Competitive Focus, Part 2

Posted in Competitive Focus | March 14,2013

Competitive Focus

This is the second half of a two-part series outlining how to gauge your competition. Missed the first part? No worries, it’s right here Welcome back to our series on turning your competition into mince-meat by tracking their every move and optimizing your practice’s position in the marketplace.

In the previous article, we discussed why it’s important to know your competition’s marketing activity, the product/services they offer, and what your competitive focus should be. Now we’re going to dig deeper and discuss two more areas in which knowing your competitors can help you stand apart and surpass them – Special Offers and Customer Service. Competitive Special Offers

Why it matters – When you know what your competitors are promoting, you can strategize your own offers. It’s as simple as that. Perhaps you have a competitor who is offering a free Widget with every purchase. Maybe someone is doing a “buy one get one half off” deal. You need to know these things and how you are going to respond.

How to use this info – Will you match the competitor’s price? A price match guarantee is a popular way to combat competitor’s pricing without further convoluting the message with detailed specials and discounts. Further, a price match guarantee allows you to maintain the value of the product/service, vs. many promotional offers that can devalue your business.

In contrast, consider the most visible type of special offer in recent history: The Daily Deal, i.e. Groupon, LivingSocial, etc. I can safely assume you or your spouse subscribes to a Daily Deal website, yes? You see the deals they offer, some of them outrageous, and you’ve probably thought on more than one occasion: “How can this company be making ANY money selling deals at this rate?” Great question, and the answer: They probably aren’t making money (or at least very much).

You’ve run your own practice long enough to learn that just because a BIG opportunity comes along (like marketing to a million people via Groupon with no out-of-pocket cost to you), doesn’t make it a GOOD opportunity.

You know this, but maybe your competition doesn’t. If you see another practice running a deal that seems too good to be true, sleep easy knowing this cause/effect chain:

  1. They aren’t making much money per sale, which means….
  2. They are depending on volume and repeat business to help reach profits, which means….
  3. Their customer service is going to suffer having to deal with an influx of new patients, which means…
  4. People who bought the Groupon the first time will not come back and use the service again, which means….
  5. Short-term, marginal gains for your competitor in exchange for bad word-of-mouth and an overworked staff with no real, long-term traction gained in the marketplace.

I paint a pretty bleak picture of Groupon, but despite what I say and any horror stories you may have heard, a properly structured Daily Deal can be a great business builder for a practice.

HOW? That’s a topic for another article. If you want to investigate doing a Daily Deal (and I do recommend you at least investigate), email me and I’d be happy to share some info with you.

Competitive Customer Service

Why it matters – This is where you can really outshine your competition and build patient ambassadors for life. Customer service is the cornerstone of your business, PERIOD. It doesn’t matter where you are, what you’re selling or what your price point is, your customer service is what’s going to make or break you AND your competition. Knowing your competitor’s customer service tactics is essential to making your business as customer-friendly and seemingly VIP as possible.

So remember in the previous article when I mentioned secret shopping your competitor? This is how you learn about their customer service. Call them on the phone. Visit their websites. Visit their locations. Note the following:

  • Were you greeted with a kind voice (phone) or kind, attractive individual (in person)?
  • Was their office/storefront pleasant/attractive/modern/welcoming?
  • Did you find their website beneficial in answering your questions and educating you about the business? Was the website attractive and easily navigable? Did it marry with the look and feel of the practice?
  • When you called, were you greeted by an automated phone system or a live human being? Were you kept on hold for long periods of time at any point?
  • When you visited the store, what was the general vibe of the staff? What was the vibe of the other customers there?

How to use this info – Now that you know these things, consider them in the context of your business.

Create a simple list for each of your competitors with four columns:

  • · Feature (Characteristics you determined by answering the questions above)
  • · Is This Good or Bad? (Is it hurting them or helping them)
  • · Do I Do This? (Are you exhibiting this type of treatment at your business?)
  • · Should I Change This? (Is this something you should add to your business to improve it? Or if it’s something you do and you determine it’s bad, should you STOP doing it?)

This will serve as a simple guideline to help you sculpt a better customer service experience for your target market. Maybe you discover someone else doing something that you do (automated phone answering service, for instance), and it makes you feel cold and not welcome to the business on the initial call. Maybe you want to try using a live receptionist answering the phone for a month and measure feedback from your patients (hint: YOU DO want to do this, if at all possible!).

Did a competitor have a great idea you want to steal? Go ahead and take it. Go ahead and get that Otis Spunkmeyer oven and serve your customers free chocolate chip cookies!

Just like I discussed in the previous article about your competitors’ products/services: your business is superior when you combine all the positive aspects you’ve learned from your competition and added your own unique elements as a ‘secret ingredient.’ I called this Awesome Pie, but it can be Awesome Choc Chip Cookies too!

The result of all this? Your patients will come back again and again and again. They will send friends and family to you. They will be ambassadors for life because you will provide them the best level of customer care they can find in regard to your product/service.

ONE FINAL NOTE: While it’s important to know these various aspects of your competition, it’s vitally important that you DO NOT become obsessed with your competition at the expense of your patients.

Sometimes this happens when we’re consulting with medical practices. We will be working toward practice development and marketing strategies, and they will constantly steer the conversation toward the competition:  What the competitors are doing, what people are saying about them, are they running legitimate promotions, and the list goes on and on.

As you’ve read, the key isn’t to simply fret over these issues, and knowing them in and of itself does nothing. Take this information, process it, strategize with it and improve your practice.

I’ll repeat – DO NOT become obsessed with your competitors. While your competition is indirectly taking money out of your pocket by selling to your target market, only one group of people can directly contribute to your bottom line – your patients, past, present and future. So take good care of the ones you have, and use the tactics I’ve outlined here to capture and cultivate new ones.

How do you make sure you aren’t spinning your wheels in regard to competitive monitoring? Follow this simple time strategy: For every hour spent researching the competition, spend a day improving your practice for your patients using the information you’ve learned.

Educate yourself, improve your practice, increase profits. It’s just this simple!

And of course we’re here to help too.