Marketing theorists talk about the 'marketing mix' for a reason. Any successful marketing strategy is founded on an ability to combine all appropriate elements into a 'product' that satisfies customer demand, is supplied at an acceptable price and of which the target audience is aware.
Traditionally dentists have not had to worry too much about marketing, they have simply opened their doors and patients came in, such are the laws of supply and demand.
However the recession has led to a change in patients’ attitude and, although we stand on the cusp of recovery, many dentists continue to be concerned about how they can build their practices back to pre-recession levels.
Alongside the recessionary factors there has been an increasing ‘consumer’ focus within the healthcare environment, which has signalled a clear shift in patterns of consumption. Consumers no longer want to buy just products and services, but rather ‘life-enhancing experiences’.
The ability of a dentist to recognise this motivational aspect of patient behaviour is key to driving a more successful practice. If a dentist can present great clinical skills in combination with high quality care, delivered in the right environment and in a manner that patients believe will enhance their lives, success will undoubtedly follow.
The problem is that every practice is different, every dentist is different and the truth is, there is no ‘magic bullet’. What dentists need to help them take advantage of the emerging green shoots of recovery, is an individually designed strategy that helps achieve the specific aims and objectives of their particular dental team, both personally and professionally.
By its very nature, a business growth plan needs to be devised on an individual basis, what is right for one practice does not necessarily suit another.
Marketing plans and business support must be devised with aims and objectives that pertain to the individual practice and therefore are unlikely to apply in the same way to a different practice, even one within the same geographical location.
The problem is that for dentists who have little, if any, formal business training, access to good objective advice and practical help is thin on the ground. Too often the advice and help available to dentists is generic, with the companies that provide such advice searching to find a compromise offering that assists some, but not all of their customers. It is a case of customer support delivered 'our way' rather than in a way that will really enhance an individual’s business potential.
There are so many variables that must be taken into account when giving business advice that to do so on a global scale is virtually worthless.
So although talks, presentations and seminars have a role to play in introducing ideas and motivating either an individual or a team, the benefit of this type of support is limited. What most practitioners need is ‘grass roots’ assistance, which will help them identify the challenges they face, put in place a practical plan to address the issues and then provide monitoring and constant communication to ensure that the plan stays on track.
The majority of dentists would probably freely admit that they would benefit from some help in terms of addressing business problems and how refreshing it is when the help is not prescriptive, but rather is personally devised and blended with the specific needs of the practice in mind.
The ability of dentists to select from a menu of products and services that will best suit their specific needs at a given time, is surely going to work in the best interests of the practice, rather than having to make best use of ‘off-the-shelf’ initiatives.
Practices these days need a whole host of assistance to help them become successful, from consultancy about compliance or business development, ideas to attract and retain patients, to websites and patient communication – both electronic and traditional, the list of areas where help is sought is lengthy and can be overwhelming.
Devising a successful business-building strategy requires a consideration of the needs and wants of the business owner, the geography of the practice, the type of dentistry a practitioner wants to perform, the demographics of the current and potential patient base, the practical challenges facing the practice – the list goes on. And when all of these individual variables are taken into account it’s easy to see why the support services that might benefit one practice are not necessarily transferable to another.
Business owners and principals know their business better than anyone, but can nevertheless benefit from support in some aspects of running a successful practice.
That’s why companies like DPAS concentrate on delivering dental plan administration services, which are highly efficient and backed by a full programme of marketing and patient recruitment support from a dedicated team, who will also deliver tailored in-practice training to help maximise the success of the plans.
So, if you are frustrated by being offered a 'one size fits all' answer to your business challenges, think carefully about the support you require and don’t settle for anything less than a tailor-made solution.