Tempted to Compete on Price? Don't!

Sam Peek, JD

Vein doctors around the world are fighting! They are fighting medical associations, insurance companies and their competitors. Not the competition from the vascular surgeon or interventional radiologist with a full-time vein practice. Instead, the primary opposition comes from practitioners doing vein work “on the side.”

A few weeks ago, I was in Melbourne for the 2018 UIP meeting. Doctor after doctor, from county after country experienced similar struggles. It’s become commonplace for various non-specialists to add ancillary vein treatment services to their primary specialty practice. To compete, they offer discounted pricing or free incentives to attract patients.

Andrew, a phlebologist from the U.K. has seen his patient load decline by nearly 20 percent in the last year alone. He has eliminated his consultation fee and lowered his pricing to compete with the GP across the street who is now offering vein treatments. He stared at me through his designer red reading glasses and simply asked, “Sam, how do I beat them? How do I win?”

The knee-jerk reaction is to compete on pricing - just go after them with your own bottom line. But before you start changing your prices, stop, take a breath and think this through. What else can you do?

“You can’t Andrew. In fact, you have already lost.”

Resisting price wars

When price becomes a primary influencing factor for attracting patients, it means you have not differentiated your services to the consumer. The prospective patient doesn’t see more value in choosing your high-quality practice over your low-balling competitors.

Not only can price wars kill the bottom line, they can also damage a reputation. Instead of competing on price, have the confidence in yourself, your patients and your practice to seek quality over quantity. Focus on your expertise and your experience—never on your price.

Confidence in yourself

Your expertise and vast experience exceeds that of your competitors. Tap into the confidence in yourself to implement your services in a way that’s unique. Differentiate yourself and your practice through your specialized services, knowledge and level of patient care.

Confidence in your patients

Patients will take many factors into consideration beyond price including credentials, years of experience, social proof (reviews) and other physician recommendations. If quality and service don’t matter to them, do you really want them as a patient in the first place?

Just say no

It can be scary to cast a smaller net—to provide services to fewer people. Being unique and different essentially means that you will appeal to less people, but you will appeal more to the people that matter most. Ask yourself hard questions about the type of patient that is right for you. Look for quality over quantity, and do not be tempted to bring on everyone as a patient.

What is your reputation worth?

To differentiate your services you need to understand how consumers make choices. Consumers shop according to three general variables: price, word of mouth and who’s the best. If price trumps quality and service, you probably don’t want those patients. Easy.

When it comes to word of mouth, there’s both an active and a passive approach. By nature, when we’re happy with experiences and purchases, we let everyone know about it. You make patients happy; they tell their friends and family. But there are also specific ways to implement word of- mouth as a marketing strategy, including:

  • Share patient testimonials and reviews
  • Generate five-star service ratings on your website
  • Offer referral incentives

The easiest way to get started is to ask your patients, who already appreciate your practice, to share their experience. Many times, I see doctors afraid to ask for patient feedback, but that logic fails. Do you think that you are good enough to provide quality help to your patients? Do you think you are the best option available to potential patients with serious vein issues? If the answer is yes, start asking! Feel comfortable letting others share their story. Let them be the hero of their own journey.

The cornerstone of competitive advantage is not just your reputation. It’s strategy, and you can change the game by uniquely showcasing yourself and your knowledge so that you stand out as the best.

Becoming the ‘best’

‘Best’ is a term that makes phlebologists uncomfortable. Whether it is a shared consciousness or a desire to feign humility, most shy away from this word. However, it is not one you should run from any longer.

Generally, non-specialists offering vein services can only hang their hats on competitive pricing and convenience. Either it’s more affordable (and patients are price-shopping for services), or the patient already has history and rapport with the competing doctor. It’s important for you to emphasize that experience is more important than price or convenience. This is where becoming the “best” comes into play. Most of your prospective patients will find their way to your website to begin the vetting process. Keep in mind, they are looking for the best. These three things will help to secure your position as a trusted expert once they arrive at your site:

Demonstrate your expertise

Highlight the services you want to showcase by telling prospective patients how many you have performed. If you can say, “I’ve performed more than 1,000 ablations,” that’s a concrete statement that puts a non-specialist at a distinct disadvantage. Describe in detail your schooling and specific training. How many hours have you invested to become an expert at this? Share that with your website visitor.

Show board certifications and affiliations

By listing your board certifications and association affiliations, you automatically stand out from any other provider who doesn’t have the same credentials. “I’m a vein doctor, not a generalist who does sclerotherapy!” This is a powerful statement and your certifications are the foundation that supports this assertion.

Improve website copy

Prospective patients come to your website because they want to be told a story. They only want to know three primary things:

  1. Can you help me?
  2. Are you good at what you do?
  3. Have others with similar concerns seen success with you?

By updating your website content to reflect recent industry and treatment information, you will present yourself as a professional who stays current with innovations and the latest and greatest from your industry. Research, devices, and patient before and after pictures can all be used to tell a story that resonates with patients. For example, many patients have the notion that the “machine does the job” when it comes to minimally-invasive treatments. Explaining device technique and approaches is important in differentiating your service and results. If a machine can be used in 20 ways, how do you use it?

Andrew was beside himself. His head was down, and I could see him lightly mouthing unintelligible words—as if he had forgotten the name of the leading actor in the recent indie film he had watched. I gently interrupted his freefall into the abyss of failure. “You may have lost this fight, but the war continues. Raise your prices and start showing the world you are the best. Be as unique as those glasses tell me you are.”