Are you making a statement?
This is the “P” you probably think of first when you think of marketing, and even then you probably only think about the most visible elements of promotion, like advertising and publicity stunts. Marketing however is much more of an integrated part of everything that goes into a successful practice. Marketing is all about how you position yourself, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Realize that virtually every contact that anyone has with you personally and with all aspects of your practice contributes to the impression that you are making. If you are aware, you are much more likely to make conscious, good choices on a daily basis, rather than perceiving marketing as a separate activity that you’ll address when you have time. You’re doing it already whether you know it or now.
There are many, many ways to promote a practice. Sometimes that can make it even harder to have an effective marketing plan. There is no one best way to go about it. It depends on many factors, but the first, and most important, is to know your target market. Most new doctors will say that everybody is in their target market, but that’s neither practical nor helpful. Defining a target market, or multiple target markets is critical to making your marketing effective. It’s not saying that you’d turn away someone who isn’t in the description. It’s matching the type of practice that you want to have as closely as possible with a definable, measurable portion of the patient population you can reasonably serve. The best way to think of it is to visualize your ideal patient. Now describe that person in as much detail as you can. What’s their age, gender, ethnicity, income, medical history, and hobbies? And don’t make assumptions, do the research.
Once you know who you’re trying to talk to, it’s a heck of a lot easier to know how to reach them and what to say. Your decisions on marketing overall need to be based on the best fit with the target audience, not on your personal preferences. Again, do your research.
There are two, equally important, major factors in promoting any business, including a medical practice.
1) The message. What do you want people to know about you? The main message needs to be very brief, specific and clear. You will also have “talking points” that provide supporting information to your main claim. Those talking points also need to be clear and concise. Every person on your staff needs to be able to repeat the talking points in their sleep. And of course it needs to address your target market’s needs. Creativity is great, but it is secondary to honest communication. When people hear your message it should give them a very realistic idea of what you can offer to them. Nothing more, but certainly nothing less.
2) The medium. This is the vehicle you use to deliver your message. This should be based on the most cost-efficient means of reaching the largest number of people in your target market. Social media and the internet certainly have made the process more accessible, but it is still an investment of time at the very least, and needs to be done as professionally as any other type of business communication. When you open your office doors, you’ll soon find that the advertising community knows you are there, even if nobody else does. Many will claim that they are an exact fit for your target market, and you will probably go out of business if you don’t purchase advertising with them. Ask for unbiased third party research to support their claims, and if they don’t have it, take a pass.