Hype, Hope and Disillusionment

My conversation yesterday morning with Karl O’Higgins at Planmeca was predictably inspirational and the plans we have to educate and entertain at the BDIA later this year will, I think, raise a few eyebrows and inspire others – wait and see.

Along the way, Karl and I began the meeting with updates on our individual progress in life and in business.

Karl shared with me a Powerpoint presentation, from which I take one slide to share with you this morning.

Followers of this blog will know that I make frequent reference to the adoption cycle in the business of dentistry.

The innovators test things out before they are proven.

The early adopters try things in their infancy.

The early majority create the bandwagon.

The late majority jump on it (often too late).

The laggards bitch, moan and whine about change as they drift into extinction.

Karl reminded me that there is often a pause, part way through the early adoption phase – he describes it here as “the chasm” – a gap during which progress slows.

Over-layed above the adoption cycle in this slide is the reason why.

Part of the problem at the innovation stage is that the pioneers make exaggerated claims as to the possible success rate of their big new idea.

“My new BSO (bright, shiny object) is going to change your life.”

“Guilty as charged” I thought as Karl explained this to me.

I took myself back to early 2014 and series of poorly attended workshops around the UK (that’s another thing that happens at the innovation stage), in which yours truly took to the stage, presented the Burleson Orthodontics/Infusionsoft You Tube video and promised that Lifecycle Marketing was going to revolutionise dental practice marketing and increase new patient conversion by up to 400%.

That was the expectation delivered to me by the Church of Lifecycle Marketing and by Infusionsoft themselves.

I became an evangelist for that religion and started to preach.

Now – before you start thinking that this is some kind of confession that I’ve been leading you astray – this post is not to tearfully reveal that the Church is false and I’ve decided to go back to Yellow Pages, leaflet drops and Groupon – fear not.

The Church of Lifecycle Marketing began well over 5 years ago and 7connections only joined in part way through the innovation cycle.

But I will say that we are now at that chasm IMHO (and not just in marketing).

The innovating clients had an inflated expectation (fuelled by suppliers like me) as to what to expect from the new marketing technology and none of us managed the client’s expectations well enough.

Bottom line – innovation takes time – Lifecycle Marketing takes time – CRM software takes time – Infusionsoft takes time – it all takes time, just like every other marketing activity in which you participate – radio takes time – signage takes time – smile checks take time – paid media takes time – inbound marketing takes time.


And – returning to yesterday’s post – there is no “done for you”, there is only “done with you”.

So my “aha” moment, listening to Karl talk about the chasm in digital dentistry, was to realise that the UK dental landscape is in multiple chasms right now (created by lack of confidence – itself almost entirely created by our infamous GDC witch hunt).

Right now it’s tougher than it’s ever been:

  • to sell places on post-graduate courses
  • to sell digital dental equipment
  • to sell Lifecycle Marketing systems
  • to sell Digital Smile Design
  • to sell seats for conferences
  • to sell training, consultancy, coaching and mentoring

and, I’ve no doubt, to sell ever other darn thing, from accountancy, to web sites and beyond.

I’ve been thinking about my conversation with Karl and realise that getting innovators to take risks is actually the easy bit – after all, they are innovators!

The real challenge is how you manage the innovators and early adopters when they hit that trough of disillusionment as the results come in too slowly.

Telling them that they are heretics who must be cast out of the Church and replaced with new innovators is a really stupid strategy, as the suppliers are doomed to relive the innovation-chasm cycle over and over again with new and expensive congregations.

The real winners on the supply side will be those who accept the concerns of the disillusioned and work with their clients to help them through the trough, across the chasm and onto the slopes of enlightenment.

That means listening to their concerns, accepting what is wrong and working closely with them to put things right. It takes a thick skin – the ability to take criticism, accept and deal with it.

As a supplier reading this post – listen to the negative feedback from your clients – it is the most important feedback you will ever get.

As a Dental Principal reading this post – if your supplier is in denial and cannot accept your negative but constructive feedback on their service – it’s time to move on to a new supplier who will listen and learn from you (win:win) – it is never time to deny the advances of technology, discard the concept and revert to your old ways (lose:lose).


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Chris Barrow

Chris Barrow has been active as a consultant, trainer and coach to the UK dental profession for over 20 years. As a writer, his blog enjoys a strong following and he is a regular contributor to the dental press. Naturally direct, assertive and determined, he has the ability to reach conclusions quickly, as well as the sharp reflexes and lightness of touch to innovate, change tack and push boundaries. In 2014 he appeared as a “castaway” in the first season of the popular reality TV show “The Island with Bear Grylls”. His main professional focus is as Coach Barrow, providing coaching and mentorship to independent dentistry.