A collection of short stories and journalistic commentaries depicting my simple life
and how I fit in with the modern day universe of our times

I’ve never had much luck with dentists...

It all started as a teenager, when I made the mistake of enrolling with a recently qualified, drill-wielding assassin from the local practice...

I swear that if he ever attended
dental school, it must have been in the holidays.

But being both young and stupid, I sort of assumed that he must know what he was doing. I just thought I had bad teeth, but what I really had was a bad dentist.

Many years later, I went to view a car, and by coincidence it was being sold by a dentist who now owned the practice previously occupied by the ‘butcher’... not his real name, but I can do without a law suit! I mentioned that I used to be a patient of ‘the butcher’.

He looked at me in some astonishment...
“And you’ve still got teeth?” he enquired.

Apparently I wasn’t the only victim. “Nice bloke but a crap dentist”, said my new friend. “He’s a travel agent now.”

“I’ll go to Thomas Cook’s”, I said.

After ‘the butcher’, I found a competent dentist who looked at the carnage in my mouth, shook his head slowly in a “What-kind-of-bloody-idiot-did-this-to-you?” sort of way, and set about patiently making the best of a very bad job. The new bloke and I got on fine for a couple of years... until disaster and tragedy struck.

You see, when I walked in for a check-up one day, I could immediately see that something was wrong. He was unsteady on his feet and slurring his words quite badly. I’m ashamed to say, that my first thought was that he must be drunk. The truth was far worse... he had developed multiple sclerosis.

Now I don’t want to make light of this, but if you’re in any way conversant with the symptoms of this terrible disease, then you’ll know that they are not particularly helpful for someone whose job relies on manual dexterity. You’ll also know why this new experience was doing little to calm my growing dental treatment phobia issues.

Within a couple of years he succumbed to the inevitable and was forced to retire. He was replaced by someone else who should have been forced to retire! I think he learned his dentistry in the First World War, and regarded anaesthetic as something for wimps. If he’d been a doctor, he’d still have been prescribing leaches. Dentures would still be wooden. You get the idea.

He lasted 2 or 3 years before being replaced by a succession of ‘journeymen’ (and women) of varying degrees of competence. Each one left their ‘mark’ on me in some way or other, and my mouth began to resemble one of those houses you see on DIY disaster TV shows... lots of half finished and bodged jobs, none of which quite fitted together properly.

I knew I’d have to do something about it one day, but have been putting off that ‘one day’ for many thousands of days now. Or at least I had been putting it off until a couple of weeks ago, when I finally decided to bite the bullet (so to speak with my 3 remaining good teeth) and go to see a dentist with at least a passing acquaintance with the 21st Century.

Which is why I found myself in a very swish waiting room with fancy chairs, TV and DVD players, air conditioning and....

Up To Date Magazines!

The last time I went to the dentist in 2002, I read about the contest between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown to take over from John Smith as leader of the Labour party, and a piece about whether John Major was likely or not to survive for another term. And Auto Express magazine was featuring the new Ford Capri, I seem to remember.

But this time it was much better...

Not only were the magazines up to date, but because the dentist is a car nut (aren’t they all... I wonder why? Must be all that money they are making, what else could they spend it on?) most of them were of the ‘Very Flashy Car Monthly’ variety. Right up my street.

And in one of the magazines I came across a very interesting article.

It was a piece by a car dealer who happens to be a big Walsall fan (yes football). And against his better judgment, he’d been persuaded to sponsor the match ball for one of the club’s home games.

I say it was against his better judgment because he didn’t have a lot of faith in the power of any form of advertising. His ads in the local newspaper, which went out to over 100,000 people, generated very little business for him, so he had very low expectations for the small mention in the club programme and over the tannoy at half-time... at a football ground where several fans have been known to die of sheer loneliness!

Ring Walsall FC and ask them what time the game starts...
“What time can you get here?” will be the reply.

But the car dealer was to be pleasantly surprised, because on the following Saturday (when the team was playing away) his car lot was besieged with fellow Walsall fans. The dealer did more business on that Saturday than every Saturday of the previous month put together...

And almost every car was sold to a Walsall fan who’d heard
about his dealership at the match.

So what’s going on here then, and how might you use it?

Well apparently, most of these people turned up because they wanted to deal with a fellow Walsall fan. Their allegiance to the club was such that the car dealer was at a massive advantage straight away. They felt comfortable dealing with someone with whom they shared common ground... a common ground to which they had a strong emotional attachment.

I mean, a fellow Walsall fan had to be a straight-dealing kind 
of guy... because he was just like them right?

So whatever you’re selling, there’s a trust barrier to overcome first before people will commit to you. And if you can establish a positive common ground in advance, it will make the job of breaking down that barrier so much easier.

The car dealer did it by linking up with a football club, and this kind of interest group association can work in a number of fields. Golfers are more likely to buy from another golfer, dog lovers are more likely to buy from another dog lover, stamp collectors are more likely to buy from another stamp collector... you get the idea.

Why? Because they’re buying from someone who understands and 
shares their enthusiasm - someone who must be just as trustworthy 
as they are themselves... because he’s just like them.

Special interest groups are often very easy to ‘hit’ with your marketing efforts through clubs, associations, websites, newsletters and the like. The key message to get over... provided it’s genuine of course... is that you’re a fellow fan, enthusiast, participant who wants to give a good deal to fellow fans, enthusiasts, participants.

People like to buy from people who are just like them.
People buy people first.

Last year I was in Crete, and noticed several estate agents using a related technique. If you’re considering buying a property overseas, would you like to deal with ‘Johnny Foreigner’... or would you rather deal with a fellow Brit (with whom you share common ground through your addiction to HP sauce, John Smiths bitter and Coronation Street). The number of signs announcing ‘British Agents’ on the island, suggests that the answer is the latter for a great many prospective buyers.

In this case the allegiance or association is a geographic/cultural one, but the principle is exactly the same. They put forward the proposition, albeit tacitly, that the prospect will be buying from someone who is just like them.

And this one idea alone is part of a whole raft of methods you can use to move from a stone cold selling situation, to one in which the buyer feels more warm, comfortable and confident to deal with you. Referral marketing and endorsed promotions are two other related methods, which I may return to in another blog entry...

Provided my increasingly befuddled brain is prompted by
further free waiting room reading matter of course.

As always, this will hopefully trigger different ideas for different people, dependent upon who you are, what you’re interested in/associated with, and what you’re in the business of. I’d be interested to hear what you come up with.

And if there really are any car enthusiast dentists reading this, then I can think of a great sideline for you, sourcing fancy cars to other dentists.

Now there’s an idea...



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Its my own fault really, its all about what I see in the world, and how it all translates for me.

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