How Well Do You Know Your Market?
In case you were wondering, shares of Coach are heading up again, hovering close to $60 at this writing. As you may know, consumers don't flinch at paying the steep prices for the company's stylish handbags, shoes, and accessories. Coach is seen as a quality product and the market it attracts tends to be less sensitive to the current economic ebb and flow than others. At the other side of the retail spectrum is Kohls. Similarly, Kohls retail chains also have done extremely well in spite of the economic ups and downs thanks to their loyal, yet uber-cautious middle-market consumer.
So what does this reference to retail have to do with dentistry? These companies know their markets and how to appeal to them. They pay attention. They listen, and they respond. When was the last time you thought about your market?
It’s an interesting irony because your market sits in front of you every day - but few of you engage them. Most of you tell them what they need, when they can come in to get what they need, and how much you will charge for what they need. It’s known as one-way communication and it’s about as effective as rabbit ears on a flat screen TV. It doesn’t begin to enable you to tune into your market and determine specifically what will make the patient actually invest in what you have to offer. Consider the comments of patient “Mary” who goes to “Dr. Smith’s” office.
“Dr. Smith’s office is great for cleanings and that, but he always seems so rushed. He takes a quick look at my teeth after the hygienist cleans them and sends me on my way. I would like to replace my bridge with a couple of those implants, but I never feel like I should bother him with questions.”
It’s the classic example of one-way communication. Neither the doctor nor the hygienist is paying attention to the market - that being the needs of the paying patient sitting in front of them. The doctor doesn’t open the door to discussion with the patients. The hygienist talks away the hour about her mother’s health problems and her son’s struggles adjusting to high school, but never mentions that the doctor recently achieved a special certification to provide a specific treatment. The hygienist doesn’t note that the office was recently featured in a dental publication for its success in integrating adult orthodontics, or ask the patient about the unscheduled treatment that was diagnosed six months ago, or if the patient has ever used over-the-counter whitening products. The hygienist doesn’t provide the patient with literature about services that may be of interest. S/he makes virtually no effort to educate the patient or learn more about the practice’s “market.”
In dentistry, knowing your market and understanding your market often translates into building trusting relationships - not merely performing dental business transactions. In Mary's case, Dr. Smith is focused on completing the perfunctory hygiene exam and getting back to his other patient. In his mind, it's a rudimentary transaction. Little does he realize that in these seemingly insignificant interactions, he is missing the opportunity to better understand the needs and wants of his particular patient market. And rather than building a foundation for future treatment acceptance, he is eroding it.
Many patients today expect more than a mere transaction. They are smart, savvy, and much more aware of advances in dental care and treatment options. Numerous patients would love to change something about their smile or improve their oral health, but few will verbalize those desires without prompting. Others have concerns, but don't want to appear foolish in raising them. Yet if the new and existing patient feels that the doctor and dental team are sincerely interested in their needs, wants, and concerns, they are far more likely to be open to the treatment recommended and inquiring about other services the practice has to offer.
Next week, give your patients good reason to accept treatment.
For more information on this topic, visit my blog: The Lighter Side.
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