Pump Your Patients Full of Dope

Leverage the Brain-science of Storytelling to Get New Patients HOOKED on Your Practice

Dr. Paul Zak, a pioneer in the burgeoning field of neuroeconomics, conducted a study involving hundreds of people listening to a real-life story about a young boy with brain cancer. Dr. Zak found that even a simple, engaging story which follows a classic dramatic arc can stimulate powerful neurochemical reactions in the brain of the listener.

These reactions primarily involve three chemicals: cortisol, oxytocin and dopamine. Each chemical serves a different purpose in our body: cortisol focuses our attention, and oxytocin is associated with care, connection, and empathy. Dopamine is the body’s “feel good” drug and is actually quite addictive. When these neurological responses to story stimuli take place, action frequently follows. In fact, Dr. Zak and his team were able to predict with 80% accuracy which of the participants would donate to charity—or even give monetary gifts to strangers—based on the levels of cortisol and oxytocin in their bloodstream.

The study affirmed that the key to enacting these neurochemical responses lies in following the classic dramatic arc of action/climax/denouement. During the initial rising action, people produce cortisol, getting them involved in the story. If the listener feels empathy toward the main character, their brains release oxytocin at the story’s climax. Then, if there is a happy ending, the listener’s brain produces dopamine in the pleasure centers of the brain. Without this arc, even a pleasant narrative failed to elicit the requisite neurochemical response (https://hbr.org/2014/10/why-your-brain-loves-good-storytelling). This corresponded with a lack of action.

Another researcher, Uri Hasson, conducted a different study on storytelling, this time measuring the patterns of brainwaves. His study found that as a comprehensive, engaging story was told to participants, their brainwaves aligned in a process he calls “neural entrainment.” Not only were brainwaves aligned during story telling, but the engaging nature of the story pushed the alignment into the highly ordered areas of the brain—the frontal- and parietal cortices. This indicates that it is the meaning behind the words that induces synchronized brain patterns. Not only were brain patterns synced across listeners, but they also matched up with the storyteller’s brain patterns. The teller and the listener shared meaning and experience through a well-told story.

These studies confirm what societies have known for thousands of years—storytelling is an incredibly powerful means to forge connections with, teach and inspire other people. So what does this mean for you and your practice? It means that it’s time to tell a story. But not just any story—YOUR story. Put nature to work for you by telling your story in a way that turns your potential and current patients into junkies… hooked on your practice.

If you want patients to become engaged, you need to give them something engaging. Be authentic and relatable (a little vulnerability wouldn’t hurt, either). Yes… it might be a little uncomfortable and unfamiliar for you but just do it for goodness’ sake! Connecting to people with your genuine story will evoke these powerful brain and chemical responses in favor of you and your practice. Remember, a sincere story IS NOT manipulating or tricking people to come to you — it’s giving real people a chance to voluntarily attach to you because they like you and believe you.

Of course, the hard part is figuring out just what exactly your story is. Think about what makes your practice stand out. What makes you exceptional? Think beyond cliche answers like “good customer service.” (Of course, if your customer service is truly spectacular, feel free to include it— but try to be creative.) Be honest with yourself. Don’t focus on what you wish your practice was; patients will see right through you. It must be an authentic portrayal of what your practice actually has to offer. So, what story does your marketing tell? Is it time to adjust the narrative?

Don’t just sit and dream of bringing people into your practice. Leverage your knowledge of the power of a story to elevate your marketing. Let nature work for you, creating powerful neural responses in your patients that readily translate into action.

It’s all up to you to to nail down your story. However, effectively communicating that story via marketing channels is often outside the time availability, experience and skill set of a busy dentist. Helping our clients captivate their market through stunning branding, websites and video is what DentalCMO is known for. If you’ve caught the vision and would like a hand telling your practice’s story… we’d LOVE to help.