Marketing in the Era of #MeToo

by Chris Bez
Marketing your practice should be simple, right? In a great marketing environment, you tell your story, people are convinced you’re great, they love you, they flock to your door, they get an appliance and you’re off to vacation with the family, sipping margaritas at the shore.
Then you wake up. As you jolt into awareness, that perfect marketing dream, like a purple unicorn, is catapulted into the ozone and is exposed as total fiction.
Our marketing environment is no longer simple. Instead, awash with news of unethical, immoral, disrespectful, and any number of other categories of behaviors, we are forced to tell our stories against a laundry list of standards. A list against which we must measure up before people will believe in our greatness and flock to our doors. Accountability. Transparency. Responsibility. Ethics. Morality. The list lengthens as the pendulum swings to wherever the offsetting extreme is that will get us to the mean. Often, the extreme feels like a moving target that is getting farther away.
Understand that we never market in a vacuum. We always market against the bigger backdrop of current values, economies, political agendas, weather, times of year and yes, even sporting events. What we can fail to recognize is that the dental sleep medicine practice is further challenged because it has a relatively unique position in our current marketing environment. The typical patient that walks through the door of the dental sleep medicine practice, unlike the general dentistry patient, has been sleep deprived for anywhere from months to decades. Their behaviors range from mildly irritable and tired to what seems depressed, angry and hungering for the adrenaline rush a good argument will provide them. Added to that lack of sleep is the added pressure of coping with the news of the day. News that for even the non-sleep deprived person, feels crammed to the brim with political parrying, egalitarian dialogues, and media vying for the most dynamically charged story they can conjure. The result? A setup for Murphy’s Law on an apocalyptic scale.
How to navigate the areas where emotion and marketing converge is a source of debate in every industry. In an area where the patient must, by the very nature of the practice, invite the practitioner, office staff and clinical assistants into their boudoir and that very vulnerable place where they embarrassingly admit to snoring, the stakes are high. Applying the wrong inflection to a question that was until a year ago considered benign can derail an interview. An out-of-fashion term makes a joke no longer PC. Misinterpreted proximity during treatment or simple statements misunderstood as inuendo can immediately be sent viral via social media. The wise practitioner will avoid one-on-one private conversations by including team members during office visits.
Setting an intention to treat patients with the highest degree of ethics and morality – and discussing what that “looks like” among staff and doctors is a great place to start. Being completely accountable and responsible for the care you are providing is absolutely required. Recognizing that taking the time to review what was once thought of as acceptable behavior, considering the lessons we are all learning about the new normal, is essential. But before spinning out of control, might we consider that in the long run, it’s not the basics that have changed – the need for ethics, morality, accountability and responsibility was there before poor behavior called our attention to that need. What’s changed is how we are now called to deal with these topics. While setting and staying aware of standards for yourself and your staff, communicating, asking for and providing feedback, and staying present as each patient and each marketing piece is addressed, may sound like a tall order, it’s really not. Most likely you’ve been doing it all along – or all those people wouldn’t have been flocking to your door to begin with.

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