Today's blog post comes from WebPT copywriters Charlotte Bohnett and Erica Cohen.

A dose of healthy competition never hurt anyone. In fact, it can be exactly the motivation you need to be better in business; better in school; just better. But there’s a monumental difference between setting yourself apart from your competitors and entering into a features race. If we’re all on a mission to elevate the profession and positively alter perceptions about rehab therapy, then we should be focusing on the benefits of our own practices rather than throwing elbows at our fellow professionals. Here are six ways to set yourself apart professionally and successfully. 

1.) Identify Your Differentiators

Choose your words carefully—and we’re not just talking about obvious professionalism. Craft your story then tell it, and do so without clichés. It’s really easy to get into a “we’re #1” race with your competitors (a la Verizon and AT&T). But it takes strength, creativity, and a strong understanding and appreciation of what sets you apart to market yourself in a new way (a la Apple). Avoid words like “best,” “unique,” and “top” and focus on the substance behind this language. Why do you do what you do? What do you believe? How do you fulfill what you believe? What do you offer that’s different? How will your patients benefit? What do you want to provide (even intangibly) that no one else has even thought of yet? For a little more inspiration, check out Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle TED Talk below.



2.) Set Your Own Goals

We always defer to the SMART method: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely to ensure we’re appropriately tracking patient progress from one visit to the next. In physical therapy, that means more than just citing range of motion numbers; instead, payers want to see an actual improvement in quality of life. For example, in 22 days, on October 1, 2012, James will be able to reach the top shelf of his medicine cabinet to take his morning pills without help from his wife (a 22 degree improvement in shoulder range of motion).

Just like how you establish goals for your patients, set marketing goals that are specific to you and that you not only can achieve, but want to achieve. Don’t worry about what your competitors are doing. Concern yourself with what you want to attain, and it’ll make marketing that much more fun and rewarding.

3.) Lead by Example

Want to make your clinic a cut above the rest? Scope out what others are saying. In addition to gauging patient satisfaction and seeing what works and what doesn’t, you can also check out what other clinics are offering and advertising. Then, rather than imitating your competition, you can map out what your clinic can do to set itself apart and innovate the field (which returns us to tip #1: identifying your differentiators). If you set the standard, then your competitors will be the ones forced to follow—not you.

4.) Enlist Brand Evangelists

If you’ve read Gary Vaynerchuk’s The Thank You Economy, then you know that the Internet “has given consumers back their voice,” and they now wield tremendous power with their opinions on social media. And as WOMMA demonstrates with this infographic, their opinions matter—big time.

We’ve always had brand evangelists; those customers that adore you, recommend you, and sing your high praises, all without being asked. Now with social media, though, they’re more crucial than ever, because they do everything they did before, but now publicly and instantly online. Do you have patients, friends, and colleagues raving about you? Enlist them; give them a platform to do so—just don’t make it uncomfortable, i.e., “here’s chocolate, now say nice stuff.” Get to know them before asking them to provide you with testimonials or other praiseworthy information.

Or just let the good vibes freely flow. Connect with your raving fans online and provide them a platform to openly share their feedback. And then not only respond, but open new dialog. Feel free to start a conversation online with questions like “What do you want your PT to do for you?,” “What do you like most?,” “What do you recommend?” No matter how the communication flows, (as Mr. Vayernerchuk reminds us) always say thank you!

And as Alaniz Marketing points out, be sure to listen to your offline customers, too. “Chances are you already have brand evangelists. Though they might not be on Facebook or using the latest hipstainstatweetdeckbook thingy.” Just because they aren’t on a social network, doesn’t mean they can’t sing your praises. “They may be your best assets when it comes to creating a real [community] presence.” They’re most likely already talking about you and your practice with others in the neighborhood.

5.) Embrace the Field

 You’re a rehab therapist, and then you’re a business owner so even your most intense competition is a peer first and foremost. Learn, collaborate, and share—then throw in a bit of healthy competition. Just remember you’re in this together. Mudslinging not only brings you down but also your profession—and there are enough important battles to fight without a knock-down drag-out between the two of you. As PR professional Tom Woolf reminds us in his article on trash talking competitors: “When you sling mud, some of that mud will land on you.” And is that really worth it?

Danielle Ambrose has his own analogy to explain the effects of trash talking: 

“Think of the trust you have from a buyer like a glass of milk. It starts out half full, and as you deliver well-thought-out, and relevant information to them about their market and how your [company] performs, your trust from the client grows and your ‘glass of trust-milk’ fills up. However, when you begin talking about a competitor, your buyer’s distrust antenna perks up, and if you denigrate the competition, your glass full of trust-milk springs a leak and begins to drain.”

6.) Speak the Truth

It’s an old saying, but the truth really does set you free. If you screw up, own up. Whether you tweet something that doesn’t go over so well, receive a bad review online, or run a print ad that gets bad press, respond quickly, succinctly, and most importantly, honestly. An acknowledgement, explanation, and apology can go a long way. Trust us, we know, and this psychologist agrees.

In the realm of rehab therapy, competition is inevitable, but it isn’t everything. As Seth Godin would say, don’t use competition as a crutch; set your own path. And the beauty of marketing today is that your path is limitless and up to you to create—just don’t stress if you occasionally lose a little control.

How else do you tackle your competition? How do you react when a competitor doesn’t play nice? What strategies have you employed online and in person to stand out from the pack?

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