Times have definitely changed. During the 1990’s, all a dentist needed to do was put an open sign on the door and patients would appear. Schedules were full and life was good…right?
I recently spoke with a dentist that was lost and confused. He could not understand why his practice was not growing, and why he had a dwindling patient base. He commented to me, “I don’t understand what is causing my practice to shrink. We are doing the same things we have done for years. It worked then, why isn’t it working now?” I explained that times have changed and what worked back then is obviously not working now. In today’s market, patients have a choice of going to any of the 20 dentists located one block from their home. They also have the internet to gain information, and they are inundated with multiple television adds aiming for their business. Today, dental professionals are competing in a market saturated with providers all targeting the same audience.
Differentiating yourself is essential if you are going to be a player in this market place. This is where you show how different you are from the dentist around the corner and why patients should come to you. Think about a time that you were a buyer and you were in the market for a particular product/service. When you made the decision to buy, what factors played a role in your decision? How much of your decision was based on convenience? How much was based on cost? How much was based on your experience with the sales person? Every time I ask these questions in our training sessions, I repeatedly hear how the salesperson played a major role in the sales process. Even if the item were slightly cheaper at another location, the disposition of the sales person, more often than not, was the main factor affecting the purchase.
Let’s apply this to your practice. You are spending a substantial amount of money on your marketing. Are you aware of how many new patient inquiries are being received? Of those inquiries, how many schedule their new patient appointment? How many actual show up? Let’s go even further. Imagine this: You just finished a consult with a patient, explaining to them their dental needs and possible solutions. Your treatment coordinator presents the cost of the treatment. How many of these patients accept the proposal? If they don’t move forward, what reasons are given? Can you begin to see if communication were heightened, a more favorable outcome could be derived from this situation?
Once rapport and trust are established, you are in a unique position of being the patient advocate. You help patients identify what their needs are, fit them with the best solution that meets their needs/budget and establish a time for them to move forward with treatment.
The outcome of differentiating yourself from your competitors will be plentiful: increased bonding with your patients, reduced attrition as it is harder to leave a practice where a relationship exists, increased commitment to treatment because of the trust the patients have with you, and an overall increase in production.