Competing with that slick new practice that’s just opened its doors down the street from you is less about what they’re doing and more about focusing on optimising your own game. By Shane Conroy
It’s every dentist’s nightmare. You work for years building up a successful practice, and just as business starts to soar, a new practice opens its doors down the street. Suddenly you’re spending sleepless nights worrying about your patients leaving you for the new kid on the block.
Will you have to add a zero to your marketing budget to compete? Will your staff walk out your door for greener pastures at the slick new practice? Do you need to discount your prices to compete? Is this the beginning of the end?
Thankfully, you can put those fears to bed and sleep tight in the knowledge that there are several things you can do to help protect your practice from new competitors in your territory.
But you can’t sit back and wait until that new practice is up and running. You must take a proactive approach and put measures in place now that will serve you well when it comes time to compete with that pesky newcomer.
Assess, don’t obsess
While it’s important to assess your competitive landscape and know what’s happening in your market, obsessing about your competition can shift your focus away from your most important task—running an outstanding practice.
“You need to strike a balance between being aware of competitive forces and becoming preoccupied with them,” says Dr Jesse Green, a sought-after business coach and the founder of Practice Max—a high-performance business model for dental practices. “You’ve got to be aware but you still have to be prepared to run your own race.”
Julie Parker, co-founder of practice coaching firm Julie Parker Practice Success, agrees that it’s much more effective for dentists to focus on their own game than worry about the competition. “Shift your focus away from the competition and instead devote your energies into making the service you provide excellent, and the strategy of your marketing clever,” she says.
Retain the patients you have
Retaining your existing patients should be priority number one in your competition strategy, and that means providing an impeccable patient experience that will build your customer loyalty.
“Understand what your patients want and deliver that to them in an outstanding way,” says Parker. “Do it better than any other practice could. Then even if patients leave to try elsewhere, they will return for your superior care.”
“You need to strike a balance between being aware of competitive forces and becoming preoccupied with them.”
Dr Jesse Green, founder, Practice Max
Dr Green suggests providing all patients will solid treatment plans that set out a well-defined schedule of treatments that are aligned with their pre-set dental health goals. “You want to remind people why they are coming back to you, and that going to a new dentist would be essentially starting from scratch,” he says.
Understand what makes you unique
Part of running your own race comes down to knowing what makes your practice special, and this should be clearly communicated in all that you do.
“You should always be making your practice premises, and its image, marketing and branding work in a positive way for you,” says Dr Phillip Palmer, chairman of Prime Practice. “If not, you will be inviting competition to set up nearby.”
“If you’re not doing something differently, it’s easy for a new practice to come into the market and copy you,” adds Dr Green. “Keep being you and keep innovating, and your competitor will always be the fake Rolex versus the real deal.”
Create a workplace of choice
You’ve invested significant time, effort and money in training your team, and you can’t bear the thought of losing your people to a flashy new practice. But if you’ve created a positive workplace where employees feel valued and supported, it’s unlikely that you’ll lose them—even if your new competitor offers them more money.
“Create an environment for your team that others don’t come close to,” says Parker. “Train them, pay them well, create a strong positive culture, give them autonomy and tell them how much you appreciate their contributions. Make sure your team knows you care about them.
“And if they do leave, keep the door open for their possible return. A returning employee is always more loyal the second time around.”
Leverage your existing patient base
As an established practice, you also have an advantage over new practices when it comes to competing for new patients—you just have to know how to use it.
“A new practice has to rely on external marketing, but you can turn your focus inwards by leveraging your existing patient base,” says Dr Green. “Creating a patient-driven marketing strategy is not only more cost-effective, but you also get better-quality patients because they’ve been referred by friends or family and are already partially sold on you.”
But at the end of day, the most effective competition strategy is ensuring your own house is in order. “Just be the best you can be in every way,” concludes Dr Palmer. “Be the best boss you can be, the best clinician, the best manager, the best leader, the best communicator and the best marketer. Your future will be assured.”