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Todayâ€™s consumer is more educated. And it doesnâ€™t matter if weâ€™re taking millennials or septuagenarians, people are more educated and discerning about the products and services they purchase. Given those changing lifestyles, itâ€™s important for dentists to have their finger on the pulse of consumer preferences.
Gone (almost??) are the days of only offering appointments Monday through Friday between the hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
If there’s one constant in life, it’s change. That dates back to around 500 BC, when Heraclitus, who was known to his contemporaries as the dark philosopher, put forth that proposition.
That axiom certainly holds true today, especially where discerning consumers are concerned. The Internet and smart phones have put information at peoples’ fingertips and, combined with changing lifestyles, necessitated the consideration of consumers’ needs.
Maureen Uy is managing partner of Uy Communications, which specializes in developing marketing plans for medical, dental and legal practices. She says there are several trends highlighting consumers’ changing lifestyles.
“My older son is part of the millennials,” she says. “They realize that dental coverage is not money that they want to spend. But they do want to make sure they’re taking care of their teeth. So they’re looking at alternative methods.”
LIFETIME OF EDUCATION
Uy explains that today, dentists need to recognize the importance of reaching people of all age groups. That means an opportunity to educate.
“Dental care is one of those things that follows you throughout your life,” she says. “It’s important to appeal to all generations through the digital platform, not just social media.”
Uy says she works with dentists countrywide in the area of de-stigmatizing topics like implants. For example, many dental practices do a lot of work with lacrosse and hockey athletes who get “whacked in the mouth” a lot. Bridges, she says, are not what they used to be.
“You can only go so far till you’re in the denture zone,” Uy points out. “And most people would really like to keep their own teeth. So we try to help them understand that there are far more innovative treatments available to them.”
But with such emphasis placed on smiles and appearance, Uy says that many general dentists take on more than they can handle—particularly when it comes to dental implants. To help better meet the needs of a discerning public, she often recommends dentists and their associates consider specializing.
“They might advertise that they do it all, but there might be one associate who’s better at implants, or full mouth restoration, and another who’s better at veneers,” Uy says.
TIME TO BRAND
Specializing, setting oneself apart from the competition, is a form of branding; and it’s something Uy recommends often to many general dentists who are trying to do too much. She asks them—and she only gives them two seconds to answer—if there was only one procedure they could do and nothing else, what would it be.
“That tells us a lot from a branding perspective,” she says. “Because, let’s face it—each doctor gets to know another doctor based on pretty much one or two things that they do better than anybody else. That prevents a lot of confusion in the marketplace.”
Do dentists recognize the importance of addressing changing patient demands? Uy believes they do, and are working to stay ahead of the curve—always looking for something new to one-up their practice. But it’s also important to balance that with understanding their limitations. That might mean tilting more toward the aesthetic side of dentistry, or perhaps more toward the middle age or senior population.
But, it’s still important to address those patients in need of general dentistry—especially those who may be single.
“When we’ve got a single person who doesn’t want to pay a huge policy, what’s great is to be able to sell them on a dental membership package,” Uy says. “And we’ve been thoughtfully crafting these with dentists depending on the type of practice they have.”
A MATTER OF TIME
With changing lifestyles, it’s also important to consider a wide range of appointment opportunities. Gone (almost??) are the days of only offering appointments Monday through Friday between the hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. And Uy says that, especially in practices with multiple practitioners, those schedules of yesteryear need to be scuttled.
“I’ve got one dentist who comes into his office at 5 a.m. to meet with busy executives,” Uy says. “He has a satellite office near O’Hare (airport in Chicago), and he meets with his patients before they fly out for work.”
Another of her clients has one partner who handles most of the late appointments, while another takes the early calls.
“And now he has a renewable revenue stream,” Uy says.
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