The other day there was some discussion on the Facebook group about co-branding your practice with a major orthodontic company. In case you don’t know what I’m talking about, I have a story for you.

When I started my practice, a large midwestern orthodontic company that also makes post it notes convinced me that their clear brackets were the best and that building an esthetic practice was a great idea. I couldn’t argue because I had no experience, so I went with it and while it WAS good for my practice, I was doing a lot of advertising about these exceptional brackets. A lot of time in my consults was spent on discussing the clear  brackets, and how they had all these great qualities. But every moment I spent speaking about the brackets was time away from discussing the quality of my practice, my treatment approach, the time and attention we gave our patients; Essentially what made us special. Instead, I was making myself and my practice a commodity. What’s a commodity?

I wrote a post on my patient blog site (DentalSherpa.com) entitled “Is Dentistry Like Coca Cola” where I explained that Coca Cola is a commodity. Whether you buy it in a convenience store in your neighborhood for .99 cents or in a fancy grocery in Manhattan for $2.50, it’s the EXACT same product. Zero difference. So, all things being equal, why would a consumer pay a higher price for the product when they can get it cheaper?

Think it can’t happen in orthodontics? Don’t kid yourself. Do you think that patients somehow think you can do Invisalign better than their GP? Worse yet, take commodities within commodities. Do  you believe that patients see a difference between Invisalign and Smile Direct Club? Many do not, even though there is no doctor involved with SDC. Imagine that! They believe that the outcome is the same with SDC and GP or orthodontic supervised clear aligner therapy. They’re screaming “Get my teeth straightened anywhere. It’s all the same….”

When you go “all in” and advertise yourself as a “Damon” doctor or an “Invisalign” practice or a “Clear Braces Only” office, you’re essentially removing the one ingredient that makes you NOT a commodity, namely YOU. You are the differentiating factor, you are the brand, you are the one feature that makes your practice different than every other practice out there. Why would you give up that leverage?

A member of the group explained that when he bought his office, the staff had a tough time changing from one product to another. This is very common. The team trusts your judgement, so even they can fall into the trap of thinking that the outcome is related to the product and not the skill of the orthodontist. Imagine the struggle of having to change branding AND having to convince the team that it’s the right move after they’ve been taught to believe that the product is the reason for success. Good luck with that.

It’s great to offer services that others may want, but don’t lock yourself into a particular company or product for a bunch of reasons. It doesn’t allow you leverage in negotiating price, it doesn’t let your patients know what makes your practice special, it makes potential patients think that the product is what they’re buying and not your expertise and worse yet, how do you explain why you’re changing products when you decide to move on from one to another? Wasn’t the old one the greatest? You advertised that it was.

To paraphrase Landy Chase, a orthodontic case acceptance expert: “It is the skill of the doctor and the team, not the products they use that make the difference.” In an age when everything is becoming a commodity, when orthodontics is being distilled down to nothing more than “where can I get my teeth straightened for the cheapest” DO NOT  make yourself  like a bottle of Coca Cola. Differentiate yourself and stand out from the masses of orthodontists and GPs (and companies) providing orthodontic services. Find your niche, find what makes you different and then become the un-commodity…and make sure your prospective patients know it!

All the best,

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Glenn
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