Much as we’d like to pretend that our businesses exist in a bubble, the reality is that if you want to grow your practice, your competition is going to be at least part of the equation.
As a healthcare professional and practice owner, you probably don’t like to think of yourself as competing with other practices. And, in one sense that’s true: if you offer your clients an excellent service and stick to your vision and mission, clients should come flocking.
The issue with this thinking is that it’s not always based on reality, especially if your practice is just starting out. Often the people who have the biggest marketing budget or have been around longer are the ones that get noticed.
So, if you’re looking to expand and get an edge on the competition, how do you do it?
Rather than think of yourself as competing with other practices in your area, think about things that you do differently and better – then start working towards positioning your practice accordingly.
If you’re on a tight budget and need to get those empty appointment slots filled, here are four things you can do to position yourself differently from your competitors:
1. Know who you are and what you stand for
Before you race ahead and start ploughing resources into marketing activities, you need to have a very clear idea of:
- Your target market;
- Your service offering;
- How you add value;
- Your practice mission and vision.
You can’t hope to stand out from other practices if you don’t have your value proposition nailed down. A clear understanding of your goals will help you allocate your resources effectively, and will prevent you from getting distracted when you see competitors doing things differently. As the well-known motivational writer, James C. Collins says,
“Good is the enemy of great. If you allow yourself to get distracted by good ideas, you ensure that there’s no space left for great ideas.”
But this doesn’t mean writing down your goals on a piece of paper that gets put in a drawer and forgotten about. According to SAP, a massive multinational software that helps with enterprise resource planning, there is a dramatic increase in employee productivity and business performance when employees fully understand the business’s goals and strategies. And here’s where it gets interesting: only around 7% of employees today have that understanding and buy-in. According to SAP:
“To survive in today’s marketplace, small to mid-sized businesses like yours must find ways to be smarter, more productive, and more cohesive than their larger competitors.”
This doesn’t mean that you stop innovating and rigidly stick to what you’ve decided on. Instead, it means that you focus on the things that align with your overall vision and will, ultimately, help your practice grow and flourish. Steve Jobs put it like this:
“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.”
A clear strategy that is communicated to all staff members will allow you to focus on the most important things, and set aside distractions in order to improve both productivity and performance across the practice.
2. Build an 80-20 online presence
Whether you like it or not, potential clients are going to turn to Google to find a practice in their area. So, if you’re in their area, and you offer the services they’re looking for, then you can’t ignore the opportunities that an online presence provides. A quick look at the numbers might help convince you:
- 5% of all Google searches are for health-related queries;
- Search is the preferred way for clients to find healthcare providers;
- Over 60% of clients run a search before booking an appointment.
If you don’t consider yourself especially tech-savvy you might think that the cost of establishing yourself online is prohibitive. But that’s where Pareto comes in…
You’ve probably come across the Pareto principle before which states that “for many outcomes, roughly 80% of consequences come from 20% of the causes.” If you’re working on a tight budget, just focus on getting the basics of your website presence right. You can keep costs down, but still maximise your exposure with:
- A simple website that showcases your therapists, the services you offer, your contact information, and (if possible) a blog.
- An updated GMB (Google My Business) profile is non-negotiable and completely free. Go through our in-depth guide on an optimised GMB profile here.
- A Facebook page – again, this should have all your contact information, and regular updates showcasing your services, interesting industry news, and any changes at the practice.
- Your email subscriber list – focus on growing a list of potential and current clients, then send them regular updates about your practice and interesting industry news. To get into the nuts and bolts, review our guide here.
3. Focus on your reputation
We interview health practices across a range of disciplines and profile them on the Case Studies section of our website. Many of them grown organically and often have a waitlist of a few months. One of the questions that we ask is how they’ve managed to grow their practice. The answer might surprise you: by and large, most practices say that they’ve grown organically with no (or very little) advertising. Rather, they grew as their reputation grew, even in a competitive healthcare niche.
This long-term growth strategy starts with building relationships in the community. It could be potential referral sources where you have an opportunity to get creative, you might need to broaden your focus and not only work with GPs but possibly personal trainers, allied health professionals, and influential leaders in the community. You should also ensure that your practice is integrated and invested in the community. Ideas include offering a free workshop, sponsoring a local event, or speaking at schools in the area. And, to help keep your practice top of mind, you could consider advertising in the local paper and any local Facebook groups.
Ideally, you’re working towards becoming known in your area as the go-to person (and practice) for your services. Your practice should be top of mind for anyone wanting to refer a client, friend, or family member.
4. Prioritise the personal touch
One podiatrist, who we interviewed recently, shared how she’s kept her solo practice full for over 30 years. Her secret is simple: she focuses on the person, not just executing her services. She’s found that many new podiatrists prioritise filling their schedules and upselling clients on other services, but they’ve forgotten that the person’s feet are only a part of the service they offer. Clients are looking for a personal connection. A strong patient-provider relationship is also linked to improved outcomes. If you want to build loyalty, in addition to offering excellent service, you need to connect with the client too.
The best way to connect with your clients will vary from practice to practice and may depend on your specific field. You need to try things that other practices aren’t doing. Something as simple as an automated follow-up after an appointment could make all the difference, or bottled water in the reception area, especially during the hot summer months. It could even be a case of changing your service offering; maybe you could expand your online services as an easy-to-use Telehealth option could be a lot more convenient for clients.
If you want to know how to offer your clients the best possible service, why not ask them? This can be done informally during the session or through a quick feedback questionnaire. Then, when you get feedback, review it thoroughly, discuss your findings with your team and implement changes. Regular feedback allows you to improve your practice, foster teamwork within the practice and will benefit your bottom line as you get more referrals from satisfied clients.
Being a small practice doesn’t mean you can’t compete with more well-established practices in your area. In fact, in many respects, it can actually give you an edge over your competition. You’re more agile and able to adapt quickly to the changing needs of your clients. And, for the most part, the advantages that a bigger, more established practice has can be replicated (and bettered) if you’re willing to put in the effort.
The research all points to:
- Having a clear mission and vision, ensuring that it is communicated to your employees and that your overarching strategy allows you to focus on the most important things without getting distracted.
- Building a web presence but making it work for you. Blowing your budget on a fancy website probably won’t get you the returns you need. So, focus on getting the most important building blocks in place.
- Keeping it personal, clients want to feel that you care about them. It’s not enough to be good at what you do.
- Establishing a strong brand, you want to be the practice that comes to everyone’s mind when your services are needed.