Patients believe that most dentists are good—and they're right. Dentistry as a whole has demonstrated consistently high standards so most people are confident that wherever they go they can be assured that the procedure will be safe. People feel that dentists will be well trained and trustworthy, and that the staff will treat them with care and respect. This means you already have a significant measure of credibility in their eyes even before they meet you, just by virtue of the fact that you belong to a respected profession. That's the good news.

The challenge is how do you get patients to see your unique value? Let's face it, most of them can't distinguish clinical differences, as long as it doesn't hurt and the results look good. With nothing else to go on they make their judgments about a practice based on arbitrary personal preferences: "I like a young doctor who knows the latest techniques," or "I like an older doctor who has lots of experience," maybe even, "I want to go to a practice that's close to my hair stylist so I can plan appointments together." There are two ways to overcome this mindset.

The first is by creating the right physical environment. You're asking people to spend discretionary dollars with you after all. This position puts you in competition not with other dentists but with other service experiences and with all those other purchases, such as cars and clothes. It's important to think the way high-end retailers do.

Energy that motivates people to act. You need to have a facility that instantly communicates your unique value to anyone who walks in and creates the kind of energy that motivates people to act. Whether you're creating a high-tech experience, a family-friendly atmosphere, or an elegant spa-style boutique practice, your facility should be an accurate reflection of your personality and a powerful indicator of your value.

The second way you get patients to understand your unique value is through the interactions you and the team have with them. Great practices are built on great relationships (not just friendly, "knowing" relationships, but relationships based on genuine trust and appreciation). If patients are truly going to value your relationship as something special, you can't just rely on them picking up the right cues from the environment you've created. You also have to communicate your value explicitly, in the things you say and do. It's important to coach patients early and often to explain that comprehensive clinical and esthetic care is a lifelong need for any value-conscious person and that your practice is the place to get it.

Shaping perceptions. All value is perceived value so your success will always depend in large part on how you shape the perceptions of your patients. That's why I have spent a lot of time over the years refining strategies such as orchestrating the ideal new patient experience, which I cover in these online courses. You can also find more on that subject, as well as other important patient value insights, in my free e-books. These are vital strategies for any dentist to master because, in a very real sense, the dentistry you provide is only as good as your patients believe.