What the heck is the “Blockbuster Syndrome”? You might be surprised how much the average health care practice might have in common with the once behemoth movie rental company, Blockbuster. We can learn a lot from Blockbuster’s fall-from-grace and learn how to grow a practice from their mistakes.
At its peak in 2009, Blockbuster had 5,000 stores and 60,000 employees spread over 17 countries worldwide. How could anybody compete with this monster company? As you probably know, Blockbuster filed for bankruptcy a few years ago and subsequently, Dish Network won the right to purchase Blockbuster’s assets at auction for around $230 million. This is the same company that was purchased by Viacom for $8.4 billion (that’s with a B) in the mid 90’s.
So what happened and what can we learn from their demise? If you really look at the company’s sordid history, they were very arrogant and did not listen to their customers. Their CEO made statements in interviews to the effect that they were too big to fail and had too much market share for anyone to compete. When startup companies like Netflix and Redbox came along, they dismissed them as no threat. I have a friend that was pretty high up in management at Blockbuster around 2005, and he said that when top management talked about Redbox, they actually laughed at the notion that Redbox would take any market share away from them. Blockbuster management did not listen to the consumer.
Keypoint - Redbox and Netflix did listen to the consumer and built their business model around what the consumer wanted; convenience and affordable entertainment. Blockbuster did not pay attention to the changing trends in how the consumer wanted their entertainment.
A major lesson we can learn from the Blockbuster debacle. Every business must listen to the consumer (a.k.a. - your current and potential patients). There is a ton of data to support the fact that the consumer is changing the way they shop (and purchase) products. A few years ago, who would have thought that anybody would buy shoes on the internet? Don’t you have to try on the shoes first? But Zappos.com is a billion dollar company that sells shoes online because they have listened to the consumer.
Consumers are changing the way they buy shoes, jewelry, rent movies and (can you see this coming) they are changing they way they shop for eyeglasses, get dental services or any professional service. The consumer is looking for convenience, credibility validation (online reviews), selection, and increased value.
This is not to say that every patient is immediately going to stop coming into your practice. But consider this fact- 80 percent of Internet users, or about 93 million Americans, have searched for a health-related topic online, according to a study released in July 2015 by the Pew Internet & American Life Project.
People are changing the way they look/shop for professional services….period! What is your practice doing to meet these changing habits of the consumer?
What can health care professionals do? First, recognize that some of your patients’ needs and shopping habits are changing. They want (and need) convenience, credibility validation (online reviews), selection, and better value. Also recognize that consumers are using the internet to help them make minute and important lifestyle decisions.
Second, your practice needs to have a detailed “online presence” strategy (written with a budget and timeframes). Ensure that your practice has a credible presence at the place where your current and future patients are hanging out - the internet. This includes a quality presence on Facebook, Yelp, blogs and it is critical to have a quality (professionally developed) practice website.
A good internet strategy is a wonderful opportunity to compete on a level playing field with the big box guys and your other competitors, without spending a ton of money. For example, a good Facebook page will engage, entertain and inform your patients (and potential patients), thereby helping to cement your brand image and attract new patients. That means providing quality content and paying daily attention to it. Be sure to inform current patients about your Facebook page (or other social media platforms) and ask them to get connected (put signs in your practice, mention in newsletters and all printed material).
Final thought - Let’s use the Blockbuster situation as a wake-up call. The next time you see a Netflix ad online or see a Redbox movie rental machine, think about how you are reshaping your practice to meet the changing needs/desires of your patients. Hopefully, you are using the power of the internet to mirror the success of Redbox instead of falling prey to the “Blockbuster Syndrome”.
AUTHOR: Bob Main, Internet Business Coach/Consultant