Survival of the fittest

Marketing matters. There’s no escaping it – today’s modern dental practices need to promote services in order to thrive, or even survive. The harsh reality is that if they don’t, the practice income can either stagnate or gradually dwindle away as patients move to practices which, they feel, are more in touch with their dental needs.

Blue Horizons has been working with dentists across the UK for more than five years and, in that time, has witnessed a transformation in the sector. When the company was founded, marketing was a somewhat dirty word and viewed by most dentists as synonymous with advertising and double-glazing style sales techniques. We had to explain the whole concept of marketing to potential clients so they could see how they would benefit from it.

Not any longer. These days dentists are calling us, simply saying: ‘I need to market my practice. How can you help?’

So, whereas five years ago perhaps no more than 5% of practitioners saw the value of committing their hard-earned cash to marketing expenditure, the figure is now more than 25% – and rising fast. It is this change in attitude among a growing number of dentists that increases the pressure on others to follow suit.

Cosmetic makeovers

Patients have far more choice these days about where they go to get dental treatment. So much choice, in fact, that it would probably be more accurate to call them clients, since unless they are still under the care of the NHS, they are exercising their choice about where to spend their dental budget.

Not only do they have more choice, but they are also increasingly exercising that choice. If they’ve moved home or are dissatisfied with their current practice, clients will call several practices, ask for information from each, and choose the one best suited to their needs (which in many cases will not be the cheapest).

Even if they are satisfied with their current practice, they can still be wooed away by other practices that market

themselves more appealingly and appear to offer a better service.

Of course it’s not just dental practices and their services with which you are competing. Tooth whitening, for example, has become so popular that there are now high street companies solely offering this service – it’s quick, convenient and viewed by many as a beauty treatment, on a par with having a haircut or a facial.

In some areas, there are even mobile tooth-whitening services – all you have to do is call and they’ll turn up on your doorstep. That’s the ultimate in convenience!

Cosmetic surgery businesses have also seen the potential in cosmetic dentistry – with increasing numbers now adding smile makeovers to their list of aesthetic services.

Unsurprisingly, there is far more competition for these higher value patients with an interest in aesthetic

procedures. Few practitioners wish to poach the majority of other practice’s patients who attend purely for their regular check-ups.

Refining an image

Marketing is now widely recognised as a necessary and valuable business process. In the past, many dentists traditionally gained their business advice from their accountant. Without wishing to generalise, a fair amount of this advice has been how to maximise profits by keeping variable costs to a minimum. Perhaps understandably, with this sort of mindset, marketing was classed as avoidable variable cost. Nowadays, practitioners have more advanced ideas and understand that one of the key ways of boosting profits is through marketing. This is far more in line with the modern school of thought that marketing is an essential part of the business.

In fact, the CEO of Nike, Phil Knight, goes a step further, saying: ‘Now we understand that the most important thing we do is market the product. We’ve come around to saying that Nike is a marketing-oriented company, and the product is our most important marketing tool.’

The new breed of business-focused practitioners are looking at refining their marketing, crafting the right practice image, the right treatment portfolio and the optimum level of customer service to achieve their financial goals.

One example is Anthony Zybutz’s practice in Harley Street which has evolved to suit his goals and the needs of his clients. He now has a strong focus on providing quality dental and facial aesthetic work to those prepared to pay for the best care and customer services. These services – which include a forward-thinking facial aesthetics maintenance plan – are perfectly targeted, his prices just right for the patients he wants to attract, and, of course, his literature accurately reflects his high-class and modern image.

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