Imaging’s Shifting Center of Gravity
Outpatient imaging as a market is undergoing metamorphosis, and, though unfamiliar to many in its ranks, such change is common in most every market. As any economist would attest, markets are fluid and undergo periods of growth and decline that are referred to as life cycles. It is the same with products within markets, and is quite often the same with the companies themselves that operate within the markets, as well. A common denominator with such shifts is the requirement that those trying to stay ahead of the curve understand this dynamic as a business reality and adjust their value proposition and how they communicate that value to their customers, who will likely be faced with more choices. This is often disconcerting to those who prefer that their market remain placid, predictable, and firmly within the control that has often worked for them for many years. Medical imaging’s marketplace is shifting in favor of those for whom change and its related demands for creativity and nimbleness are an expected part of their strategic plans, for which they have developed alternative ways of succeeding. Among the tools and tactical approaches to thriving amidst market evolution are branding, messaging, and the solidification of the key customer relationships that can transcend commoditized products and/or services. By branding, I am not referring to the various identities, tag lines, jingles, and snappy slogans that are a ubiquitous part of the commercial marketplace, but rather the alignment of the entire organization around a central principle that can be used to create ambassadors within the company, those able to articulate the message and build lasting customer relationships. I believe that the center of gravity in outpatient imaging has shifted in favor of the business relationship that is dependent on the practice’s marketing clout. It is expected that medical imaging providers will have the right technology, clinical expertise, range of modalities, convenience, accreditation, accurate and fast reports, and subspecialization. Beyond these basic requirements expected by tomorrow’s customers will be the great differentiator: superior customer service. The battles for supremacy in the outpatient marketplace in the future will be won or lost based on a practice’s ability to understand the need for, the elements of, and the how to, in delivering top levels of service to each of its customer segments. This must be done consistently, enthusiastically, and with solid communications programs that ultimately persuade the customer to be loyal partners. In mature markets—such as what we now see in outpatient imaging—marketing and all of its various components (PR, advertising, web, direct mail, events, sales) assumes its rightful place among the pantheon of key success elements within an enterprise. It is right up there with product superiority, expertise, legacy, and people as a differentiator of companies and as a leadership tool. Use it to your advantage. Your future will depend on it.