Growing Your Practice Through Effective Marketing
Joe Carlon, MBA, Paul Lynch, MD, Tory McJunkin, MD, Josh Filani, Ted Swing, PhD
Dear Arizona Pain Specialists:
I just opened my private practice and am finding myself overwhelmed as I develop my marketing plan. What are the basic things I need to consider besides creating a logo, a website and business cards? Where should I advertise and how much should I spend? Help!
In a recent column (The Number One Key to Business Development), we outlined the importance of defining your purpose, your values, and your mission. Without a doubt these are vital to the success of any endeavor, be it building a medical practice or executing a military exercise. If you haven’t gone through that process I recommend you spend time there as a starting point.
But let us put some meat on the proverbial bone. In pure marketing terms, we were talking about defining your unique selling proposition (USP); that which sets you apart from your colleagues. More specifically, how does what you do fulfill the needs of your customers (referring practices and patients). Being crystal clear about your USP, and communicating it effectively to your staff and to your customers, is paramount to your success. Not knowing can be costly, leave you feeling frustrated and lagging behind the competition.
So let’s take the USP concept and talk about why you defining this in the first place: to build your marketing platform and to grow your practice.
When we talk to most physicians about marketing they tend to focus on advertising: magazine ads, radio ads and brochures. If only it were that simple. To be fair, we rarely come across physicians who were offered marketing classes as part of their training. But when it comes to running your own small business, effective marketing can mean the difference between simply surviving and thriving. We recommend spending dedicated time to learning about marketing and engaging those who have had success in the past.
When you start to build your marketing platform an easy way to organize your strategy is through the 4 P’s of marketing. (Figure 1.1)
The 4 P’s
This is where you develop and define your unique selling proposition. Here is also where you develop your logo, colors, tag line, mission, etc. What services do you provide to your customers? How do you perform them differently than your colleagues? How does that solve a problem your customer has? We recommend spending 50% of your time on this area of your strategy.
This is the advertising arm of your strategy. Who will deliver your product message? Will you hire a sales force? Will you advertise on radio or TV? How will you measure your return on your investment? What will you do internally to engage your customers? Will you focus exclusively on external marketing? Will your website be an educational site, or one where patients and offices and conduct transactions? Each answer will help define the next question and you should spend as much time here as required to answer each question.
Will you accept insurance contracts? How will you handle motor vehicle accident personal injury cases? Do you know the law around Advanced Beneficiary Notice? (Here’s a link that will help: http://www.cms.gov/Outreach-and-Education/Medicare-Learning-Network-MLN/MLNProducts/downloads/abn_booklet_icn006266.pdf)
What will your “self-pay price” be? Will this be a competitive advantage you have over your colleagues?
*There is a significant amount of information to consider, as well as risk, in this category and you should consult your healthcare attorney to make sure you get it right.
Though tele-medicine is a growing sector in the medical space, the traditional delivery system for care in the outpatient setting is still very relevant: the physician office. Have you thought about how the setup of your office can impact patient satisfaction? Have your considered how you can influence brand recognition through creation of internal educational handouts? The proliferation of Electronic Health Records systems has created an opportunity to extend the reach of your practice via patient portals. You should become an expert in how this can impact your customers – patients and referring practice alike.
The 4 P’s, developed over time, build your brand. Your brand is ultimately what your customers believe about you and your product. Let’s look at two examples. First, consider Mayo Clinic. They have tremendously strong brand awareness: Clinical excellence, compassion, patient-centric are all terms that come to mind. Recently, Mayo launched a campaign that we will refer to as “My answer is Mayo Clinic”. This campaign is an excellent example of how to tell a story in 2 or 3 sentences, define a unique selling proposition, and bond with your customer. Mayo has leveraged their high quality image into a direct to consumer marketing campaign that, in our opinion, strikes an outstanding match of product and promotion.
MD Anderson is another company that has remarkable brand awareness. The name itself elicits an image, a feeling and an emotion in your head that is very tangible. They have also made a concerted effort to leverage their logo to elicit those emotions. An excerpt from a recent press release describes exactly the point: “The logo integrates MD Anderson’s distinctive tagline, Making Cancer History, and the long-running cancer strike-through campaign, in which survivors tell their cancer stories and draw a red line through their cancer type to mark their triumph over the disease.
The intent of the mark is to make clear to all those who touch MD Anderson the commitment to this mission and the optimism of being on the cusp of major advances towards reaching it.”1
You might be saying to yourself “But I’m in private practice. I don’t have a seven figure marketing budget like these big companies. How do I make an impact?”
Here 5 Keys to Success:
1.) Do not spending a dollar on marketing unless you can track return on investment – this is critical, especially for those with limited resources
- You need a simple tracking tool for incoming referrals – go to boostmedical.com for an example
2.) Invest in training and education for your staff of the phone – this is the most overlooked area of a medical clinic, but perhaps the most important. Consider this: the interaction on the phone might be the ONLY interaction a potential office or patient has with your practice. Get it right.
3.) Make sure your branding is consistent across all channels – messaging, web, colors, call-to-action should all be the same – spend time and money up front
4.) Hire high quality people to represent your brand
5.) Commit to consistent spending of your marketing budget
3 More Considerations:
Budget – How to Manage Limited Resources
Most practices do not set a marketing budget. They simply spend money based on the opportunities they know about or that are presented to them throughout the year. A Boost Medical recommended best practice is to set a budget you are comfortable spending each month throughout the year. Then be specific with allocation across channels