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Eataly is an Italian fooderie that has opened stores in 31 cities in 12 countries around the globe. Before speaking to over 1,200 Italian entrepreneurs, Ashley and I took some time to visit the $118 million experiential park called FICO Eataly World. Located outside Bologna, Eataly World spans 25 acres with over 40 restaurants, pastures, food demonstration areas and learning centers.

To get around the huge attraction, visitors can ride adult tricycles by famous Italian bike maker Bianchi. Farmers and chefs will teach 30 daily interactive workshops in the truest sense of farm to table. Eataly World plans to welcome 6 million visitors this year. The company generates nearly a half-billion dollars in sales worldwide, averaging over $1,700 in sales per square foot. That’s significantly better than the rest of the food sector. Kroger averages $672 per foot, Shake Shack $387 per foot and Chipotle follows at $250. Many of their products can be found in other small specialty grocery stores, so why are they blowing everyone else out of the water?

Eataly World CEO, Tiziana Primori, said, “Our retail stores are focused on the restaurants and the shopping, but now we’re going to take you backwards into the production that goes into the culture of how the food is grown and made.”

Inside the Eataly store, I quickly recognized they are way ahead of the competition in offering classes, demonstrations, coursed meals with wine pairings. Their team of sales associates are trained to discuss products and cooking techniques with customers, driving up the average ticket price. Customers leave happy, knowing they learned something new to help them live a happier and healthier life. That’s the company’s mission. What’s yours? At every turn, Eataly is different compared to the competition. Are you?

You must position your practice as different, not better.

Every orthodontist thinks he or she is providing great quality treatment and customer service. If you don’t, you should get out of the business. But if consumers can’t judge the quality of your treatment until two years later, how can you position your practice as something different than the alternatives in your market?

Some patients need jaw surgery or pre-restorative orthodontics. Good marketing can sell anyone at-home aligners. Sustainable profitability with exceptional customer satisfaction and internal referrals, however, require you to think differently about all of this. How can you take customers “backwards” and educate them about the real difference between what they want to hear versus what they need to hear?

When orthodontists complain to me that the patients in their market don’t value what we do as specialists, I point to the only person we should all blame. He or she stares us in the mirror each morning. If consumers don’t value what we do as specialists and elect to buy at-home aligners or orthodontics from their general dentist, we only have ourselves to blame.

Imagine if Eataly looked like every other grocery store and they were upset that their results were similar to every other grocery store, earning less than a third per square foot than they do right now. Who could they blame? It’s easy to run this exercise on someone else’s business, isn’t it? It stings when we look more closely at our own businesses.

Make a list of at least five things every patient must know about you in order to do business with you. If your list sounds anything like your competition, keep thinking backwards until you arrive where consumers can connect with what makes you different. Meet them at that location or take them backwards, in their mind, to that location whenever you want to connect with them on a deeper level, increasing conversion, satisfaction and referrals. There’s no reason you can’t earn 3X or 5X more than your competition, but you won’t do it looking exactly like them.

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