Marketing to Win New Patients

November 16, 2018

A practice is a business. To attract new patients and increase revenue, it must be marketed like one. Although other approaches may differ from other businesses, the goal is the same. The appropriate audience must be approached with succinct, clear messages using minimal resources. It may be surprising to discover how affective a printed ad in the local paper could be, or even giving a talk on a health problem. Both of these approaches can do wonders for a physician practice’s bottom line.

In an increasingly competitive market, it is important to stand out. Marketing can increase the competitive advantage over other practices that offer similar services and help attract the ideal clientele.

The right message can make all the difference in succeeding. The weakness many medical practices have in terms of marketing is that they all do it the same way or with the same range of services. Good businesses typically strive for a differential advantage, be it hours, location, or range of services. To a large extent, most practices still are not pushing that.

Marketing also encourages constant contact with the patient population. It encourages the practice to learn what their patients want from them and shows them how to provide those services.

Although, it’s not just about marketing, but also about good patient relations. A lot of people go into medicine because they want to serve the community. Being visible and keeping a viable practice ensures this level of service.

Start with baby steps

Keep in mind that each practice will market itself differently based on its needs. Just because a competitor is advertising in the daily paper doesn’t mean every practice should run out and buy an ad.

Putting together a marketing team is a great start. The size of the team isn’t as important as having dedicated members who are willing to put forth sufficient effort. One person should be appointed to oversee the group. If time permits, this role can be taken on by a physician or a practice partner.

Staffers from the entire office should participate—from the front desk to the back office. This can help get a better sense of the patients’ overall wishes. The more people who participate, the better because it builds a team within the practice. Also, doctors see the patients, but everybody else in the practice sees things doctors don’t, such as what happens in the reception area or with scheduling and claims.

It’s important that the physicians participate in the discussion to ensure that the appropriate services marketed can truly be delivered. It must be understood who the target audience should be, and their input should be taken with a grain of salt. Sometimes physicians don’t recognize the difference between running ads or developing strategies.

Once a team is in place, the target audience must be determined. Most organizations take this step in their initial strategic planning. Market research should be used in order to look at the competition, finding dissatisfaction areas or service gaps, and then conducting focus groups to identify where to market within the community. Marketing should explain to potential patients how the practice will fill the holes or provide something the competition does not.

Get down to the nitty-gritty

All practices need a team and a target audience for marketing, but that’s where the similarities end. Certain marketing options cost a lot of money; others cost nothing at all. The following strategies should be considered when choosing an option for practice marketing:

1. Advertise in the local newspaper. This simple, straightforward method gets the message to the primary target audience—people who live close by who will likely choose a practice nearby that is convenient and also offers the services they are seeking. People read their local newspapers and the marketing becomes personal and that’s essential to winning people over. It’s usually inexpensive to run an ad in a community paper, but the help of someone who has marketing experience and expertise to write the ad may be very beneficial, although it can be costly. The dangerous part of marketing compared to other aspects of business is that everyone thinks that since they have seen a lot of ads then they can write a good one themselves, but that’s not usually the case.

2. Offer “Physician Expertise”. It may be helpful to suggest that the practice physicians serve as resources for local radio stations, television stations, or newspapers. Local papers are always looking for a good story to tell. A phone call to the editor with a recommendation announcing a particular physician as a good source is a great approach. Additionally, tell the editor a story of how the practice serves the community. This can get the practice visibility. Be sure to ask permission from the physicians before giving out their names. Another viable avenue is running community talks or health seminars from the practice. Although this still uses resources by forcing physicians to give up their time, it doesn’t cost much money and it generates awareness of the practice and it showcases physician expertise.

3. Use patient testimonials. People relate well to others who look and sound like they do. When possible, tell stories of positive patient experiences at the practice. Select stories that fit the target audience. For example, a family practice trying to attract more obstetric clientele could use anecdotes from women with positive birthing experiences. Ask permission before using anyone’s name and document that consent in his or her chart. Make sure you comply with HIPAA privacy regulations, too. Marketing will hopefully be visible to the outside world, so it’s essential to not break these rules.

4. Conduct a direct mailing. There are lists available for purchase that don’t cost an arm and a leg. With these lists, a direct mailing to all the people in nearby zip codes can be very beneficial to the bottom line. List management companies are easily found in local phone books.

On the direct mailer, keep the message short and sweet. Explain the unique qualities and services provided and how they differ from others located just around the corner. And don’t forget to provide contact information. Give the target audience a reason to reach out by showing how much the practice stands out from the others.

With the focus on quality health care and the plethora of information available, consumers are more aware of and sensitive to the quality of services they receive. They can get good health care at a lot of places. They want to know whether they can get good health care more conveniently in one place v. another.

5. Last but not least – Have a great website. Prospective patients look to the web for health information and you want your website to provide that type of information. Also, a potential patient can tell something about your practice just by the way your website looks. A cheesy looking website just might give the feeling of unprofessionalism.

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