Seize the Trend, Don't Hide From It

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You may not have heard of the new search engine Duckduckgo, but you will, as it was just reported that they logged over 100 million searches in July. Here, context is important: Google has over 134 million searches in a single day. So Duckduckgo is a blip, you say? No argument here, but the news is not the comparison. The news is one giant company missed an opportunity to shore up its business while the upstart, Duckduckgo, exploited their key point of differentiation: Duckduckgo does not track your searches.

Far too often, businesses, including medical imaging, are reactive in the marketplace instead of proactive. We respond to news or market forces instead of spending valuable time using available data to jump on trends early or stay ahead of bad news.

One case in point was the radiation scare from several years go. While radiologists and others in health care were quick to downplay the reports of excessive radiation, the public was being fed one horror story after another, leading them to question imaging centers about radiation doses, calibration and maintenance schedules.

Most facilities buried their heads in the sand and waited for the furor to subside. For the most part, it has, but that does not mean that this is good policy. At the time, the smart medical imagers were issuing notices to referrers and on their websites about how their standards were extremely high, or that they’ve never had an overdose, etc. They were reminding everyone why they have earned their good reputation. For the smart imagers, the bad news presented an opportunity to tell some good news.

That news, like Duckduckgo’s news, presented an opportunity for radiologists and health care executives to remind their constituency of why they are different and, therefore, better than everyone else. Sadly, most did not. Those that did probably issued some clinically-oriented statement about maintenance and doses and all that, when they should have addressed the emotional aspects. After all, even with the few reported cases, the radiation errors that made the national news were not widespread. Insiders knew it was a tempest in a teapot, but to the public, everyone getting a CT was emerging with cancer.

Now, let’s see how Google has handled Duckduckgo. Responding online, Google spokesperson Matt Cutts wrote about how Google has personalization options that can prevent them from tracking your searches. “If someone prefers to search Google without personalization, add " &pws=0" (the "pws" stands for "personalized web search") to the end of the Google search url to turn it off, or use the incognito version of Chrome.”

In other words, Cutts said, “We can be just like Duckduckgo!”

The remarks by Cutts are not new, they were made over two years ago, in June, 2011. Since then, Google has ignored Duckduckgo and has suffered mightily from the revelations of national information gathering, while Duckduckgo is soaring and will continue to soar.

The lesson is to start looking at news in a different light. It’s time to use the news to connect the dots and come to some conclusion – an action plan – that can help you stay abreast of trends and get out in front of any potential disasters.

Now I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that in the coming weeks or months, you are going to see a Google campaign to show us all how to turn off the “personalization” features that trigger the tracking we all dislike.

Wait for it.


Steve SmithWith over 25 years of marketing experience — nine years as a former Vice President of Marketing for a leading health care marketing company — Steve Smith has consistently developed effective strategies to help fuel the growth of countless health care enterprises. Since 2007, he has specialized as a marketing and business development consultant to medical imaging facilities nationwide. Mr. Smith has been a featured speaker at imaging conferences and is a former member of the marketing subcommittee of the Radiology Business Management Association (RBMA). He has contributed marketing articles to numerous health care publications, including Physician’s Money Digest, Radiology Business Journal and more. Mr. Smith is the creator of “Ten Seconds to Great Customer Service™,” a medical imaging training program that provides easy-to-use tactical customer service support to staff.