Why Doctors Can’t Afford Defensive Indifference

OK, I realize that professional football’s Super Bowl is behind us, and baseball’s spring training remains a distant Man in suit putting his head in the sand vision of warmer weather. But here’s a useful bit of insight about competition that applies to winning in healthcare marketing.

Faithful followers of the Great American Pastime will recognize the term “Defensive Indifference.”

It’s a slightly obscure tactic in baseball where, “in the later stages of a game in which the defensive team, either ahead or behind by a large amount, allows a player to advance a base without any attempt to put the runner out.” [BaseballReference.com]

Unfortunately, I frequently discover a similar (negative) concept in healthcare marketing… and doctor’s can’t afford Defensive Indifference. It doesn’t exist in football or marketing, and it doesn’t win ballgames. Here’s why.

When a hospital or medical practice willingly (or unintentionally) forfeits an advantage to the competition, we suspect it is because they expect to win, or more commonly, because they are unaware, indifferent or maybe they expect to lose. Under any circumstances it’s a marketing mistake.

Expecting to win, or expecting to lose, has no connection with success in medical marketing. As often as not, the leading indicator is a reflection of attitude. When we consult with physicians, medical groups, hospitals and other providers, the red flag is expressed as:

  • “We don’t have competition…”
  • “Doctors are too busy being doctors…”
  • “We don’t believe in marketing…”
  • “Only ‘bad doctors’ advertise…”

Defensive indifference doesn’t win ballgames.

Health care providers don’t have a deep history with competition. Physicians and surgeons often see themselves as a band of brothers and sisters in white coats. Each and all are members of a fraternal league with a higher calling. No one can afford to minimize or ignore the competition and expect success.

But intense competition in the marketplace is the reality of healthcare reform and a dynamic industry. Staying ahead of the competition requires a proactive plan and strategy, based on an understanding of competitive forces at work.

Competition is a fact of business life, and the quantity and quality of your competition is growing rapidly. And if, for whatever reason, you don’t believe in marketing…take a guess what your competitors are doing.

Healthcare’s competitive revolution has enlisted legions of smart, experienced and highly competitive professionals who are—as you read this—planning and budgeting aggressive marketing efforts—intent on winning your patients. They call it taking Market Share.

To borrow a bit of insight from a professional athlete, J.J. Watt: “Success isn’t owned; it’s leased and you pay rent every day.” The thought has a football heritage, but it also applies to facing the competition as a healthcare provider.

For related reading, see: The Much-Neglected Secret to Beating Your Healthcare Competition Online.

Lonnie Hirsch

Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer at Healthcare Success
Stewart Gandolf, MBA, is Chief Executive Officer of Healthcare Success, one of the nation's leading healthcare and digital marketing agencies. Over the past 20 years, Stewart has marketed and consulted for over 1,000 healthcare clients, ranging from practices and hospitals to multi-billion dollar corporations. A frequent speaker, Stewart has shared his expertise at over 200 venues nationwide. As an author and expert resource, Stewart has also written for many leading industry publications, including the 21,000 subscriber Healthcare Success Insight blog. Stewart also co-authored, "Cash-Pay Healthcare: Start, Grow & Perfect Your Cash-Pay Healthcare Business." Stewart began his career with leading advertising agencies, including J. Walter Thompson, where he marketed Fortune 500 clients such as Wells Fargo and Bally's Total Fitness.

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