Podcast: Ron Sheetz on how to use testimonials in your dental practice

Hello and welcome to Ascent Dental Radio. A program dedicated to the balance between the clinical aspect of health care and the business of health care. And now here is your host, Dr. Kevin Coughlin.

Kevin: My name is Dr. Kevin Coughlin. You’re listening to Ascent Dental Solutions. I hope you enjoy the following podcast and I’m excited to introduce you to our guest, Ron Sheetz, who is a serial entrepreneur. I’d like to think of myself as an entrepreneur, but next to Ron, I don’t really make the cut.

Ron, thanks so much for joining us this evening. Can you give us a little background and tell us a little something about you and your business?

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Ron: Yeah, a little bit about me and how I got into business really, the serial entrepreneurial part, I was about 13 years old and we used to try to keep ourselves occupied when we were kids in our neighborhood because everybody was much younger than I was. And a friend of mine and I decided we were going to put on a magic show in the neighborhood. We went around the neighborhood promoting it and the kids could attend for 50 cents a person and the adults had to pay a dollar.

My mom had known a professional magician so she introduced me and he then introduced me to the world of magic and business and entrepreneurship. Long story short, he became my first business mentor and really everything that I have learned and has formed who I am and what I do was really learned out of that.

So at 13 I started selling tickets to a magic show and then that has turned into a life-long career now of really doing what I call relationship marketing and a large part of what I do is with testimonials. And what we’re getting to talk tonight about is something much different than what people are really familiar with about testimonials. I call what most people do basic testimonials and I have a whole advanced strategy of testimonials.

So just a little bit of background and history on me, and I’ve been involved with the dental field specifically now for about the last ten years.

Kevin: That’s terrific. You also have quite a few very excellent celebrities under your belt in helping their careers. Do you want to take a minute and drop some names to impress us with some of these individuals?

Ron: Sure. In the dental field, one of my most frequent and continually ongoing client relationship is with Mr. Dan Kennedy. I think we’re familiar with Dan. He’s one of the top copyrighters and marketing consultants in the country.

But also as far as what people would recognize celebrity wise, I’ve worked with Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen who are the authors of Chicken Soup for the Soul. I’ve also worked extensively with a lot of other dental gurus and so forth, for instance, Dr. Chris Griffin, Jerry Jones who I believe you’ve had on your show, to name a few. Oh goodness, the list is long.

Kevin: I was particularly trying to guide you towards Kathy Ireland, who I think probably the majority of our listeners would be impressed. I certainly had a crush on her and we could argue I perhaps maybe still have a crush on her. And I also noticed that you’ve done some work with Cal Ripken, is that correct?

Ron: That’s correct, yes.

Kevin: Why don’t we get into the topics today of testimonials? I believe I’ve discussed with you in the past I have 14 dental offices, approximately 150 employees with about 100,000 patient visits a year and day in and day out we have some positive testimonials and we have negative testimonials and I’m never really sure how to use the positive testimonials to my advantage.

Perhaps since most of our listeners here are business men and business women, but particularly are focused on health care and dentistry in particular, can you give us some strategies and some suggestions to improve the information and how we use testimonials?

Ron: Sure. The first is really differentiation of what most people consider a testimonial and what I consider a testimonial. A majority of the testimonials that I see businesses and dental practices getting are what I would call basic testimonials.

Usually the procedure is that you do your case, you have a happy patient, you ask them for a testimonial and they give you a testimonial. And often times that testimonial that they give is what I call rather bland or vanilla. Meaning it doesn’t have a lot of marketing legs. There’s not a lot that you can do with it other than put it out so that people can read it.

I’ll give you a couple of examples that I share in my book. These are some testimonials captured by a dental practice just by asking. One of them was from this patient who says, “I came to this dental office today on an emergency basis and they got me in immediately. This is the friendliest dental office I’ve ever been to in years in all the time that I’ve been alive.”

Here’s another one that says, “This is my first time. The first experience feels great. I feel very relaxed and very well taken care of and it was a pleasant experience.” “Every time I come to the doctor’s office the staff is great, they’re friendly, the service is good and I enjoy coming back.”

Those are what I talk about as basic testimonials. They don’t have a whole lot of marketing legs, meaning things that you can do it or as Walt Disney calls plusing it. How else can we use this to help promote the practice and move us forward?

And really as a dentist you’re in a trust business. You’re really in a trust business and you’re dealing with a constituency coming in who is probably fearful and got anxiety, they are afraid of the price and there’s a lot of anxieties and angst to them coming in and we need to do what we can to elevate them and differentiate ourselves from every other dentist that they’ve ever had experience with or what they think about. These indoctrinations that they have about dental practices.

My type of testimonials, the advance testimonials are much more story-based or what you would consider as human interest story. I’ll give you an example of one and this is actually of a patient that I interviewed and have been using with the dental practice.

This patient in an interview with me she starts off by saying, “I was terrified of the dentist. And by terrified I mean, I’m talking about cold sweat just breaking and running down my face. It started way back when I was a little girl. I had a dentist pull a tooth and it was an impacted tooth and at that time I was ten and he didn’t give me enough Novocaine and he called me a baby.

And I just remember when he started working on me I was kicking and screaming and ended up running out of the room and blood was running down my face and my mother was just horrified. Maybe I just picked the wrong dentist and I’m glad that I finally picked one that’s a winner.” And then she goes into talking about now her experience with this particular dentist that she’s with now.

These are much experiential based stories, those human interest stories. And it’s important because unlike the basic testimonials, these are stories that patients can identify with this person. They can identify having been in their shoe. If they haven’t had that exact experience, they know what it’s like.

And what I talk about in the book is that what we do by connecting prospective patients, possibly new patients with our existing patients, they identify with one another. They can’t exactly identify with you, you’re the doctor and they these, again, indoctrinations as to what that experience is like.

But if we connect them with our existing patients and they connect on that story, on that human level, it creates was I call the transfer of trust triangle. So the prospective patient identifies with our existing patient, they see themselves in their shoes and they come to this conclusion that if I’m like them and you as the dentist were able to help them, then in turn you can help me. And that’s what I call the transfer of trust triangle. Does that make sense?

Kevin: Makes perfect sense. Let me ask you a follow-up question Ron. These testimonials as you just described, these powerful testimonials that tell a story, how do you get that out to the public? And what, in your opinion, is the best way to get that out to the public?

Ron: That’s an excellent question. I’ve actually identified there’s 33 different ways that can be used, but really some of the most immediate are a website or podcast. They can be used and lifted and put onto a website.

The thing that I instruct people to do is not to create a webpage, as most websites have, they have a testimonials page and that’s a page where all of the testimonials from all the patients reside. Well, it’s been our experience that people don’t necessarily go to a testimonial page. Because if you see it in a tab and you go there, what are you going to find? You’re going to find people who are saying great things about you. So it’s a loop point why would I go there because I already know what to expect when I get there.

So what I instruct people to do is take your testimonials and salt and pepper them throughout the website, incorporate them as part of your presentation on the website.

For instance, if you have patients that come to you for sleep asthenia or IV sedation or they come to you for implants or they come to you just for general dentistry, cosmetic dentistry or they’re recapping and you have pages on these different services and these different applications, include them there because what they are now is they’re incorporate as part of the presentation.

They add validation and credibility to what we’re reading on a web page. We don’t have to expect visitors to our webpage to go seek out these testimonials, we have to put them front and center for them. So that’s one way to use them.

The other way to use them that I like the best is in dentistry, there’s this idea that we shouldn’t have to sell our services and you shouldn’t. Nobody likes to be sold, nobody likes to be a sales person, but what we can do is we can take a composite of all of these stories put together and provided to patients before they come into the practice and we actually make them prepared or we make them predisposed to knowing, liking and trusting us before they actually get to the practice.

And what we’ve actually seen in results is when a patient gets to the practice and they’ve already had the chance to get to know us, get to like us and have a somewhat of a trust with us, they find again that transfer of trust angel appearing from our existing patients.

They come to us a better patient, meaning they’re more prepared to hear about treatment plans. They’re less fee-resistant. So we don’t have to improve us necessarily, but we improve the quality for the qualification of the patients coming to us. So they are too really powerful.

You mentioned radio, television, print, advertising. I’ve actually created a full page print advertorials just out of the stories that we’ve captured from patients and turned them into an actual print article. So there’s, like I said, 33 different ways that we could use a testimonial, a story-based, a human interest story in advertising and marketing.

Kevin: Ron, just for the nuts and bolts of it, when the individual gives a positive testimonial, do you recommend you use their first and last name, do you recommend just initials or do you leave that on an individual basis when they sign the informed consent giving the health care provider permission to use the testimonial? What are the actual nuts and bolts in going about that?

Ron: That’s an excellent question. Yes, you do want to get their permission. For instance, when I interview questions, I’m actually getting their formal permission on a release, on a document that lets them know what we’re going to talk about, what we’re doing and how this is going to be used. We absolutely want to get their permission in written form, if possible, in verbal form and documented is the best way to do it to protect yourself from any kind of liability. I’m not an attorney and I’m not giving legal advice, but that’s how I approach it, is always get permission and any due diligence that I can to get the patient’s permission to go ahead and use that going forward.

Then, with regard to your question on how you use it, I always like to use their full name; first name and last name. And if possible, if we have it, we can use where they’re from, so if they’re in a specific city or so forth.

When we’re using that in let’s say a video for a website or a video for a DVD, let’s say for instance I’m in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio and let’s say for instance the dentist is in Cleveland but I actually come to that dentist from Akron, Ohio, which is about 30 or 35 miles away. Somebody who is familiar with the geography and they see that I’m from Akron, what happens, what we’re communicating unconsciously, subconsciously to them is hey, this person travels a long way to get to this dentist.

So I like to use as much information as we can about that patient. Name; first name, last name, where they’re from. Those would be the basics. There’s other stuff that you could add, but that’s absolutely a must so that you’re communicating.

By using first name and last name only, it communicates that this person is real. What I don’t like about using initials is they could be made up. It’s an authenticity.  

Kevin: Ron, I can’t thank you enough for taking this evening and talking to us. I can tell you being around health care providers for over three decades, this kind of information is incredibly important to help us improve our image, to improve our business, to provide that thought leadership and expertise that we’re all trying to create to promote the best clinical, didactic and service type practice. \

Can you give our listeners a way to reach out? Is there the best way to get your book and learn the 33 ways to use super testimonials to improve care and service in our practices?

Ron: Absolutely. If you’re interested in the book, you can get that at www.bookontestimonials.com/book. If your listeners have questions and they want to submit specific questions that apply directly to them, they can go to www.askronsheetz.com and there they can post a question and submit it to me.

I get them personally so it’s not done through an assistant, those come directly to me. So those two sources that people can go to either get the book and see the strategies that I lay out, the 33 ways are in the book or they can submit to me directly those questions.

Kevin: Ron, thank you so much for helping Ascent Dental Solutions and helping our listeners improve care and service through the use of testimonials and I should say the correct use of testimonials. I really appreciate it and thank you so much for helping us out.

My name is Dr. Kevin Coughlin, owner and creator of Ascent-Dental-Solutions, with an emphasis on coaching, development, leadership and training. Thank you again for listening and I look forward to talking to you in the near future.