In today’s challenging economy — with reduced Medicare and insurance reimbursement rates affecting practice revenue projections — the need to market your practice to potential patients is stronger than ever.
Many physicians are facing tight budgets because of reduced reimbursements and are seeing the numbers of new patients slipping as a result of the turbulent economy. While many physicians do realize the importance of marketing and advertising their practices, they may be at a loss as to the best way to do so.
Develop a Strategic Plan
The key to success is in adequate planning. Develop a strategic one-year marketing plan that includes media placement, public relations, patient and community education, and alliances with nonprofit organizations.
One marketing mistake that is common among physician practices is the ‘shotgun’ approach. Instead of developing a tactical and strategic plan, physicians will pick several publications or news sources and run only one ad in each venue. Unfortunately, not only is this not going to be enough, but it is not a cost effective use of marketing funds. Consistency with a small ad in one publication will do more good.
Branch Out Beyond Advertising
Aside from advertising, physicians need to consider reputation management, website development with search engine optimization, and patient and community outreach and education when developing their strategic plans.
Discover Your Niche
Every practice has something unique to offer, and harnessing that which sets your practice apart is key to differentiating yourself from the competition.
Determining what makes your practice stand out and communicating it in your marketing plan will make your marketing initiative more successful. For example, if you are a plastic surgeon who specializes in performing the latest techniques in eye lifts, then you have a competitive edge. There may not be another plastic surgeon in the area with that specialty or who is promoting that same angle. Identify your niche market, and focus on targeting that specific audience.
Design a Website
By developing an effective website with search engine optimization, you can ensure that patients will be able to easily access all relevant practice information, including phone numbers, hours of operation, physician information and areas of expertise. Utilization of a website also allows physicians to include information designed to educate patients with communication about diseases, treatment options and service lines that you would not normally be able to include in an advertisement.
Keep Your Patients Updated
Keep your patients updated on all changes that occur in the practice to make sure they are engaged. Also, keep in mind opportunities to reach out with cordial sentiments by sending patient birthday cards or — if you have recently opened a new location or are new to the area — “Welcome to the Practice” letters. A greeting packet of information for new patients is effective, too, and taking time to remind patients of appointments the day before helps promote office efficiency and enhance patient confidence. This practice provides an opportunity to demonstrate to patients that your office is organized and proactive on their behalf. (DuxWare can help you with letters and recalls)
Brochures are basic marketing materials; however, they allow you to compile and send essential practice information — such as your hours, a map to your office, Web address, areas of expertise and service lines — to area community members. Not only are brochures effective when sent to area patients and potential patients, but they also can serve as a powerful tool in raising awareness among referring community physicians at other hospitals or practices.
Consider Consultant Services
In many busy physician practices, there may not be additional staff or time to support a marketing plan. By incorporating the help of a consultant who is familiar with the market’s past and future trends as well as someone who is skilled in devising a marketing strategy and helping you measure its effectiveness, you can ensure that your office will remain focused on your patients while increasing patient awareness.
Once you identify your niche market, it is often helpful to hire a reputable marketing firm that specializes in the health care industry,. A marketing firm that knows the region or area you are practicing in can be especially beneficial