April 25, 2017

Is Your Dental Marketing Plan Under the Influence?

Is it rational or is it the psychology of persuasion?

how are you deciding your dental marketing

If you haven’t read “Influence” by Robert Cialdini, I highly suggest you do.  Why?  Dr. Cialdini will help you understand not only the psychology of persuasion, but also how not to fall victim to the unethical use of it.

Dr. Cialdini categorizes the psychology of influence into 6 principles.  

    • Consistency/Commitment
    • Reciprocation
    • Social Proof
    • Authority
    • Liking
    • Scarcity

Each of the principles is represented both by anecdotal evidence as well as behavioral science studies to prove one thing.  We are almost powerless against the forces of our subconscious to make rational decisions about what to or not to do.

So why am I writing to you about this book, and more importantly, suggesting that you read it?  Because I want you to learn about these forces so that you can protect yourself from them, and ultimately make better decisions about your dental marketing strategy.

With that, I will write a series of articles that covers, in greater detail, the 6 principles as outlined in the book, and how they are being used by people selling you stuff.  

Let’s take a brief look at each of the principles so that you can begin the process of understanding how to protect yourself from yourself, against those that would seek to press your buttons, making you spend money that you should NOT be spending.


“It is, quite simply, our nearly obsessive desire to be (and to appear) consistent with what we have already done.”

This force will likely stop you from making the right decision to stop paying for a marketing consultant that you have already committed to.  Additionally, because of a small commitment on your part, like attending a free webinar, you are more likely to want to increase your commitment and pay them money for their services.  


The rule of reciprocation says that “we should try to repay, in kind, what another person has provided us.” This is actually a really good thing when it is not turned against us.  Think about it from the days when we lived in caves.  If we gave some of our meat to our neighbor, and couldn’t rely on getting some meat in return, at a later time, then we would expose ourselves to the risk of death by starvation.

Reciprocity is a good social norm that makes us want, no, desire, to be good to people that are good to us.  Unfortunately, it can be turned against us and make us do thing we do not, and should not do…or that we even consciously want to do.

Social Proof

“…one means we use to determine what is correct is to find out what other people think is correct.”

We all look for evidence when we make decisions.  Testimonials, reviews, referrals etc etc are all a great way to get people to “buy” what you are selling.  In fact, as a dentist, you are strongly encouraged to get as many online positive reviews as possible. When those reviews are legitimate, all is good.  It means you are doing good work, and people that decide to work with you are most likely making a good choice. It gets ugly when social proof is used to get us to make bad choices.


“Information from a recognized authority can provide us a valuable shortcut for deciding how to act in a situation.”

Society, in order to function properly, has to have laws.  It also has to have citizens that follow those laws.  In this case, compliance with authority makes perfect sense.  

However, when you follow someone simply because they wear a nice suit, carry a fake badge or even worse, because they are featured on the cover of a dental magazine, you run the risk of making poor choices for your dental practice.


“Few people would be surprised to learn that, as a rule, we most prefer to say yes to the requests of someone we know and like.”

This is obvious to you I am certain.  However, what may not be so obvious is how easy it actually is for us to be fooled into liking someone.  “Tricks” of all kinds are deployed by bad people selling you even worse products or services.  They will pull at your heart strings until you submit to their will.  

Likability is not an issue. Naturally, you want to like someone you do business with.  Trust however is even more important than likeability.  Before you make any decisions about spending your hard earned money, you must determine if the person you are considering has earned your trust.  


“…people seem more motivated by the fear of losing something than by the thought of gaining something of equal value.”

A rare diamond is scarce.  I custom built Ferrari is scarce.  I really expensive, and uniquely designed home is scarce.  Land is scarce.  

A teleseminar with a correlating offer of a discount for a “limited time only” is NOT scarce.  

When you feel like you might miss out on something, ie, you might lose, you get highly motivated to secure your stake.  However, in most cases, not only is what you secured not scarce, it has very little actual value to your practice.  What?  Correct, you perception of the value of something is being manipulated using the power of scarcity.  

The Influence Series

I decided to write a series devoted to expanding on the 6 dimensions of the psychology of persuasion because of the abundance of “experts” out there using these manipulations to make you think they are experts worth your money.  I will use specific examples, without naming names, of marketing strategies I have come across that use these forces against you, making it impossible for you to think straight.

My goal is to try to help make you aware of these things so when you are confronted with them, you have the presence to take a step back and evaluate things for their real value.  

As a side note, please understand that we are all susceptible to these manipulations which is the primary reason they work so well.  You are not alone, nor are you weak minded. You are honestly participating with dishonest people.



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