Differentiate, Position & Relate your Your Competitive Advantage

Differentiate and position your brand message by knowing your customer, their pain points, their anxieties, how they buy surgery services, whom they trust and why. Write content that resonates with them as if you were casually chatting to one specific person over a cup of coffee.

When you write content about your hospital or ASC, whom do you expect to be reading what you posted? What are they looking for? Are you casually explaining what differentiates you among some 15,000 options they can choose in the USA?


According to Maria Todd, our go-to expert on healthcare marketing and branding for bundled-price, transparent, cash pay surgery services, “Differentiation is best presented in an easy-to-understand concept that is meaningful to a listener or website visitor. Something that sets you apart from any competitor.”  You can do this in one of two ways: Discover what sets you apart through research (as in the practicum exercise below) or decide to focus on something, a trait or unique approach or service you want to “own” that your competitors don’t offer or don’t have or can’t easily copy.

Practical exercise. Stop right here and write down some differentiators that you know will resonate with your last 25 surgery patients. It will be more difficult than you initially realize to complete this assignment. 

Start by researching their age, gender, zip code, and how they paid for their procedure. Next, estimate their education level, the car they drive, marital status, the brand of watch they wear, what they do in their leisure time, where they shop for food and household items, if they hire housekeepers or gardeners, their jobs if they work or what they did before they retired. With your sample of 25 people you’ve already treated and have certain demographics in hand, what set you apart causing them to choose your facility and your surgeon over all others. What mattered to them the most? After all, they did consent to allow you to cut them open and put them back together again. With such intimacy, don’t you think you owe them this understanding? But can you articulate what was the differentiator that led them to choose you from your competitors across all 25?

And keep this little tidbit in the back of your mind: What initially drove them to select you before they got to know you may not be the same thing that they eventually learn to appreciate about you over time, after their procedure. So in this exercise we are seeking to articulate the differentiator that originally drew them to you and to consent to your service; not the hindsight.  Todd says that if you don’t believe you have the time to do this before preparing content for your website, brochures, videos, podcasts, and social media outlets, you should hire a professional branding expert who will take the time to analyze your existing customers and frame up future campaigns and content production or you’ll simply waste time, money and opportunity. That’s what branding experts do. Logo, colors, fonts, and other graphics are only a minuscule component of what branding experts deliver to your project. The difference between a highly-differentiated surgical provider and one that hasn’t done this exercise properly and benefited from and utilized the outputs of the exercise is 3x growth, by comparison. So if it is growth you are targeting, identifying and positioning your differentiation is the first step towards success.


Brand positioning is how you approach the marketplace. Take your decision to list your services on SurgeryShopper.com. Here, we list the lowest price from our database for each CPT code. That sparks curiosity. Prospects enter the funnel to learn more. They do so by contacting a concierge. What will the concierge say about your facility, surgeons, brand differentiation and your position in the marketplace. We don’t “wing it”. It is your responsibility to provide the talking points for us. Should we just stop at license, accreditation, price, and location? That’s your choice.
If you won’t leave your comfort zone as a “herd animal” and highlight what sets you apart in the marketplace, you aren’t going to get many referrals from your presence in the SurgeryShopper.com database, or any other marketing you pay for.  Patients searching for a surgery provider really have difficulty distinguishing from other surgical providers.  We can’t make stuff up to position you. You must supply us with the talking points to help them choose you.
Positioning sets your hospital or ASC apart and helps prospective patients recognize why they should prefer you over all the other choices we may offer them.
Practical exercise: Determine what characteristics should we emphasize that sets you apart from all the other hospitals and ASCs in our database and how we should tell your story. 
In the previous exercise, you identified your differentiators. In this exercise you must decide which differentiators to emphasize and in which order. Is it just your price? What story should we tell that will connect with your “ideal customer“?
Practical exercise: To begin, you must develop a positioning statement.  This statement succinctly distills your brand position in the marketplace. It will serve as the platform to support all your content, marketing and value proposition assertions, advertising messages and campaigns, and other messages.
Again, if you don’t feel you are up to this challenge and cannot complete the exercise, a branding consultant with expertise in healthcare can help you. It is part of their professional trade craft.  They may recommend you create different messages to different segments of your audience(s). These could include consumers, brokers, insurance agents, TPAs, employers, unions, attorneys, insurers, and others who may be interested in how you can solve a need for them. But you might also segment for parents of small children who need surgery, avid sports enthusiasts, performers, business executives, retirees and others. This too, is part of the branding expert’s trade craft. Their deliverable will help you shape your messaging for content on your landing pages, blog articles, social channels, brochures, videos and podcasts.  The positioning message is the common core message that resonates across all your prospective ideal patient subgroups.
And remember, this is a practical exercise intended to be something you use as a strategy and marketing tool, not a mission or vision statement. It expresses how you desire to be regarded in the marketplace among 15,000 other choices they have to schedule surgery. To benefit from being listed on SurgeryShopper.com, without cost, we expect you to give us “your script”. Please don’t think for a second that we will take your “positioning statement” and use it to craft your story for you. That’s your responsibility or the responsibility of the branding professional with whom you engage.

You or your branding expert must supply the talking points so that when we determine which audience segment is calling, the concierge speaking with them can explain your story, your way. It’s like volleyball. We assist the ball over the net from the first call. Then once over the net onto your side of the court, your job is to convince them to trust you enough to seal the deal. Once they decide to buy from you, we then coordinate all the movement, records transfer, travel, on the front end, and measure outcomes on the back end. We aren’t your “free marketing” service. We aren’t your paid referral broker, either, because that’s not legal in the USA. We facilitate the introductions. You win the business.


Message architecture is a prioritized set of communication goals to guide team efforts across the organization. Just like an architect designs a home or office building. Your ASC’s or hospital’s message architecture guides decisions around everything from website structure and taxonomy to your bundled-priced, transparent, surgical case rate program design and partnerships with brokers, insurers, TPAs, employers, unions and other group health buyers and consumers. And it also guides your decisions to list your services and prices in our database and with other platforms.
Practical exercise: Summarize your brand’s prioritized communication goals in a short list of attributes and phrases that will be part of your content strategy.  Keep in mind that a message architecture differs from a mission statement (which is more about what you aim to achieve as a healthcare provider) and a vision statement (which establishes where you are heading) because it is both actionable and specific to communication. These are also the primary distinguishing factors between a message architecture versus a brand personality. 
Start by compiling a list of 50-100 adjectives to guide the  development of your message architecture. you can do this with the old-fashioned index card system people use to move cards around on a whiteboard. Also, your message architecture is not a glossary or list of keywords and terms you want to claim in advertising and web content. Invite audience representatives to give input.  Categorize your word ideas into three groups:
  • What we are not
  • Who we are today
  • Who we want to be in 2,3, and 5 years.

Start digging into nuances and preferences. 

Next break up the cards into the following themes:

  • Words that describe our service and our bundled-priced, transparent, surgical case rate program 
  • How our community sees us
  • How our customers see us
  • Who we are at our core

Next mark your priorities. Once you’ve established a message architecture upon which your hospital or ASC can agree, fully incorporate it into your content marketing strategy.  After that, do this:

  • Make sure to document the message architecture.
  • Update your content marketing strategy with the message architecture and ensure that all marketing team members and extended team members such as SurgeryShopper.com concierge team members are aligned.
  •  Ensure all content meets at least one stated communication goal
  • Prioritize scheduling or quantity of content in a certain focus area through distinct campaigns
  • Take a look at your website and view it as a content hub. Is the user experience (UX) supportive of your message hierarchy? Your behavior analytics in Google Analytics will tell you how visitors experience your website.
  • Use the message architecture to consider how navigation, taxonomy, and overall layout can be improved to underscore your goals.
  • Share the message architecture with new team members and our concierge team at SurgeryShopper.com to maintain consistency.
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