Hares or tortoises, who is going to help grow your dental practice, Alun Rees questions.

The late Colin Hall Dexter, godfather of private dental practice, talked about ‘trinket dentistry’.

During his courses he would show a picture of extensive and expensive restorative dentistry, which he had carried out – and had subsequently failed.

The lesson he learned was that instead of becoming a dentist who did things, albeit to an extremely high standard, as and when they were necessary in one-off transactions, he had to develop a long-term relationship with patients for his work to succeed.

Colin’s experiences introduced me to the concept of transactional and relationship customers and how they behaved as patients.

Hares or tortoises

The transactional patients are mostly, if not exclusively interested in price, and they will routinely shop around for a cheaper deal.

Loyalty is not important; if you keep the surgery open until 8pm they’ll find someone who’ll stay open until 9pm.

They are committed to making you little or no money; your profit is their loss.

Think of them as hares.

Relationship patients however search for trust and familiarity, they want to know who their professional team are, and that you are the ‘go-to’ person for all things dental.

They will pay more for that trust factor.

They are profitable over the long term, once the bond is made it will survive a lifetime if handled properly.

Think of them as tortoises.

A race to the bottom

Many marketers and influencers with little clear understanding of long-term dental success try to get dentists to appeal to the transactional hares.

They encourage the sale of one-off treatments, the so-called ‘big ticket’ items like whitening, makeovers or short-term orthodontics.

One way to attract hares to buy is by competing on price.

The result is a race to the bottom – the hares will help get you their faster.

The tortoises will always win the race.


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