Successful medical practice marketing is a bit of a specialty. Because your job involves providing care, there can be a sense of squeamishness about “the hard sell” or anything else that smells of commerce. It’s time for physicians to reframe the issue. You believe in your service, and you offer your patients the best of care. At the end of the day, you can’t help them if they don’t know about your practice! Marketing simply means making it easier for patients to find the help they need.
Because of these sensitivities and the sometimes chaotic life of a practice, marketing can be easily overlooked or pushed onto the back burner. This is a mistake. A thriving physician’s practice requires a constant stream of new and returning patients. How are you going to get them in the door? It may be worth the investment to bring in a marketing expert, but if you decide to go it alone, here are three steps you need to take.
Careful targeting makes all the difference when it comes to directing your marketing efforts. You can’t attract patients until you know who they are and how to talk to them. Ask yourself a series of detailed questions, and then go out and find the answers. What are your busiest and slowest days of the week? Of the year? Who is your core clientele? Are you serving mostly elderly patients, or does your practice cater to young families? What brought them to your practice? Is your location a factor? Are you getting many referrals? This kind of information will be invaluable when you take the next step.
2. Write a solid, formal marketing plan
Half-hearted, scattershot attempts at advertising are inefficient, and chances are you won’t even have a reliable way to measure the results of your efforts. You need to block out some time to take a detailed look at your existing marketing activities as well as your goals for the future. This is where you’ll build your strategy. Put together a one-year plan, a five-year plan, and a ten-year plan. Detail what kinds of patients you want to attract, and the steps you’re going to take to invite them into your practice. You may decide to put time and effort into community outreach, launch a social media campaign, offer a new service, or build up your relationships with other healthcare providers. What works for one practice won’t work for another, and your own unique strategies will depend heavily on the answers you uncovered in the research phase.
3. Always bring it back to the patient experience
In every industry, the heart of advertising is the same: give people what they want. When you’re talking about healthcare, it can be a bit more complicated. Let’s face it, going to the doctor is not often fun or glamorous. People can be reluctant to make the necessary effort to improve their health until it reaches a crisis point. Your challenge is to find as many ways as you can to make visiting your practice a positive experience for patients. Repeat business and referrals are the lifeblood of any practice’s marketing plan, and the good news is that improving patient satisfaction is one of the simplest and most effective ways to attract people to your office.
Good medical practice management means understanding the basic principles of marketing and how they apply to your business in particular. Your medical practice is a business, though doctors seldom receive much in the way of business training in their medical school career. You don’t need an MBA to be a success, but you do need to devote sufficient attention and resources to the business development side of things. Once you do, the results will be very rewarding.
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