How to manage competition
Laura Livesey: One of the most common questions that we get asked is (and we get a lot of anxiousness about this topic) is around competition:
“So how do I compete? Should I compete? Is there room in the market? There’s five other guys down the street, is there room for me?”
So these are all really good questions and the answer might be no, there isn’t room for you. But generally, the answer is probably, yes.
And it’s not for the reasons that you might expect. So how do you deal with competition in the marketplace and come out as an option that patients are going to want to work with, basically.
Rod Solar: Where it all begins is, and you’ll hear us say this again and again and again, the more you hang out with us, the more you know that.
We’re all about the avatar
And when I say the avatar, I mean the persona, the person that you’re aiming to attract. Because when we talk about the idea of competition, we’re also talking about the idea of niche.
What small corner of the environment is going to work for you?
Right? Where are you going to find… If you’re the proverbial bird in its niche, seeking to evolve and seeking to adapt to the environment. So that you can survive and pass on your genes, you have to be in a spot where your seeds are right. Right? Where the environment is feeding you what you need for you to survive.
And so part of that involves identifying who are the avatars that you are going to try to attract. That’s where it all begins.
It doesn’t end there, of course, because then you have to combine who the avatars are and who you are, and to ensure that there’s a nice product-market mix. Yeah?
So you’re the product in this particular case and the market is the avatar.
Is there a mix between the avatar and who you are that can be unshakable?
Because everyone else (often) is looking for very similar avatars.
Laura: But before you go on, I want you to see that there’s a huge distinction going on here – that we are not starting with facts.
Laura: We are not starting with competing by painting your premises or getting a much bigger premises or kitting yourself out with the latest technology or getting more education. All of these things are box ticks, and they can be important, but they’re much further down on a patient’s consideration checklist. So we’re starting with the patient as the central organizing principle of your business and the patient you need to figure out who it is.
Laura: And an avatar is the description of who that ideal patient is.
Rod: Yeah. I mean, the fundamental fact is this: Patients don’t come to you for your service, they don’t come to you for even the treatments that you offer, they don’t come to you to even be treated nicely.
What they come to you for is to be transformed. That’s what they want.
They want to go from point A, where they’re at right now, right?
In a state of dissatisfaction, in a state of, “I don’t like my life the way it is.” Whether it’s, “I don’t like the fact that I need these glasses to be able to see at night.” Or whether it’s, “I don’t like the way my nose is shaped and the way that other people see me in the world.”Or because, “I don’t like the fact that my teeth are crooked and that embarrasses me.” Whatever it is, right?
They want to go from point A, which is where they are now, before they see you, to point B, which is where they will hopefully be after they see you.
And that, if you like, imagine this. You got a person here, you got another person here, and you see a big red line that goes from person A to person B, that’s called transformation.
And the longer that line is, the bigger the transformation, the more value you provide the marketplace. So if you conceptualise what you offer in terms of transformation, then you’ve got pretty much all the answers to your marketing questions solved, right?
How do you take that person from point A to point B?
Laura: And so if you think about it again, putting it in the context of competition (because that’s really what we’re talking about here), is okay – great.
Now that we know that, we know a little bit more about the patient, if you think about competing, if you think about looking at two different websites or two different adverts.
And Clinic A has an advert that says: “I’m the best. I have the best technology – come and see me. We’ve done the most procedures, we’re excellent.”
Okay, that’s good. It’s good that they have this and they probably have testimonials and things like that.
But if you get that piece of information, generally as a patient, you don’t really know how to relate to that, it doesn’t connect with you and everybody else is saying the same thing.
So from a competitive standpoint, you’ll just be another clinic. So it’ll be very difficult to choose you.
But if you contrast that with your clinic (clinic B) and you say:
“Are you tired of putting your glasses on and off, on and off, on and off?
Because you’re 45 years old and you’ve recently gotten reading glasses and you’re really, really fed up?
Are you fed up and tired with having to deal with these reading glasses?”
That’s got their attention.
That’s built a relationship with them.
That’s started to create something that will set you apart as a competitor.
So this is where these types of avatars can be really, really groundbreaking in the practice.
Rod: So once you define it, you call them out as Laura just said. So it’s like:
“Okay, I know who I’m talking to.” Right? And if you know who you’re talking to, that’s much more useful than defining a target market. Now most marketers would say to you:”You got to define a target market.” Right? “How old are your patients? Are they between 40 and 60? Are they millennials? Where do they live? What are their values? What are their lifestyles?” All these types of things are useful. But then what you’re dealing with here is you’re talking to an amorphous whole, right?
I mean, you’re talking about millions. And I find that it’s much more useful to define a customer avatar or a patient avatar in this context. So that you know specifically who it is you’re talking about.
You name that person.
You say: “Okay, that person’s named Sally.” Or you can say, “That person’s named Jerry.”
And what you do, in order to compete effectively, is you look at every single message that you put out there into the marketplace and you say:
“Is this going to move Sally? Is this going to compel Jerry to make a decision? Is this going to make either one of them wake up? (right), and see above the noise?”
I mean, there is more and more noise every single day, not just coming from your competitors, but from every single other thing that is competing for people’s attention, everything that could make their lives better, that marketers are trying to sell them.
How are you going to specifically identify:“Is this message going to resonate with that person?” And not only that, but then “How am I going to empathize with that person?” Because that’s what they’re seeking. Most of all, number one, what they’re looking for is:”Do you understand me? Do you see me?”. Yeah?
Laura: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Rod: Because once they understand that, you see them. Then, all of a sudden, they understand now you’re concerned about the most important person in the world to me; which is me, right?
Laura: Yeah, absolutely, absolutely.
Define your avatar
You know who you’re talking to, you know that you have a way of communicating with them in a way that will beat the competition and it is about acquiring customers, so our patients.
So you really are… We don’t really look at this from a scarcity mindset, in the sense that if you take five, you’re taking five away from, there are oftentimes (five people) that would’ve never had the treatment actually, because they have never felt that they’ve seen an advert that they would respond to.
When we look at the traditional competitive setup (which is what I think most people think of when they think of competition), we do have to do this as well.
So we do have to go through and say: “Who is competing for my patient’s share of wallet? Who’s actually going to be in that set that they look at, to spend that £1000, that £5,000?” – Whatever it is that your service is worth. But the competition, when we look for them, is not who you think it is. It isn’t all of the competitors that you know in your mind, if you think: “Oh yes, the guy around the corner, he’s got the best equipment, definitely has the best service. That’s the one that I have the most trouble competing with.” The patient doesn’t know that, so you really have to look at referral channels and in terms of professional referrals, which patients have nothing to do with, and they don’t know about. Versus something you can control, which is online referrals.
So if you look at just an online referral only, and you can do some things with professional referrals (and we’ll talk about that in a little bit).
But if we just look at the online side of things, when you’re going for online patients. You’re actually looking for who’s coming up for something that, probably, everybody has heard of:
Using keyword searches
So you’re actually looking for: Who are the competitors that show up for the keywords that you’re particularly interested in? So you start to look at that. So that’s another way to start to see:”Who is my competition online?”
And then we need to break them down by: How well do they do what Rod was talking about? How well do they relate? How well do they make people want to take the next step? So we really want to look at each website, break them down and see how likely are they to generate an inquiry. Because if their website is terrible, it doesn’t matter how much great content is on there.
If it’s not going to convert, then really, that player in the market is not a competitor; even though they may have the exact same service as you.
So you really have to change your thinking around competition and really look at:
Who is the competition?
Rod: So once you have identified the things that people are looking for (that your avatars are looking for), and the things that they look up online, it’s a great exercise – as Laura said. Is to basically look up those key terms in Google, see who comes up, because those are the people who are going to be in their face when most people are doing these searches, right?
And so what you do is you pull out these individuals and you start putting them into a little bit of a spreadsheet and you start considering:
“Okay, which ones are appealing to the marketplace by trying to attract the avatar that I’m trying to attract? Which ones demonstrate that they believe what these avatars believe, (right?) How is that product market fix happening for them?”
Beyond that, the ones that actually do provide that structure and that message, is you want to start getting into the nitty gritty as to how they compete – really.
And most customers and most patients, once you get past the filter…
What they’re looking for are the three A’s. And there’s a last little one that we like to add. Number one is the ability, right?
“Is the ability of the consultant or the surgeon up to scratch? And is it the best ability I can afford?”.
Number two, they’re looking for availability:
“Is this person available to me? Can I get to them? Is it something that’s within my reach conveniently, location time?” All those things.And lastly, they’re going to start looking at affability.
Affability is all about:
“Do I like this person? Do they resonate with me? Are they one of me? Are they one of my culture?” And what I mean by that, is not, are they, in any way, similar to me ethnically or anything like that. I mean:
“Do they believe what I believe?”
And lastly, they’re looking at the scope of your service. So are you a focused expert on the specific thing that you do and do nothing else? That can be very attractive.
Or are you a specialist at breadth? In other words, you do lots of different things in the specialty.
And therefore, can address almost every single one of their problems in a one stop shop.
We can’t necessarily advise you which one is best, on that basis. But the customers are certainly trying to assess that and based on the individual case, we can certainly give you some more advice on that.
Then, you got to rate these people on what customers perceive their ability, availability, affability and their breadth to service are.
Don’t do it based on what you know, right?
That’s a part of the equation.
But you got to really think about what the customer sees.
So that’s a great way of trying to understand how a website works. So if you look at another website, you look at all of the things that you’re attempting to evaluate your competitors on and identify:“How do they demonstrate their ability? How do they prove that they’re available? How do they show that they’re affable? How do they explain their breadth of service?” Yeah?
So once you have identified that and you track it; Then you plot all of these values over the price they charge.
One of the things that we commonly say to our customers, our clients, is that:
Value = benefits / price
Laura: And finally, the thing we need to do, when we are assessing competition, is look at how that customer not only feels at initial interaction (which we talked about), which is:”Great. I’ve reached out to them”. “They understand that they’re fed up or they’re tired or they’re in pain (or whatever is) and they feel related to.”
We need to take that all the way through the entire customer journey
And we’re going to go through that in depth. The customer value journey is an essential element of competing, because how a customer feels is much more important than the facts that you’re presenting, the price, the location, the size of the premises. As we discussed: It’s the feeling that you create in the customer that overcomes the competition. And if you understand that, you can win in almost any market in the UK.
NOTE: The best way to answer that nagging question about practice growth or marketing or patient volume in the back of your mind is to book a free 15-minute compatibility call. Get some options and go away with a clear idea of what’s possible.
About the author
LiveseySolar’s mission is to double the size of 150 cataract and refractive surgery practices. Using our proven marketing frameworks and deep market knowledge, our customers can predictably and sustainably grow their practices so that they can enjoy a healthy balance between both worlds – a successful private practice and a happy life.
Meet our Founders
Founder & Fractional CMO
Rod co-founded LiveseySolar and acts as a Fractional CMO for our customers. He’s on a mission to help transform the lives of 10,000 people with vision correction surgery by 2024. To achieve that, he inspires his customers to make confident decisions that will help 50,000 people take the first step towards vision correction.
LiveseySolar completely transformed the way we were approaching this… We’ve gone from having just the dream of having a practice to having a practice up and running with people making inquiries and booking for procedures… It’s extremely pleasing. We feel lucky we connected with LiveseySolar.
— Dr Matthew Russell, MBChB, FRANZCO, specialist ophthalmic surgeon and founder of VSON and OKKO
Founder & CEO
Laura Livesey is the co-founder & CEO of LiveseySolar. She has developed powerful refractive surgery marketing systems that increase patient volumes and profits for doctors, clinics, and hospitals, since 1997.
Rod and Laura know as much about marketing surgery to patients as I know about performing it. They are an expert in the field of laser eye surgery marketing. They know this industry inside out. I believe that they could help many companies in a variety of areas including marketing materials, sales training and marketing support for doctors.
— Prof. Dan Reinstein, MD MA FRSC DABO, founder of the London Vision Clinic, UK