Researching the Competition to Market Your Medical Practice

August 31, 2012

If you’re going to promote your practice effectively, you must understand your local market. Here are some quick ways to evaluate your competition.

I’ve written previously about using your competition to promote your practice.

Whether you’ve been practicing in your town for a decade or 10 days, it’s vital to get a handle on your competition.

Other physicians and providers who are doing what you do are treating your potential patients. Here are some online and offline tactics you can use to gather intelligence about competing practices.

Do this yourself or create a checklist for a staff member you can delegate this to.

1. Do a simple Google search

Start by searching for the name of the competing clinic or physician.

How many of the top search results are owned by or controlled by this practice? Is it filled with junk or spammy review sites or quality patient education information?

Pretend you’re a patient trying to use Google to find a local doctor who treats their ailment. For instance, type in

migraine doctor Seattle, Washington

Since this is the type of search query a real patient would use, the results show you what clinics in the area have worked hard to promote themselves online.
If your competition isn’t showing up in the search results, the field is wide open for you. Start creating, optimizing, and broadening your online presence.

2. Set up Google alerts

Google alerts let you tell Google to search daily for a specific name or set of terms, then deliver relevant results each day by e-mail.

Set up an alert based on your competitor’s clinic name or the physician’s name.
Any time their name comes up in Google, you’ll know about it instantly.

This is a powerful technique that can even open your eyes to new marketing ideas or media outlets you wouldn’t have thought of otherwise.

For instance, I used this technique and discovered a new, local sports radio show where another clinic was advertising. I didn’t even know the show existed until that moment.

3. Mystery shop your competitors

This one is harder in an age of caller ID. Call their clinic and get a feel for how they handle new patient phone calls. You can learn a great deal in just a few minutes.

Is their staff friendly and helpful?

Do they have long hold times?

Are they using marketing messages while you’re on hold or just annoying elevator music?

Other information can be gathered online. Sign up for their newsletter on their website or fill out a contact form, asking for more information.

4. Start collecting their advertising

Medical practices spend hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years getting their name "out there." You can find ads in local papers, local magazines, and on billboards.

Try to clip, photograph, or otherwise save these bits of marketing material.
Over time, you’ll see patterns of ad designs and marketing messages.

Are they consistent? Are they repeated year-in and year-out?

If so, they’re probably bringing in new patients and this means the local market is responding to them. You’ll want to consider adding your own spin on that message if you create a new ad campaign.

Finally, in all this analysis, what is it about their message that makes them unique?

Try to figure out who they’re targeting. Is there a group of patients they’re leaving out? If so, you could step in and market to that left-out group of patients.
If there’s nothing special about their message, one way to beat your competition is to create a marketing message that is unique to your business; create a category where you alone are the only dominant force.

This marketing intelligence is a key part of getting a handle on what direction to take when marketing and promoting your practice. Don’t start spending big money on ads and promotions without some due diligence.

Find out more about C. Noel Henley and our other Practice Notes bloggers.