20 May How To Really Start Marketing Your Dental Practice
With so much advice at your fingertips nowadays, you might find it difficult to know where to start when it comes to really marketing your dental practice effectively.
Do you need a plan, do you need a defined strategy, a budget, a dedicated resource?..”yes” is the most likely all answer to all of these questions, but do you know where to begin? If you need to have a fresh start because perhaps the results aren’t quite what you were expecting, or maybe you just need to start marketing your dental practice, I would like to shine some light on one of the key things that you need to focus on, your ‘value proposition’. “Ah yes, here comes yet more marketing speak and nonsense. We’ve heard it all before…” I hear you say, well stick with me on this because this idea is so simple, proven and effective, it will shape, direct and guide you towards marketing that really works.
What is a ‘value proposition’?
A value proposition is a clear statement on;
- Your purpose
- The reasons why you are different
- How you delight your patients
- Why your patients are loyal
- Why you are so in demand
- Why you’re known for what you do
The value that you offer is your value proposition and until your patients perceive the value that you offer, based on their reality, it is of no value. This is the point where you have common ground with your patients. It’s the point where what you can offer, consistently, efficiently and profitably meets the needs and wants of your customers. A value proposition is not to be confused with a ‘strap line’ or a mission statement, because it focusses on your differentiation, in other words why a patient would choose you and why they would stay with you. Your value proposition isn’t the words that you put on your website or copy and paste into your marketing literature, but it will provide you and your team with the clarity required to shape everything that you do for your patients as well as how you attract and retain new ones.
As a customer or consumer, you can sense businesses that have a strong and well communicated value proposition. It’s the difference between Starbucks (no for the fourth time, I don’t want any cakes or pastries today!) and Pret A Manger (where we value freshly made sandwiches, natural ingredients, fixed pricing, no up-selling or mechanised loyalty schemes and staff with warmth and humour).
Do you need one? Yes. If you don’t have a value proposition then your patients have no reason to choose you. Their reality will be that you don’t understand them, and of course the number one reason why people switch brands or suppliers; “They didn’t understand me”.
What happens if your team don’t understand your value proposition? Your value proposition should be written down and communicated frequently as part of your team meetings. If your team don’t know what your value proposition is, they will make one up for you, in front of your patients, on the telephone and online, whilst you are shut in your surgery thinking that everything is being delivered in the way that you want it! This will result in;
- Increases in patient complaints
- Demands for pay increases
- Poor recruitment decisions
- Low return on marketing spend
- Low recall rates
- Busy receptions but quiet surgeries
- Low take up of treatment plans
- “I can get it cheaper elsewhere”
- Poor decisions
What do you need to avoid? Empty, nonsense words and phrases. “Smiley Dental provides high quality life changing dentistry with a full range of modern dental treatments. Our aim is to be a friendly and caring team and provide first class service.”
What to include? Be clear, be specific and above all else focus on what makes you different. There is no need to whacky or believe that its all about spending loads of money on fancy equipment and surgeries (nice to have but somebody has got to pay for them). Invest time in this and where necessary include your team, research your patients and find out what is important to them. Here’s a mini summary;
How to write your value proposition
1. What is your purpose? Focus on differentiation.
2. Who are your patients? Be clear about what they want.
3. What is different about what you do? Think about;
- What have you got?
- What is good or different about it?
- The ‘so what?’ test. Remember it’s only of value if your patients perceive that it is of value
- Will your patients pay for it? An expensive folly full of the latest gadgets may serve your ego but will it pay the monthly finance instalments?
4. Why are your patients loyal? Why do your patients choose you, what do they want and how can you demonstrate that you understand them.
5. What are you well known for? What is the reputation that you want to build your business on. What do you want your patients, team and even your community to associate with you?
And in the real world? If you are struggling with this and wondering how you can focus on differentiation, when after all you are is “just a dental practice“, here is a real world example of a business that just “makes and serves sandwiches” and yet has turned the market on its head by just doing the basics right and the right things well. By looking at the Pret A Manger website, their CEO’s blog and visiting a few of their stores, this is what I believe to be the Pret value proposition.
Positioning (the value offer) Pret creates handmade natural food avoiding all the obscure extras common to so much of the ‘prepared’ and ‘fast’ food on the market today. NB – this is not the strap line of “Organic Coffee & Natural Food”
To whom Customers that value fresh ingredients, served faster than our competitors.
In what way All ingredients are fresh and sandwiches made daily on the premises (product differentiation) within 60 seconds of the customer entering the shop in a more pleasant manner than elsewhere (service differentiation)
Our customers choose us because They are assured by our fresh ingredients superior to our competitors with food made daily on the premises They find menus updated and improved regularly They appreciate our straightforward and simple approach and no up-selling They find our prices to be value for money They find our locations convenient and our prices consistent across all shops They like us and trust us because we reward loyalty without mechanised schemes
What do we stand for Doing the right thing, sustainability, welfare and charity And lets focus finally on that final statement. This takes us back to some of the foundations of any effective and sustainable business. It’s what Stephen Covey calls ‘Character Ethics’, things like trust, credibility, authenticity, industry and service. No mention of ‘Personality Ethics’ such as quick fixes, techniques, positive mental attitudes, scripts, selling techniques, free offers and no obligation quotes; the things that have tarnished the image and reputation of other professions.
The most important lesson from this Most telling, is that what happened when the latest accounts for Pret A Manger were released. The CEO revealed that for 12 months, the money that could have been directed towards a mechanised loyalty scheme had actually been funnelled towards letting the staff use the money to make discretionary acts of random kindness to their customers. You look like you are having a bad day, here’s a free coffee on us, that kind of thing. And, when the word got out and hoards of journalists went to see if it was really true, guess what happened, consistently and throughout a team of 7500 employees? “…they responded with warmth and good humour as they do every day. Above all, they were authentic, surely the most important attribute for any brand today.” And yet all they do is make and serve sandwiches.
Well, if you make and serve sandwiches that way, engage a loyal team that act with discretion, common sense and personality, just think of the opportunity that you have when all you do is help people have healthy teeth and gums!
Still wondering where to start? Treat yourself to lunch at Pret A Manger!