One of the most important keys to a financially healthy practice is marketing. Not just any marketing. It has to be what's working right now to attract your target patients. It's true that to succeed in private practice today, you must leverage modern tools and techniques. And there are also some tried and true “Old School” marketing practices that still keep patients coming through your door.
Let’s take a look at some new and the old school techniques you should be using in your practice.
Modern Medical Practice Marketing Techniques That Work
#1 - Social Media
Although using social media can be one of the toughest marketing challenges for medical practices—with looming patient privacy issues—if done right, it can also have big payoffs in terms of patient engagement. Think of social media as free advertising, where you can get your name out in front of a much wider audience than any billboard or print ad. But one of the social contracts you must adhere to is to not be overtly self-promotional. Otherwise, you will quickly lose your connections. Instead, your posts should be useful, helpful, creative and even entertaining to your target patient populations.
For example, you could create a Fitness Challenge to engage your Facebook followers and ask them to post a picture to show their progress and completion. Or, you could post a weekly question on your Facebook page and choose the winner randomly from the correct answers. Here's a quick primer on using social media to build your practice.
#2 - Blogging
According to Pew Research Center, 72% of U.S. adults have searched for health information online. This makes becoming a source of commonly searched health information for your patients a vital part of any marketing strategy, and the best place to do this is through a blog on your website.
Many practices ignore the opportunity regular blog posts present to connect to patients, provide valuable information and become an expert source. Yet, if you post regularly — at least twice a month — with information your patients are searching for, you position yourself as a health authority who they will seek out.
#3 - Ebook or Guide
Consider creating ebooks or guides that provide information around a recurring topic that's of interest to your patients. For example, an endocrinologist could offer an ebook on living with diabetes or a thyroid condition that stresses the importance of regular medical management along with nutrition and exercise.
You can enlist creative staff members to help with graphic design or hire a freelancer to lay out the information for visual engagement. The end product will usually be a free pdf that patients can either print out or read online or on a mobile device. You can insert a link to the pdf in your blog and on your website. For bonus marketing points, find out how you can add a short form that will pop up when someone tries to download your ebook or guide, asking them to fill in an email address and maybe some other bit of information that would be helpful for you to know about them, such as their age or their topics of interest.
#4 - Website
There are a few things you need to remember to get the most from your practice website.
First, it needs to be mobile-friendly—this means that when people land on your website from their phones, the font and images are resized for easy viewing. Second, you might consider ditching the stock photography and instead capture your team, office, and the “creature comforts” you offer patients to give them a real feeling of what being part of your practice means.
For example, this practice website uses an excellent mobile-friendly design. It’s clean and answers all the questions a patient could have. To make it even better, they could use pictures of their team so that patients can see the friendly faces they will get to know in the practice. Also, although they do have a blog, it is not as current as it should be and could be better utilized.
Here is another site that is very mobile friendly and the design is beautiful. The pictures, although some are stock, add a feeling of warmth to the site which really works.
What they could do better is to use a blog to connect to patients and provide that ever important content as well as pictures of the staff, especially on the meet our team section.
#5 – SEO
Search engines are constantly evolving, and in order to get a favorable spot in search results, you need to follow the best practices of search engine optimization (SEO). There are no shortcuts to get to the top of search results. The key is to create high quality content and focus on local listings.]
Here's a recent article where I go into more detail about Attracting New Patients to Your Practice Using Local SEO Strategies.
#6 – Practice Marketing Software
Arguably the most important aspect of practice marketing is managing your online reputation. This involves monitoring and improving patient satisfaction, increasing provider-patient communications, as well as managing ratings and reviews on the ever growing number of review sites that patients consult before making a decision about a healthcare provider. Do your research to see which practice marketing software has the features and services you need to shine online.
Old School Marketing Techniques That Still Work
#1 - Reminder Calls and Emails
Patients are busy just like you. Many times all it takes to get them back in your office is to simply remind them you’re there.
Set up calls about upcoming and missed appointments and try a “We miss you” mailing or phone call. Attracting patients to a practice is sometimes less about persuading new ones to come in but more about reminding established ones to return.
#2 – Ask Patients and Colleagues for Referrals
Referrals are a great way to get the word out about your practice. Connect with colleagues in different specialties to learn more about what they do and how you might be able to refer patients to one another. And, don’t neglect to ask your happy patients for referrals.
One way to make it clear that you accept referrals is by posting an “Open to new patients” sign. To encourage patients to spread the word, you might have a sign in the waiting room saying, “Your referrals are the highest form of flattery” or “We are accepting referrals at this time. We appreciate recommendations to your friends, family and co-workers."
#3 - Generate Media Exposure
Generating media exposure is an often overlooked or underutilized tool in medical marketing.
Consider approaching your local newspapers and television stations with a press release or feature story regarding an initiative you’ve begun that helps the local community, new medical research you could be interviewed about or a human interest story.
#4 - Direct Mail
Direct mail is a form of advertising that allows your practice to directly communicate with patients through a mailing of flyers, postcards, brochures or letters. The key is that there is some sort of “call to action,” such as a discounted service or a free service with the purchase of another.
Since direct mail can get expensive, be sure to narrow down your target audience. Don’t buy a list of all of the people living in your area. Instead, mail to patients who have visited your practice in the past and you’ll see a much higher ROI.
#5 – Staying Active in the Local Community
Sponsoring a children’s baseball team, joining your local Chamber of Commerce and offering to be a speaker for community organizations are all opportunities to get the word out about your practice and build goodwill.
#6 – Office Open House
Depending on the type of practice, an open house could show established patients that they are appreciated and introduce the office to potential patients. The open house may include an educational component, such as a brief presentation by a physician, or minor health screenings, such as blood pressure checks by other office staff. Or it may be a chance for patients to sit down casually with a physician to discuss philosophy of care. An open house also may be an opportunity for a practice to show off an office redesign or new equipment.
Patients are becoming very savvy consumers of healthcare. Having regular open houses offers potential new patients an opportunity to meet you in person and can definitely put you above the competition in online provider searches.
#7 – Newsletters
Healthcare newsletter marketing programs provide a cost-effective way to reach out and keep in touch with both patients and referring providers on a regular basis.
Newsletter marketing programs can help your practice in the following areas:
- Keeping your name and practice in front of patients and referral sources.
- Reinforcing your authority in your field of practice.
- Encouraging more word-of-mouth marketing.
- Building relationships with referral sources.
#8 - Attracting Patients From Local Companies
Local companies with large numbers of employees can be a great source of new patients. You can offer to present a talk on a popular health topic, participate in a health fair or write an informative article for the corporate newsletter.
Now that you know what marketing techniques can work for your practice — both new and old school — it’s time to implement them to see both a wave of new patients into your office as well as a reactivation of established patients.