Before we get to our topic, understand that everything is marketing! Everything you do or don’t do in your business affects your marketing. Of course, this may work for or against you.
You probably already know there are countless strategies and methods to market your practice. The question is, which ones should you choose and which ones should you avoid? Which marketing practices are best and will yield you the most results?
The answer varies from case to case; it is nearly impossible to give a “one size fits all” answer. Every situation is different: the size of practice, focus, location, and available resources.
Since it’s next to impossible to provide one definite answer, I’ll discuss a variety of marketing options. Feel free to choose those who resonate with you, fit your situation and your pocket book.
Four Main Categories
I suggest you approach marketing your practice by viewing all marketing activities along four main categories:
- Internal marketing
- External marketing
- Offline marketing (traditional, established methods)
- Online marketing (more recent methods)
Internal marketing includes everything you do inside, with and through your office. In all likeliness you have some processes in place, marketing your office already.
Internal marketing might include many different areas, such as:
- Your physical office space:
- Is the space inviting and warm or is it sterile, cold and unfriendly?
- Is the office clean, uncluttered and in good repair? Or does your office leave patients uneasy, wondering if it ever gets cleaned?
- Is your office easy to find and is there clearly visible signage? Or do patients have difficulty finding your office?
- Your staff:
- Are they friendly, helpful and courteous or do they act annoyed and bothered by your patients?
- Are they dressed professional, appropriate for the setting and well groomed? Or does their appearance leave something to be desired?
- Are you friendly and show presence with your patients? Do you listen and evoke trust and confidence?
- Or do you routinely rush your patients and ignore what they have to say?
- Are phones answered in a timely fashion or are long wait times the norm?
- Are phones consistently answered in a friendly, yet professional manner? Or does consistency depends on who picks up the phone and how they feel at the time?
- Do common issues get resolved with one call? Or do phone calls routinely result in follow-up calls, leaving callers wondering?
- Practice marketing materials:
- Do you have consistency across your business cards, brochures, and logos conveying your unique advantage to your customers?
- Do potential customers know what you and your practice are all about by looking at your marketing materials? Or are they wondering what’s unique about the business?
- Your website:
- Is your site easy to maneuver, useful and answers common questions? Or does your website confuse patients and serves little purpose aside from occupying space on the internet?
- Your communication processes:
- Do you have processes in place facilitating efficient and effective communication with patients and other offices? Or are your processes useless, repetitive and frustrating?
- Do you create special promotions or events for your patients? Perhaps you create a special event for your patients around Mothers or Fathers day.
- Do you stay in touch with your customers by sending out birthday cards?
- Do you welcome new customers to your practice by sending them a “Welcome to our Office” letter or follow up with them after their first visit?
- Do you ask your patients for referrals? Asking for referrals is difficult for many providers. If patients tell you how happy they are with the service they received in your office, let them know that you would appreciate their referrals.
Let them know that you build your practice with referrals. Most people will be happy to do this for you.
In another article, I talked about how much easier (and less costly) it is to keep existing customers as opposed to attracting new patients to your office. Therefore examine what you are doing today to keep patients in your practice. Ask yourself if things need improvement and how they could be improved?
For example, what are you doing with patients that have left your office? Do you have a process in place to stay in touch with them, so you can eventually reactivate them? If you have no process to stay in touch with them, it’s virtually impossible to reactivate former patients.
What impressions do you create with your patients? How can you change your current processes and internal marketing to improve the impression you create with your customers/patients?
Focus on creating a positive practice image, the image you want to convey. Put processes and marketing messages in place that support the image you want to project.
Remember, you have but one chance to create a first good impression!
External marketing refers to marketing activities done outside your office and may include any of the following:
- Participating in community-based events such as health fairs.
- Giving presentations to service based clubs, organizations, sports clubs, and support groups, just to name a few.
- Sending out marketing materials (business cards, letters, and brochures) to community organizations and emergency rooms in your area.
- Contacting other providers to let them know what services you provide in the community.
- Sending out marketing materials to people you have identified as ideal customers. For example, if you work with children, you may create a mailing campaign to the parents of these children, letting them know what you can do for their children (and by default for them).
- If you have noteworthy information about you or your clinic, send out a press release to your local newspaper.
- Place advertisements in newspapers, yellow pages, local radio, and television.
- Write health related articles for the local newspaper or community paper. Write and publish your own newsletter.
- Create events for your office and celebrate them with a gathering:
- Your “1st, 2nd … Year in Practice Anniversary Celebration”
- A patient appreciation event.
- Introducing the new provider in your clinic event.
- And the “whatever reason you can think of event!”
When I refer to offline, traditional marketing methods, I’m referring primarily to print advertisements placed in:
- Local Newspapers: ongoing and event driven advertisements (print and online editions).
- Yellow Pages: business information advertisement (print and online editions).
- Community Papers: ongoing or event driven advertisement
- Direct mailings to your target market within your community
While some offline marketing methods such as advertising in yellow pages and newspapers have been declining, they still get utilized.
Depending on your target market, some of the more traditional marketing methods may be heavier utilized than the newer, internet based marketing methods.
For example, if your target market consists of young professionals, you will do much better with internet based marketing methods.
However, if your target market is geriatrics, you may find that many of them (but not all) still prefer the local print newspaper and phone book when they search for business information.
Be sure to adjust your marketing methods to what your target market utilizes and responds. Remember, it’s all about your customer!
Newer, online based, marketing methods at a minimum should include a website for your practice. When creating your website consider the following:
- Create a friendly, mobile ready website.
- If possible, include the name of your practice in the URL of your site.
- Publish information of value to your customers.
- Display your contact information clearly on the site.
Additionally, you may want to include the following methods when marketing online:
- Social media page/s for your practice.
- Participating in social media marketing to promote your practice.
- Develop an email list and mail information to your list.
- Send out a monthly, bi-monthly or even weekly newsletter to your list.
- Place and maintain a listing for the practice and provider on insurance websites.
- Utilize online advertisements, such as Adwords, Pay Per Click or banners.
- …and many, many other options are available
Online, just like offline, offers a wide range of marketing opportunities. For many practices, the best approach to marketing will be to utilize a combination of offline and online marketing methods.
This means you may want to continue your ad in the local newspaper but also have a website and social media page to market your office.
There are many different ways to market your business, potentially all effective, if implemented correctly and consistently.
When trying to find the marketing methods that’s right for you and your office, consider the following:
- What are your goals for marketing: growing or maintaining your practice?
- What are your resources for marketing: financial and staff?
- Who will be responsible for implementing your marketing: you, staff or 3rd party?
- How much time do you have to create and implement effective marketing methods?
- Are you willing to create a marketing plan for your business that is implemented and applied with consistency?
- Are you willing to test and track your marketing results to determine what is and is not working for you?
We’d love to hear from you…
Tell us what you think and share what YOU do to market your office.
By Johanna Hofmann, MBA; regular contributor to the NPBusiness blog and author of “Smart Business Planning for Clinicians.“