This month, Chris Barrow, the Dental Business Coach, discusses the challenge of consumer preference, and how to be louder in a competitive world.
On a recent Sunday afternoon, we decided to pay a flying visit to see one of my recently arrived granddaughters.
It’s normally a 30-minute drive along the M60 (aka the Manchester Outer Ring Road) and past The Trafford Centre.
As we passed ‘The Traff’, the congestion, and tailbacks on the southbound carriage of the Motorway were huge as shoppers queued for the exit ramp to take advantage of Black Friday, Cyber-Monday, and the forthcoming festive season.
Which got me thinking about the news media coverage of a downward trend in ‘consumer confidence’.
There was no lack of confidence in evidence on the M60 (and I’m willing to bet it will be the same at any retail park in your own post code).
Neither may I observe, in any of the pubs, clubs and community squares that are carrying big-screen coverage of a certain football competition and serving up food and drink to boot.
A gathering storm
Now a different perspective.
On the Friday before my family visit, I had driven back from Leeds to Manchester whilst listening to Radio 4’s PM news coverage at 17:00.
What horrified me were the multiple reports of those seeking strike action to enforce their pay demands – I’m shocked not by the demands (perfectly understandable as we all face increases in our cost of living) but by the fact that communication between employers and employees is so poor that it has come to this.
In the face of this gathering storm of 70’s-like industrial unrest and against a backdrop of pre-Christmas spending – where should we stand in dentistry?
Consumer confidence isn’t the problem – it is consumer preference that we need to be mindful of.
Consumers (patients) have choice – to spend their money with you, spend it elsewhere or not at all.
The question that must be at the forefront of our minds when we communicate with patients (or prospective new patients) is, ‘why spend your money with us?’
It’s easy enough to deal with patients in pain or discomfort – they want the solution enough to pay, no matter what.
The challenge is the discretionary spend on:
- A hygiene visit
- A dental health review (or check-up)
- That cosmetic procedure that is important but not urgent.
They are all too easy to postpone if there is a preference to redirect funds to something more essential and/or fun.
We must try harder than we have done in recent years to remind patients of the benefits of regular attendance and of the beneficial outcomes of the elective treatments they have enquired about.
Better recall systems that reinforce ‘three good reasons to attend’ and better treatment plans that include references to the benefits that will arise on completion.
Your voice is a small one in a world of noise – never more so than as we approach the holiday.
It’s difficult to be louder in a competitive world – but you can focus on making your message more meaningful.
I’ll leave the madding crowd to their shopping in Trafford, whilst I stay at home thinking carefully about my messaging.
Catch up on previous Dental Business Coach columns:
- An Englishman in New York
- Have you revisited your cashflow forecasts?
- Dental news: half empty or half full?
- Knowing your own capabilities and limitations
- Stagflation and the next ‘crisis’ in dental hygiene.
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