Dr. David Deloch. He wants you to know that he and his team of professionals have dedicated themselves to provide you the personalized, state of the art dental care you need and deserve.
“I” words: The Doctor has a wonderful way of communicating and teaching children about their oral health.
“You” words: Your children will love the way the doctor teaches them about their oral health.
What I am not saying
I am not saying never use “I” words. After all, you are talking about what you have to offer.
I am saying you want your patients to picture themselves having the pleasure of receiving your care. So make them part of the picture you paint, in every way you can. Using “you” words helps accomplish that.
At J3, we believe that when your ideal customer makes the beginnings of a relational connection with you while they are trying to decide who they will call, your competition fades into the background. Let’s put toether a website for you that is designed to make that happen.