We often get clients who declare, "I don't want anything cookie cutter." They are using the term "cookie cutter" pejoratively, as in cookie cutter = bad, but new, never-before-seen marketing piece = good.
I couldn't disagree more.
But it all depends on what you mean by cookie cutter.
The Learning Curve
The essence of direct marketing is testing. You send something out, then track and study the response. Then you send out the same piece again, only with one changed element (like the headline or the visual or the offer).
You track and study. Repeat this, each time changing only ONE thing at a time (headline, offer, no offer, paper size, colors and about a zillion other things.) This process can go on quite a while. With my agency it's been going on for 18 years.
Each new time you send out a piece you're doing it with the knowledge you've gathered from the last time you sent something out. One day you finally figure out what gets a response and what people toss into the recycling bin.
But there's a problem.
For an individual dental practice to do this kind of testing and to go through this learning curve, is time consuming and costly. Understandably most won't or can't.
But I have. (That's because I find this stuff fascinating and, well, I have no life).
What I've found is there are certain elements, themes, words, colors, text placement, visuals, images, messages, type fonts, type sizes, phrases, evoked emotions, paper textures, bullet points, subheads and paper finishes that cause the correct target market to pick up the phone and call you.
Conversely there are certain elements, themes, words, colors, (OK, I'll spare you) which cause the reader to think you torture puppies and wear the same underwear everyday.
It behooves you to know which combination of elements evokes which response. That way you learn what the target market views as hype and what they view as desirable. It's hard won data but immensely valuable.
Once You've Figured it Out - Don't Change it!
OK, so now you've got this thing and you know from experience that the right people call whenever you send it out. So now what do you do? If you're stupid you trash it because you, your staff, your spouse or someone else is "tired" of it, or thinks it's "old" or thinks you "need a new look" or you should "change your focus" or any other reasons to stop doing something that works.
Rule: if it has already worked it's highly probable it will continue working unless you kill it by deciding you need something never-before-seen by the human eye.
So, is this cookie cutter? You bet! Viva cookie cutter!!! It's the bedrock of successful marketing. Discovering what works (by doing the above), repeating THAT and not doing something wildly different every time, is THE way to make your marketing successful. It also lowers the risk to your marketing dollar.
Should this bother you?
The question is settled this way: A direct mail program can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $25,000 or more per year. Do you want to invest this kind of money into a marketing piece that has NEVER been tested, has NO track record of success and has NOT been put through the gauntlet of public scrutiny?
Those of you who answered "yes", please send $20,000 for my special report - "How to pee your money away but look really cool doing it."
You say, "But oh, I don't want cookie cutter. I want something new, fresh, never seen before. I want something creative."
You think you need to have something different that no one else has because you are a different kind of dental practice than all the others.
Guess what? You're exactly right!!!
So how do you develop a marketing approach that is based on tested elements that, for all practical purposes, IS cookie cutter and yet communicates your uniqueness and differences?
The answer is you do BOTH. And you do it in the same piece.
Once you've learned precisely what elements get a positive response, you burn them into stone and NEVER change them (or rarely).
You keep these elements constant, because you know they work. You know they work because they've been tested. Now you are ready for the other half of the equation - Creativity and CUSTOMIZATION.
This half is quite different and is definitely not "canned" or "cookie cutter." In fact it can't be because you are all not the same, you don't operate in the same demographics and you are NOT THE SAME as other dentists.
Two Goals for Your Direct Mail Piece
The public thinks all dentists are the same. We know this is not true. So, you have to show them WHY and HOW you are different than the other guys down the street.
There are two goals you must accomplish for this half of your marketing piece:
1. Make the dentist/team a STAR
2. Make the practice UNIQUE
They will read about this dentist's accomplishments, media appearances, his/her teaching of other dentists, continuing education, class ranking and so on. The reader now knows that he/she is an AUTHORITY. And it's believable because, it's true, and OTHER people have said so. It's called third party endorsement. You can't just say, "Dr. Smith is an accomplished dentist." That's hype. You instead PROVE it by all these endorsements and accolades.
Some have referred to this as "ego" but it's not, from the reader's point of view. Imagine yourself as a dental consumer for a moment. Who would you rather have work on your teeth:
· The dentist who took the course or the dentist who taught it?
· The dentist who says "I'm high tech" or the one Channel 5 interviewed about high tech dentistry?
· The dentist who delivers teeth whitening or the one who improved on the technique and wrote about it in a dental journal?
· The dentist who writes the dental column in the neighborhood newspaper or the one you've never heard of?
This is not ego enhancement. This is credibility. It's also believable and effective.
If you think you don't have any credentials like this then pick up the phone and call me. In 5 minutes of questioning I will uncover enough information about you that even your ex-wife will think you're a star!
Now you make the practice unique.
How is this done? By answering a question that all potential patients have which is; "why should I choose you instead of the three dozen other dentists in town?"
You do that by describing the benefits of composite filled teeth versus amalgam filled teeth (and show pictures of both). Describe the benefits of the water laser, the diagnodent, air abrasion, non surgical perio, in house lab, implants, our meticulous sterilization procedures, intraoral camera, NTI migraine treatment, sedation dentistry, the Wand, painless injections, the fantastic views from the ops, the aquarium, the video game room, the twice a week periodontist, veneers, two visit smile makeovers, and on and on.
Use lots of words, pictures and most of all point out how all of this will make THEM feel better, look better and cost them less in the long run. Oh, and the parking is easy and we take credit cards and maybe even your insurance.
The Worst Thing You Can Do is Bore Your Reader
What bores them is hyperbole. What interests them is how cool, sexy and beautiful you can make them look. And how cool it would be to have YOU as their dentist. And how cool THEY are for discovering this amazing dentist and dental practice that is like no other, and right in their own hometown for gosh sakes! Who knew?
So don't just be cookie cutter! And don't just be wildly different.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have puppies to torture and I haven't changed my underwear in a week.