Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Theory of Provoking Your Customers - Try it in Your Medical Practice

Theory of Provoking Your CustomersDuring difficult economic times, business-to-business vendors usually see sales fall off markedly. Discretionary budgets all but disappear, and even "routine" purchases get a second, or third, look from company higher-ups.

Savvy sales departments work all the harder to find alternative routes to success - including developing a provocative point of view on some critical issue and communicating it to decision - makers with the authority to override the very cutbacks they instituted.

Selecting an executive-level target audience often requires the sales force to abandon its traditional lead generation techniques and focus its efforts on referrals and networking instead. Not only can this approach generate new sales despite a general recession, it will also reengineer the salesperson's relationship with the customer, helping the vendor understand the customer's challenges and problems better than ever.

Often we don't think of "provocation" as a positive term! But in marketing and advertising, a smart vendor can capitalize on anything that pokes a potential customer and draws his or her attention to its products and services. Of course, an infamous scandal or news about a big recall won't work to a vendor's advantage very well!

Here's how it works: The vendor identifies a problem or threat that's vexing its customers or potential customers, and for which its products or services provide a solution. Next it finds the best way to communicate the problem and solution to a decision-maker in the customers' organization. Finally, the vendor makes a presentation and proposal to the decision-maker.

You've been the target for provocative marketing many times through your years as a physician or practice manager. Thinking back to the 1990s, you first heard and read about Stark regulations in a journal or at a conference. Remember who wrote the articles or offered the presentations? The information was presented by attorneys and consultants whom you could hire to review your deals and relationships to see if you were in compliance. It happened with Stark II, and with each subsequent rules modification. The same thing happened with OSHA infection rules, Americans with Disabilities Act, Family and Medical Leave Act legislation, HIPAA regulations, and more.

Those presentations amounted to provocative marketing on the part of attorneys and consultants. The computer folks did very well getting everyone ready for the "millennium bug," and we are seeing a new round of provocation in connection with ICD-10.

Now that we understand how the concept works, how can we apply it in the physician practice? It's not that different. First, figure out who your customers are. Think about patients, patients' family members, referring providers, health systems and health plans, employers, community services providers, and anyone directly influencing healthcare purchasing decisions. Your strategy will vary greatly, depending on the particular target you aim for.

Next, determine a "customer" need or concern that your services can effectively address. Then develop a way to highlight the need, show your sensitivity to that need, and demonstrate how you can meet that need in your practice.

That's exactly what you're doing when you give one of those lunch-and-learn presentations to a room full of seniors at the local hospital. Your lecture draws attention to a medical condition that the audience members (or one of their family members) may have. You demonstrate your expert knowledge and the compassionate care that you can provide for diagnosing, treating, and managing that condition.

Apply this concept creatively in other situations, too. Discuss problems with your referring doctors - access to your office, effective follow-up reporting, and a need for teamwork in managing their patients. Then show them how you've developed superior systems in your office to take top-notch care of their patients and involve them in the treatment plans. Help them see how they can tap into your knowledge and expertise and thereby earn even greater respect from their own patients.

It's not hard to come up with dozens of creative ideas once you get the concept down. It does, however, bring one caveat: to be as effective as possible, your physicians will have to get involved and invest some time and effort. But the payoff can be worth it.

If you enjoy reading the blog entries in "Solving Problems in the Medical Practice" you may want to check out all the great products at Greenbranch Publishing.

photo credit: via photopin cc