How to Make Your Practice Stand Out in a Crowded Field
by Mark J. Tager, MD
No matter the terminology—Integrative, Functional, Holistic, Wellness or Anti-Aging—a growing cadre of clinicians are now competing for the cash dollars of patients seeking a more personalized, root-cause health care experience. Don’t just take my word for it; let’s do the math: In this case, a simple LinkedIn search (February 2017) shows the following number of practitioners:
Anti-Aging Medicine: 12,349
Integrative Medicine: 55,854
Holistic Medicine: 181,576
Functional Medicine: 203, 593
Wellness Medicine: 418, 527
While you might quibble with the categorization and the considerable overlap in the categories, it’s hard to escape the magnitude of this emerging practitioner market. For your practice to succeed, you clearly need to stand out from other clinicians in your community.
You want to attract the types of patients you like to treat, those for whom you have the products and services that address their concerns. The natural tendency in a competitive environment is to emphasize the features of your practice: where you were trained, societies you belong to, awards you have won, the quality of your products and services. While these are important distinctions and deserve mention somewhere on your website and in your literature, features alone are rarely enough to capture and hold prospects’ attention and get them to make an appointment.
What do Patients Want?
Multiple studies have asked patients what they want in their health care experience. The answers always skew to the interpersonal aspects of care. Patients want a clinician who listens, takes time, is approachable, and appears compassionate and concerned. They not only want to know you have the solution to their problems, but that you will deliver this solution in an empathetic and respectful way. So, how can you let prospective patients know you meet the totality of their needs? Consider these three, easy-to-implement steps:
1. Get crystal clear on what you are offering and why.
To do so, I’d encourage you to take the elevator test.
You are about to enter an elevator with a person who sees your conference badge and notes that you are a ______________practitioner and you are from ____________(fill in the city). The person turns to you and says, “My mom lives in your city and she’s looking to find a ___________(clinician like you). Why should she come to see you?
As you enter the elevator together, you’ve got 30 seconds to get across your unique service proposition, and explain your unique offering. Can you do it? Can your staff do it? In my experience, the vast majority of health care professionals are unable to do so. This lack of clarity can result in a waiting room full of difficult-to-satisfy patients. They are wrong for your practice, and you are wrong for their problems.
2. Turn your features into benefits.
This is a great exercise to do with your team at lunch. Take a few minutes and make a list of the features of your practice. Next, prioritize them, noting the ones that are most important to patients. Put a big star next to features that give you a unique competitive advantage. Discuss how they make your product/service offering different and therefore better. Now for the most important part: Create a clear benefit statement by using connecting phrases like:
“so that you can…”
“in order to…”
“which lets you…”
“that’s important because…”
Link the feature and benefit statements together as in this example:
We provide professional-strength supplements in order to make certain you get the pure and potent nutrients that will help you heal.
Use this construct whenever you are directing messages toward a patient, whether in person, on camera, or online.
3. Put your best face forward.
In our A4M Practice Enhancement Survey (November 2016), 80% of all practices lacked the number one tool to convert website viewers into patients: video. Patients searching for a practitioner quickly skim eight to nine sites before they land on one that seems to meet their needs. Sites featuring a “Welcome to My Practice” video, displaying a warm, caring practitioner, are significantly more effective in getting the viewer to book an appointment.
Standing out in a competitive field does not need to be a costly marketing endeavor. It does, however, require a new approach and focused attention on a process that is patient-centered and prospect-friendly.
About Mark J. Tager
Mark J. Tager, MD is co-founder of ChangeWell Training Academy. A veteran of more than 800 presentations, Mark shares his skills and passion to empower those who attend ChangeWell’s Enhance Your Presence™ trainings. A highly sought-after speaker, Mark lectures for a number of medical device, nutraceutical, cosmeceutical, clinical laboratory and biotech companies. He has authored nine books related to health and performance. The latest, with Robert John Hughes, is Enhance Your Presence: The Path to Personal Power, Professional Influence and Business Results. He attended Duke University Medical School and trained in family practice at The Oregon Health & Science University. He can be reached at www.changewell.com. www.changewell.com.