When I talk to dentists about the Membership Economy, they often say this:
"I see how principles of membership, subscription and community work for big tech companies like Amazon, LinkedIn or Spotify, but I don't think it applies to me"
Actually, dentists have much to gain from membership.
The Membership Economy is a massive transformation that is changing consumer expectations about how they are treated and creating new possibilities for organizations to connect with the people they serve.
Many dental practices are seen as commodities, not differentiated from other practices at all, except maybe by type of insurance or geographic location. And most are still very transactional in mindset, as opposed to focusing on the long term relationship.
And yet, there is tremendous opportunity here.
Three Steps to Membership
To join the Membership Economy, here are some simple things you can do.
#1 Take a step back and define your "best patients"--most likely, they are people who go beyond paying you on time, but also value their health, feel a connection to your practice and maybe even serve as an evangelist, recommending you to their friends. Look at what these people have in common. Are they mostly moms with kids? Do they appreciate your sophistication around pain management? Have they had a history of bad experiences with dentists and find you a welcome and refreshing exception? Write a list of your best patients, and your worst patients--and start developing a prototype.
#2. Consider what these best patients really want from you. Trust me, it's not "fill my cavity". It's probably something like "help me feel confident that I'm attending to my oral health, with minimum discomfort and at a fair price" That desire is the forever promise you need to have with them.
#3. Now, rethink your processes and how you package services to deliver on that forever promise. For example, some people might need more frequent check ups. Or maybe they need to understand how you are on the cutting edge of pain management. Or maybe you need to offer fixed annual pricing that covers all preventative maintenance, no matter how frequently they stop in or call with a question. You might even initiate regular outbound calls, texts or emails to check in with patients to make sure that they don't have any nagging concerns. Use today's technology to communicate with them and maybe even to let them communicate with one another.
The idea of membership is to make your patients feel like they belong and like you're taking care of them. They want access to the best health and information and they want personalization.
Better Ways to Spend Your Marketing Budget
If you're thinking about how to spend your marketing budget, stop it with the postcards. The best way to spend your new patient acquisition budget is to make it easier for your patients to make referrals. Do you ask regularly for referrals? Is there a link on your website or in your emails to click to send a recommendation to a friend? Do you use testimonials?
Think of membership as a club, and your patients as members of that club. Treat them the way you treat your family members and close friends when they call with a question or concern. A good metaphor for member-care is "like having a Dentist in the family". Let that guide your practice and communication.
By optimizing your practice around your best patients, and continuing to evolve your delivery and communication to help them achieve their goals, you will develop a competitive advantage that will sustain your relationships with patients and grow your practice in a way that is fulfilling and rewarding.