Or who do your patients think you are?
Successful marketing is based on communicating what is most true about you. You in this case, of course, being the collective “you” that is your practice. Some hold the misguided idea that marketing is about getting people to believe something wonderful about you, so that you can trick them into doing what you want them to. Historically, marketing that causes people to think something that is completely different than reality, is the fastest route to going out of business.
In the last Sally Says blog, we talked about embracing the continued changes in healthcare as a means to better serve your patients, and therefore improve your practice. And in multiple blogs we’ve discussed the “Four P’s” of marketing: Product, Place, Price and Promotion. The point of each is that virtually every decision you make about your practice influences the perception of both current and prospective patients. And, as with any other relationship, perception is reality.
The challenge is to make sure that the great things that you really do for your patients are clear to them, before, during and after their visit with you. It doesn’t mean they need to go to medical school to understand what they are, but they most likely need a reasonable explanation of the how, why, where and when of what you do in their specific case.
-what they read on your website, or see and hear in any advertising messages
-what other people tell them about you
-perceived “fit” with your office in terms of their healthcare needs and their demographics
-your insurance partners and payment terms
-how friendly and knowledgeable your staff seems when they call
-ease of scheduling
-how they are greeted
-how well-organized your office appears
-the decor, cleanliness and even temperature of your office
-how easy and understandable the patient paperwork is to complete
-the patient materials available for review
-time spent waiting
-listening skills of provider and staff
-compassion and respect shown by provider and staff
-perceived understanding of patient’s symptoms and current health
-thorough explanation of treatment options
-thorough explanation of patient charges and billing procedures
-ease and friendliness of check-out process
-success of any treatments, and access to modifications if needed
-office follow-up and speed of response
-billing handled correctly and quickly
-take-home patient education materials
It goes without saying that a successful practice provides positive experiences through all three phases. What is also critical is that the positive perceptions are enhanced at each phase. Over promising makes people much more judgmental than they would be otherwise. Of course you want to promote the positives, otherwise no one would choose you to begin with, but they need to be the things that you and your staff can over-deliver. If the patient finds the experience to be discordant; that the reality is not at all what they were led to expect, even if you provide great care, they are not likely to think of you as a provider of choice and one that they’d recommend to others. If, on the other hand, they found that the “during” and “after” exceeded their expectations from “before”, they are very likely to become your biggest fans.