What Do Patients Really Buy From Us?

On a recent cross-country trip, I had the fortunate opportunity to read the book How To Win Customers and Keep Them For Life, by Michael LeBoeuf.

I don’t have time to share all the compelling ideas I learned from this author, so I urge you to get a copy for your personal development library.

However, there is time to go over what I consider to be the most important chapter in the book: “The Only Two Things People Ever Buy.”

Leo Burnett, the founder of the worldwide Leo Burnett advertising agency, once said, “Don’t tell me how good you make it; tell me how good it makes me feel when I use it.”

Have you ever really thought about why our patients continue to come into our offices and purchase services and products from us? The answer may not be entirely black or white, but the bottom line for most patients is that they buy not our services or products, but what they think our services and products can do for them.

For example, customers don’t want to buy “clothing” — they want to buy clothing that will “give them a sharp, modern appearance and make them feel and look more attractive.” Customers don’t want to buy “insurance” — they want to buy “peace of mind” and “security for their loved ones.” Customers don’t want to buy a “house” — they want to buy a “home” and experience the special feeling that comes with “pride of ownership.”

Following the same logic, our patients don’t want to buy an “implant” – they want to buy “a more attractive appearance and experience less discomfort.” Our patients don’t want to buy “a mouthful of metal braces” — they want to buy something that will result in “a beautiful smile, a more attractive jaw and facial profile, and healthier gums and teeth.”

In short: People do not want to simply “buy things” — they want to buy a product or service that comes with added benefits such as increased self-esteem, greater confidence, and the promise that this purchase will make them feel “good” in some way.

People will decide to make a purchase if one or both of the following is expected to result from the purchase:

  1. Good feeling(s)
  2. Solution(s) to their problem(s)

Let’s discuss each one in greater detail.

Most people make buying decisions emotionally but justify them with logic.

For example, you need a car to get to work and drive the kids to school. You could buy a used car with 50,000 miles on it and save a lot of money; instead, you opt for a brand-new Mercedes or BMW because you like how you feel when you are driving it and how you look behind the wheel. Maybe you also bought it because of the high-tech bells and whistles or the advanced GPS that comes with the newest models. You justify the purchase because the dealer threw in free maintenance for a year and an extra 50,000-mile warranty.

In sum: You could have bought a used car that got you to work and your kids to school, but you chose to purchase a high-end new car because of the way it makes YOU feel when you drive it.

See my point?

The second reason people buy – to solve their problems – is closely related to the first.

You see, when people buy solutions to their problems, they’re expecting to feel better and more confident, look more attractive, enjoy more convenience, be more comfortable or gain a new level of prestige.

So, if you have a patient whose problem(s) you are able to solve, that patient will feel great about the service you have provided, continue to be your patient, and refer patients to your practice in the future. It is really that simple.

We as dentists complicate the process by spending way too much time talking about the latest restorative material, bracket, wire, scanner or x-ray machine when all the patient really wants is to feel wonderful and have you solve their problem(s).

A great quote I have read more than once is this: “People don’t buy quarter-inch drill bits; they buy quarter-inch holes.”

In sum, the success of our practices depends on how well we reward our patients with great feelings and solutions to their problems. To discover how we can do this better, here are some ideas you can discuss at a team meeting or workshop:

  1. What good feelings and solutions do we provide to our patients?
  2. How do we make our patients feel great?
  3. How can we let our patients know we can help them solve their problems?
  4. What can we do to focus more attention on the patients and less on the brackets, wires, composites, scanners, x-ray machines, instruments, etc., we use to deliver our services?

“Be it furniture, clothes, or health care, many industries today are marketing nothing more than commodities – no more, no less. What will make the difference in the long run is the care and feeding of customers.” (Michael and Timothy Mescon, How to Win Customers and Keep Them for Life).