Monday, April 14, 2014

6 Strategies for Marketing on a Budget

Medical Practice MarketingIf your practice is experiencing more than an occasional gap in the schedule or a reduction in new patient volume you are not alone. Despite healthcare being a resilient industry, it is feeling the pinch of the national economy. Certainly the higher deductible insurance plans are another sting for medical practices, resulting in patients thinking twice before they pick up the phone and call the doctor. Many are turning to home remedies in an attempt to eliminate that trip to the doctor; others are postponing their annual check-up, a visit to the specialist, or surgery that can be put off for awhile.

It’s hard to think about putting out marketing dollars when your own revenue is declining, so what can you do to keep your practice humming and attracting patients when things may look a little dismal?

1. Pay Special Attention to Customer Service

Now would be a good time to refresh your staff members’ commitment to giving five-star service by reaffirming your commitment to service and offering a staff training program. It’s important to not only make a patient feel important and welcome to the practice, but also to focus on building strong patient relationships that stand the test of time when it comes to patient loyalty.

New patients become the future of the practice, so do everything you can to ensure they feel they have made the right decision when they selected your office and scheduled an appointment.

2. Ask for the Appointment

Make sure inquiring potential patients are encouraged to come in. I heard from consultant, Judy Capko, that she was recently in an office where potential patients spent two to six minutes on the phone asking pertinent questions about the practice, but only 10% scheduled appointments. Why? The staff failed to ask the patient to schedule an appointment. Staff members need to understand that when someone is calling about your services, that person is asking to be convinced to schedule the appointment. By the way, keep in mind that it is generally the woman that makes the appointment for other family members, so don’t think she is calling just to gather information to pass on to her spouse, adult daughter, or senior parent.

3. Put Your Best Food Forward

Be a shining star in the community. You and your staff can increase practice visibility by participating in community events. Get involved in something you enjoy, are good at, or feel passionate about. If your hobby is biking, join a bike club; if it’s jogging, run a marathon or join a race for the cure. Perhaps you are better suited to support a local Little League team or get involved with the local scout troop. If art is your thing, why not participate in a competition for creating a poster or enter your photos in the county fair?

There are other ways to increase your visibility. One way is to purchase lab coats for everyone in the practice and have them embroidered with the practice name and logo. When staff members go out for lunch or run errands, they will be seen and recognized as part of your practice team. It often results in people asking about the practice.

4. Tap Into Your Database

Send healthcare reminders to patients that are overdue for annual exams or have reached an age at which they should be screened for particular conditions such as prostate cancer and osteoporosis.

Think about how you can attract patients in need of your specialty either now or in the future. An obstetrician might have a “mommy and me” program for new moms in the practice. These are the types of things patients talk about to their friends. Their friends start to think your practice might be a better choice for them. I have a pediatrics client that holds a quarterly “fun day at the park” and invites all the new patients from the prior quarter.

Some practices are going further to get patients connected to the practice by holding evening seminars to introduce new services such as anti-aging consultations or health and fitness programs with incentives if patients bring a friend. Having a take away is a great way to remind people about the practice later on. For example, a primary care physician could schedule a “safety in the home” talk at the senior center and give out the practice’s brochure along with a handout on safety tips.

5. Manage Referrals Better

Your database will also reveal the referring sources for patients. Make sure staff members enter this information accurately. It is not just a matter of tracking physician referrals; if patients found about your practice from another source, whether it’s their kids being on the same soccer team or the new patient’s best friend raving about you, it’s important to know and honor those loyal referrers with a thank you note.

6. Add Website Power

Make sure your Web site represents you well. It should include your mission statement and the practice vi- sion—what you do to live the mission! Tout all the great things about your practice including the practice focus, physicians’ credentials, special services, and anything that sets you apart from the competition. It could be something as simple as extended hours. But please don’t do a homespun version; hire a Web designer and make it professional.

If you enjoy reading the blog entries in "Solving Problems in the Medical Practice" you may want to check out all the great products at Greenbranch Publishing.

photo credit: via photopin cc