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Episode #627: The Clock Concept: 3 Moments Of Every Client Experience, With Dr. Christian Coachman

If you want to grow your practice, you need to do more than be a great dentist. You need to know how to sell! To reveal the shortcut to successful selling, Kirk Behrendt brings back Dr. Christian Coachman, founder of Digital Smile Design, to explain the three moments in your client experience that you should invest in and master. To learn the marketing strategies of tech giants like Apple, listen to Episode 627 of The Best Practices Show!

Episode Resources:

Main Takeaways:

Master the pre-purchase, purchase, and post-purchase moments.

Investing in your purchase moment is the shortcut to growth.

Increase efficiency and comfort of the clinical experience.

Build the best comprehensive treatment plan.

Have a strategy for handling objections.

Don’t just be good — be the best!


“The clock concept is a concept that comes from business, from marketing. The definition of this concept is pretty obvious. It says that every company should focus on three moments of their client experience to grow and sell more. They call the three moments pre-purchase, purchase, and post-purchase. As I said, pretty obvious. It means that a company, to succeed, needs to have a good pre-purchase strategy, meaning conventional marketing, spreading the word, telling the world what you do, and hoping that people like the message. So, that is the pre-purchase. Then comes the purchase moment where some of these people that are listening to your story are actually saying, ‘Oh, maybe. Perhaps,’ or they’re just walking by your store, and they decide, consciously or unconsciously, linked to the pre-purchase story, to walk in and check you out, maybe try your product, maybe do a test drive, maybe compare, talk to your salespeople or your experts, and everything that involves that moment of decision-making. So, that is the purchase moment. And then, you have the third moment. That is the post-purchase, obviously. For the ones that actually buy your product or buy your service, they’re going to experience your product or your service, that’s called the post-purchase moment.” (2:02—3:54)

“We, as dentists, were never into marketing, naturally — in sales. Now, less, but for many years when I was talking about communication, persuasion, storytelling, case acceptance, I would say the word “marketing” and I could see in the crowd, discomfort. When I would say “selling dentistry”, even worse. Some people would even walk away and leave. ‘We don’t sell. We are in the medical environment. We are healthcare providers.’ I actually looked in the dictionary for the meaning of the word “selling”. Basically, it’s exchanging services for money. So, yes, we are dentists. We sell every single day — we have to sell. But, of course, we want to sell with ethics. We want to sell in an elegant way. And above all, we want to sell something that we know is the best for the patient so that we are comfortable selling that. But we are selling.” (5:08—6:14)

“As I was reading this article about the clock concept, they explained pre-purchase, purchase, post-purchase, and then they mentioned that companies that are more successful are biased towards the second and third part of the clock. So, purchase and post-purchase, and they use the example of Apple. So, what they say is that, again, pre-purchase is conventional marketing. Any type of marketing is pre-purchase. Purchase is the experience at your store. Post-purchase is the experience with your service and product. What they showed is that companies that are putting their major focus on the purchase moment are the ones that are really finding the magical formula.” (8:31—9:25)

“For some reason, Steve Jobs decided that instead of doing what every company was doing at that time, that is investing in marketing to grow conversion, he decided to take most of his marketing budget and invest in the purchase moment. That’s when the Apple Store concept was created. We can recognize this in the old days of Apple. And I’m talking about the 2000s, 2010, when they really exploded. They did very little conventional marketing. So, if we compare with Samsung, the competitor, Samsung was doing it the conventional way — marketing, marketing, marketing. Billboards, radio, TV, beautiful ads, the whole thing. Apple took their money and said, ‘We’re going to invest in this new concept called Apple Store that is going to be revolutionary in terms of experiencing the products in the store. Because of that, we believe we can transform clients into fans. And because of that, we’re going to grow more than the others. And because of that, we’re going to create a community of people that love us beyond the product. And because of that, we’re going to generate loyalty. And because of that, we’re going to become the number-one company in the world.” (9:57—11:25)

“How many times have you walked into an Apple Store even when you didn’t need an Apple product just because you were walking by? This is the power of exceeding expectations and fascinating you in the purchase moment. It’s not the ad. It’s not the billboard. It’s not the conventional marketing. It’s your experience in that store. And there are so many things that [Apple] did. Nowadays, we take it for granted because it became normal, and because every other company started to try to copy it. And now, Samsung has their store. But, of course, there’s no first-mover advantage, and it’s not as sexy, and everybody is just trying to copy that.” (13:00—13:47)

“You have three moments that you need to master. The shortcut to success is the purchase moment. The success story that proves this concept is the Apple Store that made us all fans of this brand and their product — regardless of if their product is the best in the market. The iPhone is not the best phone, and people that are experts on technology try to convince me to move from iPhone to Samsung. Good luck with that. There’s something stronger that connects me to Apple, and I can tell you it started in the Apple Store experience, year after year, making me a fan. So, it shows that, of course, having a great product is key. But when you invest in your purchase moment, it’s like you gain so many credits with your possible client that your product can even be slightly worse or equal to others, and you’re going to have a competitive advantage above all the people around you.” (13:52—14:54)

“In dentistry, you also need to go through three moments. You need to attract people, you need to convert people, and you need to treat people. Dentists are obviously focused on treating — and we should. That’s what we do. We need to be very good clinicians. But since 10, 20 years, dentistry started to go heavy into marketing, and you see dentists spending a lot of money on marketing. So, that is pre-purchase. We are forgetting that the magic is in the purchase moment. It means that in dentistry we are leaving the magic moment in third place. We are putting the least energy where the magic happens the most.” (15:34—16:35)

“If you want a shortcut to grow, there are so many things you can do. Yes, you can become an even better dentist. Yes, you can grow. You can buy new technology. Yes, you can improve your associate. Yes, you can better train your assistant. Yes, you can follow up better with your treatments. You can have a better orthodontist, a better periodontist. Yes, you can also invest more in marketing, lead generation. You can hire a better agency. You can improve your social media. Yes, yes, yes, and yes. But if you really want the shortcut to grow immediately, more than anything else, you need to invest in your first and second appointment — period.” (16:51—17:41)

“My iPhone can be worse than the Samsung. It can have a worse screen or camera, or it can break earlier than the Samsung. But if Apple got so many emotional credits with me in the Apple Store experience, then I’m still a fan and I will assimilate. I will absorb this problem, and I will stay with the company, stay with the brand. I will give a second chance, and a third chance, and so on. It means that if I would change to Samsung today, for any reason, if somebody would force me or convince me, and for any technicality Samsung would have one little mistake, I would change back to Apple. This is what I call emotional credits. So, what I’m saying is that if you master the process of the first and second appointment, you’re going to gain so many emotional credits that even if you make mistakes later on, you’re going to be able to take advantage of these credits. You can leverage these credits. That’s how the human brain works.” (18:00—19:10)

“The clock concept just works. The purchase moment is the shortcut for success and for growth. That’s where you transform clients into fans, more than just users or consumers. So, when you realize that, you need to ask yourself, ‘Okay, the translation to dentistry is the first and second appointment. The purchase moment is the first and second appointment.’ It means that you need to master this. What does that mean? It means that whatever you do to have the best first and second appointment in the world is worth investing time and energy, whatever it is. The funny thing is that nobody asked this question. You don’t see people talking about it. People take the first and second appointment for granted, as practice owners. I ask a dentist, ‘Do you have a good first appointment?’ ‘Yeah, of course. I have a great first appointment.’ ‘Why?’ ‘Why? Uh, I don’t know.’ I say, ‘Yes, you don’t know because you’re so focused on the treatment and marketing that you’re not focused on the magic.” (20:14—21:26)

“The definition of the first and second appointment — the timeline is this. Whenever somebody calls you to book that appointment, whenever somebody walks through your door, that’s the beginning of the magic. That’s the beginning of your purchase moment. If they’re walking in by chance, if they’re referred, if they saw you on social media — it doesn’t matter. The story starts when they make a decision to come to you. That’s when the purchase moment starts. And the purchase moment ends when they sign the check and they say, ‘I’m going to do this treatment, and I’m going to do it with you.’” (21:47—22:34)

“The challenge to you listening is, why not have the best first appointment in the world? Why not? I ask you, as a dentist, why not? ‘Oh, I have a good first appointment.’ No, no, no, no. I’m not talking about good. I’m talking about the best in the world. How can you have the best? This is the best investment you can make for your career, by far, is having the best first appointment in the world. Now, the problem is that we don’t even know what it means to have the best first appointment in the world because we never asked that question to ourselves. We’re not focused on that. It just happens. We take that moment for granted. We just do the obvious. We do what everybody does, etc. So, I need you to think outside the box. I need you to be creative. I need you to put energy into this and reinvent your first and second appointment. Why? Because it’s worth it. Why? Because Apple Store proved it.” (23:51—24:48)

“The first and second appointment, it’s not only for new patients. The interpretation of the first and second appointment is the beginning of a story. It can be a patient that’s been with you for ten years in hygiene, and you’re bringing them back into a new approach, a new perspective, a new story. It can be a patient that already did a treatment with you in the past and you’re reactivating them. It can be a new patient. It can be a referred patient. It can be a patient that is coming back from your orthodontist back to you. It doesn’t matter. It’s the beginning of a story with another human being.” (25:19—25:59)

“Marketing can be important, but it’s not even as close as reaching out to the people that are already coming to you or already came to you in the past. And we know how underexplored the practice database of patients is. The goldmine is there on your computer, that list. Imagine that you did your homework, and you reinvented your first appointment. Imagine your excitement — the excitement of your staff saying, ‘Holy cow, this is so much cooler than the old first and second appointment that we had. I wish every patient would come back to us. Everybody that came to us in the last few years, if they could come back and experience this again, this would be amazing.’ So, first, you need to do the homework. But once you do the homework, you’re going to be reactivating these patients. Zero investment in marketing. Zero in marketing. You’re taking advantage of the people that already gave you a little bit of their trust, people that already came to you for any reason.” (27:13—28:17)

“That’s one of the key pieces of a successful first and second appointment, is when the main clinician, the owner, or the main doctor uses the first and second appointment to empower the team, to empower the brand, to empower the experience as a whole, to empower the comprehensive interdisciplinary approach, to empower the associates, to empower the specialist, and position yourself as an amazing quarterback of the process that will bring so many better benefits, including the fact that patients will buy the experience, not expecting you to be doing everything yourself.” (28:47—29:30)

“There are five magical things that you need to do to create the gold standard of the first and second appointment, and differentiate yourself completely, and make people your fans before you even touch them in the clinical treatment. That’s the key. So, you want people saying, ‘Wow,’ before they pay — not after. People need to say, ‘Wow,’ before. The first and second appointment is where you create the “wow” before they choose you. That’s how it works. People say, ‘Wow,’ then they choose you. Then, they pay you. Then, you do the treatment, and you create the relationship forever. Not the opposite.” (30:02—30:48)

“You need to think about your gold standard. In my opinion, there are five strategies that you need to focus on to change and improve your first and second appointment. Number one, enhance the non-clinical experience and human connection. Meaning, look at your practice and transform your practice . . . The first thing you want to do is to be able to design your practice. And this is for the ones designing new practices, your next practice, the real deal — the cool one. You need to divide your practice into purchase area and post-purchase area. The post-purchase area is the “nightmare” area. It’s where the clinical treatment will happen. Pain will be generated. It doesn’t matter how good you are — people will suffer. It doesn’t matter how good you are. But it needs to happen. The more you can design your practice where the patient’s path is divided in two separate moments — so, reception, waiting room, first appointment room, discussion room, treatment presentation room — this is all the purchase area. The more disconnected from the clinical area, the better.” (30:55—32:18)

“Try to remember the best places you’ve ever been in your life, like that boutique, six-star, amazing hotel in the countryside of Tuscany. Ask yourself what made that experience magical, and why so many things that made that experience magical cannot be brought into the experience of people coming to you. Bring the best of everywhere you’ve been. Spas, boutique hotels, restaurants, bars. Everywhere you’ve been that the experience blew your mind, you need to bring into your first appointment. So, concepts of ambiance, hospitality, and meaningful relationships — period. Ambiance, hospitality, meaningful relationships. That’s the number-one piece of the puzzle.” (32:26—33:25)

“Number two, increase efficiency and comfort of the clinical experience. Because even though the first and second appointment is not a treatment yet, you do have a clinical component of it. You need to open the person’s mouth. You need to do the clinical examination. You need to use technology to record, to scan X-rays, pictures, etc. So, use smart technology to make your first appointment so comfortable, eliminating everything that patients don’t like, clinically speaking. Be as elegant as possible, as delicate as possible. Invade people’s privacy as little as possible. Efficient questionnaires, efficient questions, efficient examination, the best technology to eliminate things that people hate about going. Ask your patients what they hate most about your first appointment and eliminate this forever. And technology can help you.” (33:26—34:30)

“Number three, improve decision-making. It means that a big piece of the amazing first and second appointment is — actually, not a big piece. The core of the first and second appointment is building the best comprehensive treatment plan. So, the dental part of the first and second appointment depends on comprehensive diagnosis and treatment planning. You need to create a situation where you have the time, the energy, the specialists, and the communication systems to look at the patient information and make the best decisions possible when it comes to diagnosis and treatment planning before people even pay for it. So, leveraging communication systems for better comprehensive diagnosis, smile design, and treatment planning, actually leveraging collective intelligence, that’s the key. Key number three is leveraging collective intelligence to make better decisions.” (34:33—35:47)

“Better diagnosis, better treatment planning, not only will guarantee better dentistry, but will guarantee better, higher average ticket price. The more you invest in building a great plan, the more proud of it you will be, and the more confident you will be to tell the story. Your eyes will be shining, people will feel it, and you’re going to kill it.” (35:48—36:13)

“Part number four of the puzzle is generating patient education and excitement through product explanation, through treatment plan explanation. So, you need to wow your patient emotionally and visually when presenting a treatment plan. You need to use technology to do that, but you need to use storytelling, and you need to translate your treatment plan into images. So, whatever you do to transform your ideas into visual, exciting stories, you should invest in that. It’s so obvious, it’s funny. All the things I’m saying is very, very obvious. But I realize that, in general, we don’t focus on them.” (36:54—37:43)

“The final component of the magic is to understand how to handle objections. Meaning, everybody that doesn’t accept your treatment at that moment, for any reason, how do you re-access them? What is your strategy to the “no” or to the partial no? What strategies do you have in place? What do you know about the reason that person said no, or went looking for a second opinion, or postponed the decision, or decided to do part of the treatment, not the whole treatment? How much do you know about that no? How good are you reading that no, interpreting that no, and creating a strategy to re-access that no down the road?” (37:46—38:37)


0:00 Introduction.

1:54 The clock concept, explained.

4:36 Focus on all three parts of the clock concept.

8:00 Why brands like Apple are successful.

14:54 The purchase moment, explained.

17:42 Emotional credits, explained.

19:17 The first and second appointment, defined.

22:36 Create the best first appointment in the world.

24:48 First and second appointments can apply to anyone.

29:35 How to start the process.

38:46 Last thoughts on the clock concept.

41:41 More about Digital Smile Design.

Dr. Christian Coachman Bio:

Combining his advanced skills, experience, and technology solutions, Dr. Christian Coachman pioneered the Digital Smile Design methodology and founded Digital Smile Design company (DSD). Since its inception, thousands of dentists worldwide have attended DSD courses and workshops, such as the renowned DSD Residency program.

Dr. Coachman is the developer of worldwide, well-known concepts such as the Digital Smile Design, the Pink Hybrid Implant Restoration, the Digital Planning Center, Emotional Dentistry, Interdisciplinary Treatment Simulation, and Digital Smile Donator.

He regularly consults for dental industry companies, developing products, implementing concepts, and marketing strategies, such as the Facially Driven Digital Orthodontic Workflow developed in collaboration with Invisalign, Align Technology.

He has lectured and published internationally in the fields of esthetic and digital dentistry, dental photography, oral rehabilitation, dental ceramics, implants, and communication strategies and marketing in dentistry.

Kirk Behrendt

Kirk Behrendt is a renowned consultant and speaker in the dental industry, known for his expertise in helping dentists create better practices and better lives. With over 30 years of experience in the field, Kirk has dedicated his professional life to optimizing the best systems and practices in dentistry. Kirk has been a featured speaker at every major dental meeting in the United States. His company, ACT Dental, has consistently been ranked as one of the top dental consultants in Dentistry Today's annual rankings for the past 10 years. In addition, ACT Dental was named one of the fastest-growing companies in the United States by Inc Magazine, appearing on their Inc 5000 list. Kirk's motivational skills are widely recognized in the dental industry. Dr. Peter Dawson of The Dawson Academy has referred to Kirk as "THE best motivator I have ever heard." Kirk has also assembled a trusted team of advisor experts who work with dentists to customize individual solutions that meet their unique needs. When he's not motivating dentists and their teams, Kirk enjoys coaching his children's sports teams and spending time with his amazing wife, Sarah, and their four children, Kinzie, Lily, Zoe, and Bo.