BOSTON — In his presentation at the American Orthotic & Prosthetic Association National Assembly here, Jason Kahle, CPO, LPO, FAAOP, gave tips on how O&P practices could clinically differentiate themselves from their competition, and employ effective marketing strategies that would help make them top of mind in physician.
To make your O&P practice stand out, Kahle suggested three steps: differentiating, branding and marketing.
“Differentiate yourself first,” Kahle said. Decide what you do well, and “what can you do differently,” he said.
As an example, Kahle spoke about meeting employees from a company that employed a mobile fleet to visit patients’ homes. The company Kahle worked for at the time couldn’t do that.
“We did in-clinic care; we couldn’t go to a patient’s home. What we should have said is that we pick patients up in the morning with a car service, bring them to our office, have breakfast and coffee waiting for them, we cast them, provide them with a nice lunch and then they have a new prosthesis” to take home with them. Using a different approach to solve a problem can help set your company apart from the rest.
“There is no magic in branding,” Kahle said. All it requires is taking your logo and putting it everywhere you want to be seen, whether it’s on your business card, your mobile van, your advertising, your office wear. “Be consistent. Use the same colors, the same size logo. Put in on your car, on your computers, on your brochures. Just so someone can look at it and they’ll say ‘yeah, I think of xyz O&P office when I see those colors.’”
Kahle stressed the importance of professionalism when you market your services to other medical professionals.
“We’re the medical community. See yourself as a medical professional,” he said. Covert tactics work better than overt tactics, he said.
“You don’t want to beat people over the head with marketing. You don’t want to give the appearance that you’re there to get the business from the physician,” he said, even if that’s precisely what you want.
Building a professional reputation — the foundation for your marketing efforts — requires that you become the knowledge base for your community and for physicians with whom you may share patient care. Being well-read on the latest research and knowledgeable on the most current devices can support your decision making, and demonstrates your professionalism to other medical practitioners.
“Use resources that are out there. Use new technology,” Kahle said.
Kahle suggested taking advantage of manufacturers’ practitioner literature designed for consumers, “these easy to read articles that you can give to your referrals, patients, therapists and physicians.”
Kahle also suggested using patient outcomes in your practice as a way to market yourself to a physician, because physicians understand their clinical value.
“Use patient outcomes to your advantage. My favorite outcome is an L test because amputees are most likely to fall during acceleration deceleration, turning, sitting and standing. You stand up, you walk, turn around, come down and sit down again. It’s so simple, and translates to practitioners. A stopwatch is an outcome measure. Distance is an outcome measure.”
Consider your patient when you are planning marketing strategy. When the patient returns to see the physician after being fitted for a prosthesis, he is your best advertisement, Kahle said. “That reflects on you,” he said.
“Make the tools for your patient and show the doctor the tools you made. Peer visitation programs. Running clinics, golf clinics. Film it. Hire a photographer. Take HD video. Don’t put a [company’s] poster up there of some guy crossing the finish line; have a poster of your patient doing the 5k, with you next to him as they’re coming across the finish line.”
When you visit a physician’s office, you should ask yourself what you can do for them, all the while keeping your best professional foot forward.
“I don’t go with my pretty brochure and ask for referrals. I give them research articles, resources, my peer visitation program. Let the doctor send that patient out the door with a good feeling.”
But suppose a physician fails at limb-salvage surgery and has to amputate. This is a prime opportunity for you to be helpful to the physician — and the patient — by way of covert marketing.
“You say, ‘Listen, next time you have an amputation, give your patient an InMotion magazine’. Tuck your card in there. Don’t hit them over the head with it. Don’t tell them ‘we fit legs.’ So does your competitor. Be subtle. Be different from that guy. He’ll remember you gave him a resource. Don’t beg for the referrals; you’re giving him a service,” Kahle said.
Create a web presence
Your presence on the web and in social media — and how professionally it is executed — can be a successful part of your marketing foundation or can unfortunately chip away at it.
“Your website is your silent marketing department. It’s so important. You have to think about the user experience. Is there a dedicated host? Does it move fast? Is it easy to read?”
Kahle noted the importance of a truncated website, and its ability to be viewed on different platforms, including iPads, iPhones and other applications.
“That’s the different between a $600 website and a $15,000 website,” he said.
Kahle suggested interviewing many different hosting sites, if you are not up to the task of overseeing the website yourself. You will still be required to provide the content for your site, however. “That’s the most important thing. If you don’t update your content, it will get old and stale.”
Although it may be expensive in the beginning, a content management system can help you keep your information up to date and provides a responsive website. Relying on the IT person or company to make small, routine changes and updates to your content can get expensive.
“Look into a content management system. If you call your web guy, and they have to make a change and it costs you $1,000, it [a content management system] will be worth it in the end. Do you constantly want to be updating your website? Yes. And don’t skimp on photography and videography.”
Kahle is unconvinced that social media platforms like Twitter are worth the effort, although Facebook can present a somewhat friendlier, yet professional cyberversion of your practice.
“It boils down to content. Do you really want to be tweeting in 140 characters? To me, I can’t think of any of my content and then tweet ‘C-Legs came out today.’” However, Facebook has the added advantage of providing some narrative, supported by pictures, video and interactivity. “Just make sure you’re using these tools appropriately,” he said. — by Carey Cowles
Disclosure: Kahle is an assistant in physical therapy at the University of South Florida School of Physical Therapy. He has no relevant financial disclosures.