Appreciating a Past Mistake

There are no doubts about it, the dental sector can be incredibly competitive. With this in mind, there are a number of different marketing strategies that dentists can use to help grow their client base. Moreover, marketing services for dentists have come a long way over the past few years and therefore there are more exciting options available than ever before.

For example, some dental practices choose to expand their marketing capabilities with search engine optimization (SEO) techniques. If this sounds like something that interests you then you can take a look at this seo guide for dentists.

With that being said, it is still important for dental practices to play an active role in their marketing efforts, as my experience of working with a dentist on their marketing campaigns shows.

Early in my copywriting-for-money career, I had a client who was a dentist. He was (and still is) a great guy – friendly, funny, good at his job and always paid on time. He wasn’t particularly comfortable with technology, which was a big reason he hired me. In many respects, he was my ideal client.

Regarding the dentist that I worked for, like many medical professionals, his staff guarded him closely. I couldn’t call his office and get through to him, and he never responded to emails. At first I figured that I could generate ideas for his blog and Facebook page by doing adequate research. I quickly realized that more would be necessary in order to do a good job.

I needed to know what kinds of questions his patients asked him regularly, what products he recommended most frequently, what he saw as wrong with his industry, and his thoughts about trends and fads. Any time I found a link to an article related to dentistry, I found that I wanted his opinion before posting it.

He also used a company that provided a suite of services to dental offices, and that included a public relations packet each month. Their packet had a blog post, a press release, a letter to patients, and promotion suggestions and materials. My client said that he basically wanted me to make sure all that information was being used and that I wouldn’t need to actually write much at all.

The problem was, most of that material was rubbish. The blog post, the press release and the letter to patients were all basically the same. In August, the materials were about making sure kids’ teeth are healthy before going back to school. In October, the dangers of sugar were addressed. The American Dental Association has a theme for each month and these PR materials followed those themes – just like every other dentist does.

For the first few months, I tried augmenting the existing materials, but quickly found I really needed the doctor’s input. His opinions and thoughts and ideas would have infused my work and made the marketing effort much more effective. I tried every way I could think of to get a line of communication open. Email, voice messages, messages left with his staff, messages for him left with his wife (she owned an art gallery and was also a client), all went unreturned.

Finally, I realized that he wanted the whole process to be automated. He wanted to write checks and have it all taken care of. It took months for me to admit that it just wasn’t going to work. He was a great guy – besides not wanting to lose his business, I didn’t want to let him down. But that is exactly what happened.

As time went on, I felt increasingly frustrated by the whole situation, and so pushed it to the back burner. Posts, newsletters and press releases went out a few days later each month. I dreaded doing research for him, and avoided calling his office because I felt so annoyed that my messages didn’t seem to be getting through.

Now I know that all of this could have been – shouldhave been – avoided before I ever agreed to take him as a client. Now, I ask prospective clients if they are willing to talk with me on the phone weekly for a few minutes, or if I can attend monthly staff meetings. I cannot ghost write for a person if I don’t know what they think. I cannot help with branding and marketing without knowing a little something about the day to day operations of an office or a company.

While the whole experience was no fun, I’m glad that it happened. I learned a lot about what is required from a client in order for what I do to work well. It would be nice to be able to say, “I can take all your marketing headaches away, and all you have to do is write me a check each month,” but now I know that will never work. It would be easy to write the dentist off as a “bad client” but, really, at least part of the blame lies at my doorstep.

Did you make a pivotal mistake early on that saved you heartache later in your career? Have you ever taken on a client only to learn later that you should have passed for one reason or another? Sometimes sharing eases the embarrassment. A little.:)

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