You’ve probably heard me repeat the following proverb many times: “To a man with only a hammer, every problem tends to look pretty much like a nail.”
Unfortunately, hearing care is a narrow professional doctrine and liable to suffer from man-with-hammer thinking. I’ve witnessed this in my own practices and in those of the practices I coach.
The most-successful hearing care professionals study broadly outside our own narrow doctrine. It’s one of many reasons I went on to get my MBA and have condensed and distilled the most critical lessons for my clients in my monthly training program called Loud and Clear Marketing Program.
There are two reasons why doctors don’t study the big, useful concepts from other disciplines:
If the only problems and challenges in your practice are audiology in nature, then by all means, carry one tool. Hammer it out. However, if you desire to solve broadscale problems that require synthesis and collaboration between the disciplines of psychology, accounting, leadership, law and marketing, you really have no excuse. You must exit the narrow doctrine.
Your education and knowledge must be wide enough to cover practically everything useful in running a successful practice, not just that which is required to be a successful hearing specialist.
You must be able to think forward and in reverse… so that you can focus not only on your goals and objectives (i.e., what you want to happen) but also when to avoid problems (i.e., the things you don’t want to happen).
You must operate with a handful of simple but powerful litmus tests or checklists so that your mind is trained to run through many scenarios and observe current events in the economy and within your own market as either related or unrelated to causes in many disciplines.
You must hone your skills and knowledge, ever-sharpening your ability to avoid stalls in growth and atrophy in your enthusiasm, curiosity and dedication to making big things happen.
In your quest to solve bigger problems and achieve sustainable growth, take solemn account of your tool bag. What is missing? What needs added and what should be removed?
For many years now, I’ve taught doctors it’s best to position their practices as different not better. Consumers cannot judge whether your treatment is better or not until after the fact, so you might as well get on with the task of showing them how your office is different and solves problems that others are either unwilling or unable to solve.
Consumers assume you’re going to provide great quality, otherwise why even show up? Because they’re curious about what goes on in an audiology practice? I think not.
Have you ever taken your family out to eat with the premise that you’re all going to get food poisoning. I didn’t think so.
Your prospective new patients come to you because they’ve heard about you from a friend or relative, perhaps their doctor recommended you or maybe they just want to know if now is a good time for their to treat hearing loss and you were on the list of insurance providers, close to work came up first in a quick Google search.
Whatever the reason why patients find you, understand this: they assume you’re going to take great care of them, so stop talking about all of the things that are important to you and start positioning yourself as different, especially in how consumers will compare you to the competition.
Find something only you can do or something you do better than anyone else and make that your baby, own it, tell everyone about it and make sure your patients are trained to repeat it to friends and family.
We’ve done this for our own practices and in market after market for our coaching clients by adding extended evening hours, membership programs, weekend hours and complete risk removal by offering lifetime satisfaction guarantees and free supplies and service for life.
It’s not some genius idea that I came up with in my sleep. I stole it from other smart companies like Disney, Apple, Nordstrom and The Ritz Carlton. I cherry picked those examples because I particularly like higher margin businesses and the freedom provided to hire the best employees, pay them more than you think they are worth, invest in marketing and technology and generally operate in a world of abundance. That’s just me.
I can point to additional examples in lower margin businesses where they are using the same principles, just different strategies and tactics to grow brilliant businesses. Wal-Mart, Amazon, QuickTrip, McDonald’s, Best Value Inn, Dollar General and Domino’s Pizza come to mind.
They’re operating on the same principle: what makes our products and services unique in the mind of the consumer and how can we deliver on our promises?
I can now add a new example to my list. At the white-coat ceremony for new students last month, New York University announced on Thursday that all current and future medical students will receive 100% free tuition. What previously cost students $55,000 a year is now free. Wow. Talk about a unique differentiator.
NYU’s Langone School of Medicine is now the only top-10 rated medical school in the nation to offer its students completely free tuition. They’ve managed to achieve this incredible feat by establishing a $600 million endowment, spear-headed by the billionaire Kenneth Langone, founder of The Home Depot and his $100 million gift towards the initiative.
NYU just put themselves in a category of one. They will receive 10X the number of applications for next year’s entering class. If you’re a top-tier applicant and can choose between USC, Harvard, Mayo Clinic and Stanford, you’re definitely now considering NYU, if not placing it at the top of the stack, as it is the only school that is willing to give you a $220,000 gift in free tuition.
Is NYU’s medical school any better than the aforementioned institutions? Hard to say. I’m not a medical doctor. I don’t even play one on TV. I do know that overnight they positioned their school as very, very different.
You can do the same.
What is no one else offering in your town that could create a new market for you? What are you doing that is amazing but that you’re not sharing with your target market?
My private clients and founders of AUDMA and a practice in Sun City, AZ, Erik Sorenson, donate treatments to the Sound of Life Foundation each year. They aren’t shy about sharing this amazing accomplishment. They’ve made their operation very very different through automation. They operate in a category of one.
You can do the same.
I want you to do a fun exercise this week. I want you to keep a list (ask your spouse or significant other to do the same) of everywhere you spend money, both online and offline. Just keep a little notepad somewhere near the kitchen counter and in your car. When you spend money, jot down the name of the business and category, then quickly, without spending too much time, write down why you spent your money there versus the other alternatives.
At the end of the week, sit down with your list of “reasons why” and then go to your website or pick up some of your recent marketing pieces and ask yourself if any of common consumer purchase behavior (emotional, practical or otherwise) appear in your marketing and how you attract new patients.
This is a sobering exercise I learned from the world’s top marketers, whom I’ve paid handsomely for their advice. For the first time, when I completed this exercise, I understood how and why I made buying decisions and I quickly realized my patients do the same thing. The myopic problem with small business owners is that we get so attached to our thing, to our baby, that we cannot see how consumers see. This is a dangerous way to run a business.
If I go to my grave having only changed the mind of our profession on one simple fact – that what we do and what consumers want from us are often diametrically opposed – I’ll go in peace.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Ted Williams, one of the greatest hitters to ever play professional baseball. PBS and Major League Baseball recently aired a special documentary about Williams and his last four plate appearances at Fenway Park.
For the last six decades, every single frame of film documenting Williams and his last at bat ever, where he hit his final of 521 home runs and refused to acknowledge in any way the standing ovation by thousands of screaming Red Sox fans, has been watched in black and white.
That’s why Nick Davis, the director of the new documentary, almost fell out of his chair when a stranger named Bill Murphy called him and said he had vivid color film footage from the 1960 ballgame, where he roamed around the stadium and captured all four of Williams’ last at bats with his 8-millimeter color film camera.
Murphy was a 19-year-old art student at the time. He wasn’t a big fan of baseball but felt the last game of one of the greatest players ever was significant and that he should be there. Even the professionals documenting that game didn’t have the foresight to do it in color and every single one of them had Williams from the same angle for each plate appearance.
The fact that this young art student had the foresight to roam around the stadium, recording Williams from different angles, changes the experience entirely. The director said it changes everything. “The color, the intimacy and the visual experience is the holy grail,” Davis said.
I see this all the time in business. While the experienced professionals are busy recording in black and white from the same angle, some young, inexperienced third-party observer comes up and shows us an entirely new experience, a new way of looking at things, all by changing the perspective, by adjusting the angle.
You’ve seen it too. It’s hard to see the log in our own eyes when we’re busy pointing out the splinters in the eyes of everyone else around us.
It’s why I insist on learning more from those outside our profession. Business leaders at the Disney Institute or Ritz Carlton can instantly see what needs fixed inside my practices and throughout my marketing that 99% of hearing care specialists would never notice.
When’s the last time you had a new third-party observer come into your practice and show you a different angle? Unlike Major League Baseball, I hope it doesn’t take you 58 years to find the holy grail.
Change your perspective. Force yourself to see things through a different angle.