Essential Secrets To Marketing Your Practice Successfully

By Kevin McDonald, DPM

When I was in podiatry school 20-something years ago, there was a podiatrist on the faculty who was very impressive to me. He wore stylish clothes, drove a Mercedes convertible and took vacations to Australia. One day, I asked him: “What does it take to have a successful career as a podiatrist?” The doctor looked me square in the eye and said “Son, it only takes two things to be a successful podiatrist. One, you have to have a touch of gray hair so that you look experienced. Two, you need to have a couple of hemorrhoids so you look … concerned.” I did not want to wait for the gray hair and the other thing so I kept looking for alternate routes to success. I found that it really does take only two things to have a successful podiatry practice. First, you have to do a good job helping people with lower extremity problems. Second, you have to market yourself so folks will choose you out of the multitude of medical providers available to help them. Our schools, residency training programs and continuing medical education opportunities focus, rightly so, on helping us successfully treat problems of the foot and ankle. Education in marketing is primarily left up to the practitioner. The following “Laws of Marketing” may be useful to podiatrists who are looking to improve their marketing programs. The information provided is based on the writings of Al Ries and Jack Trout, two of the most influential marketers in the country. Pearls For Competing In A Competitive Market 1. The Law of Leadership. Have you ever met someone socially who you would like to have as a patient? Then when you tell him or her that you are a podiatrist, the person exclaims, “Oh, you must know Dr. So-and-So. He is wonderful.” You think to yourself that Dr. So- and-So is not that wonderful but you are going to have a hard time converting this new acquaintance to a patient. The Law of Leadership says: “It is better to be first than it is to be better.” 2. The Law of Category. It is often hard for people to tell which one of several doctors is really better but people take note of something new or different. There were many companies selling computers when Dell Computer Corporation became the first company to sell the machines over the telephone. Who sells the most computers now? The Law of Category says: “If you cannot be the first podiatrist in your town, be the first podiatrist to do something new.” 3. The Law of the Mind. It does you little good to develop a new service or feature if the podiatrist down the street copies your idea and heavily promotes the concept to your prospective patient base. Your competitor now “owns” the idea and you become a “me too” provider. IBM did not invent computers but everyone thought they did because they had a great sales force blanketing the country. The Law of the Mind says: “It is better to be first in the mind than to be first in the marketplace.” How To Make Your Practice Stand Out 4. Law of Perception. If you perform technically perfect operations but work in a pedestrian office and have gravy on your tie, your reputation as a surgeon might not be as good as Dr. Fancy Pants down the road who is kind of a hack but uses pain pumps for hammertoe surgery and has a nurse who looks like Cameron Diaz. The Law of Perception says: “It is better to be perceived as better than it is to actually be better (from a marketing perspective).” 5. Law of Focus. The typical American consumer has a very short attention span and is bombarded with a huge number of marketing messages each day. The objective should be to burn a simple message into the mind of your potential patients via repetition. The Law of Focus says: “The most powerful position in marketing is to own a word or short phrase in the prospect’s mind.” 6. Law of the Opposite. There is a tendency in the business world to play “emulate the leader” when it is often better to position yourself as an alternative to the leader. For instance, if the busiest DPM in your town has a three-week wait for an appointment and is a big shot at the country club, you could promote “same day appointments” and become president of the PTA. The Law of the Opposite says: “If you are shooting for second place, study the leader and design a strategy to counter the leader’s strength.” 7.

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