THINKING BUSINESS
a blog by Chris Barrow

Membership has its privileges

Was it Amex that first coined that phrase? In Edinburgh at the moment for our Business Club meeting – and when I arrived yesterday and passed my Diamond VIP loyalty card across the registration desk at The Cally, I was upgraded to one of the “newly refurbished rooms with a view of the castle” in a rather grand way. That’s what I expect, because I am a loyal client of Hilton, as evidenced by my “points” tally. Interesting then, that the ensuing conversation with a practice owners revolves around how they can positively differentiate themselves in a world of increasing competition and “sameness”. We are evolving an important theory as to how the “membership scheme” has to be elevated to a new level. I asked one of our clients what benefits were associated with their in-house scheme. He quickly replied, “two exams, two scale and polish and some emergency cover – PLUS a 20% discount on fee per item work (but that’s not really a discount if you know what I mean) nudge, nudge, wink, wink.” It’s a familiar mantra – and I want to challenge perceived thinking and suggest that this will not be enough going forward. When you are competing with Tesco, Virgin, Superdrug, the semi-private corporates and the new phenomenon of jobless VT’s and associates backed by family money or idiot banks – the traditional explanation of membership scheme benefits may no longer cut the mustard. Especially not as my utility bills rocket skyward and the need for general dental “maintenance” (how horrible a word is that) gets pushed on to the “round tuit” list. So what will a 21st Century dental membership scheme offer? Here’s a clue… 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. member’s price list 8. two dental examinations 9. two hygiene visits and 10. worldwide emergency cover. The real question is – what will the first 6 “knock ’em dead” offers be – so irresistibly attractive that there will be a waiting list for membership of your practice? Answer that question successfully – and you have a survive and prosper plan for the next three years. Fail to answer it – and that rumbling sound is “everyone else” – just behind you. Want a clue? Start with the following:

  1. Scarcity

  2. Privilege

  3. Reward

My room at The Cally is lovely:

  1. only a few have been refurbished so far and I’m amongst the first to experience them

  2. beautiful bathroom, fancy plasma TV, exquisite bed providing a wonderful night’s sleep

  3. my upgrade is free of charge

  4. the view of the castle is stunning

  5. the complimentary wine and chocolates will be travelling home with me

  6. I’ll enjoy my quarterly breakfast of haggis shortly

  7. I feel appreciated, privileged and rewarded for my loyalty

That’s how they keep me.

How are you going to keep your patients?

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