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What the Gentle Dentist Knows that You Don't:
Using Experience Marketing to Grow Your Business

By: Jamie Turner

Jamie Turner is the Director of Customer Insights for BKV, one of the nation's largest independent direct response agencies.  He is also a member of the Board of Advisors for Sleepytime Store (, an
eCommerce company that provides a full selection of premium gifts for baby and home.

As someone who has developed marketing campaigns for everyone from CNN to American Express, I've spent a career helping corporations get the best possible return on their marketing investment.

Unfortunately, during the course of my career, I've also seen hundreds of millions of dollars wasted by Chief Marketing Officers who know less about marketing than a neighborhood dentist who works down the street from me.

What does this dentist know that some marketing directors don't?  He knows this: marketing isn't about selling what your company makes, it's about figuring out what your customers are buying, then positioning your product to fit those needs.

If you can get inside the minds of your customers, you'll be able to figure out what it is that they're really buying.  And once you've done that, you'll have people knocking at your door interested in buying whatever it is you're selling.

Let's go back to the neighborhood dentist.  He knows that there are two things people are looking for when they visit a dentist.  Clean teeth and a pain-free visit. Very few people go to a dentist without picturing a drill grinding away at those pesky bacteria in your teeth.  But, as I mentioned, this particular dentist gets that.  He's gone inside the minds of his prospective patients and figured out that most of them would rather visit their in-laws than go to the dentist.

So he's positioned himself differently from other dentists.  He calls himself – and this is where I realized he was a marketing genius – he calls himself The Gentle Dentist. There's no sign anywhere that says Dr. Smith or Dr. Jones. Just The Gentle Dentist.  Which tells his customers (and his prospective customers), "I get you.  I understand what's on your mind.  And I can understand why you see a visit to the dentist as a negative thing.  But I'm here to fix all that.  And while I can't guarantee that it'll be 100% pain-free, I can tell you I'll be as gentle as possible.  After all, gentle is part of my name."

What's more, the Gentle Dentist isn't located in an office park or even a strip mall.  Instead, The Gentle Dentist is located in a cottage that looks like it was transported straight from Cape Cod.  The front porch (yes, there's a front porch) has swings for people to enjoy while they're waiting for their appointment.  And while they're daydreaming about country living on their front porch, they can enjoy the fresh air and flowers growing in their flower boxes – all designed to take you as far away from a painful dental experience as you can get.

What The Gentle Dentist has done is to create a bond with his customers through Experience Marketing.  That bond is based on the understanding that his patients aren't just buying clean, healthy teeth, they're buying the experience of a painless dental experience as well.

There are lessons that can be learned from The Gentle Dentist.  And these lessons can be applied to any business, whether it's a neighborhood business or a large global concern.
  1. Figure out what your customers are really buying.  Most of the time, your customers are buying something slightly different than what you think they're buying.

  2. Position your product to fill your customer's need.  A cell phone manufacturer I consulted with asked me to position their phones as "packed with features."  But our research indicated that customers didn't want phones with more features, they wanted phones that were easy to use. We changed the positioning from "packed with features" to "easy to use" and sales responded accordingly.

  3. Create an experience around that positioning.  Figure out how to get inside the mind of your customer and tap into the emotions that they have regarding whatever it is you're selling.  Once you've tapped into those emotions, you're on your way to creating an experience that will boost sales and revenue.

  4. Make sure that experience comes through in everything you do.  Every experience your customer has should drive home your positioning.  In the case of The Gentle Dentist, that includes his name, his web site, his office location, even his front porch.  All of which were designed to drive home the message that he is the gentle dentist.
Whether you're a traditional bricks-and-mortar business or a brand new e-commerce business, your needs are still the same – to get inside the minds of your customers and figure out what it is that they're really buying.  Are they buying convenience?  Low prices?  Status? Sex appeal?  In most cases, they're buying something slightly different from what you think your selling.  (As an example, nobody ever bought a Porsche for the German engineering.  Virtually all of their sales are to middle-aged men who are trying to buy back their youth and virility.)

What is your company selling?  You should ask yourself that every day and make sure that it comes through in everything you do, whether it's an ad campaign, your logo, your website or even how your receptionist answers the phones. It's the secret to success, whether you're a multi-billion dollar corporation or just The Gentle Dentist.

© Copyright 2006, Jamie Turner

The author assumes full responsibility for the contents of this article and retains all of its property rights. MarcommWise publishes it here with the permission of the author. MarcomWise assumes no responsibility for the article's contents.


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