Marketing for Cold & Flu Season
By: Tina Bell Director of Marketing, HealthCARE Express Sneezes, runny noses, water eyes, and long waiting times at primary care doctor’s offices, make your Medical Practice a great place for people to turn to during cold and flu season. With shorter waiting times and same-day service, Medical Practices can be a blessing to those who are ill. But they are only a blessing if people know about them. To help increase the number of patients to your Clinic during cold and flu season, you must have a great marketing campaign in place. Your marketing should include a mix of traditional marketing, social media marketing, occupational medicine marketing, in house marketing, and amazing customer service to ensure return visits and word-of-mouth referrals. Traditional Marketing Cold and flu season should be the busiest time of the year at your Medical Practice, and therefore, it should also be when you plan to spend a large majority of your marketing budget on traditional marketing. Radio, television, newspapers, magazines and billboards are all traditional ways of educating the community on what you do. Because you are an expert in the field of medicine, you should also make contact with the health editor at your local newspaper and offer tips on how to keep people healthy during the cold and flu season. Establishing a good relationship with the health editor will help get you free publicity in news articles throughout the year. Your Clinic’s name mentioned in a news article about health is not only free, but it is also more credible than advertising. Because December is also a heavy travel month, you should make sure your brochures are in every hotel in your city. Often times sick travelers will stop in your town over night, and the hotel staff can direct them to your Clinic. Because the staff often changes frequently at hotels, you should visit them at least every three months to drop off additional brochures and remind them you are still there to service their customers. Social Media Marketing Social media is great way to keep in touch with your established patients. Your website should have a “news” or “blog” section, where you frequently post updates about how to stay healthy this season. When your local newspaper publishes information about illnesses hitting your area, your blog should respond to the various topics. If you copy the articles verbatim, remember to always attribute them and link back to the newspaper’s website. If you do not have a blog or news section on your website, you can get one for free using software from WordPress.com. Your IT Department, or a local tech-guru, can install this software onto your website in about 30 minutes. Not only does a constantly updated blog give value added marketing to your patients, it also helps improve your ranking in search engines like Google. You should also utilize your Facebook and Twitter accounts to build relationships with your patients. By offering daily “Did You Know” tips to your friends on these sites, you are constantly putting your name in front of them. Your tips should change with the season and provide useful information. If you have a blog on your website, you can setup a Facebook Application called “Networked Blogs” to automatically pull anything you post on your blog onto your Facebook page. This will cut down the amount of time you have to spend posting on different social media sites. Another neat application to use is Ping.FM. Ping allows you to update multiple social media sites at one time. Occupational Medicine Marketing One of the services you should consider offering companies who utilize your Medical Practice for work related injuries and drug testing is an on-site flu clinic. Companies should pre-book the number of vaccines they will need to ensure you have enough vaccines on hand to sustain both your Medical Practice and occupational medicine businesses. You should also have companies pre-pay for the flu shots you order (or sign a contract), so you do not end up with unused inventory should a company change their mind before you give them their flu shots next year. When talking with the safety coordinator or HR Director at the companies where you schedule the on-site flu shot clinics, ask them if you can provide free flyers to be posted in break rooms and on company bulletin boards. One way to ensure high turn-outs at flu-clinics is to ask companies to allow employees to get the shot as part of their work day. Many companies will also consider offering free incentives to employees for getting a flu shot. Remember the more employees who get a flu shot, the more profits your Medical Practice can make and the more likely the company will invite you back again next year. To show appreciation to both the company and their employee for utilizing your occupational medicine services, you should also consider sponsoring light refreshments and snacks during the flu clinic. In-House Marketing Perhaps the cheapest way to market your Clinic as the place to visit during cold and flu season is to do things in-house. Marketing flu shots to your patients can be easily done by posting flyers in rooms and having your staff wear promotional buttons. Many suppliers of flu vaccines will give your company free flu-shot promotional kits to help you get the word out about the importance of flu shots. Always remember people come to your Medical Practice for many reasons. Someone who comes to your Clinic with a broken leg may not realize they can also be seen for strep throat or a cold, unless you tell them. You should always be ready to cross-promote your business to patients. Consider putting together a quarterly patient newsletter that each patient takes home with them when they leave. Have brochures about all the services you offer available in the rooms and in the lobby. If you offer an occupational medicine program, make sure each person who comes in for occupational medicine also realizes you have an Medical Practice. One of the biggest mistakes Medical Practices make is not educating their new patients about all of the services they offer. Many times people who come in for a drug screen never realize there is another side to your Clinic. If they were happy with the treatment they received while getting a drug screen, chances are they will be more than happy to give you a try when they become ill at a later point. Each person who visits the occupational medicine side of your Clinic should leave with a brochure about your Medical Practice. Amazing Customer Service Finally, the most important thing you can do to market your Medical Practice during cold and flu season is to provide amazing customer service. If your patients feel good about the service they received at your Clinic, they may tell their friends and family about you. But if your patients feel great about the service they receive (i.e. you give them something positive to talk about), they will tell their friends and family about your Clinic. There are several things you can do to make sure your patients leave your Clinic wanting to tell others about you. For starters, your staffing levels must be adequate. Because your Clinic will experience higher than normal patient volumes this time of year, you need to have the staff in place ready to take care of each person. While understaffing can save you money, it will also create overworked and stressed employees. This can lead to bad attitudes. Your patients should also receive more than they expect when they visit your Medical Practice. One way to do this is to offer free hot coffee, hot cocoa and hot tea in the waiting room. Purchasing a Keurig Coffee Maker and putting it in the lobby is an easy way to offer a variety of beverages to your patients. If you order coffee, teas, and hot cocoa in bulk, you can find great deals on supplies for your Keurig on-line at www.greatcoffee.com. For children, visiting your Medical Practice can often be traumatic. To help smooth their visit to your Clinic, have a variety of things on hand to entertain them. Handheld games, coloring pages and books in the waiting room can distract children as they wait to be seen. Stickers and balloons are also great ice breakers or rewards for great visits. If your budget allows, custom mini-plush animals are also good to have on hand, especially for children who have to get IVs or heavy lab work. The mini-plush animals provide a “friend” to help them through the experience. Remember, marketing your Clinic during cold and flu season is important. People need to know about you in order to utilize your services.