Last Thursday, I had the opportunity to join one of the most interesting marketing calls I’ve ever been a part of. And there’s a great learning from it that I had to share with you.

Evan, a private practice dentist located in Georgia, reached out to me the week prior with a simple message – “Hi Kent, I enjoy reading your weekly emails. I appreciate how you make marketing seem simple. I’ve got a question and favor to ask. I’m talking to a few companies right now about a new website. One of the proposals I’ve received looks really great. But the price tag is over $25,000. That seems expensive. Though I’m thinking maybe it’s just what I need to do. Anyway, wondering if I could talk to you about it quickly, and maybe ask you to hop on a call with me and this company to review their proposal. I’m in a bit over my head here. I know it’s kind of an ask. But I could use an independent opinion. Thanks in advance if you can help!  – Evan”

Okay, so normally, I don’t just hop on random calls with marketing companies for dentists who I’ve never spoken with before. However, what Evan was telling me had my curiosity peaked. And, if nothing else, I figured that either this was going to be one of the most incredible dental website designs I’d ever seen, or that it was going to be one of the biggest attempts at an oversell that I’d ever seen. I wanted to know which.

So, I replied to Evan – ‘Hi there Evan! Great to hear from you. Appreciate you reaching out. $25,000 for a dental website? Wow…that must be incredible! To be honest, this isn’t normally the type of call I would jump blindly into, but let’s talk for a few minutes, and discus further.”

Evan and I spoke a couple days later. Super nice guy. In his late thirties. A family man with four kids. Trying to build up this practice, which he’d purchased 7 year ago. He’d struggled to make things click during this time. And he told me that he’d finally reached a point where he knew he either needed to get serious about growing this practice, or he needed to sell it and just go back to being an associate. The stress of trying to manage and grow this office was really getting to him. And starting to take a noticeable toll on his mental health.

After talking with Evan, I couldn’t help but want to jump on this $25,000 website sales call and help him navigate what I suspected was a massive over-sell attempt by this company.

And so, last Thursday, I joined Evan and listened as this well-known digital marketing agency made the pitch of why a $25,000 fully-custom website with all the bells and whistles was exactly what Evan’s dental practice needed to grow. It was certainly something else I tell you!

Now don’t get me wrong. As a dentist, and a business owner, you need to invest in your marketing in order to grow your practice. But there’s investing and then there’s throwing money away. And, unfortunately, it’s not always easy for dentists to distinguish between the two…because…well, marketing is not your day job…and marketing agencies know this all too well…and they exploit it.

The pitch from this agency was slick. They used scare tactics. They used technical jargon that Evan would have never understood (I’m pretty sure the sales rep didn’t really understand it either!). They showcased some beautiful websites they’d built for other clients. And they made all kinds of promises about what this new website would do for Evan’s business. Honestly, as far as sales pitches go, it was really quite smooth! But it wasn’t truthful. It was smoke and mirrors. Evan wouldn’t have recognized this on his own of course. But I’ve been through enough of these dog and pony shows to realize it.

I’m so glad I was able to be on the call at the end of the day. It was a vivid reminder of how difficult it can be for dentists to navigate the world of marketing. Not because marketing is all that difficult mind you (it’s marketing…not rocket science!). But because marketing agencies so often make marketing seem overly difficult as a way to confuse, and ultimately, hook their customers on products they don’t really need.

Needless to say, Evan did NOT move forward with this company’s proposal. I was able to provide Evan with some better options that were more specifically suited to what he needed at this point in his marketing and practice growth journey. You see, every dentist is different. And every situation is unique. Evan absolutely needs to invest more in his marketing and practice growth. But a $25,000 website is NOT the right path for him at this point in time. A marketing agency would never tell him this of course, because they’re too focused on closing the deal and hitting their sales targets.

As Evan and I talked after the sales call, I shared with him three pieces of advice that could have helped him in this situation (had he been on the call by himself), and that would certainly help him down the road in future conversations with marketing agencies. Here’s what I told him, and I share it here, as I hope it may be of help to you someday, as well. I said –

“Evan, it would be great if you could have 100% assurance that a particular marketing company or marketing product was absolutely going to deliver great results for you and your practice without reservation. But, unfortunately, that just isn’t how it goes. What works for one office, may not work for another office. Where one company had great results with a marketing product, another might fail miserably and vice versa. The fact is that there are just too many variables in play to have that 100% assurance.”

“That said, there are absolutely some companies that are more reputable than others, and there are a few areas that you can, in fact, control to ensure you end up working with those more reputable companies, and thus, are more likely to get strong results.”

First, be wary of any ‘promises’ or ‘guarantees’ you’re hearing that are not in writing or built into the agreement. For example, an SEO provider that says they’ll get you #1 rankings on Google. Beyond the fact that this is literally an impossible promise to guarantee, they’ll never put that in writing, or make your agreement with them dependent on such results. Go ahead…press them to do so…and see what happens! If a marketing provider is making you promises that sound too good to be true, ask them to put it in writing and make the agreement dependent upon achievement of those results. You’ll find out real fast what they know they can actually deliver upon!

Second, avoid long-term contracts. Now, there are some instances where contracts of moderate duration make sense. For example, SEO requires a lot of up-front effort, and those efforts take time to yield results. So, a 6-month contract for SEO services makes sense to protect the provider’s heavy up-front workload, and provide time for their efforts to come to fruition. But, more often than not, contracts are used as a way to lock customers into agreements and prevent them from exiting, even if the ‘promised’ results are not there. A lot of marketing providers require 1-year or 2-year contracts. I’ve even seen instances of providers requiring 4-year contracts (yeah… crazy!). Companies who require these kinds of long-term contracts often do so because they know they can’t guarantee the results they are promising during the sales cycle (note what we talked about earlier with verbal ‘guarantees’).

Third, understand that a marketing company’s goals are usually NOT aligned with your goals. Their goal is to sell their product or package (over and over and over, to as many dentists as they can). That is fundamentally a different objective than ensuring their product actually grows your business. If those two things happen to overlap, that’s great. But they are NOT inherently linked. So, you need to ensure you understand the company’s business model, and if they therefore have an incentive to ensure you get results or not. The best companies to work with are those that align for mutual goals and incentives as much as possible.

As I said earlier, marketing does NOT need to be as complex as these marketing companies have made it out to be! I hope this story, and these three tips, that I’ve shared go at least a little way in making it a bit simpler for dentists, like you, to help navigate as you’re looking to achieve better marketing results and, ultimately, grow your practice!

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About Kent Sears

About Kent Sears

Kent provides over 15 years experience in consulting and marketing strategy. His work has spanned the globe, in both public and private sector, with leading companies such as Microsoft and T-Mobile. He brings his corporate experience to help private practice dentists realize their full business potential through more effective marketing strategies to stay competitive in the rapidly changing world of marketing and healthcare.