STP and the Four Ps of Marketing in Dentistry
Eric Rindler, DDS, MBA
Many of us have leaned on business consultants to help move our practices forward and drive revenue. Recently, a colleague of mine mentioned that, rather than having had someone with a background in business tell him what to do, he wished that individual would have given him the tools to make good strategic decisions for himself. Being empowered to assess and adapt the tactics you utilize is very different than simply implementing what someone else thinks will work.
The idea of developing a stronger background in business concepts makes good sense. It gives dentists the tools to move out of the middle, differentiate themselves from the pack, and achieve greater success. To that end, let's look at some basic but highly valuable marketing concepts that can help you develop or expand your competitive advantage.
What is STP?
During the past decade, marketing mediums have changed dramatically. But all marketing decisions should still begin with the tried and true strategic foundation: segmentation, targeting, and positioning (STP).
Before you launch a marketing plan of any sort, it is critical to identify the segment(s) of the population that you want reach by understanding the characteristics of each segment. A segment can be based on a number of determinants, including the following:
• Demographics – age, race, marital status, occupation, education, or income
• Geographic location – area of city or state, school, or employer
• Lifestyle/interests – outdoor activities, technology, fashion
• Behavior – price sensitive, benefit motivated
After selecting your desired segments, it is time to evaluate and determine how best to reach these audiences. Identifying the common characteristics of the desired segments is important because it allows for successful implementation of another important tool, the four “Ps” of marketing (ie, product, price, promotion, place), which will be discussed later in this article.
Once you have successfully targeted the desired population(s), it is critical to position yourself and your practice to deliver the product and experience, as promised.
Making It Work
So, you've decided that you want to market your practice, but where are you going to start? Are you just going to blanket a geographic area? There is so much quality data readily available to you today that your marketing dollars can be much better spent. Let's look at a scenario that illustrates the concept of STP in marketing and where reliable data can be acquired:
Dr. S has just purchased a digital impression unit and sees this as an opportunity to promote his practice as a “technology filled mecca.” The first question to ask is who will find this technology attractive (ie, segmentation)? In this scenario, it is likely that Dr. S would want to attract millennials and educated professionals (eg, targeted characteristics: age, education, lifestyle) who are not only comfortable with technology, but also expect constant improvements and upgrades in technology.
In segmentation, paid “big data” services can be worth the money; however, don't forget to look to your business partners who are vested in seeing your business grow (eg, dental supply companies, third party financers, etc.). Oftentimes, they already have this data and are willing to share it with you.
Now that your market segment has been identified, it is time to determine how to target this group. Do you think that direct mail or neighborhood newsletters would be the best way to reach this educated, technology-driven segment? More likely, a LinkedIn or other online news article exploring the benefits of digital impressioning followed by an electronic marketing campaign targeting readers of online technology articles would be more effective. You need to understand where your audiences spend their time in order to reach them.
So, let's assume that Dr. S has implemented a strong outsourced and/or organic online campaign, and now the targeted patients are flooding into his office. Has he positioned himself properly to convert these customers into long-term patients? Is he providing these patients with forms electronically instead of on paper? Do you think that mailing paper forms or handing these patients a clipboard with paper forms is an appropriate approach for the tech-savvy audience he has targeted with his brand?
Understanding and considering STP in your marketing efforts not only makes sense, it also increases your influence as the business owner and can improve the long-term success of any marketing program.
The Four Ps of Marketing
What I consider to be more difficult (and where a seasoned marketing expert can really help) is tackling the four Ps, another basic tool of marketing that dental professionals should spend time assessing and incorporate into their own practice. The four Ps are:
• Product. You must start with something that the customer wants or needs. Know what makes your product desirable or unique.
• Price. Is it the chicken or the egg? The price you set impacts your margins, the budget for marketing, supply and demand, what lab you can afford to use, and more.
• Promotion. How are you going to get the word out? Whether you choose traditional advertising, public relations, social media, direct mail, email, search engine optimization, or whatever the next hot new platform is, everything you do must have a strategy behind it and be in concert and consistent with your brand.
• Place. Location matters, but the right location differs depending on whom you are trying to reach. This applies not only to the physical address of your office but also to the elements within its walls. For example, if you are trying to accentuate technology, you want it in a visible location where the patients can see it—not hidden in the back.
In dentistry, when diagnosing and treatment planning, we all know that preplanning and thoughtful consideration of each patient's case will lead to better long-term outcomes. The same is true in marketing. Careful consideration of the basic tools, STP, and the four Ps will increase your success when executing any marketing plan. You can start today by exploring these questions:
• Who is your ideal customer (realistically)?
• How does your offering help them?
• Where do customers look to find your services?
• How does your practice find its customers?
• How do you differentiate yourself from your competitors?
• What is the perceived value of your product or service?
• What is your current level of interaction with potential clients?
By developing a strategy of differentiation for your business and applying STP and the four Ps, you can implement a successful plan of action with effective marketing tactics that make the most sense for your practice. For more information about STP and the four Ps of marketing, check out Philip Kotler's book, Kotler on Marketing: How to Create, Win, and Dominate Markets.
About the Author
Eric Rindler, DDS, MBA, maintains a private practice limited to periodontics and dental implants in San Antonio, Texas.