10 May 2013  •  Practice Management  •  4min read

Practice What You Preach – Get Some Retail Therapy

Les Jones is the Editor of BoD Magazine and the Marketing Director at Practice Plan. Here he shares his thoughts on retail sales in the practice, and why not to use glass cabinets in the waiting room!

A few weeks ago a friend of mine took her two daughters to the dentist. During the examination the dentist asked if the girls used electric toothbrushes. The answer was no, so the advice from the dentists was that it would be a good thing if they did. The seed was planted (very ethically) and being a good mum, my friend immediately committed to this small investment in her children’s health. Appointments completed, she went to the reception to settle up and book their next appointment. The very toothbrushes she needed were behind reception…but out of reach. The receptionist failed to mention them because the dentist had not communicated that he had made the recommendation. So, my friend left the practice, walked down the high street into a well known chemist and spent £80.00 on two toothbrushes and some spare heads. How many times a day does this scenario play out in practices across the country I wonder?

And while we’re at it…let’s talk about glass cabinets!

Hands up if your dental products are locked in a glass cabinet in the waiting room or behind glass at the back of reception?

Based on my experience, that would be most of you.

Customers hate barriers! We want to get our grubby little mitts on the products we’re interested in without having to go through an army assault course. What’s more, we’re creatures of impulse – if you put the products within our reach, we’ll pick them up. Simples!

So, what are you missing out on?

Take an average dental practice with, say, 3000 patients, double that number for a twice yearly check-up and increase it again for those patients that have multiple appointments for treatment – we could quite reasonably assume that this practice will have somewhere in the region of 10000 people walk through its door in a year. Now, let’s assume that with more accessible displays and prompting from the dentists and hygienists you achieve an average spend of just £5.00 per patient. By the end of the year you will have achieved sales of £50,000! Most retail works on a 100% mark-up, so that’s a potential £25,000 straight to the bottom line of your business.

So, what can you do to get your retail sales moving?

Well first things first, make the items accessible to the customer – putting barriers in the way is an instant turn off for most customers. Secondly, make the prices visible, customers hate surprises and we’re not that forthcoming at asking how much things cost, just in case we can’t afford them.

And finally, start making it easier for customers to make a buying decision. So, how about introducing a retail ‘prescription pad’ into the surgery. Whatever the dentist or hygienist (ethically) recommend as necessary for good home oral health is written on a branded note and given to the patient, who then takes it to reception where they can find those products readily available along with a primed and knowledgeable receptionist.

Retail is not a dirty word in dentistry, it’s something we customers want. As a dental practice, you just need to provide good quality and relevant products in a clear, easily accessible way and you’ve set up the perfect win/win.

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