Local lessons learned


February 23, 2010 | dentalproductsreport.comLocal lessons learned  The businesses you

February 23, 2010 | dentalproductsreport.com

Local lessons learned 

The businesses you use every day provide a wealth of marketing lessons and ideas you can incorporate into your practice.

It seems everywhere you turn for help with growing your practice, the focus is on social networking, a topic I have even focused on of late (see January Marketing Insider). But while social networking certainly is a timely and relevant topic, we should remember there are lots of important, low-tech lessons for growing our practice-both internally and externally-a lot closer to home.

Here are some of the lessons we have gleaned simply by paying attention to experiences we’ve had while patronizing local merchants (and when I write local, I mean fewer than two blocks from our office).

Local lesson one: Know thy culture
One of our team members has had her hair done at a local salon for about three years. In that time, she has been served by three different stylists. The second one was her favorite. Much to her dismay, that stylist was terminated for ‘stealing clients’ from the first stylist. Speaking from her own experience, our team member related that stylist No. 2 did not steal her from stylist No. 1: It was our team member’s choice to be served by stylist No. 2 because ‘...she was so much nicer.’

In speaking with her third stylist, our team member learned stylist No. 1 has been a ‘permanent fixture’ in the salon, owing to her ‘relationship’ with the owner, with all other stylists coming and going in fairly rapid succession. The salon pays little, but attracts talented stylists nonetheless because it is an ‘incubator’ they use to ‘beef up’ their resumes.

It is not unusual for one or more firms in a given industry to be labeled a ‘revolving door.’  The former Arthur Andersen Consulting had that distinction. It’s not necessarily good or bad:  What is important is that management knows how it is perceived, and whether that perception furthers or hinders its mission.

Local lesson two: Patients first?
The fitness center I’ve been going to for years has a locker room with both half and full length lockers. The lockers are for temporary use only, that is, members may not keep articles in a locker overnight.

In the entire time I have been a member, I’ve never been able to secure a full length locker, which is unfortunate, as the smaller lockers make it difficult to keep one’s business attire clean and unwrinkled.

Toward the end of 2009, another group bought the center. Upon ownership transfer, it suddenly became easy to find available full length lockers. What happened? Under the previous ownership, the center’s employees were either allowed to use the full length lockers for their own needs, or any policy restricting such use was not enforced.

Closer to (the dental) home, one of our clients owns a small parking lot adjacent to his practice. Notwithstanding our recommendations that these spots be kept open for dental patients to offer a highly valued benefit, convenient parking, the lot is consistently occupied by employees’ cars.

Speaking as someone who has both worked in a fitness club and someone who has had to contend with difficult parking situations at work, I can sympathize with both employee groups. But, in an increasingly competitive marketplace (including those for fitness and dental services), it is incumbent upon management to promulgate and encourage adherence that recognizes customers as the paramount tenet (or members, or patients) first. It is the standard by which you should, and your patients will, gauge their satisfaction with, and loyalty to, your practice.

Being ever vigilant for ways to demonstrate that your dental practice is a truly patient-centered practice is vital to achieving and maintaining a rock solid practice with a foundation of happy dental patients.


Local lesson three: You’re welcome!
Whole Foods, the grocery store chain based in Austin, Texas, recently opened one of its three flagship stores just down the street from my office. The grocery section is almost entirely encircled by just about every type of prepared food or libation you could imagine.

I recently had lunch at one of the seating areas in the store. When the server delivered my food, I said ‘Thank you,’ and she replied ‘You’re welcome!’ While what she said may have been unremarkable, how she said it was not. It contained an inflection that caused me to sit up and take notice. As best I can relate in writing, it most strongly emphasized the “Y” in “You’re” and the “wel” in “welcome.”

It made me feel as though she was sincerely happy to have the pleasure of serving me. I was so impressed I asked her if the store trained her to do that. Without hesitation her reply was “My mother taught us well.”

Notwithstanding the server’s ‘home field advantage,’ I believe we all can enhance our communication by the simple act of injecting enthusiasm and sincerity into our speech. The benefits from such a simple act far outweigh whatever effort may be associated with the enhancement. If you are skeptical about the impact a slight change in inflection can have on one’s communication, consider the following sentence:

I didn’t say she ate the candy.

Now, recite the same sentence seven times, changing only the word on which you place the emphasis. Amazing isn’t it? The same exact sentence can be spoken to mean seven different things.  

The next time you answer the phone or greet a new patient in your dental office remember:

Every touch point with your patient represents an opportunity to create and support a positive impression of your office, and isn’t that what dental marketing is all about?

Local lesson four: Small changes can reap big benefits
There is a successful chain of fast food stores called Pockets in and around Chicago. We frequently order from them because they’ve made it so simple to do so online (and the food’s pretty good, too).

While I could have our orders delivered, the store is so close that we typically just walk the block or so and pick up the food. On a recent pick up, I noticed something different. For the prior three or so years, the store’s menu rested against the wall perpendicular and to the left of the entrance, with the ordering station facing the entrance about 20 feet within the store. This meant that, while waiting in line to order, pay, and pick up my order, it was necessary to turn 90° to the left, then look up to see ‘what else’ was available for purchase. Because of this, I hardly knew the menu existed.

On my most recent visit, I immediately noticed the menu had been moved and was now suspended directly behind and above the ordering station, meaning it was virtually impossible to not see the menu.

While I’m not privy to Pockets’ financials, I can imagine the positive effect this simple, and practically no-cost, change is having on their bottom line. It’s a well-known tenet of consumer marketing that ‘point of purchase’ or ‘impulse’ buying decisions can account for a large percentage of a company’s total revenues (ever notice all the stuff within easy reach at your supermarket’s checkout counter?).

I don’t know what ‘marketing genius’ suggested the menu move, but whoever did first had to view the business from a customer’s perspective. Think about your dental practice. When was the last time you ‘placed yourself in your patient’s shoes,’ that is, literally entered the office when and as your patients do, sat in the reception area, visited the lavatory, walked into the operatory and sat in the chair, and exited the office? And when was the last time you drove by your office, both during the day and evening hours, to see just how visible and attractive (or not) the exterior of your office is?

Give it a try. You may be surprised at what you learn from these simple (and no-cost) exercises, and the big difference they can have for your bottom line.

Local lesson five: Be like the bankery
No that’s not a typo.

A while ago, I accompanied a friend to his local bank branch. As I entered through the front door, I experienced what I describe as ‘olfactory dissonance.’ The reason was an unexpected, but most pleasant and unmistakable, aroma of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. “Hello. Care for a cookie?” was how the bank employee greeted me.
My mood immediately changed from one of indifference to pleasant anticipation. The almost Pavlovian response reminded me of the power the sense of smell has to elicit emotion; how it can magically transport us to a better (or worse) time and place.

Your dental practice has a similar opportunity. Your patients may currently associate a ‘medicinal’ smell with your office, but it need not (and, I would submit, should not) be that way.

You never know how changing a simple thing like the smell of your practice can improve your patients’ experience. So ask yourself, your team and your patients:
What is exceptional about our practice? Then, create ways to ‘accentuate the positive.’ After all, no one spends more time in the office than you and your team, so why not make it as pleasant as possible for them, too?

Daniel A. "Danny" Bobrow, MBA, is president of the American Dental Marketing Company, a dentistry marketing and patient communications consultancy. He is also Executive Director of Dentists’ Climb for a Cause™. Readers interested in learning more about integrated marketing and patient communication products, systems and services are invited to contact Mr. Bobrow at 312-455-9488 or DBobrow@AmericanDentalMarketing.com or visit AmericanDentalMarketing.com.


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