Recently, I had a practice owner contact me after he was referred to Page 1 Solutions by one of our industry’s most recognized consultants. He originally wanted to discuss digital marketing options and our recommendations, but quickly brought up a unique dilemma; one that most business owners can relate to with their own concerns.
When Goliath Buys Your Backyard
The practice owner, let’s call him Aubrey, has a healthy, private practice that he built from the ground up. Unfortunately, he is faced with moving out of his current location because a much bigger competitor (a large, multi-provider business) is not only moving into town, but actually buying his office building. And, to make matters worse, the branded name of the competitor’s business is similar his own and may be confused.
The competitor has multiple offices in surrounding cities and markets with an aggressive advertising budget, and has an established track record of building a recognizable brand in those markets. Goliath for sure!
What Are The Options?
Of course, the initial concern is that by taking over his current location and the potential customer confusion with the practice name, the competitor will steal much of Aubrey’s clients, which are the bread and butter of his business. In addition, he does not engage in aggressive advertising and has built the vast majority of his business through word of mouth and referrals. He is faced with a number of important questions, but here are three that initially arose:
- Where should I locate the new office, and what considerations should go into that decision?
- How can I maintain the majority of my current customers in the transition?
- Can I compete with them in the long run, or should I simply change the name of my established practice?
Location, Location, Location!
Aubrey had identified several potential new office locations, but was unsure of which location is the best under the circumstances. The solution to maintain as many of his existing customers as possible is to choose a location that is closest to the current office. The goal would be to not inconvenience those who have become accustomed to driving to his office, even if the location isn’t the most attractive option. In most cases, I would agree. However, this decision should take other variables into consideration.
First, relocating five miles away in a major metropolitan market can add as much as 20-30 minutes to a current customer’s drive. However, in a more rural market (which applies here) five miles is more like five minutes. In addition, consumers in more outlying areas are used to driving farther to get things they want or higher quality products and services.
Second, in Aubrey’s case, most of his patients (he is a doctor) are loyal more to him than the “brick and mortar” of his business or practice name. Website analytics will probably show that the vast majority of his traffic comes from searches for his name or a variation of it (it's somewhat unique), rather than his business name.
Third, Aubrey is not an aging practice where he is looking at retiring in the near future. The majority of his practice life lies ahead of him. Important, long-term decisions need to take this into consideration.
In his case, I believe he has the opportunity to consider more desirable locations, beyond just proximity, than a practice with different circumstances.
Maintain Your Customer Base
The biggest key with maintaining your existing and loyal customer base is communication. This means you need to develop a multi-touch campaign to ensure customers are aware of the pending change in your location. Time is typically not on your side, so start immediately after you select your new location.
A multi-touch campaign starts with personal communication. Every customer visiting the office needs to be notified that future visits will be at their new and improved office location. Be sure to include the anticipated timeframe of your relocation.
Don’t overlook the importance of providing them printed materials to take with them and remind them when they get home. Don’t delay in developing business cards and stationary with the new information, even if they are temporary. There are a lot of fast and inexpensive printing options if needed in the interim.
Direct mail also needs to be part of the outreach to ensure customers are aware of the move. Develop personalized packets that can be mailed to all customers.
Leverage digital marketing. Part of your campaign needs to include email notifications, social media posts, and updates to the website’s homepage and “Contact Us” location pages. This is particularly important as you get closer to the move date and over the following months after the transition.
The underlying message is that you cannot over-communicate with your customers during this transition phase.
The last question addresses a longer-term issue regarding potential confusion with a larger, heavily advertised, branded competitor, and if it makes sense to simply change the name of the business.
One detail I should mention at this point is that Aubrey was approached earlier by the competitor to buy his practice and hire him as a provider. The reason I believe this is important is that the competitor has already demonstrated some concern about his practice as competition (brings memories of “It’s A Wonderful Life” and Mr. Potter tempting George Bailey to sell out), and much of that probably has to do with his business name being so similar to their own.
Instead of being concerned with possible confusion, I believe Aubrey has the opportunity to benefit from the competitor’s advertising and marketing because of it. In fact, I suggested he take signage visibility into consideration when choosing a location and aggressively promote the business name on the sign, rather than it being dominated by his personal name.
In the long run, it may not necessarily be about competing with the Goliath of the market whose brand is similar to your own as much as it is riding on their momentum (and advertising) to your own benefit.
Of course, only time will tell as to what impact decisions like these will have on the future success of his practice. However, in the end, it will still depend largely on the ability to provide a high-quality service. Every day, we are faced with issues, challenges, problems, and threats. But in many cases, it is how we approach and tackle them that can turn them into opportunities.