Stand Out. Be Different. Be Weird. by Angela Weber

by Angela Weber

Are all orthodontists the same?

The readers of this magazine would almost certainly answer this question with “No, of course not,” and I’m inclined to agree. Still, if all orthodontists aren’t the same, why do they all present themselves in the same way?

If you take a little time perusing orthodontists’ websites, brochures and other marketing materials, you will see the same phrases repeated over and over again in slight variations. Here is a quick sampling from actual websites:
  • “We provide the highest quality orthodontic care in a friendly and gentle environment.”
  • “We are dedicated to meeting your unique dental needs in a friendly, caring and comfortable environment.”
  • “Our office has a dedicated team of highly qualified professionals.”
  • “It is the goal of our practice to provide you with the highest quality orthodontic care in a friendly, comfortable environment.”
  • (And on and on.)

You’re also likely to see in orthodontic materials the same stock photography of the same smiling faces, recycled many times over. To be sure, many orthodontists do offer “the highest quality orthodontic care in a friendly, comfortable environment.” And they do indeed create smiling faces similar to those shown in stock photos. Nevertheless, none of this marketing stands out.

Over the years, orthodontists have gravitated toward standard conventions for promoting their practices. They take cues from their peers, and their peers take cues from them. As a result, all orthodontic practices (as different as they may be) merge together in the public mind into a bland mush. Furthermore, there isn’t any thought-out strategy behind this type of self-presentation. It’s just how everyone does it. It’s what’s accepted. It’s what’s safe.

Few people dare to be weird.

Why Be Weird?

Everyone in this world is kind of weird. We all talk to ourselves when no one is around. We all have our strange habits, odd thoughts and idiosyncratic obsessions. Even if our own weirdness doesn’t map directly onto others’ weirdness, everyone can relate to the fact that we’re all unique in our own way. And people want to do business with people they can relate to.

Orthodontists often complain that patients often seem to care only about price, especially in our current economic times. Competition and downward price pressure are only worsening as the trend of general dentists pushing into orthodontics continues. But if you look at the orthodontic options from a patient’s perspective, going with the lowest-priced orthodontic provider is a perfectly rational choice since all choices seem more or less the same.

The fact is consumers aren’t as sensitive to price considerations as many might think they are. Patients simply need compelling reasons to make a choice that’s not based on price. If they click with an orthodontist, if they find the practice enjoyable to visit, if they feel a connection there, they are more likely to go with that option.

There are other differentiators beyond weirdness an orthodontic practice could promote, such as new techniques, a range of orthodontic options and quality outcomes. But medical concepts are hard for patients to understand well. Even outcomes seem far off in the future and abstract to envision. That’s not to say these topics are irrelevant. It’s just that there’s little emotional connection there. With weirdness, there is. If you’re weird, you will not only be relatable, you will be unique – and uniqueness stands out.

So, how to be weird as an orthodontist? Simply put: Allow yourself to be yourself. There’s no instructional manual for being weird, and don’t look to other orthodontists for ideas. Remember, the point is to break out of the me-too sameness that pervades the orthodontic field.

If you still need some inspiration, look outside of orthodontics into other industries, and remember that weirdness doesn’t necessarily have to mean eccentricity. People who are passionate about something tend to get really excited about it. As they get worked up, they may say or do things that are unexpected. Their animated behavior can come across as weird, but this weirdness isn’t a negative. It’s an overflow of enthusiasm, which is something people who encounter it will remember.

Orthodontists tend to be a conservative lot, reluctant to embrace their inner weirdness. Some will object that:

“Being weird just sounds like a gimmick.” – It’s not about gimmicks. It’s about finding the courage to be yourself and letting your individuality out. Orthodontists all have different techniques, philosophies and personalities, but most are afraid to publicly take a stand for anything. That’s why everyone seems alike.

“If I’m weird, I’ll alienate potential patients.” – It’s a fear that’s unfounded. The opposite is true. Patients will remember you and relate to you.

“Even if I don’t alienate people, weirdness will likely limit the pool of patients my practice can attract.” – A mass retailer like Wal-Mart operates on slim margins and needs a large customer base. But you’re not Wal-Mart. You don’t need to attract everyone. In any case you will find that standing out from the pack will enlarge your customer base, not shrink it.

Our world is one where the population has embraced niches and exult in their idiosyncratic passions, whether that entails food trucks, an odd corner of pop culture, or personal charities and causes. The Internet offers sites and forums devoted to every topic imaginable. Weirdness is how people relate to each other these days. It’s how they connect. If you’re still talking about “a caring, comfortable environment” along with so many others, you’re being left behind.

  Author's Bio
Angela Weber, is the Senior Vice President of Marketing for OrthoSynetics (OSI), a business services firm that assists orthodontic and dental practices utilizing a full-service, turnkey management approach to address all non-clinical practice functions to gain better efficiencies and profitability. Weber has over 15 years of experience in the advertising industry with a vast knowledge of current and past trends, philosophies and strategies for marketing within the health-care industry. Her goal for each OSI client is to drive new patient volume through innovate marketing practices. For more information, visit www.orthosynetics.com or e-mail aweber@orthosynetics.com.
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