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Ronald Silverstein is a veteran dentist and seasoned marketeer, practicing on the East Coast of the United States. Like many of his contemporaries, he started off with “drill, fill, and bill,” but unlike many of his contemporaries, he has adjusted to the new times—with success. As you will see, he’s not afraid of ruffling some feathers.

As a dentist, much of my attention is focused on marketing, rather than the conventional “drill, fill and bill” model of business development. Indeed, as my previous articles indicate—and as my own mail confirms—dentistry must move beyond its primitive knowledge of career advancement. There is simply no substitute for the kind of sustained, comprehensive marketing that promotes the revolution afoot within our industry. Put another way, economics does not yield to the stubborn behavior of a group of willfully blind medical practitioners—people who refuse to accept that new products and a better informed public have changed (and continue to redefine) the practice of dentistry.

And, not to belabor this point or seem like a hardened zealot, I still must reiterate an observation that is itself a mantra: Adapt or die! Dentists must learn the essential tools of marketing, unless they prefer the rapid decline of an entire profession previously known for its prestige and expertise. Shocking news, indeed.

Yet, the readers of this column seem to understand a fundamental truth, that marketing is not witchcraft or some obscure brand of financial alchemy. Rather, marketing is the very lifeblood of a successful business; it largely determines our financial success. Which naturally elicits that fundamentally vital question, if marketing is so important, why do many dentists resist its influence with all their might? Because marketing, like so many other economic tools, is a vaguely understood concept and easily ridiculed idea.

Marketing is not, however, a waste of time or money. For marketing largely determines the influence we enjoy (or hope to possess) among our patients and the public at large. After all, each time we receive a new client, or whenever we accept a referral, we further the practice of marketing. Think of the entire phenomenon this way: marketing is a task we perform reflexively, whether it means telling people about our accomplishments, our personal achievements or generally good news. And therein lies the secret of marketing—it is the art of opportunity married to promotion, executed with passion and frequency.

I also want this column to be a voice of encouragement because good news abounds. First, we are a highly trained group of professionals, and the public respects our skills and warmly offered expertise. We need to leverage this credibility for the betterment of our industry, which means informing patients about new advancements and other medical breakthroughs. Secondly, we need to learn the art of self-promotion. Most successful marketing campaigns reach broad public acceptance because of the tireless efforts of people comfortable with the media. Dentists need to learn that promotion—marketing—is perhaps the most important (and affordable) idea any business can employ.

Marketing will influence the health of the dental industry in multiple ways. It will determine the number of patients we treat, the services we provide and the compensation we receive. It will directly shape a dentist’s reputation, influencing the way patients respond to and accept the guidance of any healthcare professional. How else to say it? Marketing is here to stay. We need to embrace this reality.

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