Reflecting back on the Vegas comp conference (perhaps the best one in recent memory), what struck me most was the significant increase in companies focused on seemingly ever-smaller niches in the medical management space.
Perhaps it’s partially driven by the rather stunning success of MSC after they dumped their pharmacy business, along with the growth of MSA firms (and all their sub-species); MedRisk, Align, and PBMs; the acquisitions of transportation and translation firms, dental specialists, and imaging companies; and the sudden (!) understanding that pain management is really, really important in work comp.
Regardless, I must’ve picked up a dozen business cards from various individuals who are investing/starting companies/focusing/seeing opportunity in various niche areas, including dental, pain management, addiction/dependence, imaging, DME, IMEs, and home health. Some were pretty/very sharp, with tight understanding and deep knowledge, while others just had an idea and had little idea of what to do or how to do it or who would pay for it or what they’d pay – but gosh, there sure is an opportunity!
While there’s no doubt there are lots of opportunities, there’s even less doubt turning opportunities into revenue is a very tough slog requiring discipline and tight focus. Here, in no particular order, are a few recommendations/observations about building a niche business.
1. No one cares about your company or you or your idea. They really don’t. What they DO care about is their personal individual unique pain point – that’s what’s important to them. Don’t waste their time with descriptions of your business. If you can address their specific pain point, you have an opportunity.
2. Listen don’t talk. Ask don’t tell. When in doubt, ask it again. Figure out exactly what their issue is, how it relates to your solution, then ask what their opinion is.
3. Lunch is not business. A meeting is not progress. A contract is not meaningful. What is meaningful is revenue, services delivered, bills sent and paid. Don’t get caught up in having meetings.
4. There are lots of reasons potential buyers will use bigger, more established companies, most of them quite reasonable. If you are to succeed, there has to be a compelling, customer-centric reason for a prospect to use your’s. You can’t be as good as, you have to be better – with better defined by that individual prospect.
5. While niche companies can – and usually do – a much better job addressing the specific service area that is their focus, often that area is so small that a big reduction in cost won’t move the proverbial needle. Drugs are about 12-14% of spend, PT about the same, imaging around 5%, DME and home health a few percent each, and transportation and translation perhaps a point or so each. Saving a payer 20% on their DME isn’t going to be meaningful in terms of the combined ratio, but it may be very meaningful for the individual at the payer tasked with addressing that area. But she can’t solve her problem unless your solution can actually be implemented and used.