By DR SIMON HOCKEN
It’s a lonely life being a dental principal and it’s often hard to assess or understand what your competitors are up to. It’s no good asking them as they are generally guarded or exaggerate their successes to make them feel better and you worse. So, as we enter the final month of the year I thought you would be interested in my observations of what the movers and shakers in the dental practice marketplace are up and what strategies and tactics are working…
- Growing practice turnover. After a few years of standing still (or gently shrinking) all of the practices we work with are growing, taking advantage of the growth in the UK economy and the new-found confidence of the UK population to spend again. All of their offerings are in demand but the real growth is in what patients want rather than what they need. The wants are all about cosmetic dentistry or sophisticated restorative solutions to replace missing teeth or dysfunctional mouths. This time around, the margins are tighter and therefore those out in front have had to put in place proper performance measurement and reporting so they know far more about their growth and the reasons behind it. This growth inevitably means the recruitment of more staff and expanding the premises and facilities – practice designers have never been busier.
- Online presence. Our practices growing the fastest have embraced (at last) their online presence and have accepted they need to fund a functioning website which converts five per cent of unique traffic into front desk enquirers. They’ve also embraced SEO, PPC and social media in support of their site and they know the site needs to be responsive (mobile and tablet friendly) and needs constant updating, monitoring, investment and will actually need replacing every few years.
- New deliverables. Many principals have looked at services they have not historically provided and have now brought these services in-house through training or hiring clinicians to provide: facial rejuvenation, life prolonging perio, adult invisible ortho, specialist endo and oral surgery and implants. Obviously, this enhances the capability of the practice for its existing patient base and usefully attracts new patients who are increasingly likely to self refer to these services.
- Opening hours. The paradigm has shifted at last and many (reluctant) principals and their teams have embraced extending their opening hours into the early mornings, evenings and weekends. They often find these new sessions are the first to fill up and some practices are charging a premium fee for them (much like my train company charges a premium rate for getting me from Devon to London by 9am).
- Effective practice management. When practices hire a skilled, experienced, capable, clever practice management team they’re getting so much more than the traditional ops manager – their skill set extends to financial reporting and control, HR, sales and marketing. It is because of these skills that practices grow and in our experience you have to hire them ahead of growth, not because of growth!
If you’d like help working on any or all of these five crucial areas, get in touch with me on firstname.lastname@example.org or 07770 430576.