Remember The Godfather? Michael Francese, a real-life New York City Mafia lieutenant went “straight” as he left a life of crime to become a legitimate businessman.
He even wrote a book about the business tools the Mafia uses to make money, because at heart, the Mafia is a business, or more accurately, a whole lot of businesses, making money for all concerned. His book is called “An Offer You Can’t Refuse,” and he makes a fascinating point. Whenever someone came to him to ask for a loan to start a business, say, a dry cleaner or a gas station, he always asked, “How are you going to run the business?”
“The most frequent answer was, ‘The same way everybody else runs them,’” Francese writes.
If that was the answer, however, no loan.
Francese says that as a business lender, albeit at outrageously high rates of interest (and God forbid you don’t pay the money back on time), he was always looking for uniqueness from his borrowers. If they didn’t have a unique idea about how to run their prospective business, he wanted nothing to do with them.
You might ask what this has to do with dentistry—or maybe you already see the connection.
The connection is this: If there isn’t something unique about your dental practice, chances are, you have commoditized yourself, and you are not likely to last long in today’s hyper-competitive and corporatized dental services market.
The most successful dentists today are those who are able to distinguish themselves, their services, or their offices from the competition in ways that allow them to charge premium pricing for the outstanding service they provide.
Some dentists’ offices are incredibly high-tech and high-touch, with massage chairs, mood lighting, and more choices of videos and music than you’ll get on a transatlantic flight.
Others offer Invisalign or other forms of cosmetic dentistry, specialize in children, or keep consumer-friendly hours so that everyone can get served.
What makes your practice unique?
If the answer is nothing, chances are that you won’t get a loan from Michael Francese.
More to the point, how on Earth are you going to stand out when there are so many other dentists in your community who would be delighted and excited to steal your entire patient list?
So a starting point for dentists seeking to improve their marketing is to simply ask this question: what makes me unique? If I were a patient, why would I go to this practice instead of another one down the block, or even in the same building? And then you build your marketing campaign—and your book—around those points of difference. It’s not about knocking the competition, because that just makes you look unprofessional—although I think you knew this already. Instead, it’s identifying and expanding upon those unique traits that cause your patients to stay with your practice year after year and refer family and friends.
If you aren’t sure of what those points are, ask your patients! Do a one-question survey—send them all an email and say, “What do you like best about us?”
If you’re really gutsy, you could even ask, “What do you like least about us?” so that you can remedy those shortcomings.
But the key is this—even the Mafia knows that a successful business is distinctive. If you’re going to write a book about your dental practice, shouldn’t the starting point be what’s distinctive about your practice?
And if there’s nothing distinctive, maybe you need to fix that before you start writing your book!