Practice providers and office managers may think marketing requires a lot of money due to the cost of implementing newspaper ads, radio spots, TV commercials, or brochures, but these are only one component of marketing. In fact, there are easier ways to market your practice that will also improve your bottom line. The following are what I believe are the four pillars of marketing success.
Attract new patients into your practice Use your public speaking skills to their advantage by attending local seminars or healthcare programs. Physicians who share their areas of expertise to the community can be helpful; having someone from your office attend the program and have an appointment book there to make appointments right on the spot.
You can and should write articles for local magazines, newspapers, and publications about various topics that relate to your areas of interest and expertise. Using research can also attract new patients to your practice. For example, an advertisement was made by a device company, and a urology practice received 50 responses. Of the 50 responses, only six patients qualified to enter into the study. The other 44 people complained of problems that the urology practice was able to treat. The practice then encouraged the patients to make an appointment and offered a free consultation for the first visit. Treat the current patients well Determine those best ideas that show and give your patients that “stellar experience” at your practice; here are some my own ideas:
Call your key patients at their home. They are patients who receive procedures outside the office, or a patient you had in the hospital who has been discharged. It is so important to get in touch with that patient and see how they are doing, answer any questions they may have and inform them of when they should make that next appointment. Assign a staff member in the practice to conduct follow-up calls to patients at a certain time of day to ask whether they have any questions. The staff member will also note any patients whom the doctor needs to follow up with.
There are obvious advantages to calling patients at home. I can assure you that you will receive far fewer calls from your patients if you take the time to call them and answer their questions. I personally believe this is a very efficient use of your time. Patients will definitely remember and tell their family and friends that you were “the first doctor that took the time to call [me] and see how [I] was doing. This creates a positive wordof- mouth marketing energy, so find and make the effort to give every patient that spectacular experience with your practice.
A working patient-physician relationship Physicians are looking for three things: diagnosis, medication, and a treatment plan. They are not interested in a lengthy two- or three-page referral letter. Remember they are just as busy as you are.
Before the patient even gets home, have your practice send a referral letter to that physician. Most electronic medical records can create a referral letter with those fields. It saves you transcription costs. It can relieve a lot of the expenses associated with an electronic program. It increases the efficiency of your practice. From a marketing standpoint, it keeps that referring doctor as the all-important captain of that patient’s healthcare ship.
A highly motivated team
You can be the most skilled physician with the greatest personality, with the greatest diagnostic skills, but if that person doesn’t know how to answer the phone, your efforts lay fallow in terms of being able to see patients and practice your craft of medicine. Make sure your staff members are highly motivated, energized, enthusiastic, and supportive of the practice’s marketing efforts.
I know of one physician practice where the physician and his staff members coordinated a successful marketing idea that generated enthusiasm from his employees. They closed the office at lunch time, and everyone was picked up by a limousine and sent to a shopping mall. Each staff member was then given $200 and asked to spend it on themselves in one hour. Not only did the staff enjoy it, but they enjoyed talking about it. The physician subsequently had numerous people in the medical community come up to him and mention their day at the mall. People even asked to come and work at the doctor’s office!
Beside the four pillars of marketing success just mentioned, these five basic tips can help you find the unfulfilled niches in your market and successfully market to your audience:
- Research the demographics of an untouched market in your practice area. Age, gender, income, occupation, education, household size, language, and the culture of your community are all demographic factors of marketing.
- Observe the market’s history. Examine failed and successful markets in the community. Take into consideration the size of your practice and the kind of specialty services and growth provided.
- Consider the three phases of a successful marketing plan: start-up, rapid growth, and maturity. Practices need to look for new niches in the field, potential for growth, and any decline in sales
- Detect your strengths. Why do patients come to your practice? What makes your practice unique? Is it a convenient location? Does your practice have a special niche or special service to offer?
- Detect your weaknesses. Examples include a lack of cash to expand or purchase equipment, reimbursement payments, high Medicare or Medicaid expenses, and your practice’s competition.