Taking time to plan may not feel like positive action, but thinking is just as important as doing.
As natural artisans, many dentists feel most happy and most effective when they’re doing something: being productive, hitting goals and keeping things moving. If you’re an inherently active (even proactive) person, it’s common to jump into “doing” as opposed to “thinking about doing”.
For many, the decision on whether to spend time acting or thinking comes down to an unconscious value judgement. Checking the boxes, getting things done; these tasks are often afforded a far higher value than inaction via planning.
To put it another way, this is the age-old battleground of tactics versus strategy. In a martial context, strategy is the planning and directing of large military operations, whereas tactics are the manoeuvres and procedures used in battle. One is the overarching plan, and the other is the means by which you carry it out.
Since the Chinese general Sun Tzu wrote on the topic around the 5th century BC, his comments on the ‘art of war’ have become legendary. His landmark treatise championed the use of strategy and intelligence as an effective means of warfare, influencing commanders down the generations.
So what does this have to do with dentistry? It may seem an unlikely parallel, but the changes brought about by coronavirus have re-drawn the battle lines for many in our industry. Pre-Covid routines and practices have shifted, and the terrain is now very different. This means that for the best chance of success, it’s time to get your campaign in shape: to focus on your strategy for the coming years.
A large part of this strategy is looking inward to your brand itself: understanding who you are, where you’re going, and – crucially – why you’re going there. The question of ‘why’ is something that brand guru Simon Sinek has dedicated countless classes, courses and books to (for a start, check out this TED talk on the subject). Put simply, ‘why’ is your core purpose, and the motivation behind your practice’s existence. Profit may be a desirable result, but it’s not the reason that you’ve chosen this industry over thousands of others.
Another important component of your strategy is brand positioning: looking outwards. This is how you carve out your place in the consciousness of your customers. It means that you understand the needs and capabilities of yourselves, your consumers, and your competitors, and can position yourselves in such a way that creates a clear, engaging and authentic brand. We have seen, evidentially, that well-positioned practices have enjoyed monumental gains since reopening after Covid-19. This is why, before you do anything else, you should know your brand position. Only when a brand is properly researched and developed can effective marketing action take place.
It’s all too easy to identify a goal – such as increasing new patients – and quickly deploy tactics in an attempt to achieve it. Perhaps, in this example, the practice might commission a fresh new website, but with scant regard to how it looks, reads, or appeals to the audience it’s trying to attract. This deployment of tactics without strategy is what Sun Tzu refers to as ‘the noise before defeat’. Here, you’re setting off with an army before gathering intelligence and forming a strategy.
In an industry that had been well paid for decades, the pandemic has seriously disrupted the status quo, and it is important to recognise that the battlefield has changed.
If you’d like a comprehensive analysis of your strategy, and development of tactics that will maximise returns, get in touch.