How high quality practices weaken their brand by using the word ‘free’

‘Free’ is a hugely powerful and persuasive concept. The notion of boosting sales with giveaways, bonuses and complimentary gifts and services is a popular marketing strategy for many businesses.

Commonly known as the ‘reciprocity principle’, the idea is that people often feel obliged to return a favour when something is given to them. This makes for a powerful marketing tool, helping to attract new clients, as well as retain existing customers.

The secret to successfully rewarding clients lies in maintaining authenticity, being relevant and appearing altruistic in nature – even if the end game is obviously to boost sales. At the very least, the recipient needs to feel the goodwill gesture is sincere, even if they may also understand that, ultimately, it forms part of a company’s ethical marketing strategy.

So, what place, if any, does this have in dentistry?

Free dentistry
The concept of complimentary care and products to complement your dentistry can seem somewhat of an anomaly within a clinical setting.

The term ‘free’ in itself not only creates a poor image of the practice, it may also jar with those patients seeking high quality care. ‘Free’ can weaken a brand and reduce the overall appeal for a practice that strives to maintain a reputation as a safe and respected environment in which a qualified and trustworthy dental team cares for its patients.

It is also worth remembering that patient loyalty is not something that can be bought and that the patient-clinician dynamic is clearly one that needs to be nurtured over time and, fundamentally, built on trust – not secured with a free goodie bag at a first consultation.

However, what a complimentary approach can do is raise the ‘feel-good factor’ within your practice. If done well, dental practices can turn kind gestures into profit without cheapening their brand.

Even now, some dentists remain uncomfortable with dental marketing as a concept, but adding value to the patient experience with gift-giving is acceptable if it complements your style of dentistry and reflects your brand and practice ethos.

A giveaway and gift strategy can be useful in establishing on-going and purposeful engagement with patients.

Gifting reinforces the message that yours is a giving and generous practice and is a great way of maintaining contact with existing patients, whilst reminding those who have lapsed that you’re still interested in their welfare.

Patient retention is key to sustainable growth and freebies can ‘reward’ those patients who are already committed, whilst enticing others who are simply interested parties.

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