Before another word is uttered, let’s get one fact out in the open. Dentistry is an industry and dental offices are a business. If it weren’t, the atrophy within the dental community will be so rapid and severe; the public would lose access to competitive dental care within one generation. Armed with the fact that dentistry is a business, it is important to then treat its functioning, its planning and its benchmarking as such. The first thing that a dental practice must do, even before thinking about marketing is to carve out a niche they will occupy. It is absolutely fine to carve out a small niche then plan to expand it over the years.
Carving A Niche
A niche, in Shakespeare’s words, should be carved like a dish fit for Gods not hewed like a carcass for the dogs. Sage advice even in business. The niche must be meticulously carved out and not haphazardly hacked. The niche must rise from the ashes of careful reflection and study. The study in itself can be categorized into four quadrants known as a SWOT analysis. SWOT is the acronym for Strength, Weakness, Opportunity and Threat. The process is iterative and factors can be placed under more than one column if considered appropriate.
Simply defined, strength is a positive attribute within the practices’ sphere of influence. The strength column must be an honest evaluation of all attributes of the principle and his/her practice that represents positive consequences. A large database of clients is an example of strength. Experienced staff is also an example. Equipment that is housed internally for surgery and x rays are all examples of strengths.
Weaknesses describe exactly where the principle, key staff and business are not performing well. Usual areas include high customer turnover. Anything that is within the control of the practice that it is not doing well is a weakness.
Opportunities are the first of two external factors, unlike Strength and Weaknesses which are internal attributes. An Opportunity is a market condition that the practice has no control over but is perfectly poised to take advantage of. Business typically seeks to match strengths with Opportunities to grow and match strength with Threats to mitigate.
Threats are market forces that have negative implications for the business. It too, like Opportunities, are beyond the business’s control. It is environmental. A threat is something that businesses try to mitigate with one of their strengths. If a threat is dangerously poised over an internal weakness, it is the worse possible scenario and steps must be taken to correct.
Place the four factors in a grid with each heading occupying one quadrant and begin a brainstorming session, throwing everything the mind can think of. Then eliminate one by one and match them accordingly. What synthesizes from here is the niche one should occupy and a strategy to move forward can be chiseled out.
by Elliot Pearson
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