Wednesday, March 26, 2014

For Physicians: Strategies to Market Yourself

Marketing the medical practice
Marketing is more than just “sleazy, used-car dealership” commercials and tasteless slogans. It’s simply planning and delivering a high-value, patient-friendly atmosphere in such a way that the entire community identifies your name with quality medicine.

If you’ve never really marketed yourself before, here are five suggestions for physicians (or their office managers or hospital managers responsible for marketing practices) :


  • Establish your vision by deciding what kind of practice you want and what you have to offer your local market. 
  • Ensure that your practice can deliver the level of service you envision and plan to promise to the public. 
  • Take incremental steps in developing your plan—don’t go too far too fast. 
  • Continue to expand and develop the marketing plan—don’t become complacent. 
  • Recognize that marketing is a journey—it’s a process rather than a result. 
Most practices today recognize the need for some sort of marketing—but there’s still reluctance among many physicians to invest time and money in a process the results of which are very difficult to measure. Doctors are used to diagnosing a problem, recommending a treatment plan, and measuring the outcome. Marketing simply doesn’t work that way.

Despite the claims of the marketing gurus, promoting your practice is much more “art” than science. Sure, you can put some measures in place that can help track the general results of your marketing efforts. For example, you can include a question on your new-patient intake form: “How did you first hear about our practice?” and provide structured answers with check boxes and blanks. It can give you some data to compare referral sources and advertising campaigns.

Retailers often rely on coupons to evaluate marketing efforts. The coupons usually contain an embedded code that tracks the publication from which it was clipped. Some aggressive practices have used a similar plan with a specific service. You might print a certificate in the local paper in conjunction with February as the American Heart Association’s “Heart Health Awareness Month.” Patients can present the certificate at their next visit for a free cholesterol screening.
If you find that kind of advertising distasteful, you can take a number of alternate routes. Perhaps you’d be more comfortable with “advertorial” publicity. That’s where you buy space in print, on the Web, or in broadcast media and fill the space with educational content rather than pure “advertising.” You might provide a short article on breast health during October, the American Cancer Society’s “Breast Cancer Awareness Month.”

Find your comfort zone and capitalize on it. Your main goal is to build “brand recognition,” the public perception that your practice is The Place for quality medical care in your discipline. The days of “hanging your shingle” and quietly providing compassionate, quality care have gone the way of Marcus Welby. Your practice will never reach its full potential without a well-designed and diligently executed marketing plan.

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