THINKING BUSINESS
a blog by Chris Barrow

Marketing is a continuous process

After my initial grumpiness, a business meeting yesterday in Surrey that was down to earth, seriously enjoyable and required focus and concentration – what better way to “re-tox” from the holiday break – mental aerobics. I was working 1:1 with the owner of a £2.5 million dental clinic (and his internal marketing team) on the continuous process of evolving and monitoring his marketing systems – designed to encourage both enquiries from the public and from other referring dentists to his team of 9 clinicians. You may recall my blog entry from 12th August on the Hilton Hotels “Brand Standard” We discussed the creation of better Brand Standards (my new name for protocols – doesn’t protocols sound so boring and “worky” whereas Brand Standards sounds like something to be proud of?). Better Brand Standards within his own clinic for all aspects of the patient journey and also the referring dentists’ journey. A further conversation focused on the effectiveness of his own appointment book and changes that could be made to make the flow of potential new patients easier to control – the key moment was his willingness to relinquish control of his diary to the team and trust them to make the right decisions for the use of his time. In the afternoon, we spent over 3 hours reviewing his corporate image with the help of an external consultant. Over the years he has evolved literally dozens of individual documents that are issued to patients and dentists – they are many different shapes, sizes, colours, designs – and are only united by the business name and rather old-fashioned logo. Time to focus, simplify, co-ordinate, modernise and link with his very extensive web site. The birth of a project that I suspect will take up to 2 years to complete. Why is this so important? Well I’ve been bleating on about marketing being continuous since forever, using the cliche that “you don’t dig a well when a drought starts – it’s too late”. My client has had the lion’s share of the dental implant market in his geographical area for some years – but we began our meeting yesterday with a report from his “right-hand lady” and fellow dentist of a conversation heard over a local dinner table. The gist of the comment was “I was considering paying your practice £3500 for my dental implant but I have heard that a practice 15 minutes away are offering to place implants for £1500 – so I’m going to give them a try.” The number of dentists offering implants is increasing exponentially and prices are starting to be driven down – good for consumers in the short term, bad for business in the short term – until the issue of quality and expertise manifests itself in failed cases and complications – but that won’t happen for years. So my question to the team yesterday was “why should I pay you £2000 more than Practice Y for the same implant?” And don’t give me all that crap about nicer building and a “relaxed and comfortable environment” – because they all say that. And you are not allowed to say “Practice Y might make a bollocks of it”. Even though that’s true – it’s not “pc”. You are going to have to say something very special to justify that price differential. In many cases, the answer is “it costs £2000 more because Dr A does it” – where Dr A has branded his or herself as the “top banana” implant person in the area – look at the Michael Wise’s and Paul Tipton’s of the world to see that in action. But where there are 9 clinicians and a coporate brand – how do you answer the “£2000 more” question? Any comments out there?

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