I was at a marketing summit a few months ago and was attending the fifth session of the day about social media trends when it hit me: Why does the conversation in the marketing space always seem to focus in on a niche marketing platform or new trend? Instead, why isn’t there more focus on the basic concepts of marketing and understanding the foundation of what it’s all about?
For example, if you were to attend a conference or listen to an “expert” for a while, these are the takeaways you might score:
- Marketing is about what social media platforms to be on.
- It’s about analyzing keywords and spitting out keyword dense copy.
- Marketing is about knowing the latest detail of Google Algorithm changes.
No. Marketing is about more than platforms.
What is marketing?
Marketers, like other disciplines, can sometimes find it difficult to step back from the shiny tools of our trade and stay focused on the core values of marketing long enough to explain the fundamentals.
The foundation of marketing is not about technology, methodology, or social media trends. It’s about something so basic to our core as human beings that we usually miss it completely. Imagine trying to explain the steps it takes to run, ride a bike, or breathe. Or what humor is.
And so, in being unable to tap into that seemingly slippery concept we struggle to articulate, we often do what everyone else is doing and become part of the noise that nobody hears.
A friend of mine, CB Barthlow said this,
Another marketer, Donald Miller from Story Brand, explores this concept from a psychological standpoint. He explains that filtering out bad marketing is a survival instinct. The average person sees from 5,000 to 10,000 ads a day. Our brains are so smart that they make a split second decision of whether the message is relevant to our survival and happiness or not. If our brain took time to explore every message it was targeted with, we would definitely not be able to function in the world we live in. The brain’s survival instinct is to conserve energy and keep us focused on the things that help us achieve an optimal existence.
He also talks about how people value the people they do business with, characterizing it with this phrase,
What does all of that mean? It means marketing is about connecting with humans authentically through messaging and storytelling.
What is Marketing Really About?
Marisa Porter explains it this way:
So how are you going to be heard in a noisy world? By utilizing authentic messaging.
And how do you create an authentic marketing message? One that works??
Marketing is about storytelling.
Every story has a hero (your patient), a problem (whatever your patient’s pain point is), and a climax (where your hero discovers their destiny).
Once you understand who your potential patient is, then you can tell a story that will get your patient’s attention. Every successful marketing campaign places the potential patient at the center of a story where they’re the hero with a problem. If you can help them find the solution to that problem, they’ll be able to be who they feel destined to be.
“So I have to convince them that if I clean their teeth, I’ll help them fulfill their destiny?”
In a word, yes.
Maybe your potential patient is an upscale young professional who needs a brighter smile so they can get the job they want. You can provide them with the tools they need to succeed.
Maybe they’re the busy middle-class family who needs to be convinced of the importance of dental hygiene to their overall health and budget (the obstacle they face is the classic middle-class struggle of juggling time and money). You can convince them that you can solve their time problem, and you can provide them with an alternative financing option they didn’t know existed, such as CareCredit.
Maybe they are someone who is uninsured but desperately needs dental care. You can provide them with care through your affordable membership plan or pro bono services.
The more crowded the market gets, the more critical this kind of “patient-as-the-hero” storytelling becomes. To be heard, your solutions to your hero’s problem must be presented through effective storytelling. How do you achieve that?
Be authentic. Know your audience. Be unique.
What does this look like?
Authenticity is inherent in storytelling. If the story you are telling is true, it’s authentic. And no two practices—no two people—have the same story. Even if you’ve just started out in your field, you have a story. Tell the story of your experience with your first patient, and ask them to tell theirs (even more important). If you are so new that you have no patient stories yet, then tell the story of what inspired you to join the field. If you’ve been practicing for decades, tell the story of what inspires you most to continue (if none of the reasons are about your patients, then this example wouldn’t work well). If the stories are true, they will resonate.
Your story can be as authentic as the day is long, but if it connects with your patient’s need, it’s not going to mean anything to them.
Who are we trying to reach? What are their needs and pain points? What are their values and habits? Once we understand this, we can craft a narrative that highlights these essential elements to connect your story with the audience we are trying to reach. If we get this wrong, it doesn’t matter what new feature Instagram Stories released, it doesn’t matter what Google changed in their search algorithm, your customers will not be drawn to your practice. Nothing else matters if we don’t get the story and the audience right.
How do you manage to be unique in a market saturated by other dentists who offer the same services you do? I’ll let Nate explain…
The Element of Unique can be simple. It can be that you connect with your patients and care about their whole life. It can be your story about why you got into dentistry. It can be a story about how you’ve built your dental career while being a mom and how that has shaped your journey. People value stories more highly than the things we tend to think they value.
So many marketing companies are used to the things that worked 20 years ago. The concept of advertising where we have a one-way conversation over a loudspeaker without any thought given to the audience or their needs is ineffective and outdated. We’ve cheapened the narrative by reducing our understanding of people’s buying motivators to things like price and urgency. People are so tired of messages of price and urgency. These types of messages erode trust.
Audience and storytelling are absolutely essential foundation blocks to every other aspect of marketing. To get started thinking about this, you can create a persona based on your ideal patient or a persona representative of your local patient audience.
Need a little help building the foundation of your marketing and brand? We can help you get started with our free marketing emails or a free marketing consultation.