Survival Strategy For Independent Hearing Healthcare Providers
I read an excellent article on the Hearing Journal website called “Consolidation Boom Changes Face of Hearing Health Care”. It was an fantastic article written by Karen Pallarito outlining the changing face of the Hearing Healthcare Profession in the states. It outlined the vertical consolidation of the supply chain that is taking place not just in the US but also across the world. If taken at face value this phenomenon appears to sound the death knell for Independent Hearing Health Professionals.
I do not agree with that assumption, I think that large chains have been around for some time without the doomsday scenario playing out. The further consolidation of the supply chain will not necessarily put much more pressure on Independents and in fact could be an opportunity for them to differentiate themselves from the herd. I am not saying it will be easy, but I do not think it will be any harder than running your business is right now. The key will be to work smarter as opposed to harder.
Do You Need A Survival Strategy?
I am not sure about a “Survival Strategy”, but you certainly will need to be very smart about how you run your Practice. You will need to use all the tools at your disposal and use them well in order to remain relevant. I say relevant rather than competitive for a reason. Going back to one of my posts recently “Differentiation of Your Health Practice, Porter’s Generic Strategies” which dealt with differentiation strategies. I think that it is imperative that Independent Practices differentiate themselves.
Modern chain Hearing Health Practices are pretty good at what they do, they are also getting better every day. They have quite a large amount of money to throw at marketing themselves, something which no Independent can match, so why try? Why should you try to either emulate or compete head on with a monster chain? If you let them set the terms of engagement, they will win every time, simply because they are bigger and have infinitely more resources. So do not let what others are doing set your agenda.
Design and implement your own strategies and agenda, differentiate yourself from the herd. So how do you differentiate? Through service offering, through Practice deployment, through brand realisation, through customer service beyond the norm. These are things that you can affect in your business, in fact your business as an Independent may be better placed in order to provide these things because you buy in. A worker bee in any of the chains does not truly buy in, they do so as much as is possible when they do not have a stake other than their monthly check and some pride in their work.
You however fully buy in, if you don’t win, you don’t eat! So remember that, set out a strategy of differentiation for your business, in your service offerings, in your product offerings and in your practice placement. Think about it carefully, carve out your niche and then defend it passionately. I have one customer who realised this two years ago when he set up his new practice. He wanted to differentiate himself from the competition in his city, of which there is quite a bit. So he set up a boutique practice attached to a boutique Opticians’. The practice is deployed in an excellent manner, the décor, the furnishing, the colour scheme all speaks to a sense of privilege, professionalism, success.
I sometimes think when I am there that the words “Harley Street”(a street in London famed for top medical consultants) where coined to elicit visions of this gentleman’s practice. Sometimes I can hear my wallet screaming for mercy when I visit. However this high concept boutique positioning is in fact balanced by realistic prices akin to or even in some cases lower than his competitors. This in fact drives the practice even further because the perception of value versus money spent is radically changed in the minds of his Patients. They feel that his service in the confines of his practice is worth every single penny that they spend. He is also a good man, this shines through to me at every meeting, I am sure this is also obvious to his prospective patients.
He has created a niche for himself in the few short years since he founded his practice, within three years that niche will be almost un-assailable in his city. There are ways you can differentiate yourself, in fact because you are your own brand, it is even easier for you to do. No shareholders to satisfy, no board of Directors to convince.
Carve Out Your Niche, Widen It, Make It Yours, Defend It!