The most frequently asked questions at my practice management workshops are,
"How to enhance my practice?”
“How to increase new patients?”
“How to retain patients?”
“How to achieve success?”
I always encourage participants to ask themselves this question: “Why should a patient come to my practice?”
Most often this question leaves the audience bewildered, for the simple reason that we never think on those lines. The two most important terms that answer this question are ethics and brand. How do we build an ethical brand?
We need to be ethical at all times in all our endeavours as professionals.
We also need to create a brand of our own which compels our patients to spread the word around to others. There is an urgent need to train ourselves in the field of management and to acquire skills in business strategy, organizational leadership, finance, marketing, information technology and associated subjects in order to excel in our practices. Of course it is a given that all professionals have the ability to deliver an acceptable standard of care. The following may help create a successful ethical brand:
What is it about a practice that makes it stand apart from the rest? Most clinics look identical in all ways, both inside and outside. They offer the same kind of treatment options. More often than not, for a patient the only differentiating factor between various practices ends up being the dentist’s professional fees. So should we fight a price war to beat the competition? Let’s not forget that the marketplace is full of examples where the price war only led to radical and painful consolidation or demise of the sector itself. Often,low charges may win some new patients, but will it retain them, as they will move on to others who charge lesser? Practices need to convey to their patients why and how they are different from others. This is a subjective issue and each practitioner needs to envisage what will make his/her practice unique. If we are going to set up a practice which looks like and behaves like scores of others then we can’t blame the patient for choosing one based only on charges. The process of creating a niche in the patients’ mind about our services being unique helps us create a brand image. More often than not it is the lack of such business managerial skills and not of professional skills that lead to a practice’s poor performance or even demise.
Walk the talk
Just having a differentiator from the rest of the practices for its own sake is not enough. Mass marketing has created a lot of brands out there in the marketplace but unless a brand delivers on its promises it is bound to fail. Promises made must be kept. Only ethical brands survive the market forces. New practices often have to face tough challenges and make some difficult choices but in order to survive ethics must never be compromised upon. A practice must be able to deliver on its professional standard of care consistently and persistently. As far as possible the outcome of all procedures must be predictable if we are to create the right brand image in the patients’ minds.
When is the right time?
Today the foremost confusion amongst the fresh dentists is what to do and when to do it? Before establishing a practice it is advisable to be an apprentice with a senior successful practitioner to gain experience and then take the plunge. Managerial decisions need to be made on a daily basis in a running practice and one can only make good decisions when one has gone through enough training for the same. It’s always wiser to learn from others mistakes and/or experiences. I have interacted with many dental practice owners who acknowledge the fact that had they been taught practice management skills before establishing their practices they would have done far better much sooner.
Rome wasn't built in a day...beautiful things take time to build
Finally, the creation of an ethical brand ensures that a practice will remain the first choice of any existing or prospective patients and would also lead to the existing patients’ referring new ones by word of mouth. Interestingly word of mouth remains the most favoured and persevering form of marketing any brand could aspire for. Ethical branding will also lead to better productivity, enhanced efficiency and prevent a professional burnout thereby meaning more success and happiness. But we must remember it takes a lot of hard work and patience to achieve success and anything worthwhile takes time to grow! May I say Taj Mahal wasn't built in a day JJJJ
If you do what you always did, you will get what you always got~ Anonymous.