Content Dam Diq Online Articles 2018 04 Barnes And Noble 1

Your dental practice is like a bookstore . . .

April 9, 2018
Indpendent dental practices could learn something from the demise, and eventual rise again, of bookstores. Here's Dr. Chris Salierno's take on survival in today's dental environment.
Chris Salierno, DDS, Chief Editor, Dental Economics

This article originally appeared in the Principles of Practice Management e-newsletter. Subscribe to this informative twice monthly practice management ENL here.

Independent dental practices could learn a lot from independent bookstores. Local bookstores took a hit during the rise of chains like Barnes & Noble and Borders in the 1990s. Bigger bookstores with larger selections and Starbucks coffee contracts offered customers pleasant shopping experiences for their books, music, DVDs, and those gifts for when you didn’t know what to get someone. Many independent bookstores shuttered in the face of such powerful competition. You may recall this period captured in the Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan film, You’ve Got Mail.

But then something surprising happened: the big bookstores were beaten by technology. launched in 1995 and had taken a significant portion of the market just 10 years later. Borders closed down in 2011 and Barnes and Noble is just barely hanging on. We continue to see regional bookstore chains decline to the point that many wonder if all books will soon be purchased online.

But then something even more surprising happened: independent bookstores fought back. After experiencing a decline in the 1990s, the number of local bookstores has actually grown since 2009. What are mom and pop stores doing to stay alive in 2018 that Borders couldn’t figure out?

They reinvented their business models. They identified what their target customers wanted and gave it to them. An article on the Harvard Business School website summarizes their tactics as “Community, Curation, and Convening.” Be an active member of the community that encourages people to “shop local.” Curate specialized and niche content and deliver personalized customer service. Convene events tailored to target customers, such as book signings and reading groups. This reinvention has been so successful that, in another strange twist, even Amazon has moved into the brick-and-mortar book business.

At a time when the dental industry is also witnessing consolidation and potential disruption from at-home technology, I believe independent practices should learn from the hardships and successes of the retail bookstore industry. The key is for business owners to understand what motivates their patrons and find creative ways to deliver it to them. The local, boutique, retail experience transcends the physical product of a book. A book, or even a crown, can become a commodity. Emotions cannot.

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About the Author

Chris Salierno, DDS | Chief Editor, Dental Economics

Chris Salierno, DDS, is the chief editor of Dental Economics and the editorial director of the Principles of Practice Management and Group Practice and DSO Digest e-newsletters. He is also a contributing author for DentistryIQ and Perio-Implant Advisory. He lectures and writes about practice management and clinical dentistry. He maintains a blog to answer patient questions at ToothQuest. Dr. Salierno maintains a private general practice in Melville, New York. You may contact him at [email protected].

Updated Dec. 4, 2020