Occmed Sales and Marketing

Dr. Lawrence Earl, MD

By Dr. Lawrence Earl, MD; National Academy of DOT Medical Examiners

Who Are Your Customers? Identify Your Market.

Whether you’ve had an occupational medicine program or planning to add these services, you know the “customer” you are serving is not the individual patient. Of course, you are always going to take great care of the patient. That’s job # 1, but your customer is the employer, or sometimes the employer representative in the form of a TPA, attorney, case manager, claims adjuster or whoever else is referring the individual for a work-related service.

Before you can adequately prepare a sales and marketing plan for the new year, you need to know what your market is. Your market analysis should enable you to know how many employees work in your market, what industries they are in, and what companies they work for. This requires quite a bit of homework: getting lists of employers with employee counts by industry and utilizing online resources to gather worker demographics and injury rates. Some of my favorite sources are the Department of Labor, your local and regional chamber of commerce, Citi-data.com, and Wikipedia.

Once you know this, you can determine the number of injuries, visits, drug tests, physicals, and other services for this population.

Staying Competitive

Next, you have to determine how this market is split amongst you and your competition. Likely competitors in any market will include hospitals/health systems, urgent care centers, occupational medicine clinics, chiropractors (certified DOT examiners), retail clinics, and even labs, and testing-only centers may compete for drug tests and other testing services.

Since you can’t know the exact visit counts and revenue numbers for all (or any) of your competitors, it’s part science, part art to estimate what your predicted market share should be compared to the competition.

Comparing similar practices, I would assign an equal competitive weighting. If an urgent care with a small occmed practice is up against a busy occmed clinic (think Concentra) or a well-respected hospital occmed department, those may be weighted more heavily when determining “percent market share.”

Let’s say I’m an urgent care center, and a typical 15% of my revenues come from work-related services. There are 100,000 workers in my area. There are two other urgent care centers and a well-known occmed clinic in the area as well. I might weight each of us as:

  • My center = 1
  • UCC #2 = 1
  • UCC #3 = 1
  • Occmed clinic = 2

I would expect my center to have a market share of “1” out of the total “5,” or 20% market share. I should be serving company clients totaling 20,000 employees.

Now you can calculate a predicted number of visits and revenue you should be getting according to your market share estimate. Comparison with your actual numbers determines whether you need to devote more resources to sales and marketing or if you are meeting your predicted.

Ah, but who says you have to be comfortable just meeting your predicted?! You can always be aggressive and look to take market share from competitors and expand beyond your traditional market with onsite, mobile, and telemedicine services.

Competitive Advantages

Identify your “differentiators” and be prepared to communicate to your employer prospects the benefits of working with your practice vs. the competition.

Frank Leone, the founder of NAOHP, liked to tell us to avoid merely listing a “litany of services.” Rather, focus on the differentiating features of your practice and identify the benefits to the customer. These are just a few examples:

  • Occmed practices
    • Features – OM board certified physicians and expertise with the full scope of exams, injuries, and exposures
    • Benefits – faster return to work and fewer delays in care relying on specialists
  • Urgent care
    • Features – walk-in and after-hours accessibility and acute care for personal health problems in addition to work-related
    • Benefits – less time loss and avoid emergency department time and expense
  • Hospital/health system
    • Features – fully integrated with specialists, PT, imaging, ED after-hours care, health and wellness, and disease management programs
    • Benefits – one organization for all healthcare needs, opportunity for overall health improvement, and reduced healthcare spend
  • DOT-only or testing-only practices
    • Feature – accessibility for rapid exams and testing
    • Benefits – speed and upfront cost savings

Your Ideal Customer

It doesn’t make sense to just spend sales and marketing resources chasing every employer out there. Your ideal customer is likely similar to the top 20% of your current employer list. The type of industry and size may vary according to the services you provide, but mostly we’re looking at companies with over 100 employees in industries that typically have a high injury rate, like construction, manufacturing, municipal services, transportation, warehousing, and agriculture.

You’ll segment your efforts into the most high-value prospects (the “A” list) with several hundred to thousands of employees in high occurrence industries, same industries but smaller companies (“B” prospects), and ones you won’t actively market to (“C” prospects).

Marketing Strategy

Your best prospects are existing customers, so retention must be in your plan. Regular communication is key. On a service level, this means the employer is getting necessary reports and work status on all current workers you are attending to, and all their questions and concerns satisfied. You’ve built a relationship with that employer, and they view you as their healthcare partner to solve their work-related healthcare problems.

On a marketing level, it is communication to position your practice as the knowledge expert in your market. Clients and new prospects should receive communications from you; email is best. It keeps them up to date with work-related health and medical topics. If authored by your occmed docs, even better. Many practices ask multiple providers to contribute an article on a rotating, monthly basis.

A few sources to monitor content from are:

  • Google – search occupational medicine news <location>
  • ISHN.com – search your state
  • Work Comp Central
  • OSHA Quicktakes

For new prospects, first create awareness by employing a multi-faceted approach:

  • Search engine optimized web content
  • Online reputation management
  • Online advertising
  • Local sponsorships and advertising
  • Community marketing: public speaking, networking, events
  • Direct B2B outreach using a combination of telephone, email, and social media (A & B prospects only)
  • Social Media
    • Twitter: Focus on broadcasting news of interest with comments to promote knowledge expertise.
    • Facebook: We’ve not found ads are particularly useful for this audience. Focus on practice updates and news items as for Twitter.
    • LinkedIn: Use Sales Navigator to segment your local market. Include invites or inmails in your awareness or nurturing campaigns
  • Press outreach/PR

Employer Survey

If it’s been several years since your last employer survey or if you’ve never done one, consider strongly as this can reveal unmet employer needs in your market, feedback about your reputation, and valuable competitor insights.

Sales Process (Prospect > Lead > Customer)

Once a lead is generated, someone who has responded or shows interest in your services via any marketing channels, the sales process is activated.

Medium and large-size organizations will have dedicated sales staff. Smaller practices may combine this function with the “community marketer,” the practice manager, or another cross-trained account representative. Hopefully, at this point, your prospect is responding to an inquiry, and you can get on the phone or make an appointment to see them at their workplace. Other times, they may just be requesting information, so your job is to confirm you have the answers for them.

If you are not able to meet with them right away, they are in the “nurture” phase and should be getting emails, follow-up calls, and LinkedIn invites to keep them informed of your practice and health news in their industry. Now you are creating a new relationship and demonstrating your expertise.

When you do get the invite to meet, a consultative sales approach in the discovery phase results in a needs analysis. What problems are you going to solve for this employer? Match the features and benefits of your practice to the needs analysis. It’s very powerful if you have an occmed medical director that can accompany the sales rep on a plant tour.

Clinic Tour

Follow this by inviting the employer for a clinic tour. We’ve found once a prospect comes in for a clinic tour, it is highly likely they will become a customer. Avoid having just a casual walk through of the office. Clinic tours should be “choreographed” and scheduled at certain times of the week that are slowest in patient traffic or before or after patients are being seen and when staff members who have been trained in explaining the features and benefits of their department or station to the employer are available. Instead of saying, “…and here’s our x-ray room…and this is our lab,” show a feature. “We have digital x-ray capabilities onsite.” Explain the benefits, “Our providers follow ACOEM guidelines and only order x-rays when absolutely indicated, keeping radiation exposure to a minimum and your costs down. All studies are over-read promptly by our tele-radiologist to avoid any delays in treatment so we can get your employees back to work.”

Seal the Deal

At the end of the clinic tour, it’s time for the close. Invite your prospect to a quiet office or conference room, see if there are any further questions, and proceed with them to fill in their account set-up information. Don’t get to the end of your tour and say, “Ok, see you, let us know if you’d like to send in an employee…” Assume they’ve gotten this far because your nurturing relationship building has worked! Although most clients don’t really like “contracts,” we do find you can avoid a lot of confusion by clearly spelling out your financial policies and methods of operation by having a simple, non-exclusive medical services agreement (MSA.) Think of it as you do your privacy policy and financial statement for patients. They are not “signing a contract” so much as acknowledging they have read and understand your policy.


We can write volumes more on sales and marketing. We’ll unpack a lot of that at this year’s pre-conference on sales and marketing your occupational health business (Saturday and Sunday, October 3 and 4, 2020, at the Drake in Chicago), but to sum it up:

  • Know your market – research employer/employee demographics
  • Know your customer
  • Identify your competition and calculate your potential market share
  • Create awareness using multi-channel approach
  • Nurture interested leads by educating, not selling. Be the knowledge expert. Create relationships.
  • Use a consultative, problem-solving sales process
  • Focus on features and benefits

I’d like to give a special thanks to Ira Pasternack and Dave Saslavsky for their contributions to this article.

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