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Differentiating Yourself in a Competitive Marketplace

July 8, 2008 |

Look through your local newspaper and you will see many, if not several, ads promising a more beautiful body with liposuction, a more attractive face with Botox and wrinkle fillers, fuller breasts, less hair and it goes on and on. As if that’s not confusing enough, some are from core specialties in private practice but some are from “rejuvenation centers” run by vascular surgeons or medi-spas run by business people who have a designated medical director who might be a family practice physician or it could even be a salon/spa who has a traveling physician show up periodically to perform treatments and leave.

As a consumer, how in the world do you choose who is the right “health care professional” for you? As a health care professional, how in the world do you grow your patient database given the highly competitive nature of the industry? The answer is you differentiate yourself from your competition. Differentiating yourself from the pack will help you to grow your practice, increase your revenues, maintain your fair share of the market, attract better patient and beat your competition.

Why do I have to differentiate?

I’ll tell you why. This is a very lucrative industry that attracts all types of professionals. You are no longer just competing against your colleagues that you attended medical school with. You are now competing with the core specialties, the non-core specialties as well as corporations who see this as a major revenue-growth industry. And, the pie got a lot bigger thanks to the hit TV shows such as Extreme Makeover, the Swan and the Discovery Channel. They took the stigma away from cosmetic enhancement so the public is much more at ease discussing and participating in this once taboo subject. And, lastly, the Baby Boomers are aging. They not only want to look as young as they feel, they have the disposable income to make that a reality.

Differentiation avoids price competition and creates an image in the consumers’ mind that, for example, lasers are better at your office than the competitors.

All of this means that you better find your niche market and cater to them or your competitors will do it for you.

Answer the Question – Why you?

This is an important question to ask you. Can you answer it confidently? If not, start here. Stop and consider why you are the perfect choice for your patients? What are you doing that is unique that most of your competitors don’t offer?

If you are struggling with this question, survey your patients. They will tell you. Ask them directly, or through an anonymous communication, why they choose to come to you and not the others. You can mail a survey to them and have them return it anonymously using a postage-paid envelope. You can even hand them a survey when they are leaving their appointment since their experience with you will be fresh. You’ll get the most candid response if they know their comments are confidential. Here are some questions to ask them?

o What do you like most about coming here?

o What do you like least about coming here?

o On a scale of 1 to 5, 5 being the best, how would you rate the staff?

o On a scale of 1 to 5, 5 being the best, how would you rate me the physician?

o What could we do better?

o Have you gone to anyone else for the same treatments you get here?

If so, how do we compare to them?

Which procedures do you have done here?

Here’s the important step. Now that they have told you, capitalize on that vital information. If they say you are the best because you spend so much 1-on-1 time with them and really get to know them, be sure that is highlighted in the initial telephone call and in your external marketing messages. Or, if they say you are the gentlest Botox and wrinkle filler injector, note that in all of your communications. These are “hot buttons” for many prospective patients and should be highlighted.

How do I differentiate myself?

You differentiate yourself through your community, technology, heritage, value, service or affinity (treating those who can afford the best (celebrities/athletes).

You develop a unique personal brand that will make your patients choose you over your competition. You always answer the question “Why You?” even if they didn’t ask. You cater to your preferred target market’s most important needs. Differentiating means defining who your perfect target market is and then catering to them and their interests better than everyone else. It’s determining what’s most important to them and giving it to them consistently. It’s also about reminding them why you versus the others since most of us are tempted to go elsewhere when wooed away by price. It’s your reputation and delivering on a promise. It’s not being “everything to everybody”; but rather, “the absolute best to a chosen group”.

Your patients learn to trust your brand and expect the same experience and result – every time. As long as they get that, they will be passionate about trusting you to give it to them, they will tell their friends, and they will be less apt to wander off to “check out” your competitors.

Specific Differentiators:

There are so many factors that can pull you away from the fray. Here are several to consider:

Specialist in one procedure

Advanced/uncommon technology

Extensive experience

Exceptional facility

Superior results

Caring personality

WOW experience

Convenience or accessibility

Physician personally call patients night of treatment/procedure

Waiting times are short

You remember patient names and details like they were family

Your staff also treats them like family

You with especially careful with fearful patients and ensure a painless treatment or procedure

You well known around your community

You are from the town you practice in

Special credentials or professional memberships

So, communicate and leverage the services you provide that your competitors don’t. Services that are meaningful to your preferred patients such as taxi service, longer hours, financing plans, and post-op services. Then you and your practice must understand and consistently sell those services as your personal brand. Be sure those unique points are integrated into every aspect of the patient experience including your signage, patient welcome package, advertising, public relations, on-hold messaging and new patient calls scripting.


Since you cannot be everything to everybody, choose your own preferred patient and then cater to their specific needs. You will be more likely to succeed, increase your revenues and enjoy the process so much more.


Authored by Catherine Maley, MBA

President and Strategic Marketing Strategist

Cosmetic Image Marketing

Her firm specializes in growing aesthetic practices using advertising, PR and customized marketing strategies.

For more free tips, resources and strategies, visit Catherine online at or call her at (877)339-8833.

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