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Are you a private practice owner who is tired of competing with corporate dentistry? Read on ...
Dentistry is a changing world. More and more dentists are joining the ranks of corporate dentistry. This ever-expanding market is most likely coming to a corner near you â¦ and soon. With the opening of a new corporate dental clinic comes mass marketing to your potential patient base as well as your existing patients. You must protect your turf starting with your existing patients and continue to reach out to new patients. The knee jerk reaction to this may be to market extensively and reduce your fees to match your new competitor, but those strategies don’t work. The reason is that the corporate dental practice’s buying power can’t match yours (not to mention their pockets are much deeper), so going head to head will cause a negative return. You can never be as cheap or market as expansively. Don’t be discouraged. Dentistry is not the first industry to experience this.
You may remember that little known company, Wal-Mart, who changed the discount retail industry. It drove Gibson’s, small businesses, and K-Marts to the brink of no return. However, one company that DID NOT become extinct and actually took the new marketplace as a challenge â not a death sentence â was Target, which reinvented itself. Target didn’t compete on price. At the time, it couldn’t compete in marketing either. So what it did was a reinvention of what it could do well and Wal-Mart couldn’t.
What can YOU do in this new market place? Here are 5 strategies to help you stand out from the rest.
Give outstanding customer service. Never underestimate outstanding customer service. People like to be treated well. This was a strategy for the Ritz Carlton during the 1920s and it served it well. No one wants to feel like just a number. This is where YOU have the advantage. You see fewer patients. Your team can remain constant with less turnover. YOU truly know your patients and have for years. Sit down with your team at your next team meeting and brainstorm ways you can improve the patient experience to up the level of customer service. Even if you are doing remarkably well, the practice that continues to take it to the next level and not be satisfied with the status quo will continue to thrive. Be your very best.
Build lasting relationships. Dentistry is and always will be about relationships and trust. Build on your relationships with existing patients. Remember, this isn’t a mill where you yield the highest returns on quantity. You yield the best returns on getting to know your patients. Ask them questions. Listen. Respond. Continue to nurture these relationships with thoughtful internal marketing, social media, and strong communication. Reintroduce hand-written notes and the personal phone call after a long appointment.
Greet your patient by name. Yes, greet patients by name when they come into the office, even if this is their first visit. This may seem impossible, but the practices that do this reap the benefits. There is great comfort going to a practice where you are known and remembered. If an existing patient does try out the new corporate dental practice, you want the experience there to not even compare to what he or she would experience at your office. Remember, you are not only trying to get new patients, you must focus on keeping the ones you have as well.
Stay on time. Time is a precious commodity with patients. Be respectful of their time by honoring appointments. This means not only seating them on time, but releasing them on time. Patients have wised up to the “seat the patient” so it appears we are on time, but he or she still won’t be seen until much later. If you are not able to do this, seek professional assistance to help you streamline your systems and communication.
Target market. Engaging in external marketing is a benefit when done effectively. Choose frequency over reach. People must see, feel, hear, and experience a message five to seven times before acting on it. Select a small area where you have a lot of patients already, it is close to your office, the demographics match your target audience, and you can afford to blanket the area. Then market to it by sponsoring runs or neighborhood events, advertise in the neighborhood newsletter, send a direct mailer, participate in mixers, ask your patients for referrals, and place your name in anything relevant for that specific area. You should also optimize your website for searches in that area and even use Facebook ads to increase brand awareness of your name. Make sure your ads are friendly, warm, and build the value of your practice. Create a consistent image with a powerful message that builds on your strengths. Your marketing should make a compelling case as to why people should choose you as their dentist.
These are just a few ways you can retain and expand your patient base. Take these five base core ideas to your next team meeting. See what each of you can do to take it a notch higher. If everyone gives even the smallest amount of effort to improve each item, then you will be worlds ahead and quickly on a path to protecting your turf! Accept the rise of corporate dentistry as a challenge to improve patient care and the patient experience. It is in YOUR power to have the practice you want.
So sound off! What do you think are assets that private practices have over corporate practices? What are areas you can compete with that others can’t? Your dental community would love to hear your ideas and strategies!