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Gatekeepers and Gatecrashers

July 25, 2011

Filed under: Business of Dentistry,Marketing,Uncategorized — Tags: — Barry @ 10:47 PM

“He who defines the rules, owns the game.”       Barry Polansky…The Art of the Examination

Break through the gates

I wrote that line in my book a few years ago, in reference to the various forces that were controlling the dental profession at the time.  What I was implying was that dentists should do what blogger Chris Brogan calls, “creating your own game.”  Of course he is speaking about using the new media to compete in today’s connected marketplace…I was speaking about insurance companies.

Reflecting on my latest blog post concerning social e-commerce sites like Living Social and Groupon, I made the connection and revealed how these sites may be today’s version of dental insurance companies.  Third parties that enter the market to control the commerce for their own interests.  These forces are what Brogan refers to as “gatekeepers” in his book Trust Agents.

 A gatekeeper is someone or something that controls entry. 

You can see how insurance companies, HMOs and PPOs use their leverage to control dental fees and traffic.  Gatekeepers!  Traditional media, like newspapers, magazines and television, control content and tell us what to read and watch: Gatekeepers.  When professional advertising became “ethical” during the eighties, once again if you had the money you could pay the gatekeepers.

In today’s digital world, the barriers are broken down.  Those of us who understand the game get to define the rules…we can become “gatecrashers.”   Today the real gatekeepers are your social or connected patients…the real power behind connected consumerism that Doc Searles predicted years ago in the Cluetrain Manifesto.

Think about how consumers make their buying choices these days.  Look at the power of reviews and testimonials.  Think about how you peruse the Amazon lists before you make a purchase.  Now look at the numerous ways your practice is reviewed online.  With the advent of unbiased review sites like Angie’s List people are going there more often for trusted referrals.  In other words your social or connected patient is your strongest influencer.

They become the real gatekeepers…they become your trust agents.

The problem is that we are still behind the curve even though the tools are available to us.  Here are some recommendations on using the new tools to stay ahead of the game…become a gatecrasher…and make your own game.

1. Listen to your patient base...ask what your loyal patients want from you and give it to them.  Practices are obsessed with spending marketing dollars on acquiring new patients when the old proverb is much more important:  “A bird in hand is worth two in the bush.”

2. Create the best customer service experience you can… use empathy and listen to your patients and what the market is asking for by listening in on Facebook and Twitter.

3. Extend the conversation by using services like Demandforce to post your reviews and help you stand out with great online testimonials.

4. Understand content marketing and create the exact content that your existing patients require.  Send out timely messages through e-mail, Twitter or Facebook.  Stay on top of your patient’s minds.

5. Structure deals and disseminate them to your existing patient base rather than to strangers…trust me your trust agents will reward your business far more than the newer prospects.  You will not need to subject yourself to the “dealmaking gatekeepers” that are trying to manipulate the market.

Remember this blog’s name, TAO—stands for Trust, Appreciation and Ownership…that takes time. 

You can’t achieve that in a deal.  Stay with the timeless values and use today’s tools.  Old wisdom —New Tools.

Let me hear some of your ways to own the game and become a gatecrasher.




  1. Excellent post. Our practice is always looking for ways to leverage technology to better reach our patients. I’m bookmarking this article and sharing it with my coworkers later!

    Comment by Ted Herrmann — August 16, 2011 @ 11:32 PM

  2. Thanks Ted…I think it’s a good idea to keep your eye out for current trends in social media and technology. Remember to keep good marketing principles in mind…the Internet could lead to lots of commoditization in dentistry…I saw bleaching for $34 the other day.

    Comment by Anonymous — August 17, 2011 @ 12:26 AM

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    Comment by Williamsburgsmiledesign — August 19, 2011 @ 10:40 AM

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    Comment by Anonymous — August 19, 2011 @ 1:42 PM

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