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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.

Throughout my career, people often ask me the same question (which I always answer the same way). What makes a good dentist? The obvious response—that a good dentist is one who has exceptional training and knowledge of ongoing trends—is, while noble or certainly not incorrect, nonetheless incomplete. And, since this is my last column about this particular subject, I will once again give you a reply that is clear and emphatic: A good dentist is a good marketer, a person aware of the traits that define and sustain success. For only a capable marketer knows the importance of those proverbial intangibles—an excellent bedside manner, a smoothly run office, personalized service and an eye for detail. That’s marketing!

But marketing is not simply another course like anatomy or orthodontics, where memorization, discipline and good instruction enable, if not guarantee, future success on an exam. Rather, marketing is about life experience and the willingness to, yes, spend money to make money. I cannot stress this point enough; marketing is a necessarily crucial investment disguised as a discretionary feature. Translation: If you choose to forego developing a marketing plan, primarily because you want to “save money,” you will have cost yourself more dollars than even the most gifted accountant can calculate. Which leads me to my next point, and the most valuable lesson of my career—don’t be cheap!

Don’t be cheap about your career, your family, your health or your life. Invest in the things that deliver immeasurable returns like gifted personnel, quality equipment and reliable technology. Many call these suggestions marketing; I call them simple common sense. Take, for instance, my purchase of the Halimeter®, a device I truly love.

I consider my use of the Halimeter® to be one of the most wise business decisions I have made in the last several years. My patients appreciate the product’s accuracy and ease-of-use, not to mention its noninvasive ability to measure the volatile sulfur compounds responsible for chronic bad breath. Most importantly, my patients view these small but important investments as a sign of respect, that their dentist wants to provide the best service at the most economical price.

Remember, your patients view the totality of your business. That is, they want friendly service, a comfortable atmosphere, state-of-the-art equipment and reasonable prices. These same people consider your failure to have the best facilities, coupled with your refusal to regularly improve your business, as a sign of either disrespect or—gasp—incompetence. Translation: Don’t be cheap!

Marketing is thus the energy that unites so many different things, from patient care to professional reputation. Truly successful dentists—and I humbly consider myself a member of this fraternity—value the gifts of marketing: knowledge, technology, gifted personnel and successful business development. All of these disparate fields are part of that broader universe known as marketing.

I will always cherish the wisdom of my elders, professional advisors who taught me the importance of sound business practices. I want to impart the same lessons to my younger colleagues and even my contemporaries, all of whom should know the essentials of marketing. In the process, we will all enjoy the fruits of an undertaking that is noteworthy and exciting.

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