Building a brand by George The Dentist
Dr George Cheetham graduated from dental school with distinction in 2009. Since then his career has taken to owning two private specialised dental practices in South London, he lectures and teaches for universities, is a key opinion leader for different dental companies, works with Align and Aligner consulting and is about to release a couple of products. Here we talk to him about how he has built his brand and why he features regularly in the lists of ‘most influential dentists’.
I have always had a passion for clinical dentistry, caring about providing my patients with the best possible outcome. Having this core value has shaped the progression of my career, and the way that my patients and the dental community see me.
The issue with conveying this value in dentistry is that 1) patients don’t tend to know the quality of work you have achieved for them – as long as they aren’t in pain and nothing feels rough in their mouth and 2) you as the person that placed this restoration would be the only one that sees its true quality unless it was on a lecture slide and a few dentists could see it.
With the advent of social media dentistry a few years ago this all changed and made a big difference to my career because it opened up a chance to share my work.
Investment in yourself
The first stumbling block is trying to perfect your craft. I don’t believe that as a dentist you should ever feel that you’re a perfectly rounded clinician. Continued professional development is so important, and the best dentists out there don’t just do ‘what is required’ but make it part of their lives to invest a large proportion of their income on further education. Personally – I’m constantly going on courses – some of the longer courses have included a Masters degree in aesthetic dentistry for which I qualified with distinction, a diploma in clear aligner therapy, a biomimetic mastership, and probably hundreds of shorter courses. I’m constantly reading journals and seeking to improve. A patient will look at this constant improvement you are making to yourself and associate your brand with ‘quality’.
Any dentist will know that dental equipment is expensive. I think that even if you’re not a practice owner you need to be prepared to invest in your own equipment. This may include loupes, camera equipment, and day to day materials. If you are a practice owner then you’ll need to be prepared to make a massive investment into materials and equipment. Being able to provide the best experience for your patients requires the best equipment.
Positioning yourself in the right environment
Gaining the knowledge academically is one thing, but putting this into action is another. It’s all well and good learning the best techniques but if you aren’t in a practice where your patients want this work then the knowledge will be wasted. It takes time to translate the techniques you have learned to actually being able to provide them well. I spent a number of years working in NHS practice – where I was providing what I would call private dentistry on patients who weren’t paying for it. I took a big cut in pay compared to what my colleagues were earning because they were doing a lot of ‘efficient’ NHS dentistry, but for what I lost in money I gained in experience. I think it’s important for a younger clinician to realise this, and be prepared to take this time to improve. You aren’t going to be able to do this, however, if you are in a practice where your boss doesn’t have the same values as you. They need to be able to sacrifice chair time for you and not be a practice ‘all about the numbers’. It’s therefore important to find a role as an associate where you can do this and you can grow as a team together.
Without having your team on side – everyone from your front of house, your nurse, probably even your cleaner – you won’t be able to portray your brand how you want.
As time goes on I realise more and more that your reputation doesn’t only get built on the quality of your dental work, but also your patient ‘experience’. A lot of this comes down to their dental journey. The way I have set up my practices keeps this in mind every step of the way.
We have recently built a state of the art squat practice, Fulham Road Dental. This is my first squat practice, and building it from scratch means we could shape it to exactly how we wanted. We want our patients to come in to a relaxing environment and when they leave to tell all their friends about their new dental experience. Architecturally this comes down to things like large open spaces, interesting design features, warm colour tones, nice smells, being able to watch a film during treatment, Sonos in the ceilings etc. In regards to clinical patient experience it comes down to being able to be treated by career leading clinicians where everything can be dealt with in house. This does mean that your specialist team need to be equipped with what they need, so investment needs to be made for things like a CBCT scanner, microscope, intra oral scanner and any equipment required.
In regards to the service so much comes down to support staff – and your front of house team need to be trained in a way to go that extra mile to keep your patients happy.
To further enhance the patient journey we have invested heavily in marketing and especially search engines like Google. It is important that patients can find you easily when they search for words like dentist near me or children’s dentist .
Social media and documenting work
My social media journey began a few years ago by opening the dental Instagram ‘@georgethedentist’. Originally not much thought was put into the content I was posting but as time has gone on the content is mainly aimed towards to the dental community, with a little aimed towards ‘before and afters’ to showcase my aesthetic treatments to patients. I post an honest representation of my day to day life in dentistry which people seem to appreciate, often with information that my dental colleagues can learn from. This seemed to prove quite popular which helped gain a decent following.
The fact I started photographing my work more actually helped my dentistry improve, because I would critique my work, see the imperfections and adjust the next time I did the same procedure. I think that documenting this clinical journey helped with an approachability in the dental profession – because people realised that we all have the same problems, and the steps that could be made to overcome them.
I think if you don’t have your own practice it’s really important to document your step by step work to show to any potential employers and build up a portfolio – as this is what they will want to see to elevate you above the competition
Aside from the clinical work I make sure to post about my day-to-day life in my career. I get a lot of feedback that people have enjoyed watching the journey I am making. Patients also see that you’re a normal person with a normal life and this really helps break down some of the clinician / patient boundaries we have previously had.
Gaining a reputation in the dental industry has really helped me build my practices. Recruitment is one of the biggest challenges with running any business, but this has been made a lot easier through social media. Like-minded dentists want to work in the clinical environment that we have created, which they can see documented on my social media.
In regards to reputation with patients – social media has also been a great thing. It almost acts like a more visual google review. I feel that my patients can view the work I am providing and realise that ‘a filling’ isn’t the same in two people’s hands. The step-by-step processes that I show on Instagram allow patients to see the level of detail in the work that is provided. I find it really interesting that these slightly gory pictures bring a lot of patients to my practice and it’s not just the pretty before and after pictures which they resonate with.
Not only has social media helped with patients and dentists, but its brought a lot of opportunities to work with dental companies as a key opinion leader, teaching opportunities, and as a brand ambassadors. I’m also working on a couple of fun projects making dental equipment and even a brand of scrubs.
I would make a point, however, that social media is only a small part of building a reputation. You can have a busy practice by providing years of good service, and this reputation will spread without any form of marketing and social media.
When you look at respected characters in the dental industry who have built their own brand, they tend to have a few things in common – the main one being they have worked hard. They have consistently shown a passion to provide their patients a level of detail higher than the most. They have not stopped learning but kept up to date with modern techniques and invested in themselves heavily. What they do well is document their own work so they can portray their passion.
If you speak to the best clinicians you’ll also learn we all face the same problems and failures. We tend to take failures personally, we will all have patients that just don’t like us, but it’s important we get past these failures, not take them to heart and continue to stive to improve.
Social media is a great way to show off your product and brand – but this is just the final step in the process – if you don’t have the brand in the first place then there’s going to be nothing to share. The day to day treatment of your patient comes before the amount of likes on your Instagram.