What Makes You Different?

I was asked this question recently by a stranger sitting next to me on an airplane in regards to our orthodontic practice. We got into a conversation about orthodontics and she shared with me her experiences with her children and their orthodontist.

She had mixed feelings about her personal experience and was quite frustrated with the entire process. I tried my best to diffuse her frustration towards the orthodontist her children were seeing when she made a comment to me that was eye-opening. She said, “We went for several consultations, but they all seemed to be the same. There was no difference between them except for maybe a few hundred dollars in fees. We just chose the one that was closest to our home.”

That is when I suggested that there had to be a difference, between all the orthodontists she consulted with. She firmly denied that she could find any significant difference that set one office part from another. It was then that she asked me the question, “So what makes your practice so different?”

Did she want to know just one big “thing” that made us different or all the “things” that make our office unique? Of course, I asked for clarification.

“No, I just want you to tell me what is the one thing I need to know about your practice that sets you apart from all the others. This would be something that a parent or patient would notice and be impressed by.”

Wow, I realized she had me thinking quite hard about the one thing that represented our practice. Honestly, it was a great question, and I was having a hard time answering it immediately. My brain had to process some information rather quickly to come up with an answer.

She could tell that this was not a quick one-sentence answer for me, so she jumped in and started questioning me about different aspects of our practice. Can you list some of the benefits your patients receive by being in your practice?

Yes, that was easy to answer. We have after-school and evening appointments, we provide email and phone call reminders of appointments, we use Invisalign and Invisalign Teen as a primary appliance choice, but still offer clear and metal braces.

She seemed to be getting a bit frustrated with me as I was definitely not giving her the answer she was looking for. She wanted the one biggest thing – often referred to in marketing as your Unique Selling Proposition or USP.

How Would You Respond To This Question?

I saw this as an opportunity to get answers from my staff, our patients and their parents.

I know that people choose our practice because of many different reasons, but I truly did not know the one big reason. For me personally, I have my favorite places to shop, my favorite physician, my favorite shoe store, my favorite grocery store, etc…  We all have our favorites and usually continue to purchase goods and services from these businesses. Usually, there is one big reason you continue to purchase their products and services.

For example, when I think of Whole Foods, I think of fresh, organic produce and healthy eating and that is the reason I shop there. When I think of Peet’s Coffee I can almost smell and taste the amazing coffee and go out of my way to find their stores. When I think of Zappo’s I think of shoes and more shoes and free shipping which sets them apart from other online retailers.

Here Is An Exercise For You

Think of all the places you spend your money and write them down. Then next to it go ahead and write down what you think and/or feel about them and the one big “thing that makes them different. This simple exercise will get you thinking about your business and the reasons why your customers, clients, or patients chose you. Next, put together a brief survey that your employees will fill out.

Ask the Questions:

1. What benefits do our customers receive when they come into our business?

2. What do you think is the one “thing” that makes our business different?

To really get them thinking about this correctly, you should also have them fill in the blanks regarding some popular stores or other places of business that are local to your office. Have them write down one “thing” that makes those businesses different or stand out from the rest.

I suggest doing this exercise as part of a team training or staff meeting. Get all your team involved in figuring this out and hopefully you will come up with some ideas that make you “different” from everyone else.

The next step is to ask your customers to do a similar survey.

Ask the Questions:

1. What was the main reason you chose us?

2. What benefits do you feel you receive?

3. What is the one “thing” that sets us apart?

You could do this as an email using “survey monkey,” or simply hand the survey to your customers when they come in and provide a bowl or box to simply deposit them when completed.

We have done surveys like this in the past and find them very valuable and informative.

Okay, you are probably waiting for my answer to this question, right?

I am sorry to say that I could not give her just ONE “thing” that made us different.  Of course I shared with her all the things that I feel do set us apart and make us different , but coming up with the one and only big thing, I could not give her at that moment.

So I will be handing out the surveys to my team and my parents and patients over the next few weeks and getting some answers to the question, “what makes our practice different?”

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