By Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer
How to take a fresh and fast survey of your own backyard.
For a whole lot of reasons, nearly all all healthcare organizations, hospitals and practices are doing business differently from what you might think. Especially in marketing terms, the previous 12 months are not a good guide to how your competition will be navigating the road ahead.
Change is happening for most. You might have been too busy to notice what your competitive colleagues are doing (or not doing) recently. Shifts in the economy have driven some timid souls to the sidelines. And marketing-assertive hospitals, healthcare organizations and private practices may be grabbing for the vacated market share.
Understanding your competition.
The provider that wants or needs to take up the challenges of growth through new or renewed efforts needs a fresh understanding of the competitive landscape. By truly understanding what’s changing, you can anticipate competitive issues and be proactive in plans and strategies for getting and staying ahead.
There are many ways to compile good research-and staff can help. But even when interest and good intentions are high it’s likely that your time is limited. So first, assume that you don’t know what the competition is doing, and devote a little time to searching in much the same way as a prospective patient would do.
Here are 3 of the most effective approaches to a fresh and fast survey of your own marketing backyard.
Internet Competitive Research—There’s a wealth of information online-more so these days than ever before. Start with a list of your primary competitors and do an online search by name and the name of the owner(s). If they have a website it will feature how they are attempting to position the buiness, the audience they are targeting and what they say to differentiate themselves. They are also likely to list partners and the scope of programs, services and/or products they provide.
In addition to a competitor’s website, you may also find other interesting information about the provider(s) or the organization. This might include articles they have authored, media interviews, legal actions that are public information, etc.
For a comprehensive list of competitors, search by profession, specialty, treatment/procedure and the geographic area, as a prospective patient might. Don’t assume that you know all the competitors—you could discover, for example, that provider based in a nearby community is operating a day-a-week satellite office in your shadow.
Media Competitive Research—By studying the local media (again as a prospective patient might do) you can gather additional competitive information. The Yellow Pages directory, for example, can reveal what competitive activities are taking large space display ads—and illustrate how they present themselves to the public.
Check your own mailbox. With the help of the staff—who may live in various parts of the community—collect local newspaper or magazine ads, direct mail, radio/TV commercials, billboards or other media. With even closer scrutiny you can discover and collect articles, publicity or other public relations exposure that competitors may achieve in the media.
Ear-to-the-ground Competitive Research—Often “in the field” discovery is an insightful and effective way to gain competitive intelligence, especially where the competitive outreach efforts are not highly visible in the media. Ask people you know. Vendors, reps, hospital staff, friends in the community and non-competitive colleagues are probably aware of marketing messages that are reaching them and others.
Compiling and analyzing your findings.
In a fairly short period of time, you can assemble an impressive overview of what prospective patients are seeing. You’ll gain insight about who is doing what, their strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and competitive threats. Consider the competition with questions like this in mind:
- Which of the competitive practices appear to be the main or primary competitors and why? (More doctors, more locations? Unique capability/equipment?)
- What services or procedures do the primary competitors appear to be promoting and NOT promoting—which may be an opportunity to fill a need? (In Yellow Pages, newspaper ads, articles or news releases?)
- Are there capabilities, new services or procedures which your practice can provide that are not being promoted or offered by the competition? (Is there a unique opportunity?)
- Is there a public interest or demand for a service or procedure that is not commonly available or would answer a public need if it was available? (Listening to the voice of the customer. What does the public need or want?)
- What is it about your practice that most clearly differentiates and sets it apart as a reason for the prospective patient to choose this practice above the competition? (Differentiation is the cornerstone of brand building for a practice.)
Competitive insight can help guide your marketing plan to seize openings, avoid or answer challenges and reap the strongest Return-on-Investment.
If you haven’t studied the competitive landscape in detail recently, this brief exercise can be an eye-opener and a great place to begin your strategy thinking. We can help guide your marketing planning process. For the next 12 months, things are going to operate quite differently from the past. We’d be glad to help you capture the maximum opportunity.