It was only a couple of decades ago that most healthcare practitioners didn’t think of themselves as being in business, much less in competition with other doctors to win patients and keep their schedules full. Times have changed. Practice promotion is now considered not only acceptable, but also necessary, and an important aspect of marketing a practice involves being aware of who else in vying for patients in the surrounding area. While there is no need to panic or become paranoid when new practitioners move into your neighborhood or when a competitor launches a new promotional campaign, it’s smart to keep an eye on who’s doing what. Here are some easy ways to stay tuned in.
- Even though phone books are not used as much as they once were, they’re still published, year in and year out. When your new phone books arrive, take time to scan the yellow pages to see who is listed in your specialty and, if they have display ads, what services they’re offering.
- Check out the websites of your competitors and if they offer a newsletter subscribe to it, and bookmark the site to read blog posts and other updates.
- Scan the local papers for press releases and announcement ads of new providers coming into the area, as well as for advertising being placed by your competitors.
- Network at your local hospital to keep up on who’s being recruited to which practices, and if the hospital is doing their own recruiting. Attend local medical society and educational meetings as a way to keep your finger on the pulse of who is coming (and going) within the community.
- Follow your competitors on Twitter, friend them on Facebook, and connect with them on LinkedIn.
- Keep in mind that having competitors in the marketplace isn’t all bad. Look around for opportunities to collaborate with colleagues. For example, you might organize a Saturday morning back-to-school health fair with several other pediatricians in the area, or join forces to get a good rate on newspaper advertising to promote back-to-school physicals.
You may find that knowing what others are engaging in in terms of practice promotion can ensure that you don’t overlap with them. For example, if a competitor is offering free patients seminars over the course of several months, you might choose another method of promotion during that time so as not to saturate the market with too many similar offerings.
None of this is to suggest that you study competitors in order to copy what they are doing or to steal their ideas. It’s simply good business to know what’s going on around you so that you can strategize and plan accordingly for your own practice. You can bet that Microsoft knows what Apple is up to, and that General Motors keeps a close eye on Toyota. It’s just business. Stay abreast of what your same-specialty colleagues are doing, assume they’re keeping a similar watch on you, and remember that a little friendly competition is healthy.