Take a snap shot view of the dental marketplace through the eyes of a young dentist, a middle aged dentist, a consultant or a corporate marketing professional and you’d see very different things.
The Young Dentist
Generation Y – born between 1981 and 2000
Most young dentists have school debt and are still learning their skills. They enter the field with great enthusiasm but lack hands on and practical knowledge about the business of dentistry. They are making sense of the world (balance between quality, quantity and the wonderful world of Insurance) while becoming more proficient at delivering dentistry. At the same time, most young dentists are pursuing their dream of associateship or practice ownership. Unfortunately, there are many younger dentists that are reluctant to incur additional debt so the DE novo start-up practice market is soft.
Many younger dentists are enjoying good income while growing their war chest for the next chapter. These top achievers are defining themselves by the quality of their work and the strength of their new patient relationships. They are ready to begin the next phase of their dental careers and are eager to become more relevant as a dentist and business people.
The Middle Aged Dentist [50+]
Generation B – born between 1946 and 1964
The middle aged dentist is a member of a very special fraternity. They’ve been practicing during the greatest era of dentistry we’ve seen to date. They began their careers when restorative dentistry was entirely need based and now operate in modern facilities with technology that their predecessors wouldn’t even recognize. These fifty plus year old dentists have pioneered the cosmetic and technological revolution we now call Modern Day Dentistry.
In the beginning of their careers, these dentists operated when cash was king and insurance was not intrusive (indemnity coverage). But today, most of these doctors are panelists or are considering some degree of insurance involvement and the trend is not encouraging. Additionally these same doctors have been adversely affected by many regulatory/compliance mandates and the never ending need to digitize the work place.
For the last six years these small business owners have endured the Armageddon of 2008 and have moved on to establish our new normal. Today they are investing in their businesses (Cad Cam, Cone Beam) and developing plans to grow or transition towards their next chapter of dentistry or exit strategy.
The Consultant Operates in the World of Abundance
The consultant has a very unique perspective. They know the industry is consolidating and PPO dentistry is omnipresent. They know that cosmetic dentistry, clear braces, facial fillers, implants and same day dentistry represent unique and profitable opportunities for the entrepreneurial dentist or dental service organization.
Ask a consultant if the golden age of dentistry is over and they’ll tell you it’s going on right now.
Practices that execute on their business plan and adhere to their standard of care model are thriving! The consultant’s greatest challenge is the status quo dentist that fails to recognize hourly production, systems and efficiency as critical indicators.
The consultant knows that every type of practice (Fee For Service, Hybrids, PPO, Medicaid…) can be extremely rewarding and profitable. However, the dentist must recognize the community he/she serves and operate accordingly. They must have one eye on systems that provide comprehensive care and the other on operational efficiency and effectiveness.
The Marketing VP
The traditional marketing professional sees the world of snail mail, publications and sales flyers losing their impact. They see traditional marketing vehicles declining while web and digital applications are in vogue.
They see the internet and social media as the Wild West but recognize these vehicles for their relevance and R.O.I. The traditional dental marketing professional views most of these web based dental marketers as discounters with limited inventory and poor fill rates. Having said that, these marketing pros recognize the web and mobile technology will be king in the future.
Most internet resellers lack infrastructure and fail to engage in the business of dentistry. They rarely attend dental meetings, support study clubs or bring value to our community. They are solid at mining the data and marketing the end user but know little about the clinical side of dentistry or the insurmountable operational challenges most dentists face.
Most marketing managers within the manufacturer and dealer community are preparing for the next era in dentistry. They see four distinct markets:
- The Government, Municipal, Hospital and Community Health Centers group.
- The Dental Service Organizations and the large group practice segment
- The regional players (10 + practices) and 3+ group practices
- Independent, private care facilities with no more than two affiliated practices.
The marketing professional knows that the dental supply landscape has changed forever. They’ve seen everyday bulk and disposable items become commodities. They know the future of distribution will be driven by a litany of services (practice management, financial, operational, Human Resources…). They see big box stores and internet based retailers’ poaching business on the janitorial, paper and disposable goods side but ineffective at providing business advice and services.
Great order-fill (no backorders) and next day delivery is no longer an exclusive attribute of the traditional dental dealer. Companies like Henry Schein Dental who have, arguably the best marketing team in the business, are focusing on their distinctive offering and practice management prowess. They are known for one stop shopping, exclusive offerings, competitive prices, inventory control/ordering systems, continuing education, practice management services, HR services, financial services, operational software, technology integration, clinical supplies and traditional dental equipment sales/service.
There is an upside to the marketing manager’s world view on our dental space. They know the dental service/healthcare marketplace will continue to grow as more Americans want white smiles, healthy gums and fresh breath. They are confident that the oral systemic link is gaining momentum within the medical community and that the American healthcare complex is moving towards a preventive healthcare model. In fact, many experts believe that the Affordable Healthcare Act will increase the percentage of Americans who see their dentist twice annually.
My Assessment of Things
We must all be customer centric in this new era of social media. This will protect our reputation and will keep us relevant with our audience. Those that do not take their reputation management seriously or fail to provide relevant information/services will be marginalized over time.
The P&L (while critical to your organizations health) should not be the only criteria you use when evaluating a procedure, policy and customer care. The customers experience matters and it can impact your practice positively or negatively. Do you run on time? Do you provide same day dentistry? It is these distinctive services and the relationships you’ve built over time that will allow you to win the future. That goes for dental dealer, the dentist, the sales rep and anyone who represents their company to the public.
Experienced dental teams are generally competent in their clinical delivery but can use some help on treatment planning, financial solutions, operational efficiency, marketing and customer service. I am a big advocate of coaching and consultants because they make a difference.
Every one of my clients that has used an established consulting organization has grown exponentially. When you provide quality clinical care comfortably and efficiently with great customer care, you will have very few cancellations and a very high treatment acceptance rate.
We all need to see the world of opportunity as abundant. We need to replace fear of the unknown with entrepreneurial curiosity! We need to improve the patient experience with same day dentistry and elective services. We must be committed, passionate and prepared to act when we believe in something.
Focus on getting your valued patients appointed and confirmed now. Many patients with dental benefits have a use it or lose it (calendar year) annual benefit. The ramifications of not having a patient seen for their 2nd re-care appointment by end of December 30th results in more than one lost preventive appointment.