I remember 20 some odd years ago, when they put dental offices in Sears stores. Some would have had us believe the sky was falling back then. “Corporate dentistry will shut down private practice as we know it.” It didn’t happen. Today, we have a number of “chain” dental offices across the country like Monarch, Aspen, Gentle Dental, Towncare, and others. Yet, private solo practices persist and continue to make dentistry a “cottage industry.”
Can you compete?
So, it seems dental offices are coming to Walmart. I say so what? I posted about this on Facebook, and some have suggested that dentists in towns where Walmart is opening a dental office might have to compete on price. I believe that would be suicide. Many much larger corporations with much smarter business minds have tried to beat Walmart at that game and 100% of them have lost. I believe it would be folly for a dentist to try to compete on price with Walmart.
However, a dentist certainly could compete on SERVICE. In fact, that’s the only way I think a dentist could survive against Walmart dentistry. Of course, some patients will get it. Some won’t. But, if you compete on price, you WILL lose. Walmart can survive a race to the bottom. A private practice dentist cannot.
We can edumacate them to appreciate fine dentistry, right?
Another dentist suggested that educating patients would be the way to keep them (from going over to Walmart). While I’m certainly an advocate of patient education, I don’t think this is a winning strategy, either… at least not by itself. A dentist could wax philosophic for hours about marginal integrity, lab quality, materials, anatomy, esthetics, etc., and it will be to little or no avail. That’s focusing on features which patients simply cannot appreciate in most cases.
Personalized service, on the other hand, is something patients can immediately appreciate. And, consumers in general are willing to pay more for better service. Remember that… They’ll pay more for better SERVICE, not better margins. Only dentists can appreciate technical quality like closed margins. We have to put ourselves in our patients’ shoes and focus on what they appreciate.
One Dentist. One Smile.
Maybe we should think of ourselves (solo practitioners) as “Sniper Dentists.” “One dentist, one smile.” (Borrowing loosely from the sniper motto of “one shot, one kill.”) It surely fits into the Dental Warrior meme!
A smart Dental Warrior facing down the Goliath Walmart will simply “hit’em where they ain’t.”
UPDATE 3/1/20: Walmart Health Clinic opened… to include $25 “cleanings.”