Ethical marketing has become a hot topic, especially in the healthcare field. It’s about fairness, honesty and being responsible. These are qualities quite evident in dentistry. Unfortunately, not always in marketing. Therefore, ethical marketing for dentists is an important topic to consider when you work with a marketing firm.
Ethics is a subjective concept to a degree. However, it’s possible to adhere to basic guidelines that most dentists and dental organizations would certainly agree upon:
- An agreed-upon standard of truth used in marketing materials
- Distinct separation between advertising and pure sensationalism
- No hidden or disguised endorsements
- The privacy of consumers should be protected—always
- Adherence to all government standards and regulations
Norms and Values To Consider in Ethical Marketing For Dentists
A good place to start for understanding ethical marketing for dentists is the American Marketing Association. They have created a clear direction to govern the actions of marketers. In the introduction to their governing principles, the organization states that their ideas represent a collective idea of desirable and morally ethical marketing behavior. Six ethical values presented by the American Marketing Association should be standard procedure for dental practice marketing. They are:
- Honesty: Don’t disguise your meaning in anything you present in your marketing materials. Always offer value, not hype. Integrity is a valuable asset to your dental practice.
- Responsibility: Accept the fact that all marketing practices have consequences. Never forget that you serve the needs of a very diverse patient base.
- Fairness: Strike a balance between a prospective patient’s needs and your needs as a business. Avoid all forms of obvious manipulation. That’s the realm of “black hat” marketers.
- Respect: Always acknowledge basic human dignity as you communicate with the public. Understand and meet their needs at all times.
- Transparency: Your marketing should be such that it doesn’t need to be defended from criticism. Honest marketing communication speaks for itself and is something to be proud of.
- Citizenship: Fulfill all legal, economic, philanthropic and social responsibilities that are expected of your dental practice. By the nature of what you do, your office gives back to the community. Make sure that is always your priority.
These are basic principles of ethical marketing. Now, we’ll delve into specific unethical practices. An unethical marketing technique is one that decreases the ability of individuals to find high quality dental care. Unethical marketing techniques include any misrepresentation (whether intentional or accidental) of treatments or organizations. The following techniques don’t represent ethical marketing for dentists:
Market Research that is Irresponsible
Market research that has been conducted improperly can lead to all kinds of stereotypes and generalizations that distort attitudes and affects marketing language in a negative way. For example, it’s a mistake to generalize about what kind of person is on Medicaid or who seeks elective dental services. A marketing and SEO campaign launched for a dental practice based on misguided assumptions about these patients can be detrimental to the office and the community where it is located.
Targeting a Very Narrow Audience
Known as “selective marketing,” this is a process intended to weed out those consumers who are considered less than ideal prospects by a business. Such a process frequently leads to shaming individuals and other negative consequences. An example of this type of technique would be when Victoria’s Secrets put out its “Perfect Body Campaign” and suffered a backlash due to their attempts to consciously exclude any woman who wasn’t painfully thin, had long legs and was well endowed.
In the field of dental marketing, it can be tempting for some marketers to stick to strictly stereotype patients. In reality, patients from all walks of life may want all types of need-based or elective services.
Making False or Exaggerated Claims
Doing this to increase profit tends to haunt businesses eventually. A good example would be if marketers made it look like a dental office has extremely convenient parking when it actually doesn’t. If the marketing keeps mentioning this amenity, a very false impression is being created to lure people who are looking for that convenience. They are sure to be disappointed when they realize the truth. Such a manipulative marketing technique damages a practice’s reputation and the reputation of all dental practices in general. This is why customer relationship management is necessary.
Disparaging the Competition
Many companies try to do this sooner or later. It’s a dangerous practice in many ways, however. There is an enormous difference between extolling your practice’s competitive advantages and trashing your competitors. A dental practice that resorts to mudslinging is jeopardizing its integrity and clearly isn’t engaged in ethical marketing for dentists. Even if your office clearly offers more elective services and more comprehensive treatment, don’t resort to name calling. That’s true even if a competitor is bad-mouthing your practice either directly or indirectly. Never sink to their level.
Dishonest Social Media Presence
Many people enjoy social media. However, they are very quick to smell a rat when a business offers nothing on social media but hype and self-promotion. Sometimes, companies pose as individuals on social media and never admit that they’re actually representing a business and trying their best to put that business in a good light day and day out. Such techniques can make a dental practice look deceptive and dishonest, which certainly doesn’t befit ethical marketing for dentists.
Claiming the Listings or Domains of Others
Moral website hosting is highly important. Basically, this is the idea of purchasing YourPracticeNameDentistry.com if your main site is YourPracticeName.com, or buying dental directory listings of others and swapping phone numbers. A dentist would never think of this. However, a black hat marketer would.
Paid Search Bidding on Trademarked Names
Broad-match keywords may still show a competitor’s ad for a relevant search, but bidding on a trademark can result in legal action and directly raises the cost-per-click of that keyword in Google’s auction pricing. This is why keyword research is vital to a strong strategy.
False Claims in Service Offerings Just to Optimize Rankings
The Whitehat approach would be if you, for example, said that you served patients from other states. The Blackhat approach would be if you said that you are physically IN that other state when you’re not. It seems like a strange thing to do but some businesses really try. Ethical marketing for dentists would never stoop to such a technique.
Falsifying a User’s Experience and Incorrectly Matching this Individual to Information that is Irrelevant to his or her Inquiry
Users don’t like muddy navigation or layers upon layers of searches to find what they want, and neither do search engines. Search engines like Google will penalize any website that it decides isn’t giving users a useful experience. Focused SEO campaigns know how to give users the experience they want.
Layered Websites with Fake Content Behind an Image or Site File
These are websites live at this very moment that will only show for milliseconds before a website loads completely over top of them, rendering the keyword-stuffed content “invisible.” Most of the time, Google will eventually flag these sites and penalize them. If a marketing company has done this to your website, you put yourself at great risk. It’s not worth it.
Using Clients Inappropriately To Promote a Dental Office
Client testimonials are certainly a powerful marketing tool. However, it’s a mistake to obtain testimonials from patients if they don’t understand exactly what you intend to do with them. They need to understand, for example, that their testimonials will be seen far and wide by people like family members, friends, employers or potential employers. Not everyone will necessarily want that kind of attention.
Does Your Marketing Company Understand Ethical Marketing For Dentists?
It’s unlikely that your dental practice does any of the things listed above. However, some marketing companies do. Dentists need to know what happens out there. Without question, you don’t want to adopt any of these practices in the future just because some marketer said it was a good idea.
As a Premier Google Partner, Dreamscape Marketing strives to achieve ethical marketing for dentists as well as for all of our healthcare clients. If you’d like to know more about us, let’s talk. Call 888-703-3704 or email us today at [email protected] and let’s discuss your practice’s marketing plan.