What makes you better than the competition in your patients’ minds?
Any business that enjoys a durable competitive advantage is likely to have a long history of profitability — Warren Buffett
You must be able to emphasize, with clarity, the benefit you provide to your target market that’s better than the competition! That’s your competitive advantage.
It’s a shame that far too many doctors don’t approach their business as it really is. There seems to be an attitude that simply by hanging their shingle over their door, patients will come!
Every business school in the country teaches that business success is a daily struggle for survival. Every day someone is going out of business. Likewise, every day someone is trying to build their business; however, in a crowded marketplace every time a clinic gains a new patient, someone else loses one!
Though you can make the argument that the world is your “patient” oyster, depending on geographic limitations, population density, availability, and opportunity, your pool is not nearly as large as you may believe.
The fact it is that every day your competitors are actively marketing to your patients. If they’ve done a good job of incentivizing, they are doing everything they can to compel your patient to become their patient!
This article has a single purpose: to show you how you can keep your patients (both current and past) from jumping ship. As we go along, you will also learn to attract more patients and increase your clinics traffic and profits.
There are only three ways to increase your business (incidentally, this transcends all industries):
I. You must increase your traffic.
II. You must convert the curious into believers.
III. You must retain your patients for many years.
These next points refer to vital attachments to the original three laws for increasing your clinic’s profits –
1a. Attract more patients – this tactic correlates with patient retention (points I and III) because, if done properly can lead to referrals of friends and family to your practice.
2a. Provide more services for the patients you have – you achieve this by incentivizing your current patient base.
3a. Raise your prices – if you ever analyze what the market will bear for your services, this strategy may have merit. You still may want to proceed with caution when using this approach.
Logically, the goal for every doctor, which owns their own practice, is to attract as many potential patients, convert those people into actual patients, and retain the “best” patients for years to come.
The question then becomes “How does someone stand out amongst all of the competition?”
The answer is that you need to be able to articulate to your patients why they should choose you over your competitors (in a way that has nothing to do with price). As you read on, you will learn how to do this as well.
What we’re discussing is establishing your competitive advantage.
The point and strategy of creating your competitive advantage is to clearly define “Why anyone should do business with you?” When you figure out your “Why me” then you begin to get a clear picture of your competitive advantage.
Your competitive advantage is “the” condition or circumstance that sets you(r) practice in the most favorable and superior business position! Also, the more sustainable the competitive advantage, the more difficult it is for competitors to neutralize your advantage.
Peter Voogd wrote a great piece for Entrepreneur Magazine that breaks-down the concept exceptionally well; the article is titled 5 Ways Entrepreneurs Can Gain a Competitive Advantage. He shared the following:
“In this challenging new economy you need every advantage you can get, especially in entrepreneurship and business. Gaining the competitive advantage isn’t easy and chaos is almost guaranteed, but the upside outweighs the tough times.
The purpose of business is to create raving fans and advocates, who will go out of their way to promote what you do. Not because you asked them, but because they want to. Outstanding client support and service is affected by every person in your organization — from reception to the mail room to the CEO. You must create a culture where people are passionate about meeting the clients needs.”
A significant competitive advantage provides an edge over rivals and enhances your ability to generate greater value for practice. Just as with a winning sports franchise, your advantage can be fleeting. You must carefully hone your clinic, your service, and your message; if not, your competitive advantage will vanish.
CREATING YOUR STRATEGY:
You need to establish a very consistent process and a very impressive medical experience that no one else has. This allows you to expand your practice to the point where if you choose, you may easily be able to open other clinics in other areas (perhaps even consider the possibility of franchising).
So what we’re discussing is a essential foundation/combination of relevant factors to create your competitive advantage. For example, you will take what you are best at and combine it with why patients use your services. Then you add your consistent process in your particular medical expertise and duplicate this as often as you can.
Your goal is to take something you excel at from the esoteric and transform it/package it in a way that everyone and enjoy that experience in the community. To achieve this, you have to build this competitive advantage into your strategic plan (which includes your goals, your objectives, your mission vision, etc.)
An excellent example of this transformation at packaging is the New England Patriots football team. They don’t win because they’re lucky; this team wins because they have a perfected system. They don’t draft the best players; they get the best players that fit within their structure.
Whether you’re a sports fan or not, I believe you understand the underlying message. A proper system allows your clinic to flourish through the ebbs and flows of business conditions. Plus, good strategies provide even greater advantages in separating you from your competitors.
Now let me show you how you too can gain a competitive advantage and maintain it for years to come!
In many ways, sports provide an excellent microcosm for life of business in general. You go out and hire the best talent. You rent an ideal location. Within that location you equipped it with the latest in technology. You advertise to the world that you’re open and ready to serve them. Now you wait, and wait and wait…
Not to belabor the sports analogy, but there is an exact point made here. Have you ever wondered why some teams become dynasties and others flounder year after year? What separates the good from the great? Is it always that the superior team has the best athletes?
It all goes back to the earlier statement; it’s all about the system. The creation of a system that can withstand significant changes within your clinic will prove invaluable.
As doctors, you’re not selling a widget to be discounted drastically; you’re providing a valuable service. To reduce your prized ability to an item that bought and sold to the lowest bidder is ridiculous! This tactic also places you at the level of a commodity; moreover, it doesn’t create any competitive advantage at all.
However, just as with dynamic sports team, your long-term success also depends on your colleagues within your clinic. Author Anna Mar wrote an excellent article for Simplicable.com titled the 7 Examples of Sustainable Competitive Advantage where she discusses this very subject.
She wrote that “the knowledge and abilities of your people are the sources of most competitive advantage. If you hire a modern day Thomas Edison who pumps out ground shaking innovation after ground shaking innovation (as long as you hold unto the employee) that’s a sustainable competitive advantage.
This example scales to organizations big and small. Your people are typically your greatest competitive asset. Product and services come and go — a team that can repeatedly design products that wow your customers is sustainable.”
Though Ms. Mar’s statement is intended primarily for the retail industry; her business logic is strong and sound!
Another factor that can erode your sustained competitive advantage is your competition. Your competitors are watching, and they tend to copy winning formulas. If you develop a successful ad that works and draws in many patients, it will quickly be copied.
To neutralize your competitors; you must continually keep your finger on the pulse your patients’ needs and wants. Once you figure out what your patients want and need, you make it your goal to provide it consistently, and make it as easy for them to get as possible.
For example, if you’re a plastic surgeon, and you specialize in fixing inferior procedures, then I would shout that from the highest hills. Doctors Terry Dubrow and Paul Nassif, the stars on the hit show “Botched” have used this strategy to create a massive divide distance between themselves and their competitors. Never forget that every day in business is a competition!
Ms. Mar goes onto to say that “a sustainable competitive advantage is all about your ability to innovate and change. In short, she is describing a ‘culture’ within your clinic.
You may have a highly talented team. However, if they don’t work together towards a common mission, that’s unlikely to translate to a sustainable competitive advantage.
Negative office politics and resistance to change will cause your competitive advantage to rapidly decay.
Your culture is the way your team works together to focus their energies towards common goals.
Practices that enjoy a culture of aggressive change, positive teamwork and innovative spirit tend to maintain and build upon competitive advantages.
Just as it occurs with winning sports franchises, your entire image needs to reflect your culture. This means, your websites, your endorsements, all of your written material; everything must reflect and project your philosophy.
As such, you will need to develop a quick and immediate identifiable stance that tells everyone who you are and what you can do for them!
Erica Olsen writes about this beautifully in her article titled Identify Your Competitive Advantage: Some Examples.
“You should be able to state your competitive advantage succinctly, both in your strategic plan and when talking to others about your business. Learning from others can be helpful in identifying your own competitive advantage.
Check out the following example to see how this organization defines its uniqueness.
Pershing General Hospital is a 125-bed, primary-care facility located in a rural area with no other hospitals within 50 miles. Because the organization operates with almost zero competition, it doesn’t need to focus on how to beat out other hospitals. However, it does need to decide what services to offer with its limited governmental funding.
By offering services that focus on its competitive advantages, it can maximize the funding it does receive. Here’s what Pershing’s employees and patients said the hospital does the best:
* Provides the one and only, high-quality emergency, primary care, and retail pharmacy within its service area
* Staffs the hospital with personnel who have superior knowledge to support efficient operations
* Offers the best care possible by maintaining its full staff of highly experienced nurses.”
What you just read is a brilliant example of an exceptional elevator speech. Companies across all industries, spend mountains of man-hours to come up with the “perfect” elevator speech. A powerful elevator speech targets the listener’s self-interest, which is often their primary motivation. In other words, we as consumers, only care about: what’s in it for me? You need to deliver your message quickly, and it must be clever, informative and to the point.
The premise of a good elevator speech is as follows: if you were in an elevator with someone who wanted to know what you do, and you only had 60 seconds to deliver that urgent message before the doors open up you would say:
We provide the one and only, high-quality emergency, primary care, and retail pharmacy within our service area. We staff our hospital with personnel who have superior knowledge to support efficient operations. We offer the best care possible by maintaining a full staff of highly experienced nurses.
As you read further, you will see additional strategies that further increase your competitive advantages. The goal is to make you virtually uncatchable by your competitors!
Doreen Shanahan, Professor of Marketing at Pepperdine University, provides an easy to follow seven step approach to creating your competitive advantage. Granted, professor Shanahan’s lesson deals with business generally; the formula is sound and highly applicable to every medical practice!
Every doctor that we’ve interviewed has a legitimate desire to excel in their chosen field of practice! We’ve spoken with a great many physicians who were exceptional in their field; we have met some truly impressive, intelligent, talented and creative individuals.
So based on our experience, we could naturally presume that every one of these fine people was a dominating force in their field. Well, some. Others were very close. Yet, others were frustrated. They felt that in their hearts there were more talented, creative, and far more diligent than their counterparts.
We counsel a broad range of frustrated doctors (from plastic surgeons, dentists, veterinarians, psychotherapists, and so on). However, they all shared a common trait, they all wanted to take their clinic to the next level – – – to be the dominant player in their field!
Ultimately our conversations always come back to the manner in which they seek out additional business. We are very interested in exactly how they get their message out to their current, past, and future patients. What systems do they have in place to attract, compel and endear new patients to them? What are they doing, or saying, that identifies them as being different than every other medical provider in their community?
In the end (as relates specifically to business growth), the question must be pondered: where do the lines intersect between the great Doctor and the prolific rainmaker?
As a rainmaker, your task is to implement your available resources to create new pools of business for your clinic. In fact, the very life of your practice depends on your ability to funnel more business into that establishment.
We are interested in our client’s philosophy about the promotion of their services. Since, as mentioned above, every business (in order to excel) needs to build up their traffic, engage and converts the curious into patients, and retain said patients for as long as possible.
So, we ask our clients about things like: Do you have an ad campaign designed? How big will your budget need to be? What message are you going to get out to the masses? How much time and effort are you allocating on maintaining and updating your website? etc.
However, what is really telling is the client’s philosophy regarding their perception of what they do best. Ultimately, when we uncover that, we can begin building that “thing” that separates them from everyone else (a.k.a. their competitive advantage). Remember, it is the one thing that your competitors are can’t or won’t be able to match!
In a crowded marketplace, where your potential patients have lots of choices, you can stand out by creating your unique platform. It’s about targeting your market and developing a reputation as a excellent resource (one that is trustworthy, knowledgeable, and close at hand). Your goal is to become the lord of a small, profitable domain of your choosing. Within that domain, you will be able to provide more services to happier your patients..
Distinguish yourself as a preeminent resource of solutions by refining your expertise in conveying it to your target audience. The key to distinguishing/positioning yourself as a preeminent source in your marketplace is to know your market!
We hope you get a lot out of this article! Much of this requires experience; let us show you how you too can generate more patient business by establishing your competitive advantage. We will gladly share our wisdom with you! Should have further questions, please do not hesitate to ask.