Marketing medical practices is a difficult endeavor. Between competition, time restraints, and knowing what to use and what to say, Web-based strategies are again and again hailed as a number one priority for MD marketing. But like all things business, a pinch of diversity goes a long way. Often, medical practices will rely on an in-house, tech-savvy specialist or an outside source for generating Internet exposure (social media, blogs, websites, etc.) while the practice’s staff focuses on going beyond online marketing.
Traditional marketing practices are still effective in today’s healthcare industry. Like all marketing tactics, creative, original, and well-communicated ideas transition positives much better than shoddy billboard ads and low-quality brochures. Content is the most crucial element in any campaign strategy, aside from timely, well-managed publications and releases. Bits and bytes marketing isn’t something to ignore, though you may be just as comfortable with some of these conventional marketing strategies.
- Word of Mouth: Nothing makes or breaks a business like a personal referral or congenial, on-the-spot review about a storefront, business, or medical practice. This occurs on both sides of the street; as a medical professional, always look out for potential patients and share the benefits of your practice without overwhelming them with self-promotional insincerity and marketing jargon. Keep it personal. This word of mouth extends onto the Internet via review and ranking sites.
- Referrals: For a medical practice, a professional referral is when a non-competing office sends patients to your practice for primary care. These are common for hospitals and specialists. The idea here is to physically reach out to potential points of referral and explain how your practice can work with them to make patient transitions easy and efficient. Can you do anything in return?
- Print: Emails are easy to avoid and your social media followers skip over your newsfeed updates like they’re nothing; how do you share information that is read? Print material still holds water and is the best method for going beyond online marketing. Send out letters explaining a new vaccine or why it is important to get a flu shot; design brochures that fit seamlessly into referral offices; put out business cards in other business waiting rooms. Another great point of contact for patient and referral generation is through health fairs and other health/community events.
All of these physical marketing strategies are doubled by additional Web exposure. Any publication you produce—whether it’s a health flyer, company history on a brochure, or a poster—can be posted on your website through social media and other online resources. This means that every piece of content has the chance to reach a greater audience. It is important to differentiate online and physical content, however, by adding in links to other Web assets, images, and even video testimonials.
The local businessperson understands that personal networking is an effective form of going beyond online marketing. This includes hosting events like health fairs, open houses, meet-and-greets, or dinners and slyly sharing the merits of your practice without over-marketing potential patients. Face and name recognition is important for medical practices. You can also create a support group or consultation committee for a specific disease or condition. The idea is to funnel people into your physical location and build trust with patients, all the while showing the community that you care about its wellbeing.
You should also become involved with local professional organizations. The chamber of commerce is a good place to start, which gives you access to other businesses (referrals) and professionals (potential patients who likely have families). Keep your print material on hand for any impromptu public appearances.
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Between print, radio, and TV outlets, you have a lot of flexibility when it comes to media exposure. As a qualified healthcare professional, keep in touch with reporters and publications and pitch a story or two if you have something new or exciting happening at your practice. Most journalists prefer willing contacts; be one of them. Often, local radio stations and TV programs will have health talk slots and are looking for professionals with information. In return, you’ll increase your practice’s exposure in front of wide audiences, with little effort. Go beyond online marketing and you’ll be surprised with how much you can do.
Photo by: Claye Stokes