We know as a physician, you have your hands full with patients, clinical procedures, and administrative systems that are part and parcel to your specialty practice. On top of everything else, marketing your medical practice is essential to attract patients and maintain an active patient base. Many physicians are well-trained in their medical field but don’t have adequate marketing savvy, so they outsource their marketing functions to creative agencies and freelancers. Some might even have an in-house staff depending on the size of the practice.
That being said, the more you (as a practice owner and physician) know about marketing, the more control you’ll have over bringing in new business and increasing your productivity. Even if you have an outside creative agency marketing your practice for you, you should be knowledgeable enough to steer your marketing campaign in the right direction by having a good idea of what to look for and what marketing actions prove to be effective or ineffective.
With this in mind, here are four basic marketing actions that you can implement to increase your new patients and ensure the patient base you already have remains active:
1. Marketing research is imperative to a highly workable marketing strategy
Before you or your marketing team begins to create advertisements, flyers, newsletters, email blasts, website content, commercials, or anything else in the marketing toolkit, do your homework. Nail down:
- The target audience for your specialty practice
- The demographics of this target audience (demographics is defined as one or a combination of characteristics that a group of people have in common, such as location, age, occupation, income bracket, interests, marital status, gender, etc.)
- The exact products and services delivered from your medical practice. (As a doctor, you are highly trained in the clinical services that you deliver, but a marketing professional usually doesn’t have that same knowledge and background. Make sure your marketing team has an in-depth understanding of your medical specialization, including your products and services.)
Depending on your time and resources, we also advise you to survey your target audience on their needs, wants, problems, pains, thoughts, opinions, and attitudes related to their health and your medical specialization and practice. All of your marketing efforts are directed to a target audience. And the more you know about your prospective patients, the better your marketing communications will ultimately turn out.
The biggest waste of advertising dollars is flying blind on a “bright idea” for an advertisement because you are taking a gamble. You have no idea if that bright idea is going to resonate with your target audience and get a response. So, do your research before coming up with plans for advertising design and copy.
2. Make your patients aware of the many clinical services you have to offer
Believe it or not, your patients of record are the easiest to market your clinical services to. Why? These people have experienced being in your office and meeting you. In other words, you have already established a relationship with them, making it more likely for them to come back if you continue to promote to them. Unfortunately once a patient leaves the practice, the doctor usually doesn’t continue to actively promote to him or her. Therefore, the patient doesn’t necessarily know your great results and everything you have to offer.
So, here are a few measures you can take to market to your existing patients:
- Place bright, colorful, aesthetic posters and displays around your practice on the various clinical procedures that you offer.
- Create a professional book or binder of your clinical procedures with before and after pictures of your previous patients. This marketing tool demonstrates your clinical results and provides valuable visuals to patients. (As a side note: make sure to get written approval from patients on using their before and after photographs.) Set this book on the coffee table or countertop in the main waiting area where patients could easily pick it up.
- Send regular newsletters, postcards, letters, emails, and so on to your existing patients to educate them on your different clinical procedures, inform them of special deals and offers, and update them on your successful case studies and results.
Don’t just focus on new patients for your medical practice. Marketing to patients of record can yield an extremely fruitful return as well.
3. Establish a patient referral system for your practice
Every time you get patients who are happy and satisfied with your clinical care, ask them for a referral. You might say something like:
“You have been a great patient here, and we value having you in our practice. Do you have friends or family who need…. (whatever clinical treatment you provide)?”
Then listen to what your patient has to say. He or she might give you a name or two right then, and both of you can work on how to get that family member, etc. scheduled to come into your practice. You have nothing to lose by asking as the worst that can happen is the patient can’t think of anyone to refer to your office.
Normally, you would get your staff to ask patients for referrals as patients are about to leave the office. We suggest that you work out a referral system that is best for you and get your entire staff involved. Set aside a time for your staff to practice with each other on how to talk to patients about referrals to handle any tension or nervousness that they have about doing it.
4. Incorporate social media into your marketing campaign
Set up your social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, et al.) and actively update them. You can share your web content on social media, such as videos, blog posts, whitepapers, e-books, upcoming events you are participating in, press releases, and the list goes on. You can also share industry-related news, interesting trivia, and educational tidbits. Take lots of pictures of the office -- happy patients, staff, any community service and involvement. Status updates should be fun, spontaneous, even quirky.
The ultimate objective of social media is to build a following and encourage the online community to engage and interact with your practice. The effectiveness of your social media efforts can be gauged by the number of positive comments, likes, and shares you accumulate. So, keep you social media content fresh and compelling to draw people in.
A simple way to get people to follow you on social media to simply ask them: “Please follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook.” Start with your family, friends, acquaintances, staff and patients and it will branch out from there.
We hope you found this information useful in your marketing endeavors. Until next time!