Every practice, indeed every business needs to market. And if you’ve heard me speak about this, you’ve heard me say that it’s your most important job as a business owner.
Marketing is what makes you business grow, what allows you to keep providing the great products and services you are already providing. Yet, when it comes to marketing, very few heatlhcare professionals are comfortable with the idea. Why? It seems that to many, marketing is the same thing as selling.
So just what is marketing?
If you think about it, we, as healthcare professionals market to our patients and clients every day. Think about this and substitute the word “sell” with the word educate in the following phrases and you’ll see what I mean.
- We “sell” them on the idea of quitting smoking, changing their diet and increasing their activity.
- We “sell” the parents of our youngest patients on vaccines and concussion protocols.
- We “sell” preventive care such as well-child, man, woman exams, safer sex and colonoscopies.
As you can see, on a daily basis, we do indeed sell/educate. A person cannot make a choice without knowing the facts and understanding the risk and benefits of an action or inaction.
So when you are marketing your practice, you want to educate your potential patients on the benefits of coming to your practice.
Once you understand that marketing is education and you want to educate your potential patients how coming to your practice can benefit them, you need to identify just who your ideal patients are.
I once heard a NP tell me that her ideal patient was everybody. “I see patients from womb to tomb” she told me. Technically as an FNP, that is true – she has been educated and licensed to see to anyone in that age range – ie, everyone.
But is that her ideal patient? Perhaps not.
I’m educated as both a GNP and a FNP. However, my strengths to not include pregnant women and children. Therefore, they do not fall into my ideal patient population. I’m also not skilled to manage those with serious psychiatric disorders.
You may find your strengths in working with a certain populations, interest or certain conditions.
But before you can identify your ideal patient…
You must have a clear understanding of the product your business offers. I can hear you now…silly woman, doesn’t see know we are healthcare providers? Yes, but what do you offer your patients? It’s not just primary care.
- Patients come to see you for a reason? Why?
- What problem do you and your staff specifically solve?
- Why do they seek you out and not someone else?
- What is the BENEFIT of coming to see you?
While you indeed do provide “primary care services”, your patients chose you for a reason. Yes, it could be you were the only office accepting new patients, but it’s often more than that.
- Perhaps they feel well cared for by your staff.
- They know you listen to them.
- They trust you.
It’s worth the time to take a moment (or several) and think about this carefully. You’ll be able to use this information later when you create your marketing message.
If you are unsure, this is a great time to survey your current patients and find out.
Who is your ideal patient or client?
When you are marketing your practice, you want to attract patients and clients who are ideal for you as the provider, your skill set, your “product” and for your practice model.
Here are some questions to start with.
- Who are your current patients? Why are they seeing you?
- Do you like your current patients? Do you want to see more like them? Or is there one or two where you do seem to meet their needs no matter what you do? (If the latter, they are not your ideal patients).
- What is your area of expertise?
- Who are the people that would benefit best from the services I provide?
- Who do you want to serve? (hint…it’s not everybody). Be specific here.
- What is the gender, age, and condition you work best with?
- Consider their ability to access and pay for healthcare. Does it match your business model?
Take it further and determine what are the attributes for those patients you identify. Are they a match for the services you provide?
For example, if you focus on wellness, your ideal patient may be someone who is interested in health and wellness and willing to start working toward those goals. I would imagine in this case, someone who is smoking 3-4 ppd, drinking 6-12 beers per day and thinks a meal at the local fast food joint is good nutrition would not be your ideal patient.
Create an Avatar
In the end, you want to boil all this information down to ONE individual. This individual will serve as the avatar for your ideal patient. When you create your marketing messages, you’ll be creating them to just this one individual, who represents everyone else that falls into your ideal mix.
Here is an example. Let’s say you have a primary care practice that focuses on women’s health. So your ideal patient may be:
Susan S. Smith. She is 43 years of age. She is interested in staying healthy, though is concerned about the weight she is starting to gain. She is wondering about her hormones. She is a non-smoker, does not exercise and holds a stressful corporate job. She travels overseas for work several times per year and thus has not stayed up to date with suggested prevention guidelines. She has a significant other and no children.
Determining who is your ideal patient/client, is the first step to creating your marketing program. Later, we’ll come back to Susan and discuss how to create a message she’ll hear.
Have you identified your ideal patient? Have you created your avatar?