If you’re not yet feeling the squeeze of corporate dentistry, count your lucky stars. But it’s something that you should be preparing for… because there’s no stopping the growth of the dental chains.
Investment capital is pouring into the chains and into the DSOs. Barring an economic downturn, there’s no end in sight to that trend.
Granted, that grow is uneven when it comes to individual markets, but if there’s money to be made it’s only a matter of time before you’re facing the challenge.
It Seem Likes Corporate Has All The Advantages
Money talks, and financial economies of scale are very hard for solo and small dental practices to compete against. Not only do corporate practices save on supplies, they also enjoy savings on employee health plans, marketing, and even the cost of renting space.
Because of those economies, dentists all over the country are finding themselves undercut on price by the corporate chains; in some cases, that downward pressure on price shaves dentists’ margins to the bone.
Beyond economies of scale, the staffing of corporate offices means that their hours of service are tough for a small practice to match.
Given the “one-two punch” of low price and availability, it might seem like all is lost for independent dentists. Fortunately, that’s not true.
A Fatal Flaw
Solo and small dental practices should take comfort in the words of Dr. Michael Abernathy, the founder of Summit Practice Solutions. “If you know what you’re doing,” he wrote, “the corporate dentistry marketing machine has an enormous weakness it can never overcome.”
Actually, the chains have two weaknesses that you can exploit.
Even in this day of “commodity dentistry,” trust remains an important part of the patient-doctor relationship. That’s less true for the one-and-done patients that are the bane of many dental practices, but it holds true for ongoing patients and one very important segment of patients.
Corporate dentistry is weak when it comes to building trust. It’s common for patients to never see the same dentist twice, as the emphasis is on keeping dentists’ schedules filled.
Trust is also difficult to build when patients feel pressured to accept treatment. It would be a misstatement to say that a “hard sell” approach is the norm for all chains offices. However, there are many well-documented cases of malfeasance on the part of some corporate practices, and the existence of financial performance standards within some chains is well known.
Corporate dentistry suffers from the same perception that individual dentists struggle with – that they’re all the same. When it comes right down to it, there’s no compelling reason to choose one corporate dental office over another – except for price and availability.
Low price is not an important selling point for the 20-40 percent of a given market with discretionary income. Availability isn’t a consistent attraction but may be to a small number of prospects.
Those two selling points don’t play well with the segment of prospects that have the ability and willingness to pay more for the right dentist. Arguably, there is no “right” dentist among the faceless ranks of corporate dentists, and someone who is contemplating tens of thousands of dollars in dental care isn’t overly concerned about saving a few bucks.
You simply can’t compete with corporate dentistry on price or availability. But the chains can’t compete with you when you become the trusted dental expert who offers a superior patient experience. The “trick” is to move your marketing approach to convey those qualities to the patients you want to attract.
Positioning dentists as the only logical choice for the better patients in their markets is something that SmartBox accomplishes every day. If you want a partner is dealing with corporate dentistry, consider scheduling a Roadmap call. In exchange for the amount of time you need to place a single crown or an implant, we’ll show you what’s possible for your practice.