Beyond Competition – Podcast
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Podcast 57: Beyond Competition
Hello. This is Scott McDonald and welcome to the Perfect Place to Put a Practice Podcast. In case you have missed is, we have introduced a video podcast called “The Demographic Whetherman.” These audio podcasts tend to deal most with trends in demographic issues. In this session, we are going to talk about competition.
I have a competitor who promotes their demographic reports as though the relationship between the size of the population and the number of competing practices in the area is the only really issue that should concern a doctor. I am here to tell you without reservation that this just isn’t true. Let me explain myself.
There is a basic assumption when you look at the competition ratio in order to compare sites that all people make equally good patients. If only that were true! Based upon the Theory of Market Segmentation, people tend to differentiate themselves based upon their demographic character. In other words, a person who is rich is not necessarily going to make the same purchase decisions as a person who is poor. Those who are old will not make decisions on the same basis as people who are young. Certainly, men and women vary in their decisions as well as people who are married versus people who are single. I am not saying that one group is better or worse than any other. Nevertheless, the difference between people based upon their demographic character (or demographic characteristics) will make them more or less suitable for certain practice types and models than others. It is one reason that you will want to approach one group with advertising messages while you will not approach others. Still, there is a persistent belief that if you have a group of people who do not have many providers of a particular service, that this location will necessarily be better than another. I hope you understand the folly in this.
Let me provide a practical example of this truth. A location may have not a single pediatric dentist in a large radius. If one holds to this principle of considering competition to be all important, this might be considered a reasonable place to put a practice. But what if there are no children in the area? But there are other considerations that may be a little more subtle. You may already know that an area with lots of children that also has an abundance of single family dwellings that are owner occupied will be a much better place than one with more children but is primarily made up of apartment renters. That is because those who own their home tend to use dental specialists of all kinds at a greater rate than those who rent. Granted, home ownership has a strong correlation to higher income and superior credit worthiness. But all of this goes into the calculation that this is a place with people who will tend to be more likely to spend more on your practice.
Incidentally, all of this is true of any kind of practice including optometry, medicine, or veterinary.
Please understand that I am not disparaging the idea that you need and want to know competition numbers and ratios. But if you are wise, you will want to keep in mind that competition ratios are only one but not always the most important fact about the desirability of a location.
Before I end, I have to do just a little more about the sources of competition figures. Please believe me: competition facts are not as easy as you think. They are a moving target. New professionals start-up while others leave (or move). The size of the population itself is always in flux. But the accessibility of a location will tend to improve or degrade thus making assumptions about whether there is room for one more change over a fairly short period of time. Streets can be widened or blocked off. New office buildings may be built or razed. As I said before, it is a moving target. In a former time, organized dentistry represented more than 90% of practitioners. In those days, determining how many professionals practiced in the area was easy. But in some locations, less than half of dentists join up. In medicine, it may be far fewer. Add to this the inherent problem of satellite and second offices. Some locations may appear to be terribly saturated when, in fact, there may be FEWER providers in an area than there once were but it appears as though there are many more. If you want a sobering experience, do an unfiltered Google Search for practices of your type in your neighborhood and then go through an cull out duplicates. Many doctors use their name, a separate practice name, and in some cases a staff person’s name (not to mention former owners and associates). Yes, some of these doctors are messing up the numbers and like a puffer fish, want to look larger than they really are. True, you should get the best numbers to determine competition ratios you can. Just know that no number is perfect, no database is beyond examination, and things change.
This is Scott McDonald
- Marketing Resources
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This is not so much a “sales pitch” as it is an explanation on how you can utilize the marketing services we offer to a limited number of practices in the U.S. I also discuss what makes these services unique. Many of our listeners have asked for a brief explanation and training on how to use marketing research information to implement on on-going marketing plan
Marketing Services – Podcast
Hello, this is Scott McDonald and welcome to the Perfect Place to Put a Practice podcast. This edition of the podcast is directed toward marketing your practice. I was originally hired by the organized dentistry in the early 1980s, just five years after advertising and practice promotion became legal. I was given the charge to help determine what was effective in terms of making the population solicit care from doctors in a way that was ethnical. But underlying this commission was the concern that practices would cut each other’s throats, especially in markets that were considered having too much competition. Believe it or not, up to that time, no one had considered that there was anything other than “generic” messaging which meant that every office was essentially the same and only price separated them. That is why I developed strategies that are used in the industry regarding market segmentation. Ultimately, you don’t want to appeal to everyone in a practice market with the same message. That some people want some things from their doctor while others want something else. Through my writing and lectures, I have been successful in getting many marketing companies, consultants, and practices to adopt this approach. Without being too specific, I have been helping in serving the research and strategy needs of those who serve the professions in marketing.
What you may not know, is that, from time to time, we have taken the relationship with select clients a little deeper in providing them with marketing strategy and direction that are specific to their locations and populations. This relationship goes beyond the marketing report and telephone consultations that are offered on doctordemographics.com, what I am talking about is more than analysis and strategy, I’m talking about execution. Please understand, I do not have artists, copy writers, or media placement experts as part of my company. We refer that work to others. But I have found that it is necessary to keep my hand in actual practices to help them to grow and thrive, particularly in difficult and changing circumstances that many of you are facing. If you want to be a part of our research and implementation program, the Marketing Report is how we can start this process. Ultimately, it will tell us if your practice will benefit from this work.
Now, let me be clear about one thing. There is a huge difference between the ability to construct a strategy in theory, and a strategy that will actually work. Almost weekly, we get a doctor who will report to us on some well-meaning or even incompetent marketing consultants. Too often these advisors will attempt to implement a series of tactical activities without solid research. If all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. Therefore, my concern is that even if they execute some marketing activity well, whether it is social media, web design, direct mail, newsletters, in-office promotions, or whatever, it may not be the right media or message for THIS particular case. And because this may be their reason for being, they have all the faith of a true-believer that their marketing tool is the right and ONLY solution to your problem. PLEASE understand, they are not necessarily evil or incompetent but often their perspective might not be on target because they have too small a marketing tool chest. And to be honest, that is why many professional practice marketing companies turn to us for help in trying to help their clients. They don’t talk about us and we don’t talk about them. The ultimate desire all of us have is to help the Clients.
Over the past two years, we have quietly been building our marketing execution team to provide more for our clients. From our perspective, there are few things more frustrating than talking with a doctor 6 or so months after we provided them with a marketing report, and found that they did not implement anything we recommended due to their lack of time or knowhow. Or even worse, found that they selected an inexperienced agency or individual who did not know the nuances of the dental, medical, and veterinary fields.
That is why we have been working to find the best vendors for specific marketing fulfillment services who we can recommend when we see that the practice situation warrants it. And this is going to sound somewhat naïve but we don’t ask for a referral fee from them.
Now, if you have spent any time with our consulting department, or have ordered a marketing report from us in the past, you know how much we harp on our clients to focus on the benefits of your services rather than the features. Well, to take a measure of our own medicine, I’d like to speak to the benefits of what our marketing services department provides rather than the features. What we’ve found to be the biggest cause for the lack of marketing execution within a practice is simply the lack of time, man-power, or the ability to delegate that part of their business with confidence. Trust me, I get it. How your brand is marketed is the bread and butter of your practice and its ability to grow. Letting that go to just “anyone” is not wise. It’s not hard to find someone who will create for you a new website or update your Facebook page, as matter of fact, I’m confident there are several kids on your block who live in there parents basement with their 44 oz. Mountain Dew in hand, who would be happy to take your money to provide these services in between sessions of their video games. In other words, there is an endless number of providers out there who really have no idea how to create demand for your practice and ultimately provide more patients for your practice. Scott McDonald and Associates has been the trusted source for analyzing practice growth for over 30 years. Our marketing strategies are based on an intimate knowledge of the demographics and psychographics of a given area. We can say with confidence that there is no other provider of services who understands your market better, no matter where your practice is located. Because of that, there is no other provider who can provide what we can provide with such precision even if it means bringing in experts and service providers you have never considered..
Let me share with you a few of our most common services we are currently providing to give you some perspective.
Let’s start with a very specific marketing task, that seems to have eluded many practices around the country, Social Media. Social Media is one of those things that everyone knows they need to do, but few do very well. It’s the first thing to be forgotten when time gets crazy or staff changes seats. The public, however, use social media as their connection to your practice but each one is highly individualized on what they are using this medium to obtain. If you can provide relevant content that is interesting and helpful to them, they enter an emotional bond with your practice and become a long-term and referring patient. Over the years, we have created a simple, yet effective social media fulfilment product that is effective and reliable. If you’ve found yourself having a hard time solving this piece of your practice, we can solve that problem for you, today. But you should know that there are many sources for this “relevant content” that we shop on your behalf.
Another issue that plague many practices across the country is keeping their website updated with fresh content. Now, keep in mind that Google ranks web pages, not web sites. In other words, if you are not creating new, original, and interesting content on your website, at least a few times per month, you are going to fall out of touch with Google’s algorithm and your competitors are going to start out-ranking you. New content in the form of a blog post, a new page on your site, or news articles are the key to keeping your site fresh in the eyes of both the public and Google. You didn’t go to school to become a web optimization specialist, you went to become a great doctor. Our team is trained on how to both write and optimize the content to make it attractive to Google and to those who visit your page. But we don’t pretend to do this on our own. Our research helps users know what to say and helps get them the information that will keep patients and potential patients coming back to you. What you say about your practice and what your neighbor says about hers may be (should be) different.
I mention these two products because I feel like these are some of the most common problems we are hearing from doctors across the country. Your needs may vary. Well, they probably will. You’ll be glad to know that we provide recommend services from Review Collection to Direct Mail, in other words, we can help you match an execution plan for the strategy that is going to work for your practice.
The last item I want to mention is our Outsourced Marketing Director plan. We take on a very limited number of practices per year in this type of relationship after it is shown that they are serious about investing in their marketing success. We view this relationship as if we were your marketing director and had an office “down the hall”. We do not intend this relationship to replace any of the existing marketing staff or providers. Rather, we supplement it by providing the opportunity to add over 30 combined years of professional practice marketing experience to your team, at a fraction of the cost hiring someone with the same marketing competence. This is very intimate relationship that provides a high level of access and is created for the doctor that wants to spend their time being the best doctor possible, and wants to leave the marketing up to the professionals.
I’m going to stop there and direct those who are interested to visit doctordemographics.com/marketing to get the full scope of what we are providing. We provide occasional discounts to those who visit our page and I hope you will take look if you think this will serve your needs.
This is Scott McDonald of Scott McDonald & Associates and DoctorDemographics.com. And thanks for listening.