“Where do I start?”
That’s probably the question you’re asking yourself if it’s time to come up with a marketing plan for your dental practice.
Defining your target audience, pricing strategy, and budget are all important and definitely among the first steps to take. But perhaps the best way to start is by completing a thorough SWOT analysis.
Use a SWOT Analysis to Uncover the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Your Dental Practice
The real foundation of a solid marketing plan is a self-assessment of where your dental practice currently stands. That’s where a SWOT analysis comes in.
A SWOT analysis, originally developed in the 1960’s by the Stanford Research Institute, is a simple way to evaluate four key aspects that can impact your business: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. A SWOT analysis gives you the perspective and clarity you need to build on your positives and address your negatives.
Showcase your Strengths
First, list all of the factors you control that make your dental practice successful. (Hint: you may be tempted to include a quality like “dental knowledge,” but every dentist has that. Stick to things that make you stand out from the crowd.) Include any of the following areas, and others you can think of, where you feel you are better than most of your competitors:
- Customer service
- Expertise in a particular area of dentistry
- Quality of patient care and safety
- Technology and innovation
- Scope of services provided
- Affordability and payment options
- Hours of operation
- Patient safety
You’ll find it especially helpful to scan through the reviews you have received from patients. The strengths of your practice may look a bit different from their perspective than from your own. You may discover some strong points you didn’t realize you had.
Once you have your list of strengths, rank them in order with your greatest strengths on top. Those items are likely the building blocks of your unique selling proposition (USP). Focus on these strengths in your marketing to establish your competitive advantage and differentiate yourself from other dentists in your area.
Improve Your Weaknesses
For items that either didn’t make your list of strengths or fall near the bottom, think about how you can improve on them, before your competitors use them against you. If, for example, you have a tendency to fall behind schedule (a big complaint for dental patients), look for ways to schedule more efficiently and smooth out speedbumps in your daily production. Otherwise, expect to see other dentists point out to patients in a not-so-subtle way that visiting their office instead of yours can save them a lot of time and frustration.
Take Advantage of Opportunities
Opportunities are factors that work in your favor but aren’t completely under your control. For example, if you’re a fee-for-service practice, then being located in or near a community with above average household income presents an opportunity for you. Other factors like minimal competition, increases in local population, and low unemployment rates are other common examples.
Unlike your strengths you identify, opportunities can be the same for you and your competition. It’s just a matter of who capitalizes on them.
Also remember that, as noted earlier, one dentist’s weakness can be another dentist’s opportunity. Doing SWOTs for what you know about your competitors can be just as insightful as doing your own.
Protect Yourself Against Threats
Similar to opportunities, threats are largely out of your control. But you can prepare yourself, even if those threats are often unforeseen. Some, like a new dental office opening across town, may just be a nuisance, while others can be devastating (e.g., economic downturn, pandemic). In general, be ready for the worst case scenarios and have a plan in place if one ever arrives at your doorstep.
Once you have your SWOT analysis, you can move on to defining your target audience, pricing strategy, goals, and budget. To get ahead, start on setting your marketing allowance, download our Ultimate Guide to Dental Marketing Budgeting today.