The Immobilizing Impact of Marketing Sticker Shock

competition On an intellectual level, many doctors acknowledge the revolutionary rise of competition in healthcare. But some individuals and medical groups underestimate the shocking reality of what active and aggressive competition means in business today.

Some provider organizations find themselves rapidly losing business and needing to market as never before. A large specialty practice, for example, approached us when their patient stream and market share was being devoured by the competition. They needed to stop the bleeding and turn things around.

That sort of situation is common. But what is genuinely surprising—mind-blowing, really—is that their response to (admittedly urgent) marketing recommendations was marketing “sticker shock.”

In the face of a serious business downturn, their acceptance of a new marketing plan and budget was serious reluctance. It seems that, because they have been spending no money on marketing to date, the recommendations were “too high.”

Sorry, but that logic seems a little faulty, so let’s review:

  • the competition is eating their lunch
  • they recognize the need to “do something”
  • they have been accustomed to “spending nothing,” and
  • based on the past, the new expectation is to produce different results?

As it turns out, a “nothing budget” wasn’t really working. And an investment in preserving the business is a practical reality.

Take away lessons for others feeling competitive pressure….

  1. Hard hit are specialty practices where a historic stream of referral patients meant they never marketed direct-to-patients previously. Suddenly, they are thrust into head-on competition to bring patients in the door. For them, the sticker shock just to get into the game is unnerving.
  1. Admittedly, the competitive landscape has changed, so the “next-to-nothing budget” of the past isn’t going to create a meaningful answer to the competition. It is, however, going to produce the same results…which are lost market share and a shrinking patient base.
  1. The bad news just gets worse. Realize it or not, the competition is perfectly happy to have you do nothing. They want you (their competition) to be immobilized and out of the way for as long as possible. It helps them win.

In some cases, the surprise can produce a paralyzing inaction that simply hastens the demise of the business. But the concept of marketing sticker shock can also be a sobering wakeup alarm for endangered practices…and enough of a positive boost to determination that turns things around.

The latter course, and more attractive option, however does require a courageous business decision.

Stewart Gandolf, MBA

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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