Old Wisdom, New Marketing


mood perception
This week, Dentist Profit Systems’ CEO, Amol Nirgudkar, CPA, CGMA peppered followers with posts about branding your business with exceptional experiences and emotional appeals. In my favorite, he said, “Business innovation is not limited to offering new services or products but also about offering what you do in distinctively creative and personalized ways. You are successful when what you offer and how you offer it emotionally pleases people.”


Just this week, Apple reported it is seeking a patent on something it calls “Inferring user mood based on user and group characteristic data” and that its application would figure out how you are feeling to “…deliver content that is selected, at least in part, based on the inferred mood.” Apple said its “unobtrusive” mood-detection plans rely on digitally sniffing “recently consumed content” such as “a digital media item, a social networking activity, and/or an invitational content item response.”


This immediately brought to my mind what one of my favorite dental authors, Barry F. Polansky, DMD, said to me years ago, “The most successful dentists apply old wisdom along with new science.”


Marketing has always been about awakening the latent desires of consumers and putting what they consciously seek right in front of their noses. It’s also always been about leading people to look in new directions and discover something that appeals to them. Although “mood appeal” appears to be Marketing’s latest mission and companies are beginning to test if they can capture it successfully using new digital applications, there will still remain the challenge of properly sensing the mood and ethically responding to it according to Society’s mores.


Ethical response to emotions is a well-considered topic of professionals in the healing professions, and the last time I looked, Society’s mores included the Hippocratic oath for dentists.


So where am I heading? Making emotional appeals to patients is not a new concept for dentists when marketing their services and presenting treatment. In fact, the dental media regularly feature practice management experts discussing this subject. I have nothing new to say about this that you haven’t heard before, but I do want to explore the question:


What is “right” about emotional appeals when it comes to your personal practice?


The first stop I want to take you to is a series of free e-books by Imtiaz Manji, CEO of Spear Education. Begin by downloading and reading Trust and Value: A Field Guide to Today’s Dental Patients. His e-book series, also including The Patient as Consumer and The New Patient Experience, is simply brilliant. In this series, you find the critical essentials of understanding patients and branding your reputation by living and breathing value. Once value is your daily mantra, patient trust in what you say and what you offer accelerates.


If you live and breath value, and offer every patient the best Dentistry has to offer, accurate recognition of their moods is an intelligence that will help you find the most appropriate timing and way to engage them in self-discovery of their oral health objectives. Rather than just tell them what is best for them, you will create an environment for co-discovery of their oral health circumstances and goals. You will pace your interactions to lead them to a feeling of responsible ownership and the strong desire for solutions that they choose to undertake and in which they actively participate. You will shift the value of what you offer from one of “I can do this for you” to “We can do this together because you want the positive results and trust me to create the custom treatment that is best for you and to listen to you and respect your preferences along the way.”


Barry Polansky wrote in his latest book, The Art of Case Presentation (2013), “In the relationship based practice, the doctor takes the time to listen. This is the essence of pathos, the emotional component of influence that Aristotle described 2500 years ago. Listening is the basis for a trusting relationship that Robert Cialdini described in his classic book, Influence, as reciprocity. Essentially the reciprocal relationship is that ‘if you listen to me, then I will listen to you.’”


Hippocrates is attributed with introducing the concept of “clinical observation” — a systematic period of observing a patient and recording observations before responding. The ethics and concepts of the Ancient Greeks continue to influence health providers, despite new knowledge and technology. Old wisdom.


In the relationship based way of practicing dentistry, time to talk, listen and observe leads to mood assessment that is helpful to the doctor in leading the patient to healthier decisions for treatment and healthier behaviors long term. In fact, mood appeal is positively used to fuel the desire to kick treatment into high gear and to change the patient’s health values and behavior. Within the value-centered practice, emotional assessment and appeal is an ethical tool for improving health outcomes and patient satisfaction.


Chair side with your patient you are at an advantage over Apple which hopes to establish a baseline mood profile from digital behavior. You can open conversation, listen to, and see the real person. If you have built trust with the patient and your reputation is one of credible excellence, you should not fear pushing the patient with an emotional appeal (story) that fuels internal desire for the improved health, comfort and esthetics that you hope you and your patient will achieve together.


Need inspiration for creating emotional stories and using them ethically? Read The Art of Case Presentation.