In business, there is a rule of thumb called the 80-20 rule: 80% of your sales come from 20% of your clients. This principle was named after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto (this rule is also known as the Pareto Principle) after he demonstrated that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by about 20% of the population.
Similarly, 20% of the pea pods in his garden were responsible for about 80% of the peas.
And who doesn’t love peas?
Interestingly enough, this principle holds true for economics, in business, a moderate amount of the time in science, in software, in occupational health, and in general safety.
For our purposes, you can unlock a wealth of revenue, all while reducing stress, by applying the 80-20 rule to your practice.
But first, let’s discuss the concept of branding.
Branding is what companies selling overlapping services or products use to differentiate themselves from their competitors.
Let’s examine the airline industry:
Southwest’s branding is one of the “people’s airlines,” where there are no hidden fees and the first and second bags are free of charge. If you are sick and tired of incurring extra costs or seemingly random fees, you would be more likely to fly on Southwest.
However, they compete on price, something that we generally do not need to do in the medical field (a 2012 report from PwC found that only 8% of adults rank price as the primary driver of healthcare; whereas 72% rank the reputation and personal experiences as the top driver).
Virgin America has branded itself as a young, hip airline with progressive features such as free wifi, free snacks, fantastic on time departure records, and a very unique ambient purple that glows throughout the cabin.
If you want to fly on time in an environment that feels little like a traditional commercial airline, you might consider Virgin America.
These differentiations have allowed Virgin America to charge more money for seats than competing airlines. Not surprisingly, they were one of the first airlines to post a profitable full year this decade (in 2013).
United Airlines is known for being a traditionally corporation-oriented airline. Lots of business travel took place on the airline 10-20 years ago, and fliers were able to rack up hundreds of thousands of miles through company-related travel.
In the past ten years, many passengers have retired and cashed in on those miles. Similarly, the new wave of business class flyers have emerged and are currently accumulating miles via company travel as well.
United has a bit of an “old money” feel to it, and its brand is not unique enough to truly stand out against the slew of other airlines who tout similar qualities. Ask yourself: what are the core differences between United Airlines, American Airlines, or US Airways? There aren’t many perceived differences due to a lack of branding:
That lack of branding certainly contributed to United Airlines’s Q1 2014 net loss of $609 million.
Back to the Medical Field
Branding allows your practice to differentiate itself from other practices offering the same products or services. It makes certain types of patients gravitate towards your practice because they fundamentally agree with your values or your specialization.
While branding can be done based off of personalities, it is generally more financially effective to brand your practice based off of your most valuable customers.
In case you have doubts about the process of focusing on a small valuable pocket of patients, this is EXACTLY what IBM did in 2006. They led a “reallocation of resources for about 14% of the customers as compared to the allocation rules used previously (which were based on past spending history). The CLV-based resource reallocation led to an increase in revenue of about $20 million (a tenfold increase) without any changes in the level of marketing investment.”
Using the method we will explore, IBM was able to identify 14% of its customers, based off of their past purchases, and increase its revenue by more than 1000%. Of course, no one is running around calling IBM a small company.
We will identify this opportunity in your practice using the 80-20 rule as our benchmark.
Approximately 20% of your patients are responsible for about 80% of your revenue. How can we find this 20%? There are a few ways:
Example One – Specializing via Treatment
Let’s say that you are an ENT Specialist. Over the years, you see patients for ear conditions, nose conditions, throat issues, and also nerve issues in the head.
Upon reviewing your patient history for last year, you find your patient breakdown looking something close to this (these are unique patients, not visits):
- Ear conditions: 658 patients, $107,583 revenue
- Nose conditions: 604 patients, $98,754 revenue
- Throat conditions: 1289 patients, $210,751.50 revenue
- Nerve ending conditions: 209 patients, $176,962.50 revenue
On paper, it looks like your largest revenue generating area is throat conditions.
However, if we normalized all the patients to 690 each, here is what the breakdown would now look like:
- Ear conditions: 690 patients, $112,815 revenue
- Nose conditions: 690 patients, $112,815 revenue
- Throat conditions: 690 patients, $112,815 revenue
- Nerve ending conditions: 690 patients, $584,230.26 revenue
Now, it looks as though nerve ending conditions are incredibly valuable, and you would be well served to focus on that particular subset of ENT-related conditions.
How would you brand yourself? As an Otolaryngologist who specializes in nerve issues in the head and neck that control sight, smelling, hearing, and facial movements.
If you wanted to buy a convertible, would you be more likely to go to a dealership that sold all different types of cars, or one that exclusively sold convertibles? You would go to the dealership that sold convertibles.
If you had nerve damage that needed treatment, would you be more likely to travel to a general ENT, or one who specialized in nerve tissue treatment?
Example Two – Specializing by Patient Type
In this example, we will examine a general practitioner whose practice treats all age ranges of patients.
She examines her breakdown of patients for the previous thirty years of the practice overall, and finds the following breakdown for revenue per year:
But, she more closely examines how often the patient visits, and how long that patient remains with the practice:
- Pre-Teen (Ages 13 and below): Average revenue per year: $2000. Average Patient Lifespan: 7 years
- Teenager (14-21): Average revenue per year: $300. Average Patient Lifespan: 4 years
- Adult (22-50): Average revenue per year: $400. Average Patient Lifespan: 30 years
- Seniors (51+): Average revenue per year: $1,200. Average Patient Lifespan: 20 years
Here is the lifetime value of each group:
- Pre-Teen: $14,000
- Teenager: $1,200
- Adult: $12,000
- Seniors: $24,000
Clearly, we would want to be specializing in patients over the age of 50. But, if only one in five patients who walked into our practice was someone over the age of 50, we might not see this value without looking directly at these numbers.
We could attract more seniors by asking our current patients for referrals, by holding a weekly column in a local newspaper or magazine (that seniors are likely to read), we could host free question-and-answer sessions at active seniors clubs or community centers, or even host medical support groups for seniors struggling with chronic conditions.
The list goes on, but the main point is that specializing allows you to further your status as an expert to a particular group of people. By using the 80-20 rule, we ensure that group of people also happens to create the largest revenue benefit.
Will I ostracize my current patients with this strategy?
While ostracizing your current patients may be a worry when you start to specialize, it shouldn’t be.
Remember, 72% of healthcare patients rank personal experiences as the top driver of choosing a provider.
Your current patients will have lots of personal experience with your practice as a provider of healthcare services. They trust you and will not jeopardize the positive experiences they have received.
Additionally, your re-branding will take time. You will not decide to brand yourself as a knee surgeon who specializes in minimally invasive athletic-related surgeries and expect the office decor and patient list to change overnight.
This transition will occur over time, and that time further enhances the relationships that you have with your current patients. More than anything else, you are not fundamentally switching your area of expertise. You are not an ENT who is becoming a dentist. Your current patients will continue to receive high quality care in your area of practice.
What if I can’t completely focus on one group because there aren’t enough of those types of patients in my area?
A valid concern is one of volume: if you are further specializing, do you risk decreasing patient volume to the point of hurting your practice?
The most significant consideration is your “safety net.” You have your current patients, you have their referrals, and those things are not going to go away.
You should actively seek out your new group of valuable patients (we gave lots of examples regarding seniors) with the confidence that you still have your current group as healthy clients.
Remember, specializing will give you new areas to branch into as an authority — new opportunities to connect with new patients. Similarly, patients are willing to travel further to meet with a more specialized provider… this fact expands the geographical scope of your practice
Other Ways to Differentiate
Occasionally, your practice’s revenue numbers will line up almost exactly and there won’t be any hidden revenue maximization that could be achieved through branding.
In that event, there are other questions that you can ask yourself in order to unearth branding directions and ways to differentiate yourself from the competition.
Start with the following questions (perform this exercise even if you DO have a subsection of patients who you know you want to specialize for):
What are your personal major strengths?
What does your practice offer that others may not?
Can you differentiate by showing up first in search engine results?
Do you have a subspecialization that sets you about from other practitioners?
As competition gets tougher and tougher in the medical world, it becomes more critical to stand out from your competition. Luckily, the methodology used to do so is both simple and highly effective.
IBM was able to methodically increase their revenue by nearly 1000% simply by examining who their most valuable customers were, and reallocating efforts towards those 14%.
You can use the Pareto Principle (the 80-20 rule) and follow the step-by-step directions in this post to determine the subsection of your patients to brand your practice towards.
You can also download a free, extensive list of 28 ways to differentiate your healthcare practice.
This article is part of The Definitive Guide for Healthcare Practices: Thriving Online series. The Definitive Guide is over 13,000 words and is completely free to access. The guide walks through every critical topic your practice should be considering: from online branding, to social media, and precise patient acquisition strategies.
The Definitive Guide for Healthcare Practices: Thriving Online
Analyzing Your Practice (Recommended Reading First)
[Branding] How to Brand Your Practice and Skyrocket Revenue by 792%: The more competition increases, the more dangerous it is to be known as “another healthcare practice.” This article provides step-by-step instructions on how to brand your practice, and how to unlock the small amount of patients who could be responsible for the majority of your revenue.
[Competition Analysis] How to: Uncover These Hidden Competitive Advantages: Do you know which of your competing practices are online? What are their strategies? What specific tactics should your practice use to outperform the unique strategies your competitors are using? This guide shows you exactly how to use the internet to uncover what works and what does not work — and then reveals how to put your practice at the front of the line.
Specific Marketing Strategies
[Leveraging Review Sites] 34 New Patients in 52 days From One Simple Technique?: There are over 25 doctor/patient review sites and 4 million reviews online. 60-80% of patients perform research online prior to reaching out to a healthcare professional. This guide lays out the exact plan needed to effortlessly leverage review sites and potentially bring in hundreds of brand new patients every single year.
[Social Media Strategies] How to: Copy this Facebook Strategy for Shocking Results: In this social media article, specific strategies are discussed for Facebook. What time of day to post, how many days a week to post, what content to post, and how to find or create that content are all explicitly laid out.
[The Power of Search Engines] This Dirty Patient Acquisition Secret Will Make You Shudder: Lots of industries benefit from copious advertising opportunities through social media and the entire web. Unfortunately, healthcare cannot benefit for many of these categories. This article breaks down the exact elements your practice should stick with, and what the pros and cons of each method are.