In the "good 'ol days", marketing was simple. You built a factory, made a heap of items, placed ads in newspapers and people bought your products. In marketing we call this "product push" (think Mad Men).
But now with the advent of consumer knowledge, choice and power, our marketing has to be about building relationships, adding value, ethically feeding positive word of mouth and either delighting our customers so they are loyal to us and continue to return; creating something that they need or want ("pull marketing"); or ideally both.
In healthcare, the situation is no different.
Gone are the days when you simply built a practice, put up a sign, opened the doors and the books got filled.
Now you need to:
- Directly match your products and services to consumer wants and needs
- Add value to your clients and patients through communication, information and engagement opportunities
- Put patients at the centre of your practice
- Seek patient feedback and adopt patient-driven changes
So how do you manage all of this with limited time and a limited budget? How do you know what marketing activities will work and how to put together a quality patient experience program?
Overcoming marketing overwhelm in your practice
All of the different choices and "shiny, shiny" marketing offerings can easily lead to overwhelm and we see practices on a daily basis that are doing nothing as the marketing mountain seems too high and too hard to climb.
Here are some simple steps to regain your focus on what is truly important and will generate you the best return for effort:
1. Identify your ideal patients / clients
Your ideal patients will preferably be people who have no issue with your pricing, align with your treatment style, re-book as often as needed and refer their friends.
Answer these key questions to help identify which patients align well for your practice:
- Who are your ideal clients?
- What makes them ideal?
- How did they hear about you?
Start by making your ideal clients the focus of your practice:
- Run marketing ideas past them
- Adopt activities that they would respond to
- Think of how you will add value to your best clients
This exercise will help you to focus on your primary "customer avatars" and it will eliminate a lot of wasted marketing efforts. So before you dive head-first into putting all of your patient communication on "We Chat" ask your patients how they want you to communicate with them and you might prefer that email works best.
2. Analyse your patient sources
One of the first things I do with any private practice client is find out where their most recent 10-20 patients came from. By this I mean how those patients heard about your practice and what prompted them to make an appointment.
Then write down the last 10-20 sources of your ideal clients and take action.
Doing more of what is working well is usually "low hanging fruit" in terms of future marketing success. This will help focus your attention as you build relationships with these referral sources and do more of what works.
3. Show appreciation
If you identify a small group of top referrers, think when was the last time you did something (relevant, meaningful, tasteful and not over the top) to show your appreciation? I thank people in a variety of ways depending on the relationship ie. from hand-written notes, Dan Murphy's e-vouchers, dinner vouchers, books and gifts.
The trick is to take a moment to think about the referring party and what they like and what they would appreciate. Also, you want to add to the relationship and not embarrass them with a gift that isn't appropriate (ie. cars are probably out, dozen red roses probably out, alcohol for people struggling with addiction bad idea etc).
4. Map your customers' journey
I touched on this in a recent post Patient Experience Programs, but here are some tips on optimising your patient's experience:
- How is the initial enquiry managed - do you provide the right information in the right way to add value?
- How effective is your team converting enquiries to bookings using ethical selling techniques?
- Prior to the appointment - what reminders are sent? Are instructions provided to help the patient find your practice? Do they need supporting information?
- Waiting room - is your waiting room effective, modern, clean, comfortable and welcoming? How friendly are your reception staff? How are patients checked-in and assisted in the waiting room? How do you manage anxieties / discomfort? What else could your practice do to improve the waiting room experience?
- Do you run on time? How do you keep patients informed / supported if you are running late?
- The consultation - do you have effective questions that achieve a thorough understanding of the patient's situation? Is the patient listened to, consulted with and supported? Are the next steps taken to analyse the patient's situation and give them a plan to move forward? Do you write this down for them or bombard them with information that they will forget? What follow up is encouraged?
- Appointment follow up - what action is taken after the appointment? How do you stay in touch with your patients and continue to support and add value to them? How do you encourage them to refer your practice to others?
By getting all of this right, your service delivery does a big part of the marketing job.
5. Keep patients engaged and supported but treat social media as a support tool
"Likes" are not patient bookings.
While social media definitely has its place, for most practices, greater success will be achieved by sending out a monthly, high value newsletter and inviting patients to small, low cost or free group events than spending a huge amount of time on social media.
Social media does have its place and in some cases can drive the bulk of new enquiries to a business (and if this is your situation, you will identify this in the first step), but for most, it acts as a reminder, value add and gentle engagement etc with your existing patients and is not a primary source of business.
Want more marketing tips?
Have a look at my Top Six Lead Generation Strategies for Health Practices article from last year. You are also welcome to download our Free Private Practice Marketing Planning Template that is hot off the press:
For more information or assistance with your private practice marketing, please contact Megan Walker on 0417 602 390 or email megan[@]marketsavvy.com.au.