PERSPECTIVE & MINDSET ON ISSUES TOWARD IMPROVING YOUR DENTAL PRACTICE
NOTE: This is Part 1 of How We Can Improve Our Dental Practice.
I always consider that the belief when we market and advertise our dental practice we are being unprofessional is a misguided concept. It is a given fact that almost all dental associations around the world frown upon dental practitioners who market and advertise their dental practice. However, for me, it doesn't mean that since majority agrees with it, it becomes automatically correct. Sometimes these misguided concepts and beliefs require time, evolution and change to prove whether they are indeed right or wrong. And, most of the time, it requires detrimental consequences before people will realize that what they've always thought is right can be wrong. So, before we discuss the actual methods on how you can improve and make your practice better, kindly allow me to tell you first the secrets of having a successful dental practice or even in other aspects of life, it's one's perspective and mindset. In order to fully understand what this mean, let me delve into it in accordance to what I personally learn from actual experiences and in studying and learning from marketing gurus and successful business people. We need to set certain things into proper perspectives and mindset on issues below first to make you understand that these are indeed the key secret ingredients to make implementation of the methods we will suggests later in our Part 2 post for the marketing or up-selling of your dental practice to your patients or preferred market a success.
MARKETING AND ADVERTISING
Marketing specifically refers to research and analysis. In the simplest form of explaining it, you study and analyze your direct target market. You need to know specifically the kind of patients you want to target and analyze how you can encourage them to choose you and acquire your dental services. There are 4 P’s of considerations when you are gathering your data to analyze and study them: Product (on our case, dental service and products), Place, Price and Promotion.
Advertising is the literal process of making a product and service known to your market. You have to create campaigns in the form of ADs to provide information on your products and services. You deal with creative means and establish positions in different forms of media. Advertising must be timely and used in a specifically strategic way
We need to market our dental practices in order that the public will know and truly appreciate the importance and significance of their oral health to their general health and not just the lip service of what they know now that they can procrastinate and do later the need for dental care services. We need to advertise, so, the information can be properly translated and they can see and personally decide what's quality dental practice and what's not. The fear that we cheapen ourselves by advertising our dental practice tantamount to ambulance chasing of patients are mindsets of people who are afraid to fairly compete and be out there to be part of the good choices that the public can choose from. Yes, there will be ambulance chasers but it doesn't mean you have to be one. The market given the right information set by dental organizations will learn and grow mature enough to decide what's good for them. True, there will be times that discount dental practices will seem to initially win, but, in the end, they wont. Look at low quality made in China products, at first, it seems that nothing can beat those but, in time, the market who prefers value versus cost has spoken. It is just a matter of perspective which kind of market you want to have in your dental practice.
IDENTIFYING YOUR COMPETITOR
Who Is Our Direct Competitor? We believe that our competitors are own colleagues especially those who often rely on “discount price” dental practices. We think that the other dental practices are the ones we need to compete with when we are trying to build and improve our dental services. Thus, we become like horses with blinkers that we don’t see the entire picture who really are our direct competitors.
In reality our direct competitors are other products and services that entice our patients to spend their money on them rather than on their dental health. For example, our patients would happily work hard, save and pay USD 500 or even as high as USD 1,200 worth of mobile phone than to have a denture done or have a complete dental rehabilitation with us. They don’t mind spending USD 5,000.00 for a signature bag rather than have an implant or an orthodontic treatment that will greatly improve their way of life. They look upon us instead a necessary expense that they prefer to do without rather than a valuable one.
(a) It is related to #1 perspective. We don’t market and advertise enough dental awareness and need for it. Even if they know about braces, implant, filling, tooth whitening, etc., we don’t have enough concerted effort to make them appreciate the cost versus value. Look at toothpaste commercials, if you will observe their advertising now, they rarely place nowadays the mantra of “Visit Your Dentist”, what the toothpaste companies recently emphasize on is the thought process of using their whitening toothpaste rather than the public to go to their dentist and have a tooth whitening treatment done. We are being side step from the equation and we are allowing to be set aside because of the twisted notion that as dentists it very unbecoming if we market and advertise our dental practice. It was my same belief before until I saw the way Dr. Vicki Belo’s (For those who do not live in the Philippines, she’s a successful cosmetic doctor of the stars here in the Philippines.) medical practice boom into a billion pesos business and even helped her other colleagues benefit from the trickle down effect of her marketing and advertising of the value of cosmetic treatment and surgery even if she initially got the wrath of the medical society before and the disapproval of majority of her colleagues. Dermatologists per se can now practice cosmetic surgeries as she started this campaign of extending more to one’s specialisation and evolve into something else. This is the value of letting your market know what your services are all about. We can’t disapprove about something out of spite due to jealousy or out of our misguided belief about wanting to earn good money for our services as we are supposed to be morally better than other professionals. This is either hypocrisy or arrogance on our part. We all invest on time, money and efforts to be where we are as dentists and wanting to earn good deal of money is not bad, what’s bad is pretending to be good dentists but earn good deal of money by short changing the quality of our materials and services to our patients. Does this perspective make sense to you?
(b) The second reason is perspective and mindset on the #3 issue below.
KNOW, UNDERSTAND AND ACCEPT HUMAN NATURE
In order to market our dental practice and even advertise it if we get away with the current rules on Advertising in our own respective country’s Dental Associations, we need to really know and understand first human nature. We may not like certain ugly truths about the basic nature of human beings but these are the factors used for effective marketing and advertising. The most successful business people reached their success because they know, understand, accept and use the psychology of human nature in their businesses.
To streamline this perspective, let’s categorize some of it as I am not writing a book but just asking you to consider a certain mindsets:
HUMAN NATURE MINDSETS:
(a) Utility Need Versus Life Style Need
- Utility Need are those products and services we categorize that humans do and spend on even if they don’t like it because they don’t have a choice on the matter, wherein in our mind as humans, these are necessary evil. Unfortunately, health services is one of them and that's where dental services fall into. Even if we all know that “Health is Wealth” and “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, if you, yourself, will reflect on your own mindset, don’t you feel spending money on general medical check-ups or medical laboratory costs expensive or a necessary cost that you rather can do without? That’s the exact same feeling our patients feel when they have to spend for diagnostic tests and our treatment/s, we are costs that they can do without unless necessary, thus, when we charge them even if there’s value on what we are giving them, they can’t appreciate it. We are just part of their maintenance cost.
- Life Style need are those products and services that as humans we like to spend because it reflects on who and what we are in life, our status and life style. For example, Starbucks Coffee, we are willing to spend USD 3.00 for a coffee when we complain about the increase of price of instant coffee in the grocery. Just in our dental practice, we complain about the price of silicone rubber impression materials to the point we still prefer to use alginate but if we do have money to invest and buy something in our practice, we will probably be willing to spend on 3D digital scanners that cost thousands of dollars or millions of pesos which, ironically, the current models in the market will probably still require us, dentists, to get a rubber impressions anyway. Our life style needs take precedence to utility needs when it comes to the human's choice on where they would like to spend their hard earn money because we are bombarded day in and day out what we should have and acquire to make us feel "happy" or be considered and judge "successful" by society. In short, life style needs cater to our desires rather than needs.
Thus, our dental practice should be defined to our target market not as a utility need but a life style need. Our patients should think of our dental practice as a good part of their life style rather than a necessary evil that they need to spend against their desire.
(b) Cost Versus Value
In my 30 years of practice, and, now, in the practice of my profession in a different way, I used to be like everybody else before, I felt I need to lower my prices on my dental services, so, I will not lose patients against those clinics who were charging their dental services at what seems to be a lifetime discount. I also went through of accepting HMO accreditation and accepted the HMO services at those demeaning prices in exchange of my services because I justified that I need these HMOs to create foot traffic to my clinic. But, after only 5 years of my dental practice in doing that and seeing other lucrative dental practices in my neighborhood, I realized that my perspective in seeing things on how I can make my dental practice grow was wrong. My dental practice can grow not by lowering my prices on my dental services but by increasing the level of value I can bring on my dental services to my patients. It doesn’t matter where my geography is but it was a matter of giving great value to myself, to what I can do and in turn to what I can actually give to my patients. It was only then I realized that doing discount dental services may indeed bring me a lot of patients at first but at really what cost to me? I have to work longs hours and sacrifice my time to be with my family and on other things I value more just in order to reach the income I need to earn. Money lost is something one can earn back but time is a commodity no matter how rich you are can’t be earn back. Moreover, patients who just came to my clinic because I charge cheap never really turns into loyal patients, case in point, they were just there in my clinic getting my dental services in the first place because I happen to offer the cheapest price in the block. Thus, I finally decided to change my perspective and mindset, I have to value who I am as a dentist. I became a firm believer that the dental charges we set in our dental practice also reflects on how we value ourselves as dental professionals. If we are all like this, our market’s perspective and mindset will also change with us. I believe that the true definition of the word “service” in our profession is giving equal or even greater value of service to our patients in proportionate to what they paid for in our service. It is not by giving discounts or free services which defines the meaning of our professional “service” but the value of that service to them such as improving their health, the way they see themselves, etc. that we finally indeed gave the “service” we swore to give and uphold in our Hippocratic oath.
You may or may not agree with me, but, I believe that in order to improve our dental practice especially make it grow and be successful have something more to do with our mindset and perspective on how we see things in life. In general, the methods in order to up-sell or market your dental practice can only be effective IF you try to look at things at its proper perspectives and mindset. The principles of marketing and advertising remain the same in any profession or business, it is the people behind it that makes the difference. It is the same in our dental practice, the make or break of your dental practice is not dependent on others but on you. You define your profession and how you practice it, thus, its success and its failures is on you.
Dr. Jean Galindez - Writer and Editor