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Tartar-free target
Tartar-free target

May 01 2024 / Round the Table Magazine

Tartar-free target

George connects with millennial dentists through strategy and understanding.

Topics Covered

PHOTO: Erich Saide

Once a year, Chris George, CFP, TEP, ditches his 4 a.m. wakeup routine and instead goes to sleep. You can probably guess why he’s up so late: partying with dentists.

Or maybe you wouldn’t have guessed that, and “partying” isn’t quite accurate either.

In fact, the 11-year MDRT member from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, sponsors an annual dental-student ski trip to Whistler Blackcomb ski resort, where George socializes and gets to know the attendees. Never mind that the advisor normally doesn’t drink and typically is in bed by the time these much-younger students go out for the night. For George, this face time is a crucial part of establishing relationships in the present and pointing them toward the future.

“I remember a woman on the trip telling me, ‘After graduation, I want to go to you guys. I never see my guy, and he only calls me if he wants to sell,’” George said. “The more they see you, the more they want to be with you.”

Specializing in dentists started 10 years ago, when George first qualified for MDRT and came home from the MDRT Annual Meeting in Toronto, recognizing that he needed to focus on a clientele. Like many advisors, he considered targeting high-income-earning physicians but found several reasons to prefer dentists. One is that there’s less competition focusing on dentists. Another is George had a lot more in common with dentists than with medical professionals working in the public sector. Unlike public sector professionals, dentists need to purchase equipment, pay for rent, advertising, payroll and have partners or associates just like advisors do. Dentists begin earning six-figure salaries several years earlier than physicians, who take longer to complete all their education. Also, dentists appreciate George, even asking how they can help him set up for a presentation.

“Maybe it’s my personality, but I enjoy working with people who appreciate that I’m there to help them,” George said.

George, his business partner (friends since high school 35 years ago), and two administrative staff members handle holistic financial planning for 400 households, 325 of which include dentists, nearly all of whom are millennials. As his younger client base grows — George onboards 40 to 60 new dentists each year — he’s transitioning into prospecting for Gen Z as well.

Food and finesse

Cultivating this target didn’t happen easily. The first year of specializing, George had zero dentist clients. The second year, he had two. The third year, eight. The fourth year, 20. Then his client base grew thanks to continuous efforts to refine.

Maybe it’s my personality, but I enjoy working with people who appreciate that I’m there to help them.
—Chris George

The first time George presented at the University of British Columbia was on the last day of classes in 2015. He presented and provided food, but the students merely thanked him and left. So, he shortened his presentation and visits the campus two dozen times per academic year. George promises at the beginning not to go longer than 30 minutes, and he replaced pizza and sandwiches with pub-style selections that the students would order for themselves when they go out. His message is not about selling products but to encourage students to schedule a meeting. The room only holds 80 students, so George presents on multiple nights to give everyone a chance to attend, with different presentations for first/second-year students and third/fourth-year students. He rehearses each presentation at least 15 times to ensure it’s professional and fits the time frame.

“I can tell them it’s 23 minutes long, so when the students look at the clock and after exactly 23 minutes I take a bow, they say, ‘How did you do that?’” George said.

No pressure test prep

George also provides “exam rations” during test time, which includes not just a huge spread of food but prizes and a place to relax, with “Mr. Bean” comedies playing on TV. The message, without any business being discussed at all, is that George understands students are stressed, and he is there to provide support and a way to unwind. George even provides takeout containers for students who are hungry but want to return to their studies. 

Face time

By sponsoring the ski trip and study group gatherings and attending social events like soccer games where he provides coffee and snacks, George puts himself in a position to show care and interest in the students, not to advance business. His emphasis on connecting and understanding helped him identify many concerns of young dentists, like managing student debt (usually around $350,000 to $400,000), contract offers, tax planning, investment strategies and pricing agreements. In the close-knit dental community, delivering peak service drives referrals, George says, and puts a premium on maintaining a strong reputation.

Targeted marketing

For George, sponsoring and attending events is a specialized use of the marketing budget. Rather than spending money for ads on a bus or on benches, he directs funds to where he knows new clients will originate. When George and his partner attend an event during off hours, they will likely schedule time off during normal hours to ensure a work-life balance.

Looking ahead, George would like to diversify his staff and their perspective by adding a female advisor who speaks another language, as his practice has many clients who speak Arabic, Punjabi and more. Adding someone closer in age and better able to relate and recruit students and newly minted dentists would allow his partner to focus on the older dentists to ensure that his company doesn’t neglect existing clients. George has no plans to retire, but adding another advisor can reassure his young clients that his practice has a succession plan. Until then, George will be there for whatever events he needs to attend.

“As exhausting as the social events may be, they are by far the most effective use of time and money to generate new clients,” he said. “To be going to the club at 11 p.m., for this old-timer, that’s brutal. But it’s a lot of fun and absolutely worth it.”