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THE "BELL CURVE" OF DENTISTS
THE BELL CURVE OF DENTISTS
A FEW YEARS AGO, researchers asked the 75 members of the Stanford Graduate School of Business Advisory Council to name the most important capability for leaders to develop. They all agreed the answer was self-awareness. “Executives need to know where their natural inclinations lie in order to boost them or compensate for them,” reported the MIT Sloan Management Review in this survey.
In fact, studies show that self-awareness is critical to our development: it improves confidence and creativity and even leads to better decision-making.2 Self-awareness improves our communication, and when it comes to business, leads to more effective leadership with more satisfied employees and more profitable companies.
Most likely, you are extremely self-aware when it comes to your role as a dentist. You have spent years studying, nurturing your craft, identifying your weaknesses, and meticulously finding ways to improve them, constantly gaining more knowledge. But what about your self-awareness as the decision-maker for your practice? Whether you’ve been in business for less than a year or a few decades, you need to identify where you are now in order to forge the right path moving forward. You need to become self-aware of where your practice stands now and why that is, based on your experiences, results, and mindset.
The Bell Curve Model
We’ve created a simple way for dentists to identify where they stand today, including the reasons they fall into that category and how they can move into the next tier to grow their practice. We call this the Bell Curve Model.
Picture dentistry as a bell curve, where each dentist (that owns a practice) falls somewhere among the curve. Their mindset, results, and decisions all contribute to where they are on the bell curve. Taking the time to identify which type of dentist you are and what decisions, fears, comfort, and results have led you to believe that, will help you become more self-aware in your role as a practice owner, and help you better understand how to use the knowledge and tools you will learn.
The At-Risk Dentist
There are a number of dentists that fall at the bottom of the bell curve. These dentists are, to put it plainly, At Risk.
The reality is, their results are up and down, often more down than up and unreliable. This puts them in a desperate position. These dentists are constantly making reactive decisions instead of proactive decisions because they are scrambling for results.
These dentists face an impassable line (or at least that’s what it feels like), where they are frozen in fear, in ignorance of what to do next, of how all this “marketing stuff” works. At Risk Dentists often wonder, how do you get seen in these busy markets and convert all of these patients? It feels out of reach to them.
The Struggling Dentist
The dentists that have made it past that line are in the next zone of the Bell Curve. While they are not At Risk, they are Struggling. These dentists have either struggled with their marketing, or they are struggling with their practice as a whole. These dentists have been able to weather the ups and downs at the practice, but they may also experience a plateau in results for far too long. The Struggling Dentist is not in a desperate place, but it’s not a happy or fulfilling place either.
The Struggling Dentist chooses cookie-cutter marketing strategies. The problem is, everyone in this section of the bell curve is using cookie-cutter marketing strategies so they all look exactly the same to patients. None of them stand out in their marketplace. Even if these dentists are doing something really unique or special at their practice, their cookie-cutter approach does not reflect that, so no one outside of their current patient base knows about it!
The Searching Dentist
The next section is the Searching Dentist.
These dentists are searching for an alternative, something better, to help them take the next step in their practice growth. These dentists are doing well; they are moving up, their results are better than most dentists, and they are happy about it. These dentists are consistent with their marketing. It might not be the most unique marketing out there, but it’s consistent, connected, and reliable.
But the Searching Dentist knows they could achieve even more; they know there is a next phase for their practice and their career, there is “untapped potential” for their practice...they just haven’t found the right path to get there. Similar to the At Risk Dentists, the Searching Dentists are met with what feels like an impassable line at the top end of the bell curve. This is what we call the Good Enough Line.
The Good Enough Line traps a lot of Searching Dentists. They get to this point and think, because they are getting good results, that’s good enough! So these dentists just keep doing what they’re doing, even if they have that inkling that there is something out there that could take them to the next level. They feel it’s not worth the risk to make any changes because they've been consistent this long and decided to settle with that.
The Dominating Dentist
The dentist that crosses the Good Enough Line are dominating their market, and so are aptly named the Dominating Dentist. These dentists truly understand something that the rest of the dentists in the Bell Curve do not, which is the power of uniqueness. These dentists are seeing exponential results, they are very happy with the marketing they are using, they see reliable results and they always have a clear vision to the next step that’s going to reap rewards for their practice.
The Dominating Dentists have harnessed what makes them different to stand out in their market, become the top choice for their ideal patients, and make decisions that separate them from the rest of the industry.
Categories of Marketing
Each type of dentist is drawn to a certain marketing strategy, and that choice is keeping them in their respective category.
The At-Risk Dentists are drawn to do-it-yourself marketing. These dentists make it up as they go along, often throwing ideas at the wall, hoping one of them will finally stick to book more new patients. These decisions are often determined by gut feelings and marketing fads and are inconsistent. Many times, this results in a scattered approach. The At-Risk Dentist may have one person running their ads, a company running their website, and the dentist themself is taking over another part of their marketing, such as social media. The At-Risk Dentist is all over the place, and unless they choose a different approach and mindset about their marketing, they will remain on the low end of the bell curve.
The Struggling Dentist makes decisions driven by price, choosing externally cheap marketing because it feels low-risk. However, the reason these strategies are externally cheap is because they are internally automated, cookie-cutter strategies. The company or agency that the Struggling Dentist hires for these strategies is giving every client the same website, the same ads, and so on, which allows the company to drastically reduce their prices. The Struggling Dentist feels that they (at least) have something in place and pat themselves on the back for keeping the cost low to do so. But they don’t realize it costs them more than they could ever imagine: opportunities. Yes, the Struggling Dentist does not see a large line item on their balance sheet, but this type of marketing does not serve them. They end up missing out on new patients, revenue, the results they want, and the years of their career where they could have been achieving their goals and growing. The Struggling Dentist’s decisions about marketing do not yield stable results, or reliability, and definitely do not make their practice unique.
The Searching Dentist has a solid marketing strategy running, and it’s connected and consistent. But the Searching Dentist is a hesitant decision-maker. This dentist does have a nagging feeling that there is untapped potential, but the fear of losing the results they already have outweighs that feeling. The Searching Dentist is often questioning their next move: do I REALLY want to make a change right now? Take a risk? I’m doing well. Searching Dentists will often stick with their marketing partners long past when they should have made a change; they may meet with other marketing partners, but they are too afraid of moving forward and settling at the Good Enough Line.
The Searching and Dominating Dentists both have trending results, but the Searching Dentist maintains incremental growth, while the Dominating Dentist gains exponential growth. This is because of the one thing that allows the Dominating Dentist to surpass the Good Enough Line: the willingness to be decisive, making the right decisions at the right time.
For many dentists, the biggest risks they have ever taken were choosing dentistry as a career and opening their own practice. The Dominating Dentist holds onto that entrepreneurial mindset long after their practice doors open and keeps taking calculated risks to continue moving upward and grow. This allows them to feel more confident in making decisions that are different from what the rest of the industry is doing, embracing their own uniqueness, and achieving their vision. These dentists do not dawdle or overthink their decisions until it's too late to make a real impact on their results and their careers. The Dominating Dentists are serious about making investments in themselves, their practice, and their future, and adapt and change as much as they need to so they never slide back into the Searching zone.
From Struggling to Dominating
Based on your past experiences, results, and decisions, you should be able to clearly place yourself into a category on the bell curve. Where you fall on the bell curve is subject to change based on how those factors change. There may be a dentist reading this right now who remembers when they were the Dominating Dentist, but when a corporate office moved in down the street, or their market changed, they did not change with it and are back in the Searching or Struggling zone.
However, many practice owners believe they are closer to the Dominating section of the Bell Curve than they actually are, and that's what makes genuine self-awareness so critical to your success. If you believe you are a Dominating Dentist, but you do not realize you are currently settling at the Good Enough Line, then you are letting opportunities pass you by. These are opportunities to book more new patients and grow your practice. If you believe you are a Searching Dentist, but you are actually Struggling, then you are not only missing opportunities but losing money or settling for an unpredictable patient flow when you could have stability and exponential growth. If you believe you are a Struggling Dentist, but you are actually At Risk, then you may be in a dangerous position with your practice, and you will not move out of that position until you confront any fear or ignorance you have about marketing.
From what my team has learned in our experience in the dental industry and what we can take away from the MIT study, we must understand that self-awareness that errs on the side of prosperity is not true self-awareness at all. Analyzing the hard truths about your practice: the reality of your market, your situation, the marketing you have in place, and your decisions and results, and adjusting accordingly is the only way you can move into the prosperous end of the Bell Curve.
To move into the Dominating Dentist category and achieve exponential results, you need to have a marketing system and a practice that is truly unique, that stands out in the community, and gives patients a clear understanding of why they should choose your practice over anyone else. Every single dentist is unique in their own way. You have something that you do that no one else does, but your market doesn’t know about it. Automated or one-size-fits-all marketing strategies will not help you achieve this; they won’t show patients why they should choose you over another dentist...and only you can decide if you will take the steps to show patients exactly why you are different.
The only way you’re going to achieve that is through proper self-awareness and having the right mindset for this type of unique marketing. The power of uniqueness is going to separate you from the rest of the pack: while everyone else opts for cookie-cutter marketing strategies that seem cheap on the surface, but make them all look the same, the Dominating Dentist is the one that is investing in their uniqueness and will reap the rewards.
Embracing uniqueness is the key to moving from Struggling to Searching, finally passing the Good Enough Line, and becoming a Dominating Dentist.
You can learn exactly how to make those decisions and what to do to achieve your remarkable and rewarding practice. And you won’t be alone.