• Mark Topley

Smart businesses understand they’re local people, just like you

The times they are a changing. And no more so than in Dentistry, and particularly when it comes to the place of the dental practice in local communities.

In many towns across the UK, the traditional ‘family’ dentist is already a thing of the past. In fact it’s not just Dentistry that has felt the sting of corporatisation and the growth of chain stores over the local independent – cafes, restaurants, clothing stores and grocers and many others have all disappeared or battle to stay alive.

And also Estate Agents. No love lost there for some people – and the Daily Fail would feel the same way about many dentists – but something interesting from one of our local branches caught my eye a couple of weeks ago.

Pictured above, a flyer dropped through the door and appeared in my social media feeds. It’s a new campaign from a local independent estate agent. It offers to profile local businesses and groups on its website to home buyers moving to the area, so people know who they can buy from if they want to support independents.

In my view, it’s a good move. This particular agent (who we actually bought our house through) has always struck me as a genuine, authentic local business, with roots in the community and a love of where they live.

Although it’s a good initial move, they will now need to follow through. If these kind of exercises aren’t to be seen as just another marketing gimmick, they will need to deliver.

As Howard Schultz says ‘Authentic brands. aren’t created in marketing cubicles or advertising agencies, but in everything that a company does…’

‘Authentic brands. aren’t created in marketing cubicles or advertising agencies, but in everything that a company does…’ Howard Schultz

And so what they DO next will determine whether this genuinely helps local businesses (including their own, who will consequently stand out as a bit more ‘one of us’ than the bigger chains), or whether it peters out and becomes just another faux attempt to use CSR to get an edge. Personally I have a feeling that given who it is, it will be the former, and I’m hopeful the campaign will do well and add genuine value to the local area, in however small a way it might be.

I also expect to see more of this kind of initiative in the coming months – it’s no secret that people like to buy from people they like (and trust). And using your position as a corporate citizen to align yourself with the same values people hold in the community, and support it tangibly, is good CSR in practice.

So what about dentistry? Well, for independent dentists, looking to differentiate from other local practices in the eyes of the consumer, it also creates an opportunity.

Corporate dental practices must demonstrate that they have a vision beyond mere profit and a local identity beyond their national brand. In order to connect, they must build brand affinity with the communities they are a part of. Difficult to do unless head office is sufficiently switched on, strategic and committed. Something that I’ve yet to witness.

And so for the independent, there’s an opportunity to differentiate themselves strongly from their competition. Without corporate guidelines to follow, independent practices can be more flexible and choose causes close to the people in their area or causes that they connect with in the sector. This, along with the potential longevity of their relationship with the community, can bolster their standing with those they aim to serve.

If you’ve no idea where to start, have a look around my website and FaceBook page – there are loads of ideas to help.

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