Giving examples from super brands, award-winning pharmacists Faheem Ahmed explains how contractors keen to set up clinics need to position their business in a competitive market…
So it begins. You have gotten this far and decide to set up a clinic. You’re excited and can see the future. But then, your competitors choose to do the same with one difference; they deliver cheaper services!
Marketing is your solution.
Anything you do can be copied and done better than you or I could –just look at the pharmacy sector and around you in the world. In other words, if you set up an aesthetics clinic, then soon enough, someone will copy you. And the same can be said about any service you decide to set up – examples of which include delivery of prescriptions, administration of travel vaccinations, Covid testing, blood testing services, weight loss services, online or face-to-face consultations, etc.
And such is the irony that as I write this article I have just gone through this exact situation.
Recently at Ahmeys clinic, we rolled out Covid testing, and six months later, a Covid testing clinic appears in the town center. This clinic was also offering testing but at a lower price – when I say lower, I mean close to cost price!
Now, many years ago, I would have panicked – but not anymore – just keep reading, and you will soon never be fazed by a similar situation either.
Marketing is not advertising. That’s right.
Similarly, nor is advertising marketing.
On the other hand, marketing is the act of demonstrating value to your target audience.
For now, you can think of marketing as (1) how you position your brand, (2) how you communicate this to your target audience, and (3) how your audience connects or feels about your brand.
For example, when I think of laptops, MacBook comes to mind, and when I think of mobiles, Apple products like the iPhone spring up. However, I also know Dell and Samsung are equally qualified to manufacture these products.
So then, why does Apple come to my mind? I mean, their products are set at a higher price point, and I am sure other products have similar features, if not better ones, then why Apple?
My dear reader, the answer lies in how Apple communicates to its audience and makes them feel, and this is marketing.
Indeed, with Apple, I feel I have a connection with the brand beyond a simple transactional relationship. When I buy their products, I think class, integrity, seamless integration between products, high quality, prestige, and all this amounts to enough value that it’s worth exchanging my hard-earned money even though there are alternatives.
However, this is not to say Apple products are better than those of Dell or other brands. But Apple, the brand, develops a unique relationship with its audience. As a result, the company can cultivate higher-order feelings such as trust and loyalty, so you do not hesitate to buy again and again, regardless of the price you pay each time.
You might be wondering how do they do this?
Well, sorry to be repetitive, but the answer is marketing. In Apple’s case, they don’t get themselves into price wars; instead, they focus on their unique value proposition- and that is, their products are beautiful that work straight from the box. This is something you can’t just build overnight.
Steve Jobs was a great marketer and believer in simplicity. So, Apple focuses on communicating this concept of simple yet beautiful. As a result, their products provide a great user experience combined with extensive applications that put them in a class by themselves – try copying that!
Now, this is not an article about Apple products. But, I want you to realize that if you market and position your clinics as healthcare leaders, then price won’t matter anymore.
Brian Tracy, Author of The Psychology of Selling, says‘people buy with emotion and justify with logic’ – and once you understand how to tap into emotions and create feelings, you won’t need to worry about what others are doing.
This is in your hands. First, I’d suggest you look at your company’s mission statement. Remember that a mission statement is a summary of why your organization exits and outlines your organization’s purpose.
For example, our mission at Ahmeys is to improve the quality of human life by helping everyone on this planet unlock their optimal health and well-being.
Okay, so I bet you’re thinking, ‘that sounds great, Faheem, but what does it have to do with positioning my clinic?’
Well, once you know your mission statement, you should understand the message you need to communicate with your audience and then devise a plan to demonstrate this.
So, let’s continue using my clinic as an example. We know the mission statement and from here, what we need to understand is that to achieve this, we would need our brand to inspire and instill trust in all those who come into contact with it.
What I mean is if you run an ad on Facebook with the headline: ‘We want to unlock your potential’,personally, I would laugh and ask, ”who gave you the right, and why should I trust you?”
So how do we get our audience to trust our brand with aspects of their health and well-being? Well, if you thought the solution was marketing, then you were only 50 per cent right. The complete solution is content marketing (more about this later).
My point is you need to focus on positioning your brand/clinic as a product where people can find helpful information, advice, insights, resources, and inspiration – by the way, this is all content – to improve the quality of their lives.
The term is commonly used by Joe Pulizzi. Joe is the founder of Content Marketing Institution and explains, ‘content marketing is the marketing and business process for creating and distributing valuable and compelling content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience—with the objective of driving profitable customer action.’
If the definition is confusing, consider content marketing as (1) creating valuable information, i.e., content that your audience is passionate about – so they pay attention to you; (2) Then expressing this content in an article, video, webinar, podcast, or info-graphic; and (3) Finally, distributing this content through a channel which may be your website and/or social media, radio, TV, etc., to reach your audience.
Before we go any further, I want you to understand two key messages: Firstly, customers or people generally don’t care about you, your products, or your services. They care about themselves.
And secondly, people are bombarded with ads and content – which now they can just choose to ignore. So to get their attention, you need to become a leading informational expert delivering value through compelling content within your field, or you won’t stand out, let alone generating sales.
Where to start
Start by reading. Yes. Pick up books and start reading. One of my biggest regrets as a business owner and pharmacist was that I stopped educating myself; so don’t make that mistake!
I could recommend plenty of authors and books to get you started and I will do in future articles. But, for now, I would recommend reading Epic Content Marketingby Joe Pulizzi.
Alongside reading the book, I would suggest you undertake an audit and evaluation of the current content you produce and the channels of distribution you use. Just ask yourself, ‘what message am I communicating and on whose platform?’
If you want to know a good place to start, just visit your website because it will have content, and it’s also a channel where you distribute your content.
Build your platform
A couple of years ago, my Facebook account was blocked. Two years on, I was then blocked from YouTube and LinkedIn (albeit for a short while but blocked nonetheless). I sat down one day and realized I am making a huge mistake. In essence, I am building my real estate on borrowed land and can be dictated to at any given time.
Therefore, I no longer focus on building my audience on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, or YouTube because, technically, I do not own those channels. As such, at any point, the terms and conditions of these platforms can change, or even worse, the platforms could go bust, and I’d have lost my audience – remember Myspace or Bebo?
If you’re with me so far, I hope you’re wondering, ‘what platform should we focus on and which one can I own?’; well, that would be your own website!
The promised land
Oh yes, the website is the promised land. This is your land; you can own this, and here is where you need to build your audience. Here is where you want all your subscribers and followers, and this is where you should spend your time and energy.
Imagine your website having 1000’s of paid customers every month in addition to your website ranking number one on Google for specific search terms! Can you also imagine being paid by others to market on your site? If you can’t, you need to start believing it is possible; if you are willing to put the work in that is.
Content is king
Forget cash flow. Content is king!
But, before you start to produce content, please answer the following: (1) who is your content for? – to answer this, keep your audience in mind so you can plan and develop content that they would value; (2) what resources do you have at your disposal – currently do you have a dedicated team of writers and videographers who can support you with content creation and the editing process; and(3) why are you creating content? – think about your content mission and goals because this will impact what, where, and how often you publish and how you prioritise, organise and categorise your content creation efforts.
Let’s discuss this concept of content goals in more depth for a moment.
Your content goals
I’m a big fan of setting goals.
However, before you set your goals, make sure you do your market research. It is essential to know what people are searching for on the web; you can use tools like MOZ or SEMrush to help with keyword research.
Assuming you have done some research, now you need to set a clear content marketing goal. There are many choices, such as monetising new or existingcustomers (in sales speech, we call these leads)or building a community. However, I’d suggest you start with the following goal: building an audience base.
To explain further, building an audience is not just about gathering an email list. It runs a lot deeper. Essentially, you need to develop a relationship with your prospective or existing customers beyond a shallow transactional relationship – think about the Apple example I gave earlier – such that you create a community of advocates and brand promoters. Moreover, building your audience will lead to increased satisfaction and loyalty towards your brand.
Now I know by no means is the above an easy feat, but if you discipline yourself and develop grit, as Angela Duckworth, author of Grit: Why passion and resilience are the secrets to success, explains in her book, you can achieve your goals.
Things to consider
Writing content is not difficult. In actual fact, if you have a basic understanding of English, as Ann Handley, author of Everybody writes, puts it; ‘you can write!’
However, I don’t just want you to write. I want you to create content that fulfills its purpose. For example, you set up a clinic whose main objective is to generate sales by through private consultations. Therefore, you need to create content that encourages your audience to do exactly that; book a consultation.
To achieve the above, you need to consider the following: (1) how will you stand out from the crowd? – think about what unmet need you can address with the content you intend to create? What gaps exist?; (2) call to action – what do you want your readers to do? Do you want them to sign up for a service or buy a particular product; and (3) audience outcome – think about what you want your audience to gain from your content. Will it be live a better life in some way? Get a better job or learn a new skill? By doing this, you will understand the purpose of your content from the audience’s point of view.
If you want your clinic to stand out, then produce ridiculously good content for your audience. That content could be expressed in blog posts, videos, podcasts, and webinars, but remember to focus on publishing on your owned channels, leverage unowned channels like social media, stay consistent and then watch your audience grow.
Try copying that!