Marketing Your Private Practice
Marketing is one of the most misunderstood and frustrating areas of practice development. Many doctors struggle with marketing and very few have an organized marketing action plan in place.
It is easy to see why marketing can be difficult. It is rare to find doctors who are effectively utilizing a practice development plan, and even fewer have a calendar of planned marketing events and procedures. Without careful planning and timing, your marketing may not unfold in a rational or effective way. Non-systematic, scattered marketing attempts are ineffective and yield very few results. This lack of success may lead doctors to conclude that attempts to market their practice will always be met with the same lackluster outcome, and may cause the doctor to think that marketing is an exercise in futility, or unnecessary.
If you want your practice marketing to succeed, you must ensure that your efforts are part of a larger strategic plan. There must be planning and foresight. Your marketing approach must be organized, relevant, and plainly visible to employees and patients alike. You must make an effort to create a linked series of marketing events. Marketing efforts must not only have individual impact, they must also have impact when considered as part of the larger plan.
Plan for Success
Before you begin planning your marketing strategy, you need to sit down and decide exactly what kind of practice you would like to have. Will you focus on occupational care? Chiropractic care during pregnancy? Sports Injury? Will you have a blended focus? Envision your ideal practice as you would like it to exist in five years.
Think about the types of patients you would like to treat. Who are you most comfortable treating? Unless you can clearly define and target your market, you will have significant difficulty developing and communicating a message that prospective patients both understand and respond to. If you don't know who your target audience is, how will they?
Before you begin actively working to reach your target market, take a look at your practice. Are your practice systems developed to the point that your entire team can process new patients in an organized, efficient manner? It is pointless to spend time, money and energy looking for your new patients, unless you will be able to process and care for them once they come to you for care.
Once you are absolutely sure that your practice will be able to effectively care for new clientele, you are ready to work on the next phase of your marketing plan development – figuring out how to reach your desired target market. Think again about the type of patient you would like to work with. Once you have the patient in mind, think about what types of marketing would be likely to reach and attract this kind of patient.
Perhaps you would like to have a significant sports injury component to your practice. Where might you find these patients? You might consider things such as speaking before the local PTO, putting on an injury prevention seminar for local coaches, sponsoring local teams, and purchasing advertising in the school newsletter and yearbook. Initially, you may simply need to show up and introduce yourself at local athletic events with business cards so people actually know who you are, where you are, and what you do.
Taking the time to thoughtfully consider each of these areas will help you to develop a marketing plan that is much more likely to deliver the results you desire.
Make the Time
Even the best marketing plan will not be effective if you don't set aside dedicated time for implementation. Set aside a minimum of one hour per week where nothing else but calendar development and marketing implementation takes place. This time must be protected – it is non-cancelable and needs to be viewed as essential to practice development. Make sure that staff knows not to disturb you – no phone calls or interruptions should take place during this time.
Begin planning your marketing efforts. Brainstorm about marketing initiatives that make sense for your practice and target audience. Take a paper desk-size calendar and schedule the exact days and times when each step should be executed. Calendar only the items that you are sure you will be able to do completely and effectively, not halfway.
Plan your marketing so that it occurs more or less simultaneously, and not necessarily in a sequential manner. The reason for doing this related to the principle of massive action, which is often neglected in private practice marketing. This principle says that massive action equals massive results. In marketing, too many doctors try a haphazard step here or there. When they fail to produce the desired results, they become frustrated and actually abandon their marketing program. A much better way to approach marketing is to be sure that linked steps are performed simultaneously. You will be much happier with the end result approaching your marketing in this manner.
Creating a Loyal Following
An essential component of private practice marketing involves maintaining close contact with those who have utilized your services in the past, along with members of the community you may have met at civic events and social functions. Maintaining steady contact helps to ensure that all of these potential clients and referral sources translate into more patients for your thriving practice. Never forget that patients (and their families) who previously utilized your services are much more likely to not only refer their family and friends, but to actually see you again as well. Make them feel valued by staying in touch. Seek to build long-term relationships with every patient and potential patient you come into contact with.
Create a database where you can track each of these important people. In this day and age list maintenance is simple and can easily be handled by a trusted employee. There are hundreds of different database tools you can use to track your clientele, and there options available in every price range. You might also choose to work with a mailing house that can create and distribute newsletters and bulletins on your behalf. For example, you may decide that every month your list of coaches will receive a newsletter focused on preventing sports injury, including tips and ideas for making their lives easier. Your marketing database can be used not only to cost-effectively send out newsletters and promotions, but to inform your clients about practice changes such as hours, new partners, and more.
Each time you treat a new patient, find out how they arrived in your office. How did they find you? Where did they first hear of you? Who referred them? Enter this information into your database, so that you have a written record of new patient sources. This tracking is essential so that you know in the short term and in the long-term exactly where patients come from and which marketing efforts are producing the best results. Periodically analyze the results and adjust your marketing plans as needed.
You should only consider spending money on external marketing (such as extensive newspaper advertising) if you are sure that you have implemented procedures that will ensure you can stay in touch with existing patients and referral sources, and effectively track which of your marketing efforts is bringing in results.
The implementation of an organized marketing program is essential to the success of any private practice. It may seem like a daunting task at first, but once you have established it, it becomes much easier in succeeding years to maintain a thriving practice. You will have a strong foundation of loyal, repeat clients upon which to build. Paying attention to these simple principles will ultimately result in the development of the practice of your dreams.