Don’t sell stuff, sell your vision
Don’t sell stuff, sell your vision
As the old saying goes, people buy from people.
May 11, 2017

By Luc Wade, Marketing Director at Hive Business.

As the old saying goes, people buy from people. You buy things from people you like. You buy into their values. When everyone started wearing North Face jackets a few years ago, the wearers (myself included) said to themselves something like “I like the idea of the outdoors and I want to look and feel a bit more rugged on my commute when it’s raining”. There was a bit of the safety purchase in there too, which is sometimes hard to separate from the values buy-in.

Grayson Perry illuminated a great example of safety purchase in his excellent documentary series on Channel 4 called In All In The Best Possible Taste. He was studying a neighbourhood of middle class people in Kent and noticed they all had near identical black or dark grey Range Rovers. When he asked a resident about it she said something like “It’s easier to do what everyone else is doing, there’s no risk of getting it wrong”. It was moving, but for the wrong reasons, a poignant snapshot of what the self-imposed prison of fitting in can do to us. The working class people in Sunderland that Perry met seemed to be having a lot more fun, although they had their own self-imposed strictures to do with tatts and drinking too much.

But to go back to my original point, people buy from brands they want to be associated with. When I hear dental practice owners saying things like “I just want to sell more” it sounds wrong to me. There’s a confusion between selling and marketing. As you are no doubt aware marketing and media consumption has changed massively in the last 10 years. Consumers don’t trust any brands and they don’t engage with advertising and communications the way they used to. Those brands that have one strong point of differentiation are doing better. So you have to focus on being good at what you do. Communicate this well, build loyalty and customer satisfaction. Then you will sell more and increase market share.

You see, there has to be some kind of aspirational motive for customers, there’s no short cut. Take the new kid on the block in the world of jackets, Finisterre, a homegrown Cornish surf brand that’s quietly become the low key answer to the gauche global surf brands. Finisterre took care to build an authentic brand. Its HQ is on an old tin mine in St Agnes, once known as “the Badlands” of UK surfing because non-locals would be routinely chased out of the water. Finisterre slowly developed its wetsuit line in collaboration with local surfers, waiting for feedback from them and modifying the suits again and again. They’ve bottled the low key cold water surfing culture and put it in their clothes — where they make their margins — which aren’t flashy, just high quality. And expensive. Consumers understand all of this and buy into it. Of course, 99% of them don’t surf in cold water. People from Surrey and Kent turn up when Finisterre has warehouse clearances.

If you’re looking to create an aspirational brand, maybe there isn’t a dental equivalent of Finisterre. Dentistry just isn’t that cool. But you can try to pitch your practice away from ‘selling’ and aim for integrity through decent marketing. Instead of shouting about the products and treatments you provide, focus on making the right pitch. Create a bit of theatre. The dentistry is secondary, just like cold water surfing, in reality, is secondary to those people from Surrey and Kent. Sadly dentists have been told to sell treatments rather than vision by dental consultants and poorly trained dental marketing specialists. It’s the other way round. Here’s why: selling concerns itself with getting people to exchange their money for your product. It’s not concerned with the values that the exchange is based upon. Marketing however is about the whole process of discovering, arousing and satisfying customer needs through the dissemination of values.

Ideally you want to grow your patient base. So think, what value do you attribute to your patients? Do you conceive of them as mere vessels from which to extract money in a static system of exchange, money for services, with no mention of values and aspirations? Or would you like your patients to be happy to see you and be responsive to your vision? Anyway, it’s no longer possible to maintain a list in private practice with the former attitude; most older patients going for high value treatments spend time researching online and gravitate towards the practices with values that chime with them. Those practices are buying their customers with their visions. Are you?

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The information contained in this article is based on the opinion of Hive Business and does not constitute formal tax advice. Any tax outcomes will be based on individual circumstances, tax legislation and regulation, which are subject to change in the future. You should seek specific advice before embarking on any course of action. Hive Business does not provide regulated Financial Advice, including advice on investment, insurance or lending products or their suitability for you. This article is provided for information only and does not constitute, and should not be interpreted as, investment advice or a recommendation to buy, sell or otherwise transact, or not transact, in any investment including Bitcoin and other crypto. Any use you wish to make of any information contained within this article is, therefore, entirely at your own risk.

By Luc Wade Marketing Director
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