A pivot is a defined by dictionary.com as “a point on the end of which something rests and turns”. Applying this to dentistry, the idea is that the central point remains (ie. dentistry) but that there is nevertheless a turn or change in direction.
Sometimes a pivot can be more substantial, sometimes it can be just a minor correction. In this article, we will look at the kind of pivot that dental practices need to make in the context of a recession and the ongoing Impact of COVID-19.
In my mind, there are two significant changes caused by the current environment. The first relates to finances, and the second relates to uncertainty.
One of the impacts of COVID and a recession is that more people are out of work than was the case previously. However, this is not to say that everyone is out of work. In Australia, the unemployment rate in August 2019 was 5.2%. In August 2020, the unemployment rate was 6.8%.
This may seem like a significant increase, but the reality is that 93.2% of Australians still are employed. Nevertheless, what has changed is people’s confidence, which is known in economic terms as ‘consumer sentiment’.
Concerns about finance
As we have noted above, it’s not necessarily that people are earning less, though some are. The big change is that people are more concerned about finance. in fact, there is data to show that the rate of savings during COVID has skyrocketed – people are spending less and saving more.
What this means for dental practices is that for some clients, they are likely to be more careful about wanting to spend.
The best way around this is to emphasise the use of payment plans. While you may have to give up a few percent of your earnings, as I like to say, 98% of something is better than 100% of nothing.
For our business, we’ve adopted an approach of guaranteeing outcomes rather than offering payment plans – though the truth is that most of our services already are via a monthly charge.
Concerns around spending are really a proxy for concerns about getting an outcome. The guarantees we’ve implemented have helped a lot in this regard.
Concerns about uncertainty
One of the things I’ve noticed during this time is that for our clients, dentists, they recognise the need to boost their marketing but are less keen to commit to something long term.
It’s likely for your patients that if you offer them a treatment plan over an extended period of time, they may feel the same way. With this in mind, your best bet is to emphasise the fact that they can pause various aspects of their treatment plan if circumstances change in the future.
This approach, however, requires a delicate balance. If you emphasise the possibility to pause too heavily, the patient may assume that getting the treatment is not important. On the other hand, not mentioning it at all may cause fewer patients to go ahead.
For my business, we have decided to scrap any lock-in contracts. For any work that we complete for our clients, there will always be a clear understanding of what you get for your investment and, as noted above, wherever possible, we will include a guarantee of the outcome.
However, even for longer term projects such as search engine optimisation (SEO) there is no lock in contract. Dentists can stop the service at any time. We take the view that we only want clients to stay with us because of the value that they receive, rather than being locked in by a contract.
For your practice to get better results, this means the need to change with the times. Part of doing that is to pivot. The main areas where you may need to pivot is around finance and uncertainty. If you can provide increased certainty around both elements, you have a much better chance of building a stronger business.