Marketing your CAD/CAM system

September 6, 2012

Frequently, I find I have to convince dentists that their technology plays an important role in their practice marketing. The fact is, technology has huge marketing implications-especially for dentists who have added CAD/CAM technology, such as CEREC® or E4D, to their practice. While these types of devices are on the high end of equipment expenditure, they are also on the high end of consumer appeal. Quite simply, patients are eager to find ways to spend less time in the dentist’s office.

Frequently, I find I have to convince dentists that their technology plays an important role in their practice marketing. The fact is, technology has huge marketing implications-especially for dentists who have added CAD/CAM technology, such as CEREC® or E4D, to their practice. While these types of devices are on the high end of equipment expenditure, they are also on the high end of consumer appeal. Quite simply, patients are eager to find ways to spend less time in the dentist’s office. They’d also like to get fewer shots and less drilling, and having a device that offers all those benefits can be an exciting prospect.

I have seen hundreds of practices make CAD/CAM pay for itself simply by reducing lab costs. But the real value in my mind is found in the incredible consumer benefits CAD/CAM technology brings to a practice. However, to capitalize on these benefits, it’s essential to promote them-and that means telling your patients about the technology and why it is so good for them.

What are patient priorities?

Most patients don’t care very much about the 3D camera or the computerized lathe. What they do care about is not having to sit there with their mouth wide open while you put on a temporary, knowing they will have to come back in two weeks so you can give them another injection and then pry (or worse, drill) the temporary off before you can put the finished crown on. For any patient who has experienced this, CAD/CAM is enormously appealing.

The key is you have to tell your patients about it in a specific way. When you give new patients a tour of the office, the CAD/CAM should be an essential highlight. You or your team member should say something along these lines: “We have this amazing new technology that allows us to do crowns in a single visit. Very few practices have this, but we appreciate how important your time is, so that’s why we have it. Even better, we can now do any type of filling with real porcelain, which lasts much longer and matches your teeth perfectly.”

Notice I didn’t suggest going into what version of the software you have or how much it saves you on your lab bill. That’s not marketing. Tell people about the benefits to them-clearly and repeatedly. The two things people dislike the most at the dentist are drilling and injections, so a same-day crown is going to be good news to them. It should be on your Web site, ideally with some video offered by the manufacturer. It should be in your practice brochures and in all your advertising. I know dentists who put the lathe in the reception area just so people will ask about it. That’s brilliant marketing.

Real ROI

As expensive as it seems, when properly promoted and used, this technology can quickly pay for itself and really boost a practice. I know practices that have completely done away with composites and started using CAD/CAM for virtually any type of restoration. They charge a few dollars more, but present it to their patients as a better color match for the tooth that also lasts a lot longer. This is a great approach because it comes off as both practical and ideal. Patients don’t want to have work redone 5 or 10 years later, but they also don’t want their dental work to be obvious every time they open their mouth. Most patients will be willing to pay the difference.

When it comes to advertising, don’t use the brand name of your CAD/CAM as the big attraction. It assumes that consumers are familiar with the brand, which 99 percent of the patient population is not. Instead, the message should simply be “Same-Day Restorations” and “No Temporaries.” If they understand the process of getting a crown, then of course they will be interested. Even if they’re not, the message still communicates that you are a high-tech practice, which is another big draw. People love to know the healthcare facility they use has the latest equipment (aren’t you the same way?). If that equipment is designed to make the experience go by faster and with a greater degree of comfort, that’s a huge positive for them-especially if it also creates longer-lasting results.

New vs. current patients

In my experience, CAD/CAM is more difficult to use when promoting your practice to new patients than to existing ones. Unless they’ve had a crown done and understand the various steps of getting a temporary and all the time involved, the offer of a same-day crown won’t hold quite as much appeal. I’m not saying don’t promote it-you should-but it won’t be the best way you have of attracting new patients. The real advantage to this device lies with your existing patients (or to new patients when they first come into the practice for that initial tour). And the more impressed patients are with your technology, the more likely they are to talk about it, which translates into more word-of-mouth patients down the line.

When it comes to patients in your practice, the trick is telling them over and over what you do and why it benefits them. Did you really understand what CEREC was the first time you heard about it? Imagine trying to understand it as a patient. To take the greatest advantage of this technology, you need a system of communicating with your patients that reminds them repeatedly about your device and all the services you offer.

Be unique

Another key to successful marketing is uniqueness. In the consumer’s mind, most dental practices are the same. But you can attract new patients with CAD/CAM by showing them you are unique. Not every practice will adopt this technology, so you can take advantage of that. And once they experience same-day restorations, or porcelain fillings and onlays instead of composites, you will earn their loyalty.

In short, I would seriously consider adding CAD/CAM to your practice. From a marketing standpoint, there are few technologies that offer this level of appeal to the patient. And as long as you promote it properly, and tell your patients about it on tours, on your Web site, in your newsletters and in your case presentations, they will see you as unique, high-tech and concerned about their comfort and their long-term health. And that’s the name of the game. 

Fred Joyal is CEO of 1-800-DENTIST® and author of Everything is Marketing: The Ultimate Strategy for Dental Practice Growth. As an industry expert on dental consumer marketing, he has lectured at dental tradeshows nationwide and is a regular contributor to various print and online publications. He can be reached at goaskfred.com.