It’s great to be on top, but when a clinic is “fat and happy,” its focus on sales and marketing can lose its intensity. Consequently, your clinic may be in danger of losing its crown without realizing your leadership position is in jeopardy.
This month’s column addresses this dilemma faced by urgent care clinics that are market leaders. Instead of assuming that the “best offense is a good defense,” in some cases the best defense becomes a good offense.
The following suggestions can help all urgent care clinics that offer occupational health services—leaders and followers guard against complacency and secure a more dominant position in the marketplace. Protect your base. Implement a plan to ensure that your market share remains intact. Too often, a clinic assumes that patients or employer clients are satisfied and fails to learn about dissatisfaction until the patient or client has moved their business elsewhere.
Protecting your base means keeping your ear close to your customers. It is advisable for all players to continually assess consumer satisfaction through multiple modalities. Examples of consumer opinion-gathering mechanisms include annual employer surveys, quarterly telephone blitzes, and universal, (i.e., every patient, every day), albeit simple, patient satisfaction surveys.
Many clinics gather such data but fail to:
- ask the right questions. Remember to always ask consumers
- what your clinic can do to improve.
- follow up. Always follow up on concerns or suggestions.
- be relentless. Sustain the effort, month after month, year after year.
- provide inordinate attention to employers who generate an inordinate amount of business
Emphasize horizontal expansion.
“Horizontal expansion” means increasing market share by developing relationships with new companies.
As market leaders become fat and happy, there is inevitably less impetus to extend into the prospect fringes to acquire business from less proximate or smaller companies.
Begin expanding vertically.
The greater your market share, the greater your need to think more in terms of vertical expansion— selling new services to existing clients. The vertical/horizontal choice is really a continuum, and a prudent clinic should pursue both. For example, a clinic should tilt toward the vertical end of the spectrum as it attains a greater market share or if it operates in a smaller, less competitive market.
Use market leadership as a competitive advantage.
Prudent buyers are more comfortable with proven market leaders
(i.e., “They must be doing something right.”). Yet market leaders seldom use market leadership as a competitive advantage.
There are many ways to tout your market leadership in tasteful yet clear terms:
- Create exhaustive reference lists. List virtually all of your employer relationships.
- Use tag lines such as “The leading provider of occupational health services in Crescent City.”
- Mention your dominant position in both oral and written sales presentations.
- Emphasize that your clinic has relationships with key companies in your market.
Encourage growth through a viable incentive plan.
Incentive pay should be built into sales professionals’ compensation. Such incentives should promote gross revenue, whether it is generated through vertical or horizontal sales.
Differentiate by focusing on competitor vulnerabilities. Ahead by two touchdowns early in the fourth quarter? Don’t run the ball into the line. Open up your passing attack, especially if that strategy plays into your opponent’s greatest liabilities. In occupational health sales, stick with the playbook that got you in the lead in the first place: selling on your competitive advantages vis-à-vis your prime competitors.
Leverage down times through a survival-of-the fittest mentality. There is a silver lining out there for market leaders dealing with our current economic downturn.
Market leaders are in the best position to quickly regain their strength in the next economic upswing because survival-of-the-fittest principles either weaken or put more vulnerable competitors out of business.
As a market leader, you should invest in more intense sales and marketing to take advantage of your weaker competitors’ likely inability to respond in turn.
Watch for signs of slippage. Few clinics proactively monitor metrics such as lost market share, decreasing revenue, or client movement. Monthly scrutiny of such metrics is essential, and immediate action should be taken to stem negative tides.
Building on market leadership rather than letting it slip away should be central to the strategic thinking of every market leader. Market leadership provides many compelling competitive advantages, yet most urgent care occupational health programs take it for granted, thereby setting themselves up to slowly but surely lose their grip on the market.
If not taking advantage of a great mind is a notable tragedy of mankind, then not taking advantage of your market leadership’s inherent advantages may be a notable downside of your clinic’s strategic plan.