Self-promotion is defined as behavior shown or action taken to attract attention, especially in relation to work or business. When I entered orthodontic practice, the act of self-promoting one’s orthodontic practice was almost considered unethical. In those days, there were strict restrictions on advertising. In fact, the size of the letters on the signage outside one’s office or clinic was limited to 8 inches. Advertising in a newspaper or magazine was unheard of, and promotion of one’s practice on television would have been regarded as unconscionable. Times have certainly changed, haven’t they?
Today, advertising by orthodontists is common. In fact, for the past several years, the American Association of Orthodontists has spent considerable time and money promoting orthodontics to the general public in the form of magazine advertising. In the new campaign that targets adult consumers, the ads will air on many cable television channels. But how well do these ads circulate through to the general population? Do they really sway the patients or the parents to make a favorable decision about seeking orthodontic care for themselves or their children? And if they do, why would they choose your office?
Is it because you regularly attend dental society meetings so that referring dentists can see your face? Is it because you take general dentists to lunch to solicit referrals? Is it because you send holiday presents to your best referral sources? Perhaps some of these tactics are beneficial, but all of these actions take up your precious time and require an outlay of your money. There is a method of self-promotion that costs you little, promotes your practice in a highly ethical manner, and provides an educational experience as well.
How many of you regularly perform a posttreatment review with your patients or their parents after the completion of active treatment? When I was in my orthodontic residency, one of our part-time clinical instructors told our class that the most effective method to market our future orthodontic practice would be initiated at the patient level, by producing a satisfied customer. The retail business community certainly knows the value of continued loyalty that arises from a satisfied customer. Not only do satisfied customers return for future purchases, they also tell their friends about the positive experience. How do you create satisfaction in the minds and hearts of your patients?
Yes, one way is to have a pleasing staff and be congenial and friendly with all patients at all times during their experiences in your office. But perhaps the best method of ensuring long-lasting satisfaction is to use a bit of good old-fashioned self-promotion at the completion of orthodontic treatment. Because of what my clinical instructor had shared with me many years before, I regularly had a formal posttreatment consultation with completed patients and parents when I began my practice.
There are many benefits of providing this service. First, since I review all pretreatment and posttreatment records with the patients and parents, this exercise ensures that I take, assemble, and review these records before the consultation. Not only does this give me a complete set of records on all of my patients, but I also learn a significant amount of information from regularly reviewing the before-and-after records of all patients. Second, and perhaps most important to the longevity of my practice, is the opportunity to reemphasize the long-lasting functional and esthetic benefits of orthodontic treatment to the patients and the parents.
I compliment adolescent patients in front of their parents for the great job they did in helping to produce an excellent result. I compliment the parents in front of their children for their financial investment in the health of their child’s dentition as well as the improved esthetic appearance of their child’s smile. And for the adult patients who have sacrificed the time to undergo orthodontics, I congratulate them for the changes that they can easily see between the pretreatment and posttreatment dental casts. At that point during the posttreatment consultation, I typically receive a heart-felt thank you, and I know that I have produced a satisfied customer. Is this promotional? Perhaps, but I regard the posttreatment consultation as acceptable self-promotion.