PRIVATE PRACTICES – Marketing for Doctors
SEMINAR: Modern Marketing
Except from the book “Know Before You Go”
by L. C. Hubbard
In the world today, a health care professional no longer can depend upon throwing up his shingle to get patients flooding in the door. Even in the health care profession, there is a war going on. The assault is on your mind and the weapons used are words and pictures.
The words and pictures have won when they have caught the public’s attention and captured their dollars for a service or product. Every day the public is bombarded with messages telling them what to buy, what to wear, what to eat, and where to go to get the services they should want. The hardships we face are economic. How far can you stretch your dollar today, and what does it really buy?
Good health is vital for everyone and regular care should be the normal routine. Often times it is put off for lack or time or money. More managed care facilities are taking over and the ability to afford private care becomes less and less. That vital 6 month checkup or continuing care you know your patient needs, now involves convincing them to spend the time or money. No matter how vital the service, people respond to and react to emotional buttons and buy for personal & emotional reasons. As a health care professional, you are busy treating patients and often do not have the time or expertise to formulate and implement a strategic marketing plan to increase your new patients and expand your practice (and income!).
Let’s do an exercise. Be honest…
Who thinks that marketing has to do with Sales? ____
Who thinks that marketing has to do with promotion?________
Who thinks that marketing has to do with advertising?________
Who thinks that marketing has to do with Public Relations? ________
Who thinks that it has to do with Plans or Programs or Campaigns? __________
Well , it has to do with all of these, but is not just one of these.
The definition of Marketing involves the whole strategy of taking a service (or product) from the initial ideas, researching so you actually “know before you go” and do not waste promotional dollars, and then formulating an exact plan of action bearing in mind your strengths, weaknesses, positioning and the service you have to offer. Then implementing this plan, along with effective public relations actions, correct promotion, referral enhancement actions & tools, drilling or role playing for staff, & marketing consulting so that the vital actions are implemented and you create the most interest from the target public in your services. The final result is more patients in the door and the recompense for this increasing with more and more profitability.
Unless this is done, marketing is not complete.
A doctor’s worst nightmare is working longer and longer hours for less and less. This is not the future you envisioned when you first decided upon your profession, and it is not the way it has to be! After all, it is a personal service you provide, and you are the practice in the eyes of your patients. Your own morale is up when you can do a good job for your patients and you are well compensated for it. How many doctors know what it feels like to do a great job for a patient, only to end up getting very little for it because of insurance restrictions? It is also important to educate patients, so they know what you are doing for them and what they are paying for. Often they many not understand what great lengths or what expertise is involved in delivering your services.
The beginning steps of marketing, which involve thorough, in-depth research and surveys of the target public, are essential to find out exactly what your public think, feel, find valuable, need, want, and how they perceive you and your services. They may not tell you some of their concerns and how you can best present yourself so they can easily and simply understand–and refer others. If presented correctly, to the public that actually need your services and not a “shotgun” approach, they will want and reach for your services. Often we find out there is a problem with how the public perceive a certain profession or professional, and knowing how to handle that has everything to do with getting the correct information in the first place!
Let’s break this down so it is very clear.
Who now feels they know what marketing is?_____
Who feels they have a handle on their own marketing and there is nothing else they need to know?______
If your practice is not overflowing with patients or you aren’t compensated so well you never have to work another day in your life again, then you need to look at your marketing.
Take a look at your own practice. Which step are you missing in the marketing process?
Marketing is an on-going continuous exercise strategically planned for long term results as well as short term objectives. It is not a rote thing, and each practice, each professional, each area, is different and requires a tailored plan to achieve the best results. Not a cookie-cutter method.
Common Misses and Misconceptions:
Maybe you’ve had a bad experience in the past with trying to market your practice. Possibly it was because insufficient attention was paid to acquiring and utilizing the knowledge needed in order to successfully market. Market research at the beginning of the process, is a decision-making tool that provides you with factual data from which you can make an informed decision. Without the information, you are just guessing and going at it “hit or miss”. Just as I would not presume to know your field of expertise in the health professions, you may not know all about marketing that an outside professional does.
Most doctors are too busy practicing to get all the know-how in order to learn marketing. You may never have thought about who the public is that you are actually trying to attract. Can you describe them to a “T”?
Who are your ideal patients? What kind of patients would you really like to have more of?
How would you describe them? Where exactly are they coming from? What are the demographics within a 5 to 10 mile radius of your office? How do you analyze that data?
What is the income level of the area?
How many HMO’s and managed care facilities are there in your area?
How do they promote?
What is your competition?
What are they doing successfully and unsuccessfully to promote?
What is it that you have that is unique or special in your practice?
What is it that stands out about you to your patients?
How do your past and present patients perceive you and your services?
What is it you want to be known for?
What is your current image or positioning in your community?
What is your staff doing to back up all your marketing efforts?
How do you increase referrals?
Are you getting as many professionals referring to your practice as you would like?
Where are you headed and where do you really want to be in 5 years?
You may find by just bringing up these questions you realize several things about how you are currently marketing or not marketing your practice. There are things here you do not know, and may not have thought of before. This is a vital first step.
Know Before You Go:
You have all heard this saying, and most agree with it. In marketing, we ask the various target publics questions, we look into what has worked in the past, we study the market trends and demographics, we look at exact answers and emotional responses, attitudes and opinions directly from the public. We do not assume. We test things out, ask questions and get responses, tabulate information, analyze the data, and find out how we can present or shape or change public opinion.
We then apply every bit of expertise in our field to implement the data. This involves effective copywriting, designing of promotional items, planning a marketing campaign or strategy, writing PR articles and media placement, to briefing and getting agreement and help from staff in order to achieve consistent results.
The timing and strategy is vital for long term, consistent programs. What may work in one area or practice, will not necessarily work in another. When you start to do marketing and run into trouble and do not find out exactly what happened you cannot correct it. Once you have all the information, you can UTILIZE it in order to better the marketing of your practice, without wasting more time and money. As a professional, you would not do extensive work on a patient without x-rays or vital information, so why do it in your marketing?
The Key is Simplicity:
Often there are simple reasons and steps to implement that have somehow dropped out or have been overlooked. The power in basic, simple actions cannot be stressed enough.
There are simple actions you can do to increase referrals that I see dropped out or not done every day. There are simple promotional actions that can be very inexpensively done, that never do get done simply because the doctor never thought of it. There are simple Public Relations actions you can do, free, that create a great image for a practice. There is a way to design an overall year’s marketing plan based on accurate research, and not just have it all in your head. As you know, a real professional can make anything look easy and simple. Even with a very complex marketing problem, in some area or practice. That’s because they know and understand the basics of their field so thoroughly they know what to do. And can explain it to you so that you can understand. Eventually you may want to have an office manager handle all your marketing or hire someone in-house. I prefer to see clients that I work with do this (even though I may eventually be out of a job!) because in the end it is my goal to help as many as I can with expert marketing strategy, until they know and can take off on their own. And that is my wish for you.
To close this talk, I want to say it is vital to find out all you can about your own market and I hope you now have a better understanding of what marketing really is and why it is so vital for your practice.
Thank you very much.
L. C. Hubbard,
Contact us at 818-486-8553 to find out how we can make your practice a success!